Most Likely to Succeed

Out from the shadows appears a woman–one we have seen before, but this time, in a whole new light. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know about the lawsuit dilemma(s) between Kesha and her kind of current, mostly former music producer Dr. Luke. In case you call a rock your home, here’s a short recap:

In 2014, Kesha filed a lawsuit against Dr. Luke after news surfaced that Dr. Luke had allegedly sexually assaulted Kesha, with and without her consent–this lawsuit came about just months after fan-made petitions to drop her from RCA Records due to belief that Dr. Luke was censoring music, including her album Warrior. Dr. Luke then counter-sued, claiming defamation against Luke by Kesha’s lawyer, Mark Geragos. In 2015, Kesha stormed New York Fashion Week with a dress stating “You Will Never Own Me”, and ever since, Kesha’s struggle for freedom from RCA and Dr. Luke has been documented in the public eye.

Since this fiasco in the public eye, our beloved artist no longer has to succumb to the muse of her prior label, (Dr. Luke is no longer at Sony), and may now produce music as she pleases, without unneeded and unwanted censorship behind the songs that matter for her new album, the lyrics that mean something to her–out of this newfound freedom rises Kesha’s first post-lawsuit single from her upcoming album Rainbow, Praying. The song acts as a blow to her demons and an open door for her future, wherever it takes her–in and out of the spotlight.

As there is so much beauty to the meaning of the song, it is only fair that we save the  best for last and speak of the technicalities to the tune first.

In the past, the only music with the Kesha (previously Ke$ha) brand heard on the radio consisted of party tunes about drinking, sex, and glitter. Praying gives us a much-needed breath of fresh air, bringing us, as listeners, a new sound and empowering lyrics to anyone who pays attention. This sound is prominent in the vocals of the single; Kesha hits notes that no one knew possible, following suit to Ariana Grande’s earlier hits with a whistle note in the second half of the song. She has literally never sounded stronger as a vocalist, and I can’t wait to see what comes next after her initial two-single release.

As for length, Praying comes in at just short of four minutes, with a long, and sometimes overly repetitive, bridge and chorus that takes a majority of the song; meaning is important, but so is lyrical diversity, and it seems as though this single has fallen short on the latter.

Finally, price–the label and streaming services have, fortunately, made the ultimate decision to keep the album affordable–this presumably suffixes assumptions that the album will at least hit platinum status, as most comeback albums, or singles, do. On Amazon, the MP3 version of Rainbow is just $9.99 for preorder, and the physical copy is $11.78. For you vinyl lovers, however, you’ll be forking up a little over $20 for this one–but free shipping with Prime, right? Apple users will find that the single is $1.29, but if you are like the majority of Gen Z listeners, you’ll be using Spotify or Apple Music, which makes the album practically free for subscribers, with student pricing as low as $4.99 a month.

On the subject of hidden meaning for the song, you won’t find any. The song is straight forward in its empowerment for Kesha in her battle against depression, the struggle of being a woman in the spotlight, and foremost, Dr. Luke. Praying, albeit, is not a diss track–you will not find any name dropping or hints within the music video, and it was never intended to be that way. We are shown through lyrics and interpretation that the artist will now be focusing on what matters most–herself. This song is something to be proud of as a woman, an artist, and a victim who wants to be seen as more.

Lastly, I’d like to touch on the music video. Unfortunately, Kesha hasn’t dropped the cultural appropriation, specifically of Native American tribes, that she was known for during the Warrior era. This problem is one perpetuated by more artists than one, and as influential as Kesha is to a multitude of coexisting people, I wish that she would be the one to stop the trend, and realize that the practice is anything other than trendy.

If you’re interested in learning more about cultural appropriation and how Kesha is continuing to perpetuate the harmful practice, check out this article:

It is a seriously great and educational read.

Aside from the issue presented above, the music video for the single is visually stunning, and captivates watchers and listeners with settings that feel, as they should, free. It is crystal clear that the producers of the video took into account the original meaning of the song and created a visual journey through that meaning, specifically for Kesha; I include specifically not because we ought not appreciate it, but because we have to understand who the song is written for–it is not our place to take that away from the artist and create selfishness amongst the intended purpose. That said, the video creates a landscape that we all can appreciate, and we certainly do.

As expected from a new release after nearly half a decade, Praying has a few bumps in the road. As more of the album is brought into the light, I expect we will see an improved image, sound, and person in the Kesha we know and love. Here’s to praying for new beginnings.

Grade: A





An Album Divided

Unlike your typical algebraic equation, Divide doesn’t leave you wondering what the next step is to solve it. With a diverse tracklist and some killer controversy, Sheeran’s third album certainly won’t leave you adding up your emotions. Subtract the overplayed hits, and you’ll find that Divide is by far one of the most unique albums written by pop artists today, and even touches back on some of Sheeran’s most prominent contemporary folk roots. Compared to other albums targeting the same audience, Generation Z, this junior compilation is more compatible with the teenage lifestyle, while still harboring some more mature hits within its run time. That said, the songs hit a few potholes on the way to the “Castle on the Hill”, and a few are impossible to overlook. While the album as a whole certainly isn’t “Perfect”, chances are that you’ll find yourself wishing you were “Nancy Mulligan”, or maybe even Ed’s “Galway Girl”.
Maybe spoilers for musical compilations aren’t possible, but if Divide is up next on your listening queue, I recommend stopping here. The album is most effective when the first impression comes from a personal listening sesh, with some review reading after to confirm your thoughts. Consequently, it is most important to begin with what would be considered the album’s flops, most commonly referred to as “airing the dirty laundry”. The most confusing (and seemingly, out of place) track is most definitely “Bibia Be Ye Ye”. What seems to be Ed’s first attempt at a multicultural anthem, “Bibia” falls short of any real meaning and just feels like a generic feel-good tune with a single line in a language other than English. The concept of diversifying the album was clearly well-intentioned, but, unfortunately, the pieces of this puzzle didn’t quite add up. Next on the list is Track 13, better known as “Barcelona”. This song feels more like a commercial for a travel agency than a real, musical engagement, but Ed certainly doesn’t think so. If you’re looking for an upbeat vacation jingle, “Barcelona”’ has it in the bag; however, it falls short of the rest of the album. The last downfall of the equation is one with a faulty feel for an Irish jig–”Nancy Mulligan”. For the American release, this song would bring something new to the table, and the new material is that of a traditional Irish tune in a spotlight of American culture. While the idea sounds immensely appealing, the song ends up sounding like a soundtrack to a Disney Channel movie, very Luck of the Irish-esque. Overall, the appeal is less than intriguing for those teens who are used to idolizing Taylor Swift and paying to see 5 Seconds of Summer live in their hometowns. The Divide tracklist is sixteen songs long, so don’t turn away after recognizing that there are three flawed songs. The rest of the album feels like a journey of self-discovery, and Ed knows how not to disappoint, especially when it comes to the younger generation.
Ed cares about his fans’ bank accounts. I repeat: ED CARES ABOUT HIS FANS’ BANK ACCOUNTS. He doesn’t care enough to replenish them, but he certainly knows how to provide quality entertainment at a low price. As the two initial singles, “Castle on the Hill” and “Shape of You”, were released on digital download, it is only logical to evaluate those platforms first. On iTunes, where songs regularly cost $1.29 each, one can buy Ed Sheeran’s Divide for no more than just $12.99; on Google Play Music, the album is a cost-effective $12.49, and on Spotify and Apple Music (common streaming platforms), the cost of the album is included in the monthly subscription price. All in all, the price is right, and if one of your main voting points on the album is cost, you can tally up the score for Divide.
The diversity of the album is touched on a lot, mostly because listeners had an initial shocked reaction to the stray from Ed’s last two albums in Divide. Much like his previous genre-crossing tunes, songs like “Perfect” and “Dive” give us a hearty reminder of what a love song (or breakup song) should look like, and the straightforwardness of it all is exactly why this album has become so popular with Generation Z. Kids either seek music that relaxes them or music that they relate to. While mature themes are prominent in songs such as “Castle on the Hill”, most songs hold some aspect of youth that this generation clings onto as they listen from beginning to end. Nostalgia is an important factor of any media publication, but Divide takes the cake when it comes to appealing to several groups of people, all at once. While they aren’t exactly crowd favorites, “Barcelona” and “Nancy Mulligan” seem to bring some cultural flavors to the table, but this taste isn’t where the uniqueness of this compilation ends. “Eraser”, the first track, provides a full-length version of the aspect listeners are most interested to hear from Sheeran–his rapping. The song is an acquired taste at first, but the uplifting message and catchy beat will leave you wanting to make even more mistakes, if you know what I mean. Finally, but certainly not the least important aspect of the album, is the diversity of released singles from the album. Initially released hand-in-hand, “Castle on the Hill” and “Shape of You” hit the charts immediately. However, these two songs are immensely different, with “Castle” pulling on the heartstrings of looking back on childhood and feeling the realization of the place you are in, while “Shape of You” feels more like a catchy, romanticised-lyric version of Sia’s “Cheap Thrills”, which is its current lawsuit. Both singles have been important to the success of the album, yet they are so vastly different that they are almost incomparable. The current single, “Galway Girl”, is untraditional for what longtime fans would consider a Sheeran tune. While some aspects of the song are comparable to “Don’t” from the album Multiply, “Galway” seems to be an entirely new take on Ed’s musical career. Throughout the record, you’ll find the bumps in the road and the unexpectedness of where it takes you, but Divide will make you want to come along for the ride–all of it.
Ed Sheeran gives the impression that he knows what he’s doing through the release of Divide, and he knows exactly who his audience is. As an avid listener to heartbreak anthems and reminiscent melodies, Ed’s album is for me. Although he might be branching off from his traditional roots, he gives us the performance of a lifetime, just as he always has. Yes, there are a few missed connections, but after connecting the dots with the tracks that hit home, the chances are high that there will still be a picture worth seeing. All in all, it is time to clear up any confusion, and hope that Sheeran finishes this equation in the near future.