Despite it being a whopping 14 years since the release of Kesha’s debut single ‘Tik Tok’, we all still remember the first time we tried to brush our teeth with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s after her iconic lyrics made it the norm in our society. The song quickly became a global smash hit on a scale rarely seen, soaring to number one all over the world, ending 2010 as the year’s best-selling single in the US and shifting more than 18 million units to date. Kesha instantly became one of the key hitmakers of the 2010s era and has continued to release banger after banger ever since. Her five albums – ‘Animal’, ‘Warrior’, ‘Rainbow’, ‘High Road’ and ‘Gag Order’ – are each iconic in their own right, with Kesha’s sound gradually maturing since her debut while maintaining her signature style and aesthetic. Here, GAY TIMES ranks these records from worst to best, though before reading know ONE important thing: Kesha has no bad albums and we worship at the altar of our queen.
5. Warrior (2012)
Holy trinity: ‘C’mon’, ‘Supernatural’, ‘Crazy Kids’
Following the global success of ‘Animal’ and ‘Cannibal’, ‘Warrior’ was, unsurprisingly, a direct continuation of both the sound and style Kesha had become known for. But hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? As with her previous releases, ‘Warrior’ includes several moments of pop perfection, most notably on songs like ‘C’mon’, ‘Supernatural’ and lead single ‘Die Young’. The record is in no way serious and nor does it intend to be, instead offering a fun ride from the moment the first track starts through to when the last one ends. Its lyrics are playful, fun and silly, which ‘Crazy Kids’ is living proof of: “I’m fresher than that Gucci / Them boys, they want my coochie / I say nope, I’m no hootchie / Your homegirl hatin’, I say who she? / Kesha don’t give two fucks / I came to start the ruckus.” ‘Warrior’ lacks substance in every way possible, but is that a bad thing? Many albums get lost in trying to deliver a meaningful message or attempting to achieve something in order to achieve critical acclaim, while ‘Warrior’ instead feels like a total rejection of this that instead serves as a reminder that having fun and partying are two of the most important things in life. Coming hot off the heels of ‘Animal’ and ‘Cannibal’, however, made ‘Warrior’ get lost slightly in the shadows slightly – resulting in the most forgettable album in Kesha’s discography.
4. High Road (2020)
Holy trinity: ‘Shadow’, ‘Kinky’ (feat. Ke$ha), ‘Cowboy Blues’
Arguably the most divisive record in Kesha’s discography, ‘High Road’ very much feels like the child of ‘Animal’ and ‘Rainbow’. Some tracks, such as ‘Tonight’ and ‘Raising Hell’ (feat. Big Freedia) are a return to Kesha’s party girl aesthetic, while the likes of ‘Father Daughter Dance’, ‘Cowboy Blues’ and ‘Shadow’ are rooted in the maturity and reflection of ‘High Road’s’ predecessor. It’s fair to say that this is probably Kesha’s most varied album both lyrically and sonically, with the standard version’s 15 tracks being made up of genres ranging from pop to country to classic rock. Then there are the collaborations, all of which bring something unique to ‘High Road’ and improve the overall experience as a listener. ‘Resentment’ features Brian Wilson, Sturgill Simpson and Wrabel as they sing with Kesha about a relationship deteriorating beyond hate and into what the song’s title references. It’s a standout track of not only the album, but also Kesha’s wider discography – something which is rarely achieved four records into someone’s career. Big Freedia is a dominant force on ‘Raising Hell’, while ‘Kinky’ features none other than Ke$ha – Kesha’s original pop persona from ‘Animal’, ‘Cannibal’ and ‘Warrior’. Does it get anymore iconic than featuring your former self on a song about having a threesome? Although ‘High Road’ could have benefitted from being a little shorter and including the flawless ‘Summer’ in its standard edition, it’s a solid entry to the star’s iconic discography and has something for everyone.
3. Animal + Cannibal (2010)
Holy trinity: ‘Backstabber’, ‘Blind’, ‘The Harold Song’
Debut albums rarely come as strong as ‘Animal’, a record jam-packed with industrial strength bops from start to finish. At the time of its release, it scored an average rating of just 54/100 on Metacritic – something which, 13 years later, we can all agree was a brutal injustice. Songs like the smash hits ‘Tik Tok’, ‘Your Love Is My Drug’ and ‘Blah Blah Blah’ (feat. 3OH!3) proved Kesha a chart force to be reckoned with and have aged finer than the finest of wines, while also feeling quintessentially 2009/10. In fact, the tracks on ‘Animal’ could likely be released today and still be eaten up by the gays and locals alike in the same way they were back then. Other songs on the album, such as the title track, ‘Dancing with Tears in My Eyes’ and ‘Blind’ gave fans a glimpse into Kesha’s songwriting abilities, as well as her versatility as an artist – something which would later become crystal clear in 2017 with the release of ‘Rainbow’. Then there’s ‘Cannibal’, which served both as part of a reissue of ‘Animal’ and a stand-alone EP. The eight new songs (plus a sickening remix of ‘Animal’) were welcome additions to the record and, although they didn’t necessarily show anything new, helped solidify Kesha as one of the key hitmakers of her time while hammering home the pop perfection that is ‘Animal’.
2. Rainbow (2017)
Holy trinity: ‘Praying’, ‘Rainbow’, ‘Woman’ (feat. The Dap-Kings Horns)
By the time ‘Rainbow’ came around, it had been almost five years since Kesha released an album. As well as being desperate for new music, concerned fans wanted to hear from the singer after her career had effectively been halted following the beginning of her legal dispute with former producer Dr. Luke, which remains ongoing to this day. ‘Rainbow’ saw Kesha pursue a more mature sound defined by themes of self-worth, hope and personal growth – a clear departure from the party girl aesthetic at the core of her first two releases. ‘Praying’, the album’s lead single, is by far the standout track and showed a vulnerability those who had been listening to Kesha since 2009 were yet to see. Other songs, such as ‘Let ‘Em Talk’, ‘Woman’ (feat. The Dap-Kings Horns) and ‘Boots’, showed that the Kesha from ‘Animal’, ‘Cannibal’ and ‘Warrior’ was alive and kicking, though more grown up and with something to say. It’s exactly that which makes ‘Rainbow’ Kesha’s best album to date, as it proved she is an artist with a versatility very few people in the industry have. Without being able to say as much as she probably wanted to, Kesha managed to say more than she ever did on her previous releases and her message to fans was clear: She was going to be okay.
1. Gag Order (2023)
Holy trinity: ‘Happy’, ‘Only Love Can Save Us Now’, ‘Peace & Quiet’
There’s taking control of the narrative, then there’s ‘Gag Order’. With a title that bold and visuals showing Kesha literally being gagged, there was no doubt that this record would make a statement. If ‘Rainbow’ was about letting go and ‘High Road’ was about being happy, this record is about finding peace – but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy thing to do. In fact, ‘Gag Order’ faces this head on and explores the tumultuous road you have to walk to get to a place of resolution. It’s nasty, angry and, at times, brutal. Tracks like ‘Hate Me Harder’ and ‘Fine Line’ feature some of the most honest lyrics of Kesha’s career and show us how much she has grown in recent years. She goes as far as declaring that “some things never should be forgiven” on the latter track, a far cry from her 2017 single ‘Praying’ in which Kesha sang that “some things only God can forgive”. Kesha’s strength is a recurring theme throughout ‘Gag Order’ and it’s on ‘Happy’ where it shines brightest. The stripped back track is a quiet reflection on what life could have been like if certain things didn’t happen, but accepting that they did and choosing to pursue happiness instead – an uplifting message that will resonate with listeners for a number of reasons. Some people won’t get ‘Gag Order’ and the album isn’t for everyone, but Kesha puts it best on ‘Peace & Quiet’: “Get into it or get the fuck out.”