For nearly half her life, Kesha has allowed strangers to bask in her free-spirited, cotton-candy aura. The visually vibrant and sonically irresistible pop star delivered happiness to fans with hits like Tik Tok and Timber. And now, with her latest offering, Rainbow, she’s given them her rage, pain and resilience, too.
Since 2013, the 30-year-old Californian has been embroiled in a legal battle with former producer Dr. Luke, whom she has accused of sexual and emotional abuse. Her latest single, Praying, became the gut-wrenching anthem of the #MeToo movement as a result. And weeks after a show-stopping performance of the song at the Grammy Awards, Kesha is bringing her full spectrum of emotions to Dubai as the headliner of RedFestDXB .
Ahead of her gig at Media City Ampitheatre on February 9, we caught up with the singer over email about her past, her present and her boundless future.
Kesha performs ‘Praying’ at the Grammy Awards in January 28. AP
Your latest album, Rainbow, came after a five-year gap since Warrior. What was the main thing you wanted to do differently?
On this album, I really didn’t have any expectations or any plan. Every day I just wanted to go in and write something that felt honest and I worried less about how it would be received. Of course, I always want to make my fans happy but this album was different in that I really just wanted to write something for [myself] and treated the songwriting process like therapy.
How did it feel to be nominated at the Grammy’s for both your album and your single this year?
I was so humbled and honoured to be able to perform and be nominated at the Grammys this year. It’s even more special that the Recording Academy has chosen to include me for this album which is the most honest and vulnerable album I’ve ever made. I feel like I’m being seen as my true self by the world for the first time on this album and it’s the greatest gift to have it received so well. It’s a testament to the power of just being yourself unapologetically.
Our go-to hype song on Rainbow is Woman. You’re having so much fun with it. Tell us a little about its place in the album.
There are a lot of serious and emotional songs on Rainbow but I will never lose my sense of fun. If you come to my shows you know that it’s a wild, glitter-filled rainbow party. Woman was one of the funniest writing sessions of my life. I wrote the song with two of my best friends, Wrabel and Drew Pearson, and I got locked in the vocal booth during the recording. We were laughing and just delirious. I think you can really hear the fun in the final recording and that is something I’m really proud of.
Your albums all have single-word names — Animal, Warrior, Rainbow. What’s the significance, and how do you decide on them?
The titles to me represent where I am in my life. On Animal, I really was like a wild young animal that acted on impulse. On Warrior, I felt like I was a fighter, and now on Rainbow, I think I’ve matured and learnt to see more of the beauty and innocence in life. It’s almost like I’ve tried to connect with my more childlike self on this last album.
Promoting Rainbow meant you got back on the road for your first headlining tour since 2013. What did you miss most about tour life?
I missed my fans! I wrote this album for myself but it’s dedicated to my fans. This album would not exist if it wasn’t for my fans unwavering support over the last few years. It is only their love that got me out of bed every day and pushed me into the studio. When I play these songs live, I tell them that every night, and it’s a huge celebration every night.
Kesha and Macklemore in 2017.
Your upcoming tour is going to be a co-headliner with Macklemore. Why did you feel like that was a good marriage of artists? What do you have planned, production-wise?
I’ve been a huge fan of Macklemore’s since he came out. I have enormous respect for how he has stayed independent throughout his career and used his voice to fight for equality around the world. I think that the main thing that we have in common is that we both feel like we need to help fight for equality in our music but we both also know how to have a good time and throw an insane dance party, so it kinda just makes sense.
Finally, it’s a new year. What are your hopes for 2018?
I can’t wait to boogie with my fans all over the world on tour this year.
Don’t miss it
Kesha performs on the second day of RedFestDXB on February 9. She shares the stage with Bebe Rexha, Craig David and Marshmello. Tickets, starting at Dh395, are available online.