‘High Road’ album review
album: High Road
release date: January 31, 2020
star rating: three out of five
review by Levi Yager
The party princess has claimed her throne once again! Ke$ha’s new offering spurts and sputters with loud, loony energy and serves as a reminder of why we fell in love with her in the first place. And not only that, but High Road has a softer side, too, bringing some tender moments to light. It’s a veritable mixed bag in many ways – yet it can still win you over in the end.
The first four tracks really get the wick burning. “Tonight” starts out like a piano ballad before we’re quickly informed that “we goin’ out tonight” and the bass kicks in. The rest is history. Gang vocals, catchy choruses and good-time vibes all add in to make it a hella fun track. Is it a great song? Honestly, not really. Does it set a great mood? You bet it does. The next few songs follow suit in thematic approach, with “Raising Hell” standing a little taller than the rest. It’s an upbeat banger of a party anthem that’s dressed to the nines in killer hooks.
Then, we slow it down for a while. Songs five through eight are way mellower than what we started with, and this section somewhat stalls the album’s momentum. Not to worry, though, there are a couple cool sights along this detour. The seventh and eighth tracks, “Cowboy Blues” and “Resentment,” respectively, make the most of the slower pace. The latter, in particular, is actually one of the album’s strongest cuts. It’s got Ke$ha singin’ the blues about bitterness and the like with Brian Wilson and Sturgill Simpson. This is where Ke$ha’s soft side shines at full power. “Resentment” is legitimately breathtaking.
Next is the perfect transitional track to speed things back up; “Little Bit Of Love” features pleasant, staccato keys bouncing around, and it proves to be a natural emotional progression coming out of “Resentment.” And then, “Birthday Suit” keeps High Road rolling with a classic Ke$ha sound and some chiptunes mixed in. It’s a refreshingly funny love song that’s simple, lighthearted and, well, straight to the point.
The rest of the album has a few misses (I’m looking at you, “Potato Song”) before the last couple hits bring us to the finish line. “Father Daughter Dance” is the penultimate song on the tracklisting, and it’s a soulful, vulnerable look at growing up without a dad. The emotion goes on a one-way trip from the speakers to your heart as Ke$ha contemplates her life without having a central father figure. And, to top it off, “Father Daughter Dance” features nice symphonic arrangements at the end. The 15th and final song is “Chasing Thunder,” and it’s a fantastic unity of Ke$ha’s folksy and poppy facets. The result is an intriguing alt. pop song that has a style I would’ve loved to hear more of on High Road. It’s a sweet sendoff, for sure.
All in all, I’d say we have a pretty good record here. It satisfactorily blends Ke$ha’s electronic and organic sounds and is generally an enjoyable ride. At times, however, High Road is sloppy and choppy. While some of that seems to be intentionally part of its charm, those characteristics don’t always work in the album’s favor. Consequently, High Road stumbles from time to time in its lengthy tracklisting. But as low as the lows are, the highs make up for it. Ke$ha ultimately shows that High Road is a road worth taking.