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Review: On ‘Rainbow,’ Kesha Nods to the Past and Roars Into the Future

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Kesha opens “Rainbow” with a kiss-off to those who manipulated her, but the album doesn’t rely on her conflict with Dr. Luke for inspiration.

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Olivia Bee

There was a moment in 2010 when it felt like every pop star was singing the Song of Female Empowerment, which could conveniently also be marketed as a gay anthem: a super-catchy track about celebrating your eccentricities and showing your haters to the door. Katy Perry (“Firework”), Pink (“Raise Your Glass”) and Taylor Swift (“Mean”), still ensconced in Nashville, had one; Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” was delivered early the following year. An upstart named Kesha released one, too — the No. 1 “We R Who We R,” a pounding electro-pop sister to her hit that ruled 2010 by every conceivable metric, “Tik Tok.”

Kesha’s two perky tracks and her rock ’n’ roll back story — she said she dropped out of high school to chase her musical dreams, and dropped into Prince’s house to deliver a demo CD — established her as a charming underdog, a raised fist of chipped nail polish to the established stars’ high-gloss manicures. She was sharp-tongued, goofy and most effective when battling an adversary. On her debut album, “Animal,” and its follow-up EP, “Cannibal,” the opponent was propriety (and sobriety). On her 2012 LP, “Warrior,” she added bullies and self-doubt.

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“Rainbow”

On “Rainbow,” Kesha’s first new music since she featured on the rapper Pitbull’s twang-hop hit “Timber” in 2013, there’s no question who the enemy is: Dr. Luke, the hitmaker who shepherded all of her prior releases. In 2014, Kesha filed a lawsuit seeking to end her recording and music publishing contracts with the songwriter and producer, who she said subjected her to physical and emotional abuse. Dr. Luke, born Lukasz…

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