Rainbow, Spaceship, Learn to Let Go

This is part four in an exploration of Kesha’s new album ‘Rainbow’. Find parts 1, 2, and 3.

I’m not going to spend as much time on each individual song as I did on Praying and Boots, but instead will be clumping a few songs of similar themes together where it makes sense. In this case, there are quite a few songs on Rainbow that are about moving on, finding hope, or growing and changing after a challenging time. I’m going to focus on Rainbow, Spaceship, and Learn to Let Go for this post, as all three of these songs circulate around this attitude of healing and growing.

If I were to place these songs, they would be the songs of recovery, the ones that come after trauma, depression, an eating disorder, the darkest places. These are the songs that you can write when you’re coming out the other side. They are the joyful songs of the album, and I love that they coexist on an album with songs as honestly painful as Praying.

This is a side of Kesha that we don’t see very often and I really appreciate that she felt empowered to show it, to let us in to a sweet, naive version of herself. I love that part of her healing is not about being aggressive or strong or any of those things, but just being a kid again. She seems so intensely free in these songs and it feels very hopeful to me in a way that goes beyond the “you’ll find a rainbow” but in a way that says “you get to have joy after trauma.”

In her essay about Learn to Let Go, she writes “I’ve looked at this record, ‘Rainbow,’ as me being myself, Kesha Rose Sebert, my name without the dollar sign, genuinely for the first time ever. I mean that on every level but especially musically ― and that’s really scary for me.” This really comes through, especially in the video for Learn to Let Go, which puts home videos of Kesha as a child next to an adult Kesha reenacting the scenes.

It gives a depth to the song that says “I’m not just letting go, I’m remembering who I used to be, I’m uplifting the parts of myself that give me life.” This video is 100% my favorite of the videos for this album. It is so unself-conscious, so free, so wonderfully joyful. Watch it. Watch it again. It’s so good.

Rainbow was written while she was in rehab for her eating disorder. She describes it as her promise to herself. I personally don’t love it when people say “oh it will get better, just think about the future”, but knowing that this is her reminder to herself, her mantra that she can return to changes it for me. And there are some amazingly honest lines in it:

“And I know that I’m still fucked up
But aren’t we all, my love?
Darling, our scars make us who we are, are”

Even as the message of “you’ll find a rainbow” is far from deep, there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface here, and you can see it in the musicality that happens around the lines “so when the winds are howling strong…”. It’s vivid, orchestral, intense. The rainbow she’s looking for isn’t trite or small. It’s a respite from the chaos you can hear in these lines. I love the imagery of color everywhere, of kaleidoscopes, of seeing everything the world has to offer again. There’s more here than the silly phrases that many people use to describe gratitude or the good parts of life. Instead, there’s a recognition that the world holds layers of wonder and beauty. It speaks to the ways that many people who feel broken or hurt often experience the world differently from other people, which brings me to Spaceship.

Spaceship reads very neurodivergent to me. It’s a song about feeling as if you belong somewhere else, and waiting for your people to come and get you, bring you home. That experience is so common in the autistic community, as well as for others who deal with mental illness. While Rainbow is about finding joy in this world, Spaceship seems to be about finding a place that doesn’t exist in this world: somewhere that is safe and where you feel normal and acceptable. When paired with a lot of Kesha’s more youthful songs on this album, it speaks to the ways that we’re expected to conform as adults, and how often that means losing an innocence that doesn’t need to go.

Even as this album is more musically complex than her past two, it seems to have less “polish”. It’s less produced. It’s more authentic. These songs get to the heart of that and are in many ways the heart of this album. They are not dealing with the past or the trauma, they’re an adult reclaiming their identity and their self, regardless of what has happened or the difficulties of what has happened in their life. I find the vulnerable emotions and unrestrained joy really refreshing.