Reviews

Kesha “Gag Order” Album Review

Gag Order

Kesha

  • Genre: Pop
  • Date: 19 May, 2023
  • Content: cleaned
  • Track(s): 13
  • ℗ 2023 Kemosabe Records

Kesha Rose Sebert—better known by her stage name Kesha—tapped into a new collaboration with Rick Rubin for her fifth studio album, “Gag Order.” The super producer is renowned for dissecting musicians like an onion, removing all but the bare essentials of their sound, and then reassembling them.

Her first album since 2020’s High Road, “Gag Order,” isn’t easy, but it ultimately rewards more daring listeners. When she collaborated with Rubin, Kesha traded in hard-hitting pop for something more avant-garde, somewhere between alt-pop and PC music.

“Gag Order” lives up to Kesha’s claim that making it was like “giving birth to the most intimate thing” she’s ever made. Moreover, the album articulates a functioning thesis for Kesha’s artistry that lives independently from merely commercial exhibitionism, despite some shoddy sequencing.

Album Cover Art

Kesha &Quot;Gag Order&Quot; Album Review, Yours Truly, Reviews, June 18, 2024

If you’re familiar with films about sociopaths or serial killers, you’ll start getting the idea. Kesha here is serving face but from behind a plastic bag. She looks like a victim that was supposed to do a ‘message’ to a target but somehow survived being strangled.

Tracks and Features

Kesha concentrates on more nuanced and determined pop balladry on the album. She sings a choral refrain repeatedly in the eerie “Something to Believe” as the environment is developed. The guitar lines and other stringed instruments blend with the synths and electronics to create a dynamic musical base that never overpowers the song. “Eat the Acid” has a more retro vibe. A single menacing piano part and some layered harmonies support most of the instrumental weight. The song crescendos as Kesha sings with clarity.

Only “Only Love Can Save Us Now” contains verses containing Kesha’s spoken, sung, or rapped cadence before erupting into the chorus’s revivalist bluesy fervor. Additionally, “Peace & Quiet” combines a rhythmic urgency with a vocal exploration that involves pitch- and chop-shifting the singer’s voice all over the place. In this song, she acknowledges that while she occasionally doubts herself, slowing down is not an option.

Kesha delves deeper into her vulnerabilities in songs like “Fine Line.” She occasionally appears irritated by her difficulties, yet she always finds comfort and inspiration to keep trying. The remaining songs on the album don’t position Kesha as instantaneously sober-minded or straight-edged after years of legally required silence. But they do an excellent job highlighting her vocal abilities while throwing intriguing curveballs at Gag Order, like the quiet “Living in My Head” and the tender “All I Need Is You.”

Around the album’s halfway point, the trippy electronic freak-out session of “The Drama” caused the record to lose momentum. The subtle and muted introduction to the song features her singing, “There’s a violence in the silence, and it’s coming for me,” before things become a synth-driven groove focusing on experimental harmonies.

After the interlude “Flicker’s Reprise,” the song “Too Far Gone,” an unexpectedly simple, earnest pop ballad, follows. Again, Kesha’s voice is the most focused and crystal clear on the record. The album’s concluding section, which includes the wind-instrument interlude, “Only Love Reprise,” covers a lot of ground. It ends with the piano ballad “Hate Me Harder” and the reflective ending “Happy.”

Tracklist

NO TITLE
1 Something To Believe In
2 Eat The Acid
3 Living In My Head
4 Fine Line
5 Only Love Can Save Us Now
6 All I Need Is You
7 The Drama
8 Ram Dass Interlude
9 Too Far Gone
10 Peace & Quiet
11 Only Love Reprise
12 Hate Me Harder
13 Happy

Album Theme

In both style and subject, “Gag Order” completely rejects Kesha’s party-girl persona as seen on albums like “Cannibal,” yet it manages to be even freakier. As Kesha engages in some serious soul-searching, listeners are given access to an emotional exorcism.

Production Credits

Drew Pearson, Hudson Mohawke, Jason Lader, Jussifer, Kesha, Rick Rubin, STINT & Stuart Crichton oversaw the album’s production.

Stream

Back to top button