Music to Your Ears – Kesha, The National, Cut Copy and Pink

Given that there was no podcast this past weekend due to the resonating effects of the Cars 3 debacle, I’ve thought long and hard about what’s to become of this if Cory never recovers from Pixar-related atrocities. Frequent guest James Milliron has suggested filling in for some time and discussing pop culture as a whole, and given the state of our country – something that’s been on our minds for a long time has been to discuss current events outside of entertainment. We do interject, after all, don’t we?

Let us know below if you think this might be a good way to go for the Interjections medium, as usual commenting responsibly. As for now, enjoy the latest edition of Music to Your Ears, which features the return of one of my favorite artists:

Pink – “What About Us”

It’s remarkable that just sixteen years ago we were commenting that the singer behind “Just Like a Pill” and “Let’s Get the Party Started” would likely fade away a one-hit wonder, nothing more than a party girl who never amounted to much of anything. Fast forward to 2008 and past a flashy masturbation song (U + Ur Hand) and no one saw “So What” exploding like it did. That, by far her best song, was only the beginning, as Alicia Moore saw fit to reinvent herself as a meaningful chanteuse who still loved having fun. Some of it must have been from learning from past mistakes and failed relationships, as most great artists often do – and it’s most likely simple maturity, discovering how to craft beautiful ballads whil cultivating one of the saaviest images in pop music today. It’s funny that just last Thursday I thought to myself “When was the last Pink song” which means she knew it was the perfect time to launch the next phase in her career. First up from upcoming album Beautiful Trauma is “What About Us” a now standard sounding ballad that begs to be remembered, not just in subject but in presence.

Kesha – Rainbow

Much like the last artist, who shared the quirk of having a symbol in their name in the early years, Kesha used to be a ‘party girl’ who we all thought would fade away after one quick album. As the years passed, true Kesha fans drew to her like moths to the flame, as her party anthems not only let us dance like no one was watching, but built us up to be proud of who we were. Little did we know that such a tragic backstory had formed behind the scenes. No need to go into the story here too much, albeit to say that the courts made the wrong decision in allowing her rapist to continue to produce her music and force Kesha into an unfathomable situation by having her stick to the contract she’d signed. Never one to shrink from battle, Kesha has burst forth with her best work, simply put.

It was undoubtably going to be on the minds of her fans that she’d gone through such rough times, that it would likely be addressed on the album. After having an insanely cathartic first single, she followed that up with two more solid entries, an anthem to womanhood and another emotional romp that encourages maturing past our horrifying histories. So, as the album starts with yet another song denouncing those motherfuckers that wronged her, ‘Bastards’, I was a bit worried that Rainbow would be a bit heavy on the vindication angle. Lucky for us, Kesha has matured beyond her early days and the music is well worth listening to, so much so that the rise and fall of the album play like a cinematic journey. After ‘Bastards’, she follows it up with a fun song to remind us that she’s still somewhat the same dance-loving girl we grew up with – ‘Let ‘Em Talk’. Obviously that has a shaking-it-off vibe, but given the tone I knew we were in for a better ride than a potentially subversive ‘whoa-is-me’ album.

Kesha was fucking pissed, and in putting out songs like the first two and the follow up singles, Woman/Hymn/Praying she lets it all out. ‘Woman’ was not my favorite on its own initial release, but obviously this song isn’t for me, and it works so much better in the middle of her other songs. ‘Hymn’ has a chorus that reminds me of another pop song I can’t quite put my finger on, but it plays alongside ‘Praying’ like the rally cry of a valiant survivor. I would give anything to see her rub these songs in Dr. Luke’s face as he had to listen to the words ‘I hope your soul is changin’. She’s taking a higher road than she needed to, and it only shows how much her ordeals have forced her into being a voice for forgiveness and redemption. It’s beautful, and by the time ‘Praying’ came in to hit the cleanup slot, I knew this was one of the best works I’d heard in a long time. ‘Learn to Let Go’ switches the narrative, but showing Kesha can move on and look forward to a time where she’ll be free of the unnecessary shackles of Sony, and in the meantime she’s still her best self.

The best song on the album has to be the title track, wherein Kesha slows it down again to remind us – and herself – that despite the tragic events she had to go through, she can still eventually love herself and do what she wants in life. It’s like she’s telling us through these songs all that she wanted to be, and there’s no doubting she can get there, especially through these 14 songs. Dolly Parton and Jesse Hughes stop by to support a country-infused ballad and a dance-hall chant, respectively. There isn’t a sour note to be found on the album, especially in the late ‘Stephen’-esque song ‘Godzilla’ which absolves the classic Japanese lizard from all his dating problems. I know it may be obvious I was a little biased going into this album, but my trepidations were assuaged by the mid-point. Kesha blossomed into an artist even I never expected, and if she empowers more women in the shadow of their own despair, then she’s more important than any of us ever expected.

Key Tracks: Rainbow / Boots / Hymn / Let ‘Em Talk

Cut Copy – “Standing in the Middle of the Field”

Something different this week, a bit of ‘human music’ as Rick Sanchez would put it. Cut Copy’s style reminds me of late 2000’s Animal Collective mixed with Friendly Fires, and a dash of Ra Ra Riot for good measure. The Australian electropop quartet has done well for themselves since forming in 2011, though they’ve really never branched into my radar before. We’ve needed a lot of calming melodic music this past week, and if you’re in for some chill late August crooning, look no further than “Standing in the Middle of the Field”.

The National –  “Carin at the Liquor Store”

Singer Matt Berninger and the Devendorf/Dessner brothers have always been a touch unnerving in their music – Berninger’s trembling voice warbling out to us on hit tracks like “Fake Empire” and “Bloodbuzz Ohio”, but it’s never seemed so perfectly sweet, like a child marveling at a rainbow. “Carin” retells a time when yet another lovelorn boyfriend fucked up and can’t bring himself to truly own up to his foibles, instead relying on deflecting his defects into a victim stereotype. Berninger and co must be fully aware of this, but with those arresting monotone vocals , you can’t help but fall back in love with the band.

Lights – “Savage”

Years ago I thought I’d take a chance on an up and coming Toronto singer-songwriter that seemed right up my alley. Unfortunately, the stark album cover on 2011’s Siberia that initially grabbed my attention was the best thing about it. While she was clearly a good writer, the instrumentals weren’t enough to keep the listener involved enough, or at least this one. Lucky for us, with each subsequent release, Lights (real name Valerie Poxleitner) has matured in innovative ways. Significantly, the aptly titled “Savage” highlights a rougher edge without losing the shining electropop vocals that made her famous to begin with. As she belts out “In a flash flood of cruelty / You washed the ground out from  under me” we can appreciate that she’s stuck around for better or worse, because now we’re finally getting better.


Other great songs of the week – Queens of the Stone Age but out another furiously fierce anthem, “The Evil Has Landed” just in time for that title to feel awkward, Daughter returns with the least softspoken they’ve ever been, the rebellious “Burn it Down”, and Tori Amos anticipates her September release Native Invader with the first single “Up the Creek” – a swift kick to the brain and a reminder that Amos has been one of the sharpest songwriters of the past twenty years.

Well, I think that well, for what it’s worth. Next week I’ll try to fit in something if any interesting singles pop up – though with my impending vacation, it may have to wait until the following week when we receive gifts from bands such as The Mynabirds, Queens of the Stone Age and EMA!


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