Rejoice, animals, because Christmas has come early.
On Thursday, Kesha dropped “Raising Hell,” the first single for the upcoming album High Road, and Big Freedia is in it! The song and the accompanying Luke Gilford-directed music video feel at once like a return to her roots but also like the pop star is charting an exciting new path forward as an artist.
The single, her first since 2017’s acclaimed LP Rainbow, is lyrically similar to the smash hits she made her name on. In “Tik Tok” and “Blow,” Kesha extolled the virtues of partying until you drop, waking up at 3 p.m. the next day, and brushing your teeth with a bottle of Jack Daniels (which is not medically advisable). While the sound of “Raising Hell” is indebted to Dolly Parton and the gospel genre, Kesha promises she still has her proverbial neon wrist band on after all these years.
“I’m all fucked up in my Sunday best,” she sings. “No one can shame 'cause I love this dress / Hungover, heart of gold, holy mess.”
In previous comments to Rolling Stone, Kesha pledged that Holy Hell would be filled with “pure and utter debaucherous joy,” reconnecting her to the “wildness that’s always been a part of me.” But while the track might feel cosmetically similar to where we left her before coming forward with allegations of years-long sexual and mental abuse by produced Dr. Luke, she has kept the depth and lived-in anguish that made the Grammy-nominated 2017 single “Praying” an instant classic.
One scene from the lavish music video, which features the singer dressed in Tammy Faye Bakker realness before lounging with candles in a luxurious bubble bath, illustrates Kesha’s attempt to marry the different facets of her increasingly complex musical career. She kills an older sugar daddy type with an ice pick after he becomes physically abusive and then drags the body into her trunk — think Basic Instinct meets “Goodbye Earl.”
But while the moment is a clear reference to reclaiming her sense of bodily autonomy following the very public sexual assault allegations, it doesn’t have the mournfulness of “Praying.” Within seconds, she’s back to dancing. “Raising Hell” is about going through it, picking yourself back up, and looking sickening as you twerk the pain away.
One peculiar aspect of the production, however, is that while Freedia provides vocals on the track, she does not physically appear in the video. Considering the clip’s jubilant energy, not tapping the literal queen of Bounce to do her thing is a missed opportunity.
High Road is expected to hit stores and streaming platforms on January 10, 2020.