Kesha Shares Her Manifesto Behind New Album 'Gag Order' (Exclusive)
In her own words, the singer writes about talking to God and creating her new album, produced by Rick Rubin and out May 19.
Last night I talked to God.
“All the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow,” Leo Tolstoy
“There’s nothing more unattractive than an angry woman,” —unknown
I don’t know where I heard that last one. Maybe I just made it up in my mind, but it has echoed as gospel through my whole life. Whenever an ugly emotion would announce itself, I would silence it. Dance it away, drink it away, shop it away, f*ck it away, or just shut up and vibrate violently on the inside. Anger, sadness, frustration — whatever it was, that’s not what I was here for. It was a burden to be anything but fun and grateful. Which I am. Thus the internal battle rages.
The party don’t start til I walk in… some days those words feel deranged. I love to make people happy. It makes me happy. It became ingrained in me that being happy (or at least pretending to be) is the way to be loved. And in a way, it worked on a grand scale.
I’ve had the life I always silently prayed for.
But after my last album was released right before the pandemic hit, I went into quarantine feeling very lost. There was no tour, so the album that I had just made kind of felt like it hit a wall as soon as it entered the world. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? If an artist creates a piece that no one knows exists, are they still an artist? Or am I just talking to myself? The foot on the gas had been halted. The world seemed to stop spinning. My head hit the dash.
My brain didn’t have the constant chaos to distract my thoughts. They circled like great whites around my body. I kept dodging the feelings that my life had no purpose and my brain could not function. What am I doing, why am I here? I know I’m wildly blessed and privileged, so why am I so sad and scared? What the f*ck is wrong with me?
I didn’t understand my own emotions or my own purpose without an audience to play off of, or a character to portray.
I had a series of anxiety and panic attacks. I knew my body was trying to tell me something, and I reluctantly searched for answers and cures. What if I slept better? Ate better? Had a bigger hit song? A nicer house? A perfect partner?
One night while laying in bed, I was unable to sleep. 3:33 a.m. So angry at the fact that I was going to probably watch the sun come up again against my every attempt to sleep.
Then it happened. I felt a wave of golden light pass through my body. A sense of peace. I began to hear what I think of as my true self, my consciousness and soul speak to me. I saw how connected we all are, as cliche as that may sound, and in the damp night in the middle of the summer of 2020 I talked to God.
This night sent me like a rabid animal into a journey of self-discovery within my consciousness. I’ve always had an unbridled energy, but this time I felt a focus. I felt as if my singularity was not in fact for me or singular at all. I felt a connective tissue running through my veins and falling into the ground and then the earth, the trees, into the rain, into the clouds, into the ether. I saw myself in every stranger. My ego, or sense of aloneness, now suddenly felt like just a small part of the whole. My ego felt dismantled.
I have spent so much time examining how I look, and how I sound; my hair, my face, my voice, my body, every f*cking inch of perfectionism berating me into submission. And suddenly it all felt irrelevant — almost comical. Oh, the divine comedy.
“I wanted to make an album that sounds the way my head feels. Dipping in and out of depression, gratitude, rage, and hope. Always moving.”
It was terrifying and electric. I woke up the morning after this experience and wrote the first song for this album, the seed and catalyst for the whole project, called “Eat the Acid.”
My mom warned me at a very young age to not take acid. She told me how she had taken some as a teen and it had shown her so much… too much. I made it a point to never, ever touch it. I still haven’t. I didn’t want to see it all. I wanted to live blissfully unaware and happy. I want to be a house cat.
It’s scary. I wanted to make an album that sounds the way my head feels. Dipping in and out of depression, gratitude, rage, and hope. Always moving.
Without the darkness, there is no light. So I let my darkness have the light. I can’t fight the truth. Life is difficult and painful. It is for everyone.
An artist doesn’t exist to make others happy. I believe an artist gives voice, motion, color to the emotions we all have. The good emotions, and the unmanageably f*cking miserable ones.
Working with Rick Rubin was a divine gift. Following the creation of the first song, he allowed me to explore emotions that were too intense to explore on my own. I felt anger. I felt sad. I felt broken, and he helped me put my pieces back together.
I have given voice to the pain. I finally acknowledged it and let it dissolve into being a piece of me instead of my enemy. Every day is its own journey. I’m not fixed and I may never be. Or maybe there is nothing to fix. But I want people to know they aren’t alone in their head.
This album has been handcrafted with so much transparency and care, and I hope it connects with those who need it.