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TRACK BY TRACK: Kesha's 'Gag Order'

Written by Gabi Lamb. Published: May 31 2023
(Photo: kesha/YouTube)


Kesha has gone through a rollercoaster of a career, with her electronic beginnings growing into more personal and artistic pieces in the wake of her self-healing. Gag Order, which came out May 19, is her first studio album since 2020. Notable is the production by the famous Rick Rubin, who worked with her on every song except one interlude, and Kesha herself was involved in writing and producing each song as well. It’s an interesting time for her album, given the upcoming defamation trial with Dr. Luke; the title of the album suggests that, despite attempts to silence her, she will not be silenced. Gag Order carries a weight and promise unlike her earlier and more familiar work. In honor of this significant step in her career, here we go into Gag Order, track-by-track!


1. "Something To Believe In"

The quiet growth of sound at the start of “Something To Believe In” is like a singing bowl -- it conjures dreamy strains of piano until Kesha’s fractured, somewhat unclear voice beats through in power. The crush of heavy sounds deepen and darken the tone; Kesha hypnotically repeats the chorus until the arpeggio of her voice goes into verses pondering questions of self. The eerie rise and fall, undercut by steady rhythm, is sort of strange and mystic; it stays intense through the breakdown of the hymnal ending.


Favorite Lyrics: “I’m so embarrassing / So used to abandoning myself...”




2. "Eat The Acid"

The organ-like gravitas of “Eat The Acid” continues the powerful prophetic mood of Gag Order. Kesha’s voice really shines over the span of chords, and the slow addition of trickling strings adds speed. Similarly, high electronic vocal flourishes break the weight. The most potent piece is in the bridge, where all cuts out save for Kesha’s voice. From there, the static sounds explode; everything feels like a song heard underwater, fitting with its story of LSD and never being the same again.


Favorite Lyrics: “You don’t wanna be changed / Like it changed me...”




3. "Living In My Head"

Kesha goes acoustic in “Living In My Head”. It’s a full sound still, with her voice layered over its own. It’s so raw, and the tremulous quality of the vocals is painfully lovely; tender like a fresh bruise. It’s folksy and unexpected, and the slurred whine of her voice in the bridge is haunting. The difficulties of feeling trapped in her mind are internal feelings, but the external output is the exact sensation made tangible.


Favorite Lyrics: “Crawlin’ out my skin / Here on the floor...”




4. "Fine Line"

Onto one of the ballads of Gag Order. Like a soliloquy leading to the climax of a musical, Kesha’s low, confessional lyrics layer over a spatial, twinkling background. It’s soft and melancholy, like a diary entry — in it, Kesha ponders the divide between hope and despair. It’s angry but somewhat resigned, and powerful in its honesty. It’s a direct pull from her past and the narrative of her career.


Favorite Lyrics: “Am I bigger than Jesus or better off dead?”




5. "Only Love Can Save Us Now"

Back to the bangers we’ve come to expect from Kesha, “Only Love Can Save Us Now” starts as pure club music with its syncopated bass and electronic elements. The best part is where, in the chorus, it goes more naturalistic, with a clapping track and gorgeous vocal performance. It’s frenzied and passionate; it glows with energy. Be sure to check out her live performance of it!


Favorite Lyrics: ”Only love can save us now...” (the obvious but correct pick)




6. "All I Need Is You"

The romantic, cinematic start with a talking sample on love sets the tone for “All I Need Is You”. It’s got elements like a wedding song, and the relative loudness of Kesha’s voice over the soft music is plaintive and sweet. The song is the start of a new chapter, a rebirth following the more traditional Kesha sounds of “Only Love Can Save Us Now”. It’s a sweeter slow song than “Fine Line”, full of beautiful yearning.


Favorite Lyrics: “Your love might break my heart / Harder than being alone...”




7. "The Drama"

Slow, static, and low chords pause and reignite — it pulls us into the spiral of “The Drama”, which, rather than going down, sparks into beatific, bouncy sounds. The dark narrative of the lyrics makes this song the circus at rock-bottom. “The Drama” only gets madder throughout, with shrieking sounds entering and forming a discordant maelstrom. This even breaks down in the end to a little arhythmic ditty almost like a broken music box or arcade game. It’s jarring and avant-garde, an interesting interlude on Gag Order.


Favorite Lyrics: “I wanna come back / As a house cat...”




8. "Ram Dass Interlude"

Onto the real interlude of Gag Order. Rhetorical questions repeat and echo and turn into a speech. It’s like a compilation of TikTok audios thrown together in a surprising effect. Somewhat creepy, somewhat darkly inspiring, the mood of “Ram Dass Interlude” is hard to pin down.


Favorite Lyrics: “And you start to identify with / The blue sky instead of the cloud...”




9. "Too Far Gone"

Piano and crystal chiming makes the smooth fabric of “Too Far Gone”. It draws on more traditional pop sounds but goes orchestral in the chorus and draws on buzzing synth. It cements Gag Order as Kesha’s confessional album and stands out in the prettiness of her voice and the shining backing tracks. The lyrics are poetic and create a gripping story of aging and the loss of self.


Favorite Lyrics: ”Think I killed the part of me that I like...”




9. "Peace & Quiet"

Neither peaceful nor quiet, but our favorite thing is that Kesha always chooses the unexpected. It’s electronic and autotuned through the chorus in such classic Kesha form that it takes us back to 2009. It’s a complicated journey as Kesha reconciles desires for peace and quiet with her boredom when she pursues it. The mood is ambivalent but thrums with a want for excitement.


Favorite Lyrics: “I’m so f*cking extra / It’s a mess...”




10. "Only Love Reprise"

A near-entirely flute song on a pop album?! Amazing. Never done before. The child’s voice layered over it has a trippy quality as the flute trembles on into a choral bit. “Only Love Reprise” is so weird but it honestly just works.


Favorite Lyrics: “I wish I could see in technicolor...”




11. "Hate Me Harder"

Another intimate piece, Kesha’s often soft vocals throughout Gag Order grow here to show the full range of her voice. It’s center stage in “Hate Me Harder”, as white noise washes up and cuts out. It’s a song like a restrained scream — and Kesha has really got lungs, displayed beautifully at the end of the song where all instrumentation cuts out for only her voice to remain.


Favorite Lyrics: “You say I’m obnoxious / Nobody was asking...”




12. "Happy"

Gone to acoustic guitar again, “Happy” brings another side out of Gag Order in its last chapter. It sounds straight out of a movie soundtrack — a dominant mood for the whole album is definitely cinematic, though this closer song also hints at the folk album Kesha has claimed she’s wanted to put out. “Happy” reflects on Kesha’s growing up and the illusions shattered along the way. Despite it all, Kesha grips onto that tenuous thread of herself and ends on a hopeful note.


Favorite Lyrics: “I refuse to be jaded...”




Let us know your favorite song off Gag Order, and be sure to stream it on your platform of choice!