This is the second of a series about Kesha’s new album Rainbow. For the first post, click here.
Boots seems to be out of place in Rainbow. It doesn’t address the past, pain, or moving forward. But listening to Boots feels delightfully powerful to me. After sexual assault, it’s easy to feel like your sexuality, and especially your joy in your own body has been stolen. I’ve known too many people who felt deeply tied to their sexuality and held it as an important part of their identity, were assaulted, and lost all their comfort with sex. Following assault, they have described the experience as “I don’t know how to do it anymore.” There’s insecurity, fear, and a sense that the ability to enjoy their own body has been taken away.
Which is why I love Boots.
Kesha has always been an artist who is unabashedly hedonistic. Her earlier albums were about drinking, partying, and sexing. Typically these topics have been reserved for male artists, and one of the reasons I love Kesha is that she isn’t afraid to say “yes I party and I have a good time, and you still need my consent.” Boots feels like a return to some essential parts of Kesha. I’m glad that Rainbow is a more mature album overall, and I think it’s got a lot more depth, but Kesha also strikes me as a simply joyful and fun loving human being (check out little Kesha’s dance moves in the Learn to Let Go video for reference). One of the hardest things about depression and trauma is finding things that make you joyful, reclaiming things in an untainted way.
Boots to me is that anthem. It’s the recognition that Kesha is still a sexual being and someone who is happily so. While there are other songs that talk about joy, this is the one that goes a step further and says “Yeah, I fucking still like fucking.” When assault can rob someone of their connection to their body, can leave them with PTSD, can mean that sex more often than not ends in tears or flashbacks, a song that finds joy again is so powerful.
Even more importantly, when she made her accusations there were some folks who decided to make a big deal out of the fact that she sang about partying and sex. That doesn’t fucking matter. She can love sex and still be assaulted. She does not have to be some kind of “gold star” victim to be a victim, and this song in context shows that she is not willing to give up her open, loud sexuality just to get people on her side.
In this respect, one line sticks out to me: “If you can’t handle these claws you don’t get this kitty.” I’ve seen friends criticize this kind of sentiment as a way for excusing bad behavior (if you can’t handle me at my worst you don’t deserve me at my best), but in this particular album it doesn’t read that way. Claws are associated with aggression, fighting back, defending yourself, and the kitty language has some obvious parallels to pussy and sex. To me this line reads as a message to people who want to ignore her boundaries; you do not get her body if you are not willing to respect her boundaries. I hear Kesha saying “I will fight back if you try to take what’s not yours.” In the middle of a song about reclaiming sexuality, that is a fucking anthem. It’s a slap in the face to Dr. Buttface.
My final impression of Boots is the recognition that not all of healing is painful or difficult. Some days you feel joyful. You find people that make you feel better. It might be simply be a distraction, and that’s ok. Feeling good sometimes is HUGE, and it doesn’t invalidate that you might be depressed or that you’re really struggling. It feels so good within this album to have a moment of unabashed sensuality. It’s a good reminder to all of us who have been hurt that our bodies don’t have to be dangerous or feel broken. It’s possible to reclaim them. And that is fucking awesome.