Thursday, August 10th, 2017

Kesha ft. The Dap-Kings Horns – Woman

Another spot in the motherfuckin’ best of the year…


Lauren Gilbert: Now this is the Kesha I’ve missed. For all “Praying”‘s manifest virtues, it is a song about things that happened to Kesha, and the fallout from those things. “Woman” is a song about Kesha being Kesha, having a fucking amazing life, a song about joy and doing whatever the fuck you want. This is freedom in a way “Praying” is not; not announcing that freedom, but living it instead. It calls back to “We R Who We R” and Kesha’s previous persona, brash and bossy and sometimes drunk; Kesha’s going to be exactly who she wants, and she doesn’t really give a fuck what anyone thinks.

Thomas Inskeep: Now, this is the anthem. I like “Praying” enough, but “Woman” kills. Just think how great “I’m a motherfucking woman!” is gonna sound when sung by 15,000 people in concert. I’ve not traditionally been a fan of Kesha’s; I really loathed her early party-time singles. So the narrative around her is significant, musically, I think. And the fact that she’s got some grease on this song thanks to the Dap-Kings Horns, to match the lyrical attitude she’s throwing all over the place, is smart. I believe this version of Kesha, and that counts for a whole hell of a lot.

Stephen Eisermann: It’s a testament to Kesha’s artistry that she can go from “Praying” to this, working both sides of the spectrum with finesse and the conviction of someone who’s lived through both narratives. Here, Kesha comes out guns blazing, singing about her independence and how she doesn’t need a man for anything — a familiar theme, but sung with such motherfucking confidence that I challenge even the most prudish individuals to not sing along and smile. The Dap-Kings Horns frame the chorus in the best possible way, and the laugh in the second verse manages to come across as both cute and natural — rare for affectations/emotional one-offs in studio recordings. Most of all, though, it’s just so nice to hear Kesha being happy again, and there is no convincing me that she isn’t. She’s a motherfucker, after all, and I don’t think anyone who isn’t genuinely happy with herself describes themselves as such.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: “Woman” is all about the hook, arriving so fast that the enthusiasm with which Kesha sings it has incredible impact. But “Woman” is also all about the hook. The verses are generic filler whose purpose is to simply make way for the chorus. Infinitely worse is the decision to stretch out a plodding bridge to a whopping fifty seconds. I really wish it were more acceptable to release pop songs under two minutes, because this would be far more exciting if it ended at 1:45. But hey, that hook!

Anthony Easton: A weird bookend to The Killers’ “The Man,” except that Brandon Flowers is (at least partially) ironic, and Kesha’s gorgeous reclaim is anything but. The liberation is economic as much as it is sexual, which deepens a party anthem for someone who has written some of the best. Extra points for the laugh break in the middle. Extra extra points for how her voice pushes the propulsive horns, and how the horns structure her voice. The act of mutual reinforcement is as much Ruth Brown or Tina Turner as it is Beth Ditto.

Katie Gill: Kesha’s strength is in her vulgarity and willingness to push the extra mile. Starting from brushing her teeth with a bottle of Jack to the entirety of “Dirty Love,” Kesha’s succeeded when she’s gone above and beyond conventional levels of taste. This chorus, starting off with “I’m a motherfucking woman,” pushes right past the level of taste into beautiful, unabashed shamelessness. The rest is very much a play-by-numbers “who run the world? girls” type of song with some boring lyrics (“girls in the front / boys in the back”) and some questionable lyrics (I still don’t know how I feel about “don’t touch my weave”). But Kesha’s beautifully brassy delivery and the added punch of the Dap-Kings take this song from the tawdry to the sublime.

Katherine St Asaph: The Dap-Kings being on this at all is such a coup, specifically against the producer who once wrote that “A-list songwriters and producers are reluctant to give Kesha their songs because of her weight.” And Kesha laughing throughout the song is relieving to hear, and also a coup. But it does give “Woman” (inadvertently?) the sense of a flippant session of karaoke, a laugh at the idea of doing soul music — not helped by the pat arrangement, or the just-short-of-plagiarism pastiche of Destiny’s Child and the presence and delivery of “don’t touch my weave.” (Particularly that one background adlib, yikes — how would this be received if the name in the credits was Meghan Trainor?) But irreverence was part of the deal ever since Kesha was Ke$ha, and she’s far better at it than playing sedate. And I’ll always welcome anything that sounds like Back to Basics.

Alex Clifton: Most of the self-empowerment tunes released lately have been lackluster. “Scars to Your Beautiful” was annoyingly inspirational, “Most Girls” well-intentioned but boring, and “Power” a good concept but muddied by poor production. That’s what makes “Woman” stand out: it’s relatively simple, but does it ever pack a punch. The Dap-Kings Horns suit Kesha’s voice perfectly as she howls “I’m a motherfucking WOMAN!” with infectious rage/joy. I’m delighted to hear Kesha laugh through the song: there’s plenty to be furious about these days, but at the same time, you’ve gotta pump yourself up with some kind of positive feeling to make it through the year.

Dorian Sinclair: I love how exuberant and, for lack of a better word, goofy a lot of the choices made on “Woman” are. The happily exhausted laughter at the beginning, the shouts and cheers throughout the song, the part where Kesha cracks up in the middle of a line — it all combines to make something weird and full of personality. But it’s important to have a good song to hang all that on, and “Woman” delivers there as well, particularly thanks to the contributions of Saundra Williams and the Dap-Kings Horns, whose back and forth with Kesha’s lead vocal really is fantastic. If “Praying” is a song about coming out of the darkness, “Woman” is about finding a way to be joyful in defiance, which is certainly a mood I can get behind.

Hannah Jocelyn: A discussion ensued in the comments of “Praying” about Kesha’s media narrative and respectability with regards to pop music. I deliberately avoided mentioning the narrative, as it remains a powerful piece of music regardless of backstory. “Woman” doesn’t hold up quite as well — the letter Kesha wrote announcing the single has more life than the recording, which sounds like all the horns and various other instruments were crammed into an elevator like Arcade Fire. The lyrics and performance are fun throughout, though, and occasionally transcendent — the break into laughter in the second verse is a great moment that doesn’t require further explanation.

Will Adams: Our conversation on “Praying” gave me pause. Was my praise a product of respectability politics? Was I letting myself be played by appeals to authenticity, no matter how well deserved? Did I actually enjoy that stock piano ballad template that much? “Woman” helps to clarify the matter for me, in that despite it being a similar concept (“fuck you, I’m rising above all this”) approached from a different angle of authenticity, it’s much harder for me to get behind. I’m not interested in poptimist readings of the merits of this or “Praying” or Animal. For one, Kesha’s ordeal has complicated it immensely, and for another, it simply comes down to things I like versus things I don’t like: studio talk, laughing through lines (but not too much so as to keep it coherent), a bridge that goes on way too long and confetti horns cluttering an already cluttered track. 

Alfred Soto: A partial return to the I’ll-try-anything ecumenicism of her early 2010s work, “Woman” creates such good will that I’m inclined to overrate it when my imagination creates scenarios in which it competes with “Senorita.” I’m not sure if The Dap-Kings Horns are an essential embellishment or if their parts are the song; it’s also easy to imagine a “Woman” without them. When I’m feeling ornery, I imagine Dave Sitek and Kelis. Ah, fuck it: “Woman” is fun to listen to.

Reader average: [4.76] (13 votes)

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18 Responses to “Kesha ft. The Dap-Kings Horns – Woman”

  1. Man, you guys are really overrating these Kesha songs. I am 100% rooting for her, but I can admit that this one is melodically empty, and her singing “don’t touch my weave” is so confounding and gross. White women will never learn.

  2. Wait, I thought it was “Don’t touch my weed.”

  3. Wow yeah I thought it was weed for sure. That’s… not cool

  4. also thought it was weed -_- Kesha nooooooooooooooo

  5. fourth’d on the mishearing… oof

  6. The highly scientific method of running both phrases through Startpage says it’s “weave.” I’m genuinely surprised; “weed” just seemed so much more in the spirit of Kesha’s pre-lawsuit lyrics, and my whole reading of this song was that it was Kesha reclaiming some ownership of her pre-lawsuit persona.

    (I should add: I’m a white woman, almost 40, and I have never worn extensions or otherwise been offered the opportunity to have hair added to the hair I already have. I have also never watched any Real Housewives or Drag Race or other shows that prominently featured added hair. [Yes, I’m weird.] So I have a vague idea of why “don’t touch my weave” would be seen as biting black pop culture, but not really an understanding of what a weave actually is, or how often celebrities [including white female celebrities] get them.)

  7. totally thot it was weed

  8. i still hear it as weed

  9. though yeah, the background adlib suggests “weave.” can i get a lyric booklet

  10. Pretty clearly “weave” when you watch her live performances:

  11. and i agree with gphg re: kesha’s recent ratings

  12. also I’m not understanding what’s distasteful about the don’t touch my weave lyric. white women wear weave and extensions all the time, it’s the assumption that only black women buy and wear hair that’s problematic

  13. As Katherine stated on her blurb, I think it’s more so the delivery (specifically the ad-lib)

  14. Let’s be honest, if it hadn’t been for the goodwill generated by the Dr Luke nightmare, everyone would be judging these songs for the bland and trite dirges they are. “Praying” was a lumbering piano ballad that would have been turned down by Bon Jovi for being too heavy-handed, and “Woman” might be the most embarrassing attempt at blue-eyed soul yet recorded. I get that everyone wants to be supportive of her, but there’s a certain amount of critical distance lacking here.

  15. we’ve kinda been over this already but okay

  16. sorry but in a world where paloma faith and pixie lott exist, that is false. This is basically “Confident” by demi lovato which I also scored high

    also you can’t excise context, really, from anything, you can decide when to focus on what part of it

  17. re: the weave thing, yes, the delivery, but also the just casually picking up of a colloquial phrase for meme purposes, particularly one as politicized as hair — for years, but one would think the point it crossed more music industry radars was when Solange’s (universally acclaimed) album made it an entire song

  18. The weave has quite a while ago ported from black, trans, drag and celebrity culture as a means of presenting as self-definition. So it takes on elegantly stinging/funny metaphor value in Kesha’s current agonies.