#Madonna60 - A Countdown of My 60 Favorite Madonna Songs

From controversial choices to obvious picks, this is a look inside my lifelong Madonna fandom.

image1.png

August 16, 2018 marks the 60th birthday of Madonna, an artist who changed my life and shaped my upbringing as a gay man. The difference she's made in the LGBTQIA+ community cannot be quantified. From spreading awareness and reducing stigma around HIV/AIDS, to creating the Raising Malawi organization to benefit the African country of Malawi, her impact goes far beyond pop music.

Still, the Queen of Pop has an vast and vivacious catalog of hits and album tracks, and these are my sixty favorites. From songs that defined her legacy, to forgotten gems, I hope you'll enjoy this celebration of her music.


60. "Gang Bang"
Less a song than a visceral ride through Madonna’s psyche after her divorce from Guy Ritchie. It's so explicit that it couldn't even be edited to appear on the "clean" edition of the MDNA album.

59. "Over and Over"
Easily written off as a frothy filler track, the song’s lyrics explore Madonna’s can-do spirit, which cannot be broken. 

58. "Hey You"
An inspiring climate change anthem released for Live Earth. Simple and uplifting, this sweet-hearted song was wrongfully panned by critics. 

57. "American Life"

“Madonna attempts rapping” was the headline from this banger, but the real headline should have been her brilliant, scathing take on fame and George W. Bush’s post-9/11 America. Its banned and retracted original music video is one of Madonna's most profound artistic statements ever.

56. "Burning Up"
The quintessential "young Madonna" song. It's entirely fueled by the personality that made her the biggest star in the world, and led to her being dubbed "the female Michael Jackson" from the start of her career.

55. "Where’s The Party"
Just a fun song. You can't help but groove along.

54. "Don’t Stop"
This is such a low-key song... but when you're in its grasp, it's inescapable. I had this on repeat a couple summers ago.

53. "Spanish Lesson"
This pick will make a lot of serious Madonna fans roll their eyes - but to me, this is one of her most fun '00s tracks. A flirty, bubblegum pop moment with clever verse lyrics and a big chorus. 

52. "Take A Bow"
Madonna produced this with legendary R&B singer-songwriter Babyface, who later went on to collaborate with Barbra Streisand on her 2014 Partners album. Fittingly, Apple Music compares "Take A Bow" to a big Streisand ballad. 

51. "Deeper and Deeper"
One of the most unexpected and exciting moments of experiencing the Rebel Heart Tour live was hearing Madonna take on this '90s jam in a style faithful to the studio version. 

50. "Gambler"
Never released on a studio album or greatest hits collection, this forgotten Madonna hit remains beloved by woke fans.

49. "Secret"

48. "Die Another Day"
In my world, this is the best James Bond movie song of all time. 

47. "I’m Addicted"
The sputtering, trippy song that inspired the title of Madonna's MDNA album. The production on this one is insane. I'd love to have been a fly on the wall while Madonna and co. produced this. Or any song, really.

46. "Lucky Star"
The premiere bubblegum pop song, "Lucky Star" remains fresh and fun.

45. "Give It 2 Me"
While it was absolutely the wrong choice to follow-up "4 Minutes" as the second single from Hard Candy, "Give It 2 Me" stuns with its Pharrell-assisted beat and occasionally silly lyrics. Madonna fans were quick to call out P for reusing the drums in the 2013 song of the summer "Blurred Lines (feat. T.I. & Pharrell)" by Robin Thicke

44. "Amazing"
One of the best deep cuts that makes Music the wonderful album it is.

43. "Some Girls"
Another glittering moment from the misunderstood MDNA, this William Orbit collaboration is the sonic equivalent to a sputtering laser light show. Lyrically, Madonna presents a sassier take on her Millennial pop star competition with this one. 

42. "4 Minutes (feat. Justin Timberlake & Timbaland)"

A giant dance song with over 100 audio tracks used in its composition, “4 Minutes (feat. Justin Timberlake & Timbaland)” reminds me of listening to Hard Candy in a car full of high school friends.

41. "Fighting Spirit"
A Confessions On A Dance Floor box set bonus track that feels like it should have made the standard edition of the album. It's just that good. Listen if you haven't.

40. "Justify My Love"

39. "It’s So Cool"
This sarcastic bop is a look at Madonna’s cynical side, and a deluxe bonus track from her 2009 greatest hits album Celebration

38. "Nobody Knows Me"
The Re-Invention Tour performance of this is so brilliant:

37. "Celebration"

36. "Future Lovers"
One of the first songs that helped me accept myself as a gay man. 

35. "Unapologetic Bitch"
Another hit that got away.

34. "Papa Don’t Preach"
I remember first hearing this as a kid, and finding the subject matter scandalous.

33. "Live To Tell"

32. "Spanish Eyes"
I remember listening to the full Like A Prayer album for the first time on vinyl, and falling in love with this song.

31. "Human Nature"
As a huge Britney Spears fan, my first experience with this song was watching the Sticky & Sweet Tour performance of it where Britney appears in the video backdrops. 

30. Bitch I’m Madonna (feat. Nicki Minaj)
A crazy sendoff to ageist haters, this mammoth dance track also features one of Nicki Minaj's best rap verses ever. My favorite memory of this song is watching Madonna's insane performance of it on The Tonight Show.

29. "Revolver (feat. Lil Wayne)"
If marketed properly, this could have been a major US hit. Lil Wayne was at the top of his game at the time, and this song is a slice of pop perfection.

28. "Voices"
Part of what makes Hard Candy such an underrated album.

27. "Joan of Arc"
Madonna at her most vulnerable.

26. "I Love New York"
This first appeared as a rock & roll bonus track on the I'm Going to Tell You A Secret CD, before being rerecorded as a dance song for the Confessions On A Dancefloor album. 

25. "Girl Gone Wild"

24. "Love Song"
A lot of people don't know that Madonna collaborated with Prince on her 1989 album Like A Prayer. This is because his guitar work on "Like A Prayer," "Keep It Together" and "Act of Contrition," and vocals on "Love Song" are uncredited. Michigan native Madonna spoke about the chilly Minnesota winter experience recording "Love Song" at Paisley Park:

We were friends and talked about working together, so I went to Minneapolis to write some stuff with him, but the only thing I really dug was ‘Love Song.’ We ended up writing it long-distance, because I had to be in LA and he couldn’t leave Minneapolis, and quite frankly I couldn’t stand Minneapolis. When I went there, it was like 20 degrees below zero, and it was really desolate. I was miserable and I couldn’t write or work under those circumstances.
— Madonna

23. "Candy Shop"
Maybe it’s the bubbly drums, maybe it’s the fact she’s performed this non-single on her last three world tours. Who knows? It’s a major grower. Thanks, Pharrell!

22. "Rebel Heart"
A confessional, upbeat song that maps the journey Madonna had to take to become the Queen of Pop she is today. Inspired me to get my first tattoo, which was the Rebel Heart album logo. The demo version of this song has a catchy vocal hook in the background that repeats throughout. 

21. "Me Against the Music" - Britney Spears (feat. Madonna)
Madonna does the unthinkable: guest stars on a song. This track was complete when Britney played it for her, Madonna offered to make it a duet. The result is a wild meeting of the minds of two of pop music’s all-time greatest stars. I remember watching the MTV “Making the Video” special on MTV, and freaking out when I realized the VCR didn't record it properly.

20. "Material Girl"
This was the first '80s Madonna song I fell in love with.

19. "Love Profusion"
Featuring profound lyrics and experimental production, this song captures what it must feel like to be in the honeymoon phase of a relationship with Madonna.

18. "Open Your Heart"
Catchy, catchy, catchy. 

17. "Express Yourself"

 "Look it up" - Madonna

"Look it up" - Madonna

16. "Like A Virgin"
I can't help but think of this iconic moment:

 Photo: Billboard

Photo: Billboard

15. "Isaac"
This song has a raw power which cannot be denied.

14. "Sorry"
A dance floor stomper that beautifully picks up where "Hung Up" left off; it's no wonder its music video does the same.

13. "Love Spent"
On an album filled with references to her divorce from Guy Ritchie, this multi-faceted song stands out as her definitive statement on the subject. The abrupt transition midway through makes way for an almost entirely new song, and feels like an epiphany. 

12. "Holy Water"
A percolating pop banger that feels dangerous and lyrically provides an updated, distilled version of her career-long focus on Catholicism. The Rebel Heart Tour performance of this is worth the cost of the Blu-ray set alone. 

11. "Beautiful Stranger"
Described by Apple Music as “one of her brighter, deeper singles ever,” and I couldn’t agree more. This was the first Madonna song I was obsessed with in real time when it came out.

10. "The Power of Good-Bye"
It took me a while to mature to the point where I could fully appreciate this song. It's a gorgeous, supremely well-written song.

9. "Ray of Light"
Over 5 minutes of pure, enlightened pop bliss.

8. "Like A Prayer"
Controversial and powerful, this iconic pop power ballad reigns supreme as #1 on the majority of mainstream writers’ top Madonna songs lists, and I can see why. 

7. "Oh Father"

Madonna has explored her mother’s death throughout the years, but no other work is more candid or haunting than this largely overlooked ballad. Sia has a wonderful cover of this, too.

6. "Hung Up"

Hung_Up.jpg

You’d think the prominent ABBA sample would define the song, but Madonna’s superpowers ensure the track would be solid without it. 

5. "Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You"

The type of maturity and depth critics claim they want to hear in modern Madonna music, but seemingly ignore.

4. "Don’t Tell Me"

R-11694817-1520790149-4288.png.jpg

Uses country music elements to speak to her biggest detractors, middle America, in a send off that is both powerful and universal. 

3. "Frozen"

 A still from the haunting music video.

A still from the haunting music video.

No other cut on “Ray of Light” showed more artistic growth than “Frozen,” an extremely atmospheric song that analyzes depression. 

2. "Vogue"

 Madonna with beloved backup singer  Niki Harris .

Madonna with beloved backup singer Niki Harris.

A historic track that sounds fresh today, “Vogue” effortlessly changed the world by starting conversations and offering the general public a glimpse into queer culture. 

1. "Music"

The Queen of Pop defines music itself in the ultimate ode to the dance floor experience. I had full-body chills during her Super Bowl performance of this.


What's your favorite Madonna song? Tweet me! @DerekPlease on Twitter.

Watch: Madonna Releases Met Gala 2018 Performance Recording

As a special gift to fans on her 60th birthday, the Queen of Pop dropped the professional recording of her May 7, 2018 performance. 

 Source: YouTube

Source: YouTube

Every Madonna fan can relate to the phrase "playing the long game," as official video releases from today's birthday girl often take months or years to come to fruition. In fact, some of her most tantalizing tapes from decades past exist only on VHS, or are locked away in Hollywood vaults. Three months, then, wasn't so long to wait for this gorgeously edited official version of Madonna's May 7, 2018 Met Gala performance.

The theme of Anna Wintour's 2018 Met Gala was Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination. Since Madonna has explored her Catholic upbringing and the Church's aesthetic across almost her entire career, she was the obvious and rightful performer choice. 

The 13-minute video clip was produced by NCR Films, the production company of Nathan Rissman. Rissman is a frequent Madonna collaborator; he directed her Rebel Heart Tour and Sticky & Sweet Tour films, "Give It 2 Me" and "Miles Away" music videos, and 2008 documentary I Am Because We Are, written by Madonna about the AIDS pandemic in the African country of Malawi.

"Madonna - Met Gala 2018" is edited in a style reminiscent of her recent MDNA Tour and Rebel Heart Tour video releases. This fast-paced, multilayered video editing style tends to divide fans, but I enjoy how it so conveys the excitement of physically attending a Madonna show. The editor in question, Danny Tull, has edited nearly every Madonna video release since her 2006 The Confessions Tour film.

Her performance consists of three songs; the choir-assisted "Like A Prayer," the brand new song "Beautiful Game," and a striking cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," in the style popularized by Jeff Buckley. Madonna's voice is strong, clear and dynamic throughout. It might be one of her best live audio recordings to date. 

She also published a statement on Instagram explaining the surprise video release:

In celebration of my birthday🎂🎉💕 , and as a “thank you” for all your donations on my Birthday Fundraiser, I wanted to share a very special performance from this year’s Met Gala 🎉🎂💕🙏🏻🇲🇼 🎼
Check out on my YouTube page and enjoy entire performance! #celebrate #raisingmalawi #homeofhope #metgala #likeaprayer #blessed 🙏🏼 @ncrfilms @dannytull
— @Madonna on Instagram

You can donate to Madonna's birthday fundraiser here. Every dollar raised will go directly to meals, schools, uniforms and healthcare for children in Malawi. Ripple will match every dollar donated to this campaign!

Whatever you think of Madonna or her video editing style, please take a moment to reflect on her art and legacy so far, as we celebrate her 60th birthday today. "Where's the Party"? Everywhere!


Tell me how you are celebrating #Madonna60
Facebook.com/DerekPlease
Twitter: DerekPlease
Instagram: DerekPlease
Snapchat: DerekPlease

Vinyl: Cher Album "Dancing Queen" Continues the ABBA Resurgence

The living legend promises to deliver us the pure fun we desperately need.

 Photo: Machado Cicala

Photo: Machado Cicala

Music tends to reflect the time it's released in, and thus the current offerings dominating the Billboard Hot 100 seem to be divisive, unoriginal, and a little melancholy.

Pop icon Cher is back to once again shake things up with what may possibly be her most fun album in decades, Dancing Queen. Produced by "Believe" producer Mark Taylor, Cher's 10-track collection of ABBA covers is all-killer, no filler; each of the songs she picked can be found on the Swedish pop group's iconic ABBA Gold: Greatest Hits LP.

Cher's first Dancing Queen single, "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)" is already evidence enough that the Goddess of Pop wants the album to be a dancefloor-ready escape from the hard times we're living in.

I’ve always liked Abba and saw the original Mamma Mia musical on Broadway three times. After filming ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,’ I was reminded again of what great and timeless songs they wrote and started thinking ‘why not do an album of their music?’ The songs were harder to sing than I imagined but I’m so happy with how the music came out. I’m really excited for people to hear it. It’s a perfect time.
— Cher

Indeed the ABBA resurgence is in full swing after the global success of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, the announcement of this Cher LP, and the fact that ABBA is releasing two new songs at the end of 2018.

While I can't wait to hear Dancing Queen, the album's digital and CD release date of September 28 is not too far away. And while vinyl details are scarce, the wax edition is listed for pre-order on Amazon with a release date of November 6.

Tracklisting

1. Dancing Queen
2. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)
3. The Name Of The Game
4. SOS
5. Waterloo
6. Mamma Mia
7. Chiquitita
8. Fernando
9. The Winner Takes It All
10. One Of Us

Pre-add or pre-order on your favorite digital service here

Pre-order the CD on Amazon here

Pre-order the vinyl on Amazon here


What's your favorite Cher song? Tweet me! @DerekPlease

Review: Panic! At the Disco Opens Pray for the Wicked Tour in Minneapolis

Frontman Brendon Urie celebrates his truth with a new generation of fans. 

This article is set to appear inside Issue 119 of Twin Cities Gay Scene magazine.

 Photo by Jake Chamseddine from @panicatthedisco on Instagram 

Photo by Jake Chamseddine from @panicatthedisco on Instagram 

The mysterious touring band of Panic! At the Disco slowly ascended from under the stage, playing an atmospheric overture in darkness. Suddenly, a small trap door opened in front of them. Sole official band member Brendon Urie literally launched out of it, surrounded by a burst of silver streamers.

Urie strutted across the Panic logo-shaped stage singing "(Fuck A) Silver Lining" like a conquering hero making his proud return. Fitting, since Panic! At the Disco is fresh off releasing a US #1 album; last month's Pray for the Wicked. The Minneapolis stop at Target Center on Wednesday was opening night for the 68-date Pray for the Wicked Tour. 

 Photo by DerekPlease.com (Taken during Death of a Bachelor Tour )

Photo by DerekPlease.com (Taken during Death of a Bachelor Tour)

Opening night jitters? Non-existent. High-energy fails to describe the show that followed. Urie said a quick hello to the crowd before keeping the chaos going with the B-52's-sampling "Don't Threaten Me With A Good Time." Despite the track being a deep cut from Panic's 2016 Death of a Bachelor LP, the audience erupted in the sort of concert sing-along usually reserved for an act's biggest hits. This trend held throughout the night; fans were audibly singing along to every song, including a surprise Bonnie Raitt cover. 

Panic! At the Disco has been releasing albums to continued success since 2005, but the band's audience has always been primarily composed of teenagers. These days, that's a whole new generation: Generation Z. The Millennials that were teens when A Fever You Can't Sweat Out debuted mostly stayed home. In fact, it was rare to spot any adults except parents and chaperones. 

The setlist seemed catered to the youthful, hyped-up crowd. Only a few slower songs were performed, and Brendon almost exclusively pulled from the band's 2010s catalog. Only two '00s cuts were played throughout the night; "Nine in the Afternoon" (2008) and "I Don't Write Sins I Write Tragedies" (2005).

 Photo by Jake Chamseddine from @panicatthedisco on Instagram 

Photo by Jake Chamseddine from @panicatthedisco on Instagram 

The high-energy crowd went into hysterics early on when Urie sang about wearing high heels, especially when he pulled out his falsetto. He seemed to take pleasure from this response, later utilizing his highest pitch more often than the original songs called for it.

Behind the stage, an array of massive, vertical video screens provided visual accompaniment to each song. "LA Devotee" featured Instagram-filtered looks at Los Angeles. Graphics for 2011 single "Ready to Go (Get Me Out of My Mind)" hypnotized the crowd with iTunes Visualizer-like patterns.

Pray for the Wicked Tour was also noticeably more personal than previous tours. Brendon Urie even dedicated a song to his mother. "This is a song I wrote for my mom, thank you, mom," he said, before launching into the new track "Hey Look Ma, I Made It." The video screens featured a debaucherous puppet version of Urie living large in Hollywood. That puppet was a fan favorite. In the venue's lobby, he was featured inside a custom fortune teller machine; sort of like Zoltar Speaks from the movie Big.

His dedication to the LGBTQIA+ community felt more personal, too. Brendon recently came out as pansexual after years of being a vocal and exceptional ally. He proudly pulled Pride flags of all varieties from the audience during "Girls/Girls/Boys," his 2013 anthem dedicated to queer fans. It is one of Panic's most demanding songs vocally, but Urie sounded stronger than ever while draped in rainbow flags. The standout performance was made even more spectacular by the crowd, as they held paper of different rainbow colors over their smartphone flashlights, which created a rainbow array across Target Center. "You are gorgeous," Urie proclaimed afterward. 

The marathon 28-song-long setlist felt a bit indulgent at times, but the charismatic Urie pulled it off. Even songs he could cut, like deep cuts "Casual Affair," "Nicotine," and "Crazy=Genius," made for engaging performances that highlighted the immense quality of Panic's career catalog. 

 Photo by Jake Chamseddine from @panicatthedisco on Instagram

Photo by Jake Chamseddine from @panicatthedisco on Instagram

Despite the tour's title, and performances of songs like "Hallelujah," "This Is Gospel," and "Say Amen (Saturday Night)," Panic! At the Disco didn't feature much religious imagery in the show. An exception was a video of Urie trolling around a graveyard in demonic prosthetic makeup during "Emperor's New Clothes." 

It felt like the majority-teenage audience was at church, though. They literally evangelized during "Hallelujah," hands swaying in the air in devotion. Their favorite frontman noticed. At the end of the performance, Brendon Urie only yelled one word… "Church!" 

"Is that for me? You drew this? Holy shit," Urie said while holding fan art over his face. Crowd interaction like that feels so natural with Panic! At the Disco shows. During "Golden Days," a fan threw roses on the stage. Urie gripped them between his teeth while trying to sing the bridge. He joked it wasn't "sounding good," and gave them to the drummer. Moments like that were more special than anything Panic could have planned during rehearsals.

The height of fan interaction came when Urie walked through the Target Center floor sections singing "Death of a Bachelor," giving literal meaning to lyrics like "I'm walking the long road" as he made his way to the b-stage. 

 Photo by DerekPlease.com (Taken during Death of a Bachelor Tour )

Photo by DerekPlease.com (Taken during Death of a Bachelor Tour)

From there he boarded a flying piano, where he performed a medley of the Bonnie Raitt cover "I Can't Make You Love Me" and a new Panic! At the Disco ballad, "Dying In LA." The latter really showed off the strength of his Broadway-tested pipes (he had a headlining run in Kinky Boots last year). 

Panic! At the Disco later paid individual tribute to Cyndi Lauper. The legendary pop singer wrote the music and lyrics for the Kinky Boots musical. Brendon Urie had a blast covering Lauper's classic hit "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." He acknowledged his audience's youth, and said, "If it's a little old school and you don't know who [Lauper] is, hopefully, you know this song."

They knew it. One audience member even threw her bra on stage. The performance was crazy. All the female members of the Panic! At the Disco touring band united to jam together, while Urie sang the song with no lyrical alternations. Distorted VHS visuals of the original 1983 music video played on stage screens.

The ‘80s love kept on with "Dancing's Not A Crime," a bombastic pop-rock cut from the new Pray for the Wicked album. Urie paid tribute to Michael Jackson as he moonwalked and sang, "I'm a moonwalker, I'm like MJ up in the clouds." This track took on more of a sociopolitical tone live, with Urie giving intense emphasis to the line "whatever they tell you" before declaring "dancing's not a crime."

The King of Pop-referencing song was the perfect segue into "Miss Jackson," a 2011 hit from Panic and Lolo that references Janet Jackson and her iconic single "Nasty." During the middle eight, Brendon indulged himself in an interesting drum solo that featured vocal samples from Christopher Walken's 2000 Saturday Night Live skit "More Cowbell." Once that randomness was over, he landed a truly shocking backflip off the platform the drum kit was on. 

"I always say this but it's true. I wish I wrote this song," confessed Urie, before leaning into his famous cover version of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." It was a welcome carryover from the Death of a Bachelor Tour. It's something Panic! At the Disco is known for now; the studio version is even included on the band's Apple Music Essentials playlist. 

 Photo by DerekPlease.com (Taken during Death of a Bachelor Tour )

Photo by DerekPlease.com (Taken during Death of a Bachelor Tour)

The fact it was opening night of the Pray for the Wicked Tour was occasionally evident, and Urie was quick to confess the show only had a few rehearsals. The setlist being six songs longer than their last tour felt like a workshopping element of sorts. Perhaps Panic! At the Disco gauging audience reactions before settling on a final setlist.

It was not immediately apparent we were waiting for the encore, once that time came. No usual fake-out "goodnight" was said before Brendon Urie and company left the stage. 

After a few minutes, Panic came back for a three-song encore. Surprisingly, Pray for the Wicked lead single "Say Amen (Saturday Night)" was the best cut from it. The relatively tame studio version is not my favorite on the album, but the live rendition was hard rock and seriously fun. It actually made a Wednesday night feel like a Saturday night.

Before Panic! At the Disco ended the night with "Victorious," Urie took one more moment to tell the audience how special they were to him, and to humanity as a whole. It was a genuine and touching end to one of the most ambitious arena concerts the Twin Cities has seen in a while.



What's your favorite Panic! At the Disco song? Tweet me! @DerekPlease

Review: Kesha Closes Out Pride Month in Minnesota

The singer-songwriter brought her all killer, no filler Rainbow Tour outdoors at Mystic Lake.

Photography: DerekPlease.com

This article is set to run in the upcoming Issue 118 of Twin Cities Gay Scene magazine.


June 30, 2018. Dressed in their best early-‘10s, Ke$ha-style garage glam looks, the mostly millennial crowd at Mystic Amphitheater was on fire before Kesha's “Rainbow Tour” show even started. Rainbow makeup shined on the cheeks and eyelids of various fans of all genders.

Photography: DerekPlease.com

Just past 9, a full band walked on stage in white suits. Two backup dancers flanked the sides of a staircase. Above it, a giant spaceship set piece loomed. A glittery curtain in the middle of the spaceship fluttered. Kesha emerged. As she slowly descended the staircase to her dancers, she teased us with the spoken word intro to “TiK ToK.” 

The crowd erupted as Kesha opened her set with “Woman,” a standout single from her latest LP Rainbow. Her and her dancers flipped the bird in synchronized fashion during the chorus. Screens behind them lit up with lyrics. 

Mystic Amphitheater was packed, but the venue was very organized; clear lanes were spray painted in the grass so attendees could leave any standing area for a bathroom or beer run. Not like anyone was leaving during exciting numbers like “Boogie Feet,” though. For that one, Kesha donned a bedazzled cape. “My natural habitat is… in a cape,” she joked. 

Kesha talked to the diverse crowd about it “technically” being the last day of Pride Month. She told the crowd, “One could argue we should go extra f—ing hard because it’s the last day of Pride Month.” Thunderous applause ensued. “Pride is never over,” she declared. 

She then dedicated a rollicking performance of “We R Who We R” to the LGBTQIA+ community. The dedication excited the crowd; the US #1 hit made for probably the largest sing-along moment of the night. It was electric. 

Photography: DerekPlease.com

The singer-songwriter later paused to sign a fan’s vinyl copy of Rainbow. The fan was pretty far back in the audience, so it was endearing to see the crowd work together to pass her record to the stage. Being a vinyl nerd myself, being a part of around 10,000 people witnessing a single record be signed was a cool moment. 

Despite most of her back catalog being dance pop, Kesha performed new rock renditions of her hits. Gone were the digital drums and synths from the original versions. How easily the songs were translated to real instruments proved how much song-craft Kesha put into writing even her “danciest” of songs, like "Die Young."

“Songwriting is in my blood,” Kesha said, while recounting writing her huge radio hit “Your Love Is My Drug” with her mom, fellow singer-songwriter Pebe Sebert. Kesha's performance of the song took on new meaning after learning this tidbit. 

The highlight of the night came when Kesha noticed a giant, glittery, golden penis sculpture in the audience. Naturally, she asked for her fans to pass it to the stage. While it initially read as a joke to the crowd, Kesha took it to a deeper place. She confessed she’s always wanted her shows to be a place her fans could bring their own art. When she attempted to give it back unsigned, the crowd chanted, “Sign it!” - She did.

Kesha taunted us before starting crowd-favorite track “Take It Off” - she claimed she couldn’t start singing until people stripped and threw their clothes at the stage. Obviously, the crowd obliged. She pushed it further, asking specifically for a bra; she received multiple. 

Photography: DerekPlease.com

The spaceship stage piece was a perfect callback to the cartoon ones on her Rainbow album cover. Lights came out of the circular windows on it, which made for a unique and visually interesting light show. Vintage sci-fi cartoons played on the screens behind it.

When Kesha announced her final song, the crowd emitted sounds of confusion; admittedly, the setlist of this tour is a bit short at a nightly average of a dozen songs. However, audience interaction is integral to Kesha's shows and she clearly builds in time specifically for that purpose.

The pop star reassured her concerned audience that it was only the “pretend last song,” and she’d be back afterwards for a couple more. She launched into the brilliant banger “Blow,” which is arguably the most EDM out of any of her singles. Kesha and her band pulled it off fantastically as a balls-to-the-wall rock-n-roll number. 

As promised, she later reemerged for her encore, beginning with a powerful rendition of “Praying,” the confessional lead single off Rainbow. She encouraged the crowd to sing along, and we did. After the song concluded, she spoke about how grateful she was for that, as the song is difficult for her to perform. It came from a time where she wasn’t sure she’d be legally able to release music ever again.

Photography: DerekPlease.com

Kesha declared she had one more “boogie" song’s worth of energy left, and jumped into an electro-tinged, upbeat performance of her debut single “TiK ToK.” The summer before I left for college, I got a free download of that track on her website. It went on to become a giant #1 hit, selling over 16 million copies worldwide. Eight years later, I was standing at her show, reviewing it as press. Talk about a full circle moment. 

When the song was over and Kesha said goodnight, the sentiment of the audience seemed unanimous. We had all just witnessed an artist in her prime, performing exactly the way she’s always wanted to. 

Rain began falling immediately after Kesha left the stage. Fitting, as she had sung “I’ll bring thunder, I’ll bring rain” only a few minutes before. 

5/5

Opening Act: CVBZ

Los Angeles-based opening act CVBZ, pronounced “cubs,” was a hit with the audience right off the bat. The stage name of Sean Jacobs, CVBZ is so fresh he doesn’t have his own Wikipedia page yet. With candid lyrics the crowd immediately vibed with, CVBZ felt like a perfect fit for an outdoor venue like Mystic Amphitheater; even his knitted poncho seemed like something straight out of Coachella. 

Midway through his set, CVBZ humbly stated he wasn’t "the best" singer. However, his voice had a great tonality and shined during songs like “Vicodin,” “Drugs,” debut single “Be Like You,” and “Be Somebody.” The tracks were accompanied by interesting visuals involving CVBZ wearing a full-body green screen suit.

Before his final number, CVBZ referenced a technical difficulty in the previous song. He said, “What you just witnessed is a singer’s worst nightmare.” He brushed it off and offered the crowd fruit, which he threw from the stage. 

Standout track “Feels Great” was a collaboration with Cheat Codes and Fetty Wap. “Feels Great” recently passed 100 million streams on Spotify. Fitting, he encouraged the audience to find him on the music platform. I have a feeling a lot of them added his music to their playlists.


Tickets to upcoming shows at Mystic Lake Casino Hotel are available here.

Find out when Kesha is coming to your city! Visit KeshaOfficial.com 


What's your favorite Kesha song? Tweet me! @DerekPlease