Both Halsey (Ashley Frangipane) and Kesha (Sebert) debuted in the mid-teens as purveyors of the odd and outrageous. Intervening years have seen singers from Billie Eilish to Solange steering pop into bizarre time signatures and stranger arrangements. Halsey and Kesha have new January albums emphasizing women’s empowerment, but they keep things weird for weirdness’ sake.
Halsey meets both goals in Manic (Capitol Records). She’s always collaborated with A-listers, and here welcomes such guests as Alanis Morissette and BTS’ Suga to Manic’s 16 glitzy and unique tracks. Halsey no doubt knows her best moments are the simplest, in unadorned tracks like “Clementine,” but the Jan. 10 video release of “You Should Be Sad,” melding country line-dance and orgy, shows that she can hardly be called trite.
Kesha, though, can claim more genuine country influence in High Road (RCA/Kemosabe), surprising given her hip-hop drunkard’s anthem “Tik Tok.” After breaking from producer Dr. Luke, Kesha recorded a mostly country liberation album, Rainbow, in 2016. Her new effort recruits Brian Wilson and country bad-boy Sturgill Simpson as collaborators. Tracks that resemble Maren Morris, like “Resentment,” stand out, though rowdier hits like “Raising Hell” prove Kesha just wants to have fun.