Brian Roettinger wants to induce discomfort with Kesha’s Gag Order artwork
On the music videos, artwork, typography and packaging that make Kesha’s latest project her most visually intriguing yet.
- Liz Gorny
- 19 May 2023
If you’ve seen the music video for Eat the Acid, it’s easy to see why trust was so important in Kesha’s collaboration with creative director Brian Roettinger, who is behind several visualisers on her new album, Gag Order. Eat the Acid is shot in one take; the film shows Kesha trying to sing with hands on her face and in her mouth. Other videos, including the upcoming Hate Me Harder, don’t make for much easier watching. Kesha is even buried over the length of a song in the film for Fine Line, this being the hardest one for Kesha to film, with the experience being “a real fear of hers,” Brian says.
The intensity of the visual world Brian and Kesha have built around Gag Order is all part of a more unflinching, raw record from the artist. The idea was to create a series of portraits with each representing a different feeling described by Kesha, inspired by work like Screen Tests by Andy Warhol and Cindy Sherman portraits. The outcome pictures the artist in a series of incredible images, but in situations of vulnerability nonetheless. Luckily, there is a strong creative partnership at the core of the project. “Outside of working together we are friends so it makes it much easier,” Brian says. “We share images, talk shit, listen to music, visit museums and galleries for inspiration.”
Gag Order also marks a complete visual departure from anything Kesha has released previously. There is no nod to previous iterations or albums, “and that was intentional”, says Brian. “This was a time for shedding ideas from the past that were a bit more maximalist. It’s never easy to tell an artist to forget what they are comfortable with. But it’s a stage of growth. It was about evolving.”
With this in mind, Brian designs Gag Order to be entirely stripped back. “No bright colours, single tones, minimal contrast.” Portraits are paired simply with a bold typographic approach. To ensure “simple and bold” wouldn’t become boring, the designer introduced one additional gesture to the album cover. Beginning with the Kesha logo, Brian turned the ‘E’ and ‘A’ upside down – a reference to the track Eat the Acid and wider album themes. Soon, this direction was replicated across the entire album packaging, giving weight to language in what is a boldly visual project.
As for what Brian wanted to achieve personally with the project? “To elicit an emotional response,” he says. “A feeling of discomfort. Love it or hate it I wanted people to feel. We are inundated with imagery and music based imagery that it’s so easy to quickly glance and move on without feeling anything. I wanted to avoid that.”
GalleryBrian Roettinger / Kesha: Gag Order, photography by Vincent Haycock (Copyright © Kesha, 2023)
Brian Roettinger / Kesha: Gag Order, photography by Vincent Haycock (Copyright © Kesha, 2023)
About the Author
Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.