Back in 2009 Kesha (then stylized as Ke$ha) released her first studio single Tik Tok. The song was an instant hit with people both praising and condemning it unanimously for its lyrical and production values. Many thought the song was a catchy and fun while others thought it was another in a string of pop trash productions. To me, the song was trash. Pure, fun, catchy enthusiastic trash that I was going to be singing along all summer. Her subsequent singles included lyrics like “I threw up in the closet and I don’t care!” and “I’m pissin’ in the Dom Perignon,” and they made it clear that the pop singer’s persona was a crude, fun, messy, party animal. If you would’ve told me back then that Kesha was going to become an inspiring force in my life, I would’ve thought you were insane.
With her following works, I took Kesha for what she was, a fun pop artist who made catchy pop songs. I followed her career and enjoyed her unapologetic persona. In the beginning of 2014, Kesha checked into rehab. After completing her stay, she revealed that she had recorded 14 songs while at the facility. That summer she became a judge on a singing reality competition show called Rising Star, and then in October, she shocked the world by suing music mega-producer Dr. Luke for alleged sexual assault and battery, sexual harassment, gender violence, emotional abuse, and violation of California business practices which had occurred over 10 years working together. Kesha was under contract with Sony to work with Dr. Luke in her next six albums. She asked to be terminated from her contract as she didn’t feel safe around the producer. After months of legal battles, the court ruled in favor of Sony and Dr. Luke, forcing Kesha to continue her long contract with the label thus also continuing to work with her aggressor.
In the ruling, New York supreme court justice Shirley Kornreich dismissed Kesha’s claims in the case of technicalities. Kornreich dismissed the rape claims on the grounds that, even if true, the abuse happened “outside New York and beyond the legal time limit.” And her claims of emotional distress and abuse weren’t enough to be considered intentional infliction according to the judge. As I witnessed this case, I couldn’t help but to be sick to my stomach. This ruling was cold, dismissive, and frankly, dangerous to our society.
Regardless on whether they gather enough evidence or not, the wording behind the ruling, the demeanor of the judge, and the reactions of the accused were dismissive and cruel towards victims of rape all across the world. It’s been proven than most rape victims are slow to come forward, with some of them never doing so due to fear. The fact that Dr. Luke wasn’t fired after being an alleged aggressor speaks loudly to the morality behind the Sony Music studio. Kesha wanted to be able to make music freely (thus the #freekesha movement across social media) and by their actions, the studio was metaphorically saying “we value money more than your well-being.”
Kesha is merely a statistic. She is yet another woman who was subjected to victim-blaming, disbelief and public shaming. She is yet another woman who witnessed the fact that the privilege of a man’s word is taken more seriously than a woman’s. She is yet another woman who was forced by the legal system to vulnerably confront her abuser despite her fears. She is yet another woman who was brushed to the side and was told to move on.
Now, almost two years later after those events, Kesha is about to drop her new album, Rainbow. In her first single Praying, Kesha confronts her aggressor with dignity and courage.
“…after everything you’ve done
I can thank you for how strong I have become.
‘Cause you brought the flames and you put me through hell,
I had to learn how to fight for myself,
and we both know all the truth I could tell
I’ll just say this is I’ll wish you farewell.”
– Kesha, Praying
The song was soaring, triumphant, vulnerable, and a career-best. In a Lenny Letter, Kesha admitted that there were so many days and months when she didn’t want to get out of bed. She had to drag herself to the studio to take out her emotions in her music and I’m so glad she did. By continuing to stand up for victims of abuse, by continuing to use her voice no matter the consequences, and by continuing to resiliently make her music, Kesha inspires me to keep going. She inspires me to continue to advocate for those who are afraid to speak up, those who are abused and disrespected. That is an incredible feat for someone who once claimed to “brush her teeth with a bottle of Jack.” This shows you that you are not just an action, a persona, or a character. You are a human, constantly growing and changing, until eventually you become who you are supposed to be.
Kesha’s incredible single Praying is out now. Her anticipated new album Rainbow is coming out two days from now on August 11. Support artists who matter by actually BUYING (GASP!) music!