It’s a new beginning for Kesha. After a four-year hiatus, the pop-star recently emerged from a very dark place to drop her latest single, “Praying,” and announced a forthcoming album. With “Praying,” Kesha’s ready to forgive, but will she ever be free of the (legal) ties that bind her?
In case you need a refresher, these last few years Kesha’s been embroiled in an ugly lawsuit – actually, multiple, complicated lawsuits, revolving around her ten-year relationship working with producer and former mentor Dr. Luke (who also wrote songs for Katy Perry, Britney, and Miley Cyrus).
The allegations against Dr. Luke are disturbing, to say the least, and include physical abuse, rape, forcing her to do drugs, and body-shaming her to the point of where she developed a severe eating disorder (here’s a timeline – of sorts – from 2014, and here’s a super intense read detailing all of the allegations).
Over the past few months, Kesha’s legal battles have been a roller coaster of some small victories, but mostly setbacks. In March, a New York judge denied Kesha’s request to amend her lawsuit to include claims that Dr. Luke owed her $1.3 million dollars in royalties. Just a month later, Dr. Luke was ousted from his position as CEO of Kemosabe Records (although he continues to work with parent company Sony), and last week, he dropped his own defamation lawsuit against Kesha’s mother (I told you it was complicated).
The cruel irony of all of this is that Kesha’s currently locked into a contract with Dr. Luke that she can’t get out of – she still owes him two more albums, forcing her to work under and for her alleged abuser. It’s exploitative, and as the Atlantic put it – the saddest thing about the Kesha case is how familiar it sounds.
But even while still imprisoned in within these obligations, Kesha’s found a way to take back the mic – and try to forgive – the person that’s hurt her the most.
“Praying,” co-written with Ryan Lewis, starts off dark and deep, a piano-driven, emotion-filled ballad, diverging from her past dance party hits like “Tik ToK” and "Your Love Is My Drug". The video, directed by long-time Madonna collaborator, Jonas Åkerlund, begins inside a strange dream, and brings you into a world of mystical (it was filmed in California’s desert-art oasis Slab City).
The video is not without its flaws. There are, perhaps, too many angel wings. And Kesha definitely takes a few pages from Beyonce’s playbook – with a spoken prelude and water imagery reminiscent of “Hold Up.” (In parts of the video she even wears a long, flowy dress, similar to Queen Bey’s now-iconic Roberto Cavalli yellow dress, and smashes things).
But “Praying” succeeds as a triumphant comeback because of the raw emotion – emotion that doubtless is directed at Dr. Luke himself. As if the lyrics weren’t enough, in a letter Kesha wrote for Lenny Letter she openly talks about the emotional fallout and depression she’s experienced, and says:
This song is about coming to feel empathy for someone else even if they hurt you or scare you. It’s a song about learning to be proud of the person you are even during low moments when you feel alone. It’s also about hoping everyone, even someone who hurt you, can heal.
Her full-length album, Rainbow, is set to drop August 11.