During the 2018 Grammy Awards, a sea of empowered women dressed in white clothing stood in support of Kesha, who had long been silenced by the fine print of her music contract. Her silence was a result of a lawsuit filed against her former producer on the grounds of extensive physical, mental and sexual abuse.
Kesha was once known for her ample body glitter, flashy outfits and fierce nature.
From the time her last album “Warrior” was released in 2012, Kesha’s life had been one of struggle and recovery. There was not much public activity on Kesha’s end, aside from the lawsuit, a few public appearances and occasional social media postings.
According to a Rolling Stone interview, when Kesha was in rehab in 2014, she was given restrictions on how much technology she could use. She was prohibited from using appliances with power plugs, in case she might try to use them to hurt herself. This meant that she would not be able to write music on an electric keyboard — her preferred method for composing.
When her friends learned of these restrictions and her desire to write music, they gifted Kesha a toy keyboard.
After much deliberation with the treatment center’s staff, Kesha was given time each day to use the keyboard. While she was going to therapy and receiving treatment, she was healing through the medium of music.
As a lifelong musician and music enthusiast, I understand firsthand how making music can be freeing and cathartic. It is a beautiful thing to behold.
Apart from music being an outlet for expression and healing, I have found wisdom within it. Through listening to and studying music, and keeping myself informed with global current events, I look for connections between musical lyrics and societal issues. This hobby is something I greatly value.
In 2005, when Kesha began working with producer Lukasz Gottwald, or Dr. Luke, she had been violated beyond her control. Vulture reported that when she was 18 years old, Kesha was given the date rape drug GHB and woke in a room with Dr. Luke, naked, sore and very disoriented. Unfortunately, during her trial, there was not enough explicit evidence for Kesha’s case and, in the end, she lost.
Since this trial, she has made a comeback through tours, album releases and her 2018 Grammy Award performance.
The abrupt a cappella start of the performance, coupled with the muted lighting on supporting singers, created an atmosphere of vulnerability and solidarity. The lyrical content of her song “Praying,” along with the poignant staging and arrangement was impactful.
At its surface, it is easy to dismiss “Praying” as just another piano-driven ballad pop song. However, the lines, “Well, you almost had me fooled/told me that I was nothing without you,” convey manipulation and emotional abuse. Kesha suggests her abuser guilted her into staying with him.
Instead of being fully enraged throughout the song, Kesha acknowledges her abuse but also offers up peace to her abuser.
“Praying” outlines the process of coping with and processing a case of sexual misconduct. It outlines the intricate emotions a victim might feel when experiencing sexual misconduct and also what they might feel while reflecting upon their experiences.
Despite the anger and trauma Kesha understandably feels because of her abuse, it seems she is experiencing a rebirth.
She is able to reconcile what has happened to her. She is able to live unapologetically.
Throughout the awards season in Hollywood and beyond, prominent figures have dressed in black and white as a symbol of solidarity with those have experienced sexual misconduct. I look to them in hope of both empowerment and a new dialogue about power and abuse.
As more stories that encapsulate #MeToo and #TimesUp surface, I sincerely hope society is moving in a direction that is filled with support and justice for those have been affected by sexual assault and abuse.
Emily Thampoe, ’21, is an assistant news editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected]