OK, we seriously need to talk about Kesha. Hang on, hear me out here. This isn’t like all those other times I’ve needed to talk about Kesha only to tell everyone that I believe she’s the Keith Richards of our generation, or that sometimes I imagine she’s my daughter and get really proud of her. You all thought those stories were weird and that I shouldn’t tell them again, so fine. But this time, we really need to talk about Kesha.
We haven’t heard much from Kesha lately since her last album came out three whole years ago. She hasn’t been releasing any new music, and everyone’s pretty much stopped talking about her. You’d barely believe that just a few years ago, Kesha was one of the biggest pop stars in the world. So why the sudden radio silence?
Well, in case you haven’t caught up on this already: Kesha is still stuck in a contract with Sony Music, and her longtime producer Dr Luke, with whom she is currently in a legal battle. A while back, Kesha filed a lawsuit against Dr Luke, accusing him of sexual, physical and emotional abuse. Apparently, ever since Dr Luke discovered Kesha (when she was only 18) he had been forcing her to use drugs and alcohol, taunting her appearance to the point that she developed an eating disorder, and even forcing himself on her while she was drugged. Really horrible stuff. Of course, Dr Luke denies these claims, so right now it’s hard to know exactly what happened behind the scenes—but Kesha should certainly never be made to work with a man she feels so unsafe with.
While Kesha has been dealing with this, she’s been unable to release any new music—and so over the course of the last three years, she’s completely fallen from the spotlight. For artists these days, being talked about is pretty crucial, and mainstream distribution companies will be reluctant to invest in an artist no longer in the public eye. In other words, the silence around Kesha could potentially ruin her career forever.
Now, before you start making jokes about this not being a bad thing, I know not everyone can love Kesha’s music with the same semi-religious fervour that I do. But what’s happening here is much bigger than party-pop music. This is a reflection of how so many women are treated when they speak up about abuse (something that it’s estimated less than 5% of rape victims do): they are silenced and dismissed.
In order to protect their own reputation, Sony want to ensure that Kesha and her claims will never be listened to—and by preventing Kesha from releasing any music and gaining back the spotlight, that’s exactly what they are doing. While I certainly wouldn’t want slander spread about Dr Luke if any of the allegations turn out to be untrue, Kesha does deserve to be listened to. Any woman who is brave enough to speak up deserves to be listened to. And whatever you think of Kesha’s music, we mustn’t allow any woman’s career to be silenced into oblivion.
In other words, we need to talk about Kesha. Loudly, and to anyone who will listen. We need to talk about her scarily restrictive contract, and how it’s symbolic of a much wider problem within the music industry. We need to talk about her case, and what it says about media treatment of women. And we need to talk about her music—partly to make sure that Sony don’t have the power to crush creativity, and partly because (I don’t care what you think) it’s damn good, and she deserves the chance to make more of it.
I can remember exactly where I was when I first heard Kesha. Like, I can remember the exact stretch of road I was driving down, in my first ever car (which was so run down that one of the windows was stuck permanently open, so it was always cold). It was my gap year between school and uni, so I felt simultaneously crazy-old and super-young; it felt like the end of an era, and the edge of something massive and new. Basically, driving down this stretch of road on this particular day in this particular car was one of those big pretentious moments where you feel like it’s the final scene of the movie and the perfect song is about to start up as the credits roll.
And then TiK ToK came on. This super-trashy pop track about being wild and free and brushing your teeth with whiskey—by an artist who (at that point) spelled her name with the dollar sign. And you know what? On that day, in that car, on that stretch of road—it was absolutely perfect.
So for the sake of musicians, for the sake of women, for the sake of victims, and for the sake of teenage girls in their first car waiting to see what the world will hold for them—we need to talk about Kesha.