In the summer of 2009, a then completely unknown singer named Kesha burst onto the music scene brazenly proclaiming that the party didn’t start ‘til she walked in. She did that in a little song called “Tik Tok”, which went on to become one of the best-selling digital singles in history (it’s still at number three, mind you), and was certified five times platinum by the RIAA certification. Four years and a string of top ten hits later, Kesha’s prescient statement still held true. Up until around 2013, you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing one of her nauseatingly catchy and upbeat songs, whether they were songs of her own or songs on which she was featured. In recent years, though, we’ve heard little to nothing from the one-time pop sensation — so what’s happened to her? Where has our beloved agent provocateur of good times gone? Well, my friends, let’s take a journey.
Since October 2014, Kesha has been involved in an intense legal battle against her producer, hit-maker extraordinaire Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, and Sony Music that has put her music career at a complete standstill. In the lawsuit against her producer, Kesha contends that he sexually, physically, verbally and emotionally abused her, in addition to putting her and the life of her family at risk since she signed with him a decade ago at the age of 18.
In the past week, however, Kesha and her legal team have expressed in a preliminary injunction that her career will “plummet past the point of no return” if no further action is taken in the litigation against her producer. And it’s a very valid concern. Virtually everyone has forgotten about Kesha since she stopped dominating the charts, touring and writing for other singers. This can be fatal for an artist, not just in the music industry but especially in the pop genre. The pop landscape is constantly changing, evolving with the newest most innovative musicians and producers that emerge practically every month. In other words, it’s not going to wait for someone to catch up, no matter how successful they may have been in the past.
As Kesha’s attorney has stated, the lawsuit is a “wholehearted effort by Kesha to regain control of her music career and her personal freedom.” Wholehearted as it may be, many don’t buy it — notably Dr. Luke and his attorneys, who have made the legal proceedings even tougher with a countersuit of their own against the singer, her mother Pebe Sebert and her management claiming defamation and breach of contract.
This where the hashtag #FreedomForKesha enters the conversation. Social media users have started using the hashtag to show their support for the singer-songwriter, especially because she’s not the first female artist to come forth with accusations of abuse at the hands of men in the entertainment industry. She’s also not the first woman whose accusations have been questioned and invalidated by others, nor is she the first woman who has been threatened and blackmailed for them. Kesha’s stand against her alleged abuser is a significant one, because it takes a stand against pervasive rape culture, and the culture of silence, that accompanies it. Yet, her stand is unfortunately also being silenced — both by Dr. Luke’s countersuit and the lack of action being taken by a judge in court.
Kesha has never asked much from us. She was (and is) a girl just trying to have some fun and spread positivity. But those days, as recent in memory they may be, are long gone. Even if we do not (or do not want to) realize it, we needed Kesha in the early 2010s and onward. She provided us with the feel-good, dance-pop anthems for our weekends and summers we needed then, and served as the prototype for much of the music we love today. In addition to her music, Kesha has also contributed to even more social good by doing philanthropic work, involving herself with animal rights and LGBT activism. She’s not as ditzy or sleazy as the media have often portrayed her to be. She is a person deserving of our respect and a person whose claims warrant being taken seriously. Today, Kesha needs us. As many on social media have put it, Kesha can’t speak now, but we can. And we should.