Kesha Behind the Brashiness

The long, seemingly endless legal battles to free her from her contract are taking a toll on Kesha.

In a lengthy piece for The New York Times, Taffy Brodesser-Akner pulls back the cloud of glitter and confusion to look at Kesha’s life now as it really is: Playing small club shows to pay her legal fees as she continues fighting for her freedom from the contract she signed with Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald almost a decade ago, before he (allegedly) sexually assaulted her. The dueling lawsuits have been going back in forth both in court and on the East and West Coasts since 2014, and all the while Kesha has recorded new material but doesn’t feel she can release it because she’s still under Dr. Luke’s orders. Sony, which owns Dr. Luke’s imprint, Kemosabe Records, and Dr. Luke’s attorneys have sworn Kesha is free to record and release material; Kesha and her attorneys have sworn any material she releases would not have any support or backing from Sony.

“Kesha is no longer the artist we met in the late aughts: blazing dollar sign in her name in place of the S, gold Trans Am that she said she wanted to have continuous sex in, 24-7 party girl, dredged in oil and breaded like a schnitzel in glitter,” Brodesser-Akner writes. “Now she is someone in suspended animation, unable to release new music pending contract litigation, touring small clubs to make some money to help fund her lawsuit and to make sure her fans don’t forget her; now she is someone who wants to work and make music, just without the man she says raped her; now Kesha is a cause.”

Kesha’s attorneys are omnipresent during Brodesser-Akner’s conversations with the singer; when she speaks, Kesha “paused to figure out how best to word a sentence, or how it would look in print once she said it. The restraint was unnatural; it wore on her.”

The article points out the many times Kesha’s concerns and protests about the ability to work with Dr. Luke and her comfort even being in the same building as him have been called into question by the judge in her case, Shirley Kornreich, who noted that the statute of limitations for the singer’s rape claims had long expired; questioning why Sony would want to keep her from recording and touring when she would make money for them; questioning whether the claims of assault and abuse were true and fell within the definition of abuse or rape.

Only recently did Kornreich issue a ruling in Kesha’s favor—prohibiting the release of Kesha’s medical files into the public record.

For what it’s worth, it appears that at least some of Kesha’s concern about Sony’s lack of interest in supporting her work is valid: She gave Sony new songs earlier this summer, but “Sony didn’t provide any meaningful feedback until after a judge intervened in late August,” Brodesser-Akner writes. “Her representatives told me that recording and releasing ‘Warrior,’ her second album, took only eight months from start to finish.”

The whole piece is a delicate but honest and compassionate look into Kesha’s life now, the public performances and support from her fans and the private battles that fill her days. Go here to read more.

Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

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