What We Can Learn from Kesha

It’s no secret that it’s been a rough few years for everyone’s favorite middle-school-party-anthemist. In 2014, Kesha decided to come forward and file a civil lawsuit against her producer, Lukasz S. Gottwald, more popularly known as “Dr. Luke.” According to Kesha and various other witnesses who stood behind her, Gottwald was guilty of sexual assault and battery, civil harassment, sexual harassment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, to name a few. After a very long, very draining, all-too-public, and seemingly painful trial, Kesha’s claims were in a lot of ways validated, but justice was far from delivered. In the end, though the artist was able to separate herself enough from needing to work with Gottwald directly, most of her claims were dropped and she’s still legally bound to her contract with him, and isn’t able to make any more music for the next few years without him having some skin in the game. It seemed like a heartbreaking and unfair end to her career in music, at least for quite some time.

Regardless, our heroine would never let that just be the end of it. She picked herself up, she never stopped speaking out against the way she was treated, she stayed honest about the way she was feeling, even when she was in her lowest moments. And then finally, finally, she came out with a single.

It had been five years since Kesha had released any music at all, which for any artist today is a surprisingly long hiatus, and especially when it was so forced onto her. And after all of her media coverage and mostly-unhappy press that she’d received in the past few years, all eyes were on Kesha and a lot of pressure was placed on what her first new song would be.

It would have been easy to come out with a song trashing Gottwald, or anyone else who had opposed her. No one would have been surprised to hear a furious revenge song, no one would have been surprised to hear a song describing her pain and heartbreak and focusing on the weight that she will now carry with her for the rest of her life as a result of the emotional trauma she underwent before and during the trial. No one was surprised that her first single after everything was about her former producer, someone she trusted and respected, who betrayed all of that and humiliated and dehumanized and took advantage of her in every way possible.

So maybe I can’t speak for everyone, but I have to say: it was a surprise to me to hear a lyric like “I hope you find your peace.”

When the “Praying” music video was released, it exploded in an instant, and was met with an immediate overflow of positive feedback and support, and my goodness, there’s no song more deserving.  It takes an incredible amount of strength and maturity and grace to be able to stand in front of your abuser and the rest of the world, able to say anything at all to them, and wish for them to heal someday. I don’t know if it’s something I would all the way be able to do myself.

There is so much power in forgiveness. It isn’t easy, it’s seldom immediate, but there’s so much power in being able to break your own chains, to hand them back to the person who put them on you in the first place, and to give them the key and walk away and do your best to not look back at them ever again. It’s so simple, so quick, so accessible, tearing other people down. Especially those that you see as your enemies, the ones who have wronged you. In a pop-culture world full of celebrities constantly struggling for the upper hand in their media wars, struggling to salvage their reputations and appear to be the one more deserving of support, it’s so unusual to see a celebrity own up to feeling absolutely broken, and then shed that skin and show the world that they’re stronger now because of their hardships without feeling the need to also belittle their “opposition.” With “Praying,” Kesha showed everybody that the biggest thing a person can do after being wronged is to allow themselves to shatter and then to heal, and to let that be the end of it without slipping back into the unforgiving cycle of hatred and grudges.

This first single after such a horrific and unfair few years of invasive law processes was an absolute masterpiece, that made me unbelievably proud to call myself a woman who stands with Kesha in her biggest growing period yet. She’s someone I am so lucky to be able to admire, and I’m honored to continue to learn from her.

Image Credit: Feature, Kesha’s  “Praying