Since the beginning of the tense legal battle between Kesha Rose Sebert, aka Kesha, and her longtime producer Dr. Luke, the music world has been forced to confront the embedded misogyny that faces female artists.
Filed in 2014, the lawsuit seeks to free Kesha of her contracts with Dr. Luke, allowing her to work and record with other labels. The suit claims that Dr. Luke “sexually, physically, verbally, and emotionally abused [Ke$ha] to the point where [she] nearly lost her life.”
A counter suit is also in place against Kesha for defamation of character. Dr. Luke claims that Kesha’s suit against him has caused his work to dry up, since his name has not been on a Top 40 hit since 2015, nearly a year after the legal battle began.
Kesha has been dealt many legal blows since the beginning of the legal battle. New York Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich denied she the right to record with other labels, ruling that “she is being given opportunity to record.”
The record label, Sony, also released a statement saying that the contract can not be terminated because Kesha signed contracts with Dr. Luke’s company Kasz Money, not with Sony directly.
As Kesha releases her third studio album this year titled Rainbow, she stands to take on the established patriarchy of the music industry. Her album is still recorded and produced by Luke’s Kemosabe, which he was a cofounder and CEO until this past April when his contract expired and he stepped down.
Dr. Luke will gain revenue from the project while the lawsuit is in legal limbo, however the album itself brings the fight directly to Luke’s doorstep.
Kesha pulls together an album that constructs a multi-genre battle cry, venturing into a new creative territory. From the start, the album creates a narrative of self-acceptance.
The album begins firing on all pistons with “Bastards,” “Let ‘Em Talk” and “Woman”—three songs that project independence and womanhood. Kesha exchanges her autotuned past for high voltage vocal performances meant to empower and energize listeners.
We are not left with just party anthems, however. The listener is treated to Kesha’s own take on her legal and emotional battles that the music world has carefully watched unfold.
Listeners are given Kesha’s point of view with the album’s emotional ballad “Praying.” The song completely removes her from her dance club anthems like “Tik Tok” and “Die Young.”
Instead she exhibits a vocal range larger than she was ever allowed in previous singles. Kesha lends her newly released vocal power to her testimony. Instead of revenge, she puts forth the hope that an unnamed second party—presumably Dr. Luke—finds peace and prays.
Declaring that “you almost had me fooled,” Kesha relents that she almost succumbs to his abuse, but was made able to “breathe again” in the end. She then leaves him in her past forever when her gritty and soulful voice declares “when I am finished, they won’t even know your name.”
The album produces a few genuine surprises, as we see Kesha venture into her Nashville roots with “Old Flames” and “Hunt You Down.” The first shows her give new life to Dolly Parton’s 1980s version of the song, a tune that Kesha’s own mother wrote for the country megastar. The latter is an old-school femme power anthem worthy of Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn’s repertoire – a sassy and threatening song that has Kesha showing off her country accent while also letting it be known that she will not have her love taken for granted.
“Godzilla”, an indie folk showcase of Kesha’s sense of humor, tells the story of a monster rampaging through a mall destroying everything in sight and stealing her fries. The song, while whimsical, approaches what it would be like to fall for a destructive being that causes chaos and destruction wherever he goes.
The album has many twists and turns with high points throughout Kesha’s ventures into multiple genres and multiple themes. The album serves as a testament not only to her own resilience as an artist, but as a message to other women in the music industry that there is a way to battle the powers that be.