Just a few days ago, American popstar Kesha, posted an emotional Instagram post dedicated to her adoring fans.
In the post she writes:
“Hand over heart tears in my eyes thank you. I’ve never been so full of gratitude in my entire life. There are really no words my loves. You have fought for me for no reason and you have successfully changed my life.”
And so? You might be thinking. Isn’t that what all popstars do? Taylor, Beyoncé, Selena? Don’t they all every now and again dedicate a social media post to their army of fans – more often so when there are rumours of strife in their life – and to help them connect with said fans, assuring them that they too go through the same life troubles that we do?
Well, Kesha’s display of gratitude is slightly different – for a number of reasons. For the past few years, the 29-year-old California native has been embroiled in a horrid legal battle with former producer of 10 years, Dr. Luke. But unlike many other musical legal battles that have preceded this, Kesha’s is one that has highlighted the abhorrent and wholly unacceptable discrimination, sexualisation and silencing of women, not only in the music industry but also in society as a whole.
To take a quick step back, Kesha’s musical career has definitely not been an overnight success. Born Kesha Rose Sebert, to a songwriter mother who struggled to financially support her and older brother Lagan, Kesha’s affinity for music was clear to see from a young age. Citing herself as a misfit in school for her choice of unconventional outfits and hairstyles, Kesha only ever really felt comfortable in the studio and behind a microphone, which lead to the start of her music career. Fast forward a few years and having sold more than 60 million albums worldwide as well as writing for stars such as Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus and Ariana Grande, she has now been given the seal of approval by fans and critics alike.
But in order to take a proper look at why her ongoing battle her story is filling the news columns today, we need to go back to a then 18-year-old Kesha who signed a recording contract with Sony Music’s Kemosabe record label, which was managed by producer Lukasz Gottwald – better known as Dr Luke. The pair worked together for a very long time, but in 2014 – at what many say was the absolute height of her fame and musical career, Kesha checked into rehab to receive treatment for an eating disorder.
One thing to note here was that Kesha actually received a barrage of abuse when she announced this; with many suggesting the real reason she was in rehab was because she had been ‘partying too hard.’ In response to this accusation she said: “My dirty little secret is that I’m actually incredibly responsible.” Taking charge of her life and choosing to make the decision to get the help she needed, should have actually been applauded worldwide, but instead she was ridiculed and her story reduced to ‘seeking attention’ and ‘self pity.’ More incredibly, while Kesha was having hits with songs such as We R Who We R and Warrior – both songs that promote self-love and self-worth she was fighting her own battle with body image and said at the time, things had got so bad that she felt it was genuinely part of her ‘job to be skinny.’ After spending two months in rehab, Kesha came out stronger and feeling better than ever before.
So it was absolutely heart breaking to see that just a few months later she was faced with every woman’s nightmare, when she sued Dr. Luke for alleged sexual assault and battery, gender violence, sexual harassment and emotional abuse. She also claimed that his comments about her body weight contributed to the onset of her eating disorder. Dr Luke denied all of the allegations and in fact then counter sued the singer.
The trial lasted for a year before Kesha asked to be released from Kemosabe Records – the label she had signed to many years prior – but, in February 2016 Kesha’s request for an injunction was ruled against and rejected in the New York Supreme Court.
At the time, the singer said: “I know I cannot work with Dr Luke. I physically cannot. I don’t feel safe in any way.” In April 2016 this month, when Kesha likened her recording contract with Dr Luke and Sony to ‘slavery’ and appealed against the February ruling – it was again, for the second time, rejected. The judge at the hearing claimed that Kesha’s claims of emotional distress; employment discrimination and gender-based hate crimes were to be dismissed on the grounds of lack of evidence.
To summarise, Kesha still remains contractually and legally obligated to continue working with both Kemasobe Records and Sony – who still employ the man who she has accused of sexually, mentally and emotionally abusing her. Now although Sony has stressed that Kesha does not need to directly work with Dr Luke, they have said because they invested a substantial mount of money into her career that she should in fact honour her contract and release any new music on the label.
But the real story here is not just about a musician stuck in a contract she doesn’t want to be in. It’s about how the legal systems in our society continue to fail to protect and support women as they come forward and identify their abusers. It also raises questions of how our society views allegations of rape and physical and metal abuse. Not to mention the patriarchal rhetoric used against women. Throughout the trial Kesha has been refereed to as an investment and depicted as if she were nothing more than a commodity and a prized possession that a multi-billion dollar company cannot afford to lose.
Although one aspect that has come out of this is the wide-spread support Kesha has received since the trails began. Calls from around the world for her to be released from her contract have come from some of the music industry’s biggest stars including Adele, Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga. In addition the #FreeKesha social media movement has really brought theses issues to the forefront and shown that many women and men alike stand with Kesha.
And to go back to that beautiful Instagram post we mentioned at the beginning of this article, just a few hours after that happened, Kesha released her first single in three years, True Colours an emotional collaboration with German DJ Zedd. Currently sitting at number 8 on the iTunes Chart, we couldn’t be happier and more proud to see Kesha rise again, with the full support of many the world over!