#FreeKesha: Explained

Kesha hasn’t released new music in years, and it’s because she’s been trying to nullify her contract with producer Dr. Luke, who she has accused of assaulting her, for over a year now

Kesha’s name (#rip Ke$ha) has been in the media a lot recently and it’s not because she’s making a comeback. Quite the contrary. People deserve to know what’s going on with her and why she’s been out of the musical limelight since 2013 — the year she was featured in Pitbull’s single “Timber.”

Let’s review the timeline of events:

  • In 2005, a producer named Dr. Luke first heard (then 18-year-old) Kesha Rose Sebert’s recording demos. She eventually went on to sign with his label, Kemosabe Records, drop out of high school (and her IB program), and move to LA. [Outrageous fun fact: The first time Dr. Luke called the Seberts, they were believe-it-or-not hosting Nicole Richie on the current season of The Simple Life. Richie picked up the phone and promptly hung up on him.]
  • Once in LA, Kesha signed on to David Sonenberg’s DAS management company. At the time she was estranged from Dr. Luke, who she “rarely worked with or even spoke to,” according to ‘Ke$ha: The Billboard Cover Story’. But in 2008, Dr. Luke came back on the scene and made her breach her contract with DAS, which resulted in a $14 million lawsuit over commissions.
“Soon after moving to Los Angeles, Dr. Luke began to violently abuse the young Ms. Sebert … Dr. Luke continuously made sexual advances towards Ms. Sebert. He forced Ms. Sebert to take drugs and alcohol in order to take advantage of her sexually while she was intoxicated.”
  • In 2009, Kesha sang in Flo Rida’s “Right Round,” which she wasn’t credited for. But the following year was huge for Kesha’s career — think: “Tik Tok” which soared to the top of the charts and is currently the 3rd best-selling single in digital history, “We R Who We R,” and “Till The World Ends.”
  • Under the surface of her success, according to several court documents, Dr. Luke sexually assaulted Kesha and took advantage of her on multiple occasions. He would give her pills, described as ‘sober pills,’ that were actually capsules of GHB, known as the date rape drug. He also constantly insulted Kesha and criticized her about her weight.
“Dr. Luke repeatedly threatened that if she ever told anyone about these abusive incidents, he would destroy both Ms. Sebert and her entire family.
  • In 2012, Kesha released her autobiography “My Crazy Beautiful Life,” but does not mention her abusive relationship with her producer. That same year, Kesha releases her second album, Warrior.
  • In 2013, MTV aired a reality series about her life, also entitled Kesha: My Crazy Beautiful Life, that was filmed by her brother. On the show, Kesha expresses her frustration over not being able to write songs that she is passionate about because of her label’s influence. Her fans, known as “Animals,” take notice and start an online petition that demands Dr. Luke to “let Ke$ha have creative freedom.”
“What’s been put out as singles have just perpetuated a particular image that may or may not be entirely accurate. I’d like to show the world other sides of my personality. I don’t want to just continue putting out the same song and becoming a parody myself. I have so much more to offer than that and I can’t wait till the world really gets to hear that on the radio.” — Rolling Stone interview, 2013
  • On Jan. 3, 2014, Kesha began treatment for an eating disorder at an Illinois rehab facility. Her mother, Pebe, claimed that Kesha became bulimic after signing with Dr. Luke, who often told her she wasn’t in shape. Kesha responded to notes from her fans, admitting that Dr. Luke “tortured” her and was “so abusive.” Doctors ultimately concluded that continued contact with Dr. Luke threatened Kesha’s life.
Her blood pressure and sodium levels were similar to levels found in patients following a heart attack or stroke. Doctors found that Ms. Sebert suffered from psychological effects caused by Dr. Luke’s abuse, including severe depression, post-traumatic stress, social isolation, and panic attacks.

So why doesn’t Kesha just end her relationship with Dr. Luke? She can’t, contractually.Most of the block quotations above have been taken from court documents related to the lawsuit she filed in 2014 against Dr. Luke. Hollywood Reporter Eriq Gardner wrote that Kesha’s lawyer thinks this might a ‘first-of-its-kind case.’ He could find no other evidence of a past case where “physical abuse rescinded a recording deal.”

Dr. Luke filed a counterclaim shortly after Kesha’s lawsuit. In June 2015, Kesha added Sony Music as a defendant to her case. Her lawyer said Sony executives were privy to the abuse but turned a blind eye. A few months later, the case was moved from California to New York. And this past September, Kesha declared to the court that she did not feel safe around Dr. Luke and cannot continue to work with him. Kesha proposed to make music without Dr. Luke or the Kemosabe label, but Sony rejected it.

“If Kesha cannot immediately resume recording and having her music promoted, marketed, and distributed by a major label, her career is effectively over.” — Jim Urie, former president and CEO of Universal Music Group Distribution, 2015

Kesha’s year-long legal battle culminated in New York this past week. Unfortunately, the New York Supreme Court judge refused to let Kesha part ways from Dr. Luke and her six-album deal. The judge said that ending the deal would “undermine the state’s laws governing contracts and the court couldn’t do that,” according to the New York Daily News. Fans both outside of the courtroom and on social media proclaimed, “Free Kesha!” Meanwhile, images circulated the internet of Kesha sobbing in court.

Perhaps this case would be different if Kesha didn’t have such a bad-girl-who-likes-to-party image. And that’s not okay. This case is a big deal. And even though this may be the first case of its kind, it’s doubtful that this situation is unique. I’m sure in this male-dominated industry, Kesha is not alone.

So what’s next for Kesha? Is her career over? In November, Kesha told Buzzfeed that if she wasn’t released from Dr. Luke’s contract, “she will continue to be unable to record, write, publish, or perform music with anyone else.” Welp. There you have it.