The importance of Kesha’s comeback

What it means for music, women, and survivors

Originally published at by Emily Milakovic on 10.2.17.
1060 views on date of transfer.

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Kesha is back, a roaring, feminist rainbow. Her new album, Rainbow, dropped Aug. 11; it is her first album since Warrior in 2012, at which time her name was still stylized as Ke$ha.

Kesha’s hiatus from music came during her legal battle with Dr. Luke, who she sued for emotional and sexual abuse; Dr. Luke in turn filed a defamation claim against her. A judge dismissed Kesha’s claims for a few reasons, including a lack of concrete evidence on the sexual abuse claims, and the fact that the case was filed in New York, while the alleged abuses occurred elsewhere.

In 2014, Kesha spent time in a rehab facility for an eating disorder, telling MTV “I’ll be unavailable for the next 30 days, seeking treatment for my eating disorder… to learn to love myself again, exactly as I am.” TMZ reported that Kesha blamed Dr. Luke in part for her eating disorder, saying he criticized her for putting on weight and calling her a “f**king refrigerator.”

Kesha dropped the “$” from her name after her time in rehab, telling Refinery29 at SXSW this year that she felt it portrayed her as someone she wasn’t.

“It [losing the $] happened after I went to rehab for my eating disorder,” she told Refinery29’s Amy Emmerich. “I let go of my facade about being a girl who didn’t care. My facade was to be strong, and I realized it was total bullshit. I took out the $ because I realized that was part of the facade. It was a journey and I’m happy — that was me in that part of my life.”

Part of Kesha’s lawsuit was an attempt to be released from her contract that had her working with Dr. Luke. Reportedly, after numerous legal proceedings, her label offered to release her from her contract if she would recant her claims. She refused.

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Some said that Kesha’s claims were exaggerated, that Dr. Luke may have harassed her or bullied her about her weight, but not to the extent she claimed. The judge who dismissed her case, for example, said Kesha didn’t provide enough proof on some of the matters to have a legal case.

That doesn’t matter.

That is not to say specifics don’t matter in a legal sense; they absolutely do. But even if all Dr. Luke had done was body shame her, that still isn’t okay. Body shaming can have real psychological effects; studies have reported that women who believe negative messages about their bodies are more likely to have high levels of stress hormones, inflammation, and difficulties eating healthy, and may even be at a greater risk for heart problems as a result.

I for one believe Kesha, and not just because I’m a fan. In a society that struggles to believe assault survivors or take their claims seriously, I’m not going to doubt a survivor just because.

Much of Kesha’s new music is centered on overcoming and personal strength. During an interview for Elvis Duran and the Morning Show, the singer explained “I’ve done a lot of healing. I kind of reference that a lot what’s left in my heart is still made of gold, you know? You heal what you can and keep going.”

“Praying,” which she released a month before her new album, focuses on healing; Kesha tells a story of becoming stronger through what she’s faced, rather than letting it break her.

“Well, you were wrong and now the best is yet to come

’Cause I can make it on my own

And I don’t need you, I found a strength I’ve never known

I’ll bring thunder, I’ll bring rain, oh

When I’m finished, they won’t even know your name

You brought the flames and you put me through hell

I had to learn how to fight for myself.”

Another song from Rainbow, “Woman,” featuring the Dap-Kings horns, is a classic example of a female-empowerment song. Kesha asserts herself as a strong, self-sufficient woman who doesn’t need a man to be okay (emotionally or financially).

Rainbow also marks a distinctive new style for Kesha, different from her “party girl” pop music, such as “Tik Tok”. In an essay for Rolling Stone, Kesha explained that she wanted to pursue a musical style like the artists she enjoys but had always felt too intimidated to pursue.

“I think that this album sonically sounds more like the music I listen to than anything else I’ve ever done in the past,” she wrote. “With ‘Woman,’ I hope my fans will hear that wild spirit still strong inside me but this time it was created more raw, spontaneously and with all live instrumentation.”

Kesha’s new music also establishes her vocal range is wider than her past music may have shown. A video analyzing her vocal range in “Praying” indicates that she can reach an F5 note; for the laymen, F5 is one of the highest notes the human voice can sing. Based on the vocal range established by this single, Kesha can sing three notes above and four notes below the typical soprano range.

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Blue indicates a typical soprano’s possible range, and purple indicates how far Kesha has been observed singing. Black dot is middle C.

However, all of this is secondary to what her return means for people who have shared her struggles. One in six women has been the victim of a completed or attempted rape, and victims of sexual violence are at a much higher risk for mental health issues, suicide attempts, and substance abuse. Over 30 million Americans suffer from eating disorders, one of the most deadly mental illnesses.

Kesha is a powerful inspiration. She has overcome these issues and is refusing to let them define or destroy her. She’s a survivor, and she’s overcoming and not staying down. That’s empowering and important; the fact that she’s doing it while hitting intense high notes is just a bonus.

This is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Rival.

This article has been updated on Oct. 2 at 7:14 p.m. to reflect the private status of Kesha’s Instagram. Kesha’s Instagram photo has been removed and replaced with a photo of Kesha.

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