Kesha’s performance of “Praying” at the 2018 Grammys was a moving show of female solidarity during the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements. But even though Kesha had a group of women with her onstage, including Cyndi Lauper, Andra Day, and Camila Cabello, one person on Twitter noted how singularly brave it was for Kesha to stand up on stage and sing “Praying” to an audience that was made up of members of an industry who, at times, protected Kesha’s alleged abuser.
During the 60th annual Grammys, Kesha performed her song “Praying” off her album Rainbow and it made for the rawest moment of the night. Janelle Monáe introduced the performance with passion as she said, “We say Time’s Up for pay inequality, discrimination, or harassment of any kind, and the abuse of power.” And Kesha had the support of women all dressed in white behind her.
Although Kesha has never explicitly said that “Praying” was about the emotional, physical, and sexual abuse she said she faced at the hands of her producer Dr. Luke, most people assume that’s what the song is about. Even if that isn’t the case, “Praying” is a heart-wrenching song that was Kesha’s first solo single in four years after her allegations against Dr. Luke — and she still had to get approval from her producer to release the music. (Dr. Luke, born Lukasz Gottwald, has denied her allegations.)
And even though Kesha’s empowering Grammy performance seemed like a moment in which the music industry stood by her, some people criticized the members of the audience. Twitter user @h0liv tweeted:
Since 2014, Kesha has been in a legal battle with Dr. Luke over her allegations, which dramatically impacted her career. She wanted to be released from her recording contract, but a judge ruled in 2016 that Kesha could not get out of her contract with Dr. Luke — the very same man she claimed raped her. That’s when #FreeKesha began to trend.
Kesha suffered emotional trauma from the alleged abuse. She checked into a rehab facility and was battling an eating disorder. Her career also suffered at this time, and as the Grammy audience seemed to show a wave of support for Kesha on Sunday night, some Twitter users, like @h0liv, couldn’t help but call out the hypocrisy of the music industry.
Just like with the sexual assault allegations occurring in the film and TV industries, there’s a question of who is complicit in these kinds of situations. And while Kesha has overcome, she had to do that in an industry that didn’t seem to support her until the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements occurred. Many other survivors may have been unable to make it through.
Still, the amazing Kesha thanked the Recording Academy (the organization behind the Grammys), the women who joined her on stage, and “everyone who has supported me through this whole journey” after her moving performance.
So while there may have been people in the audience who were directly or indirectly complicit in the alleged abuse and subsequent damage to Kesha’s career at the time, the singer-songwriter bravely performed in front of those people. Because Kesha is doing what a survivor does — moving on as best she can and seeing the rainbow on the other side.