In 2009 the world was gifted with a bleach blond, hot mess wild child calling herself Ke$ha. She first entered the public consciousness when she sang on Flo Rida’s track “Right Round.” Shortly after that, she dropped her debut album, “Animal,” which almost immediately became the party soundtrack of the year and the next decade. Ke$ha exploded on the scene with a bottle of Jack in her purse and the paparazzi recording her every, crazy move.
Less than a year later she dropped her sophomore album “Cannibal,” and to the surprise of many, it performed just as well as her debut album. Ke$ha had achieved true superstar status in less than a year. In 2012 Ke$ha followed up with, perhaps her best album to date, “Warrior,” and she continued her meteoric rise to superstardom.
But Ke$ha’s wild antics soon dominated her media coverage. She was out clubbing all the time, there were rumors that she’d pull crazy stunts, like breaking in to Prince’s house, and soon it seemed like the megastar would be dismissed as just another hot mess. Those who paid attention to her interviews knew that Ke$ha was a character, not the same as Kesha Rose Sebert, the young woman behind the character. Kesha the young woman often said that Ke$ha the character was a calculated marketing move.
But by early 2014 it was clear that Ke$ha the character was taking over Kesha the woman. She entered rehab for an eating disorder. Then she promptly dropped off the scene entirely. Later that year it became apparent why when she filed a lawsuit against her producer Dr. Luke.
Since then, Kesha had been almost completely out of the music scene… until last week when she finally dropped a new single. It seems we’re in for a full-on Kesha comeback! Here’s everything you need to know about where she’s been and how she’s coming back to us.
12 Kesha hasn’t released new original music in almost five years
The last time we heard new, original music from Kesha Rose Sebert was in 2012 when she dropped her third album, “Warrior.” Up to that point she’d been releasing music regularly. Her first three albums happened within three years of her debut album. She would have released an album a year if it hadn’t taken her so long to work on and record “Warrior.”
Her hits were so pervasive that they continued to get radio play long after they were released, so many didn’t really think about the fact that she hadn’t been recording new music. But after more than a year with no new music people were beginning to get curious. When she checked in to rehab for her eating disorder in early 2014, many assumed that her mental health issues were behind the lack of new music.
Soon, a different, more insidious reason for her lack of music emerged.
11 A lawsuit against her producer almost ruined her career
Shortly after emerging from rehab, Kesha filed a lawsuit against her producer Lukasz Sebastian Gottwald, known in the industry simply as Dr. Luke. In the lawsuit, she asked to be released from her contract with Dr. Luke, alleging that he had emotionally and physically abused her for their entire professional relationship, which had started in 2005, years before she made it big.
The lawsuit also alleged that Dr. Luke had drugged her and assaulted her multiple times. Kesha’s interviews also hinted that Dr. Luke encouraged her eating disorder by constantly making negative comments about her body and her attractiveness.
Dr. Luke immediately countersued Kesha for breach of contract and defamation. He claimed that Kesha’s lawsuit was full of lies and that she ruining his reputation in order to get out of her contract.
While the lawsuits were pending, Kesha wasn’t allowed to make new music, unless she wanted to continue working with Dr. Luke. Up until this summer, Kesha was stuck in legal limbo, unable to make music.
10 The courts ruled that she wasn’t allowed to release music without collaborating with her abuser
Kesha and Dr. Luke were locked in a contentious legal battle for almost three years. There were multiple hearings and rulings on various issues in the lawsuits, and the legal battle resulted in multiple lawsuits in multiple states. Basically, it was really ugly.
The major court ruling in their legal slugfest came from a New York court in 2016. The issue being considered was not whether Dr. Luke was criminally liable for abusing Kesha. So far, Dr. Luke has faced no criminal charges as a result of the accusations. The issue being considered was whether or not Kesha should be allowed to record new music under a different record label, free from Dr. Luke.
The New York court decided that it would be breach of contract if Kesha recorded new music with another label. Basically, they decided that if she wanted to record new music she’d have to work with the man who allegedly abused her.
Kesha was visibly devastated when the decision was delivered and it looked like her career was over unless she decided to work with Dr. Luke.
9 She hadn’t performed live in years before the 2016 To the Rescue Gala
Because Kesha had been stuck in legal limbo with Dr. Luke for years, Kesha hadn’t been able to go on tour or perform live. She hadn’t done an official performance of her own music since 2014. Shortly after the heartbreaking decision from the New York court, Kesha announced that she would begin performing live again. Soon a video emerged of her performing Lady Gaga’s “Til it Happens to You” at the To the Rescue Gala in May 2016, hosted by the Humane Society.
Kesha has always been a huge supporter of animal rescue organizations. She has spoken out multiple times about cruelty against animals and she has worked with the Humane Society International to rescue street dogs all over the country.
She opened the performance by dedicating it to all the animals and people who have faced abuse. Given the timing, and the fact that Kesha was performing a song that Lady Gaga has admitted was about her own assault, the statement was a clear commentary on her situation with Dr. Luke. The performance was incredibly moving, bringing tears to the eyes of attendees.
8 She also performed at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards
Soon after her emotional performance at the To The Rescue Gala, Kesha announced that she would be performing at the Billboard Music Awards. The media assumed that the performance would mark her official comeback, and social media buzzed with excitement at the possibility.
Days after the announcement, it came out that Kemosabe Records, the label run by Dr. Luke, was preventing Kesha from performing. There wasn’t really a clear reason for doing so, but many speculated that Dr. Luke was throwing his power around to make the point that he was in complete control of Kesha’s career.
The public backlash was harsh. Social media exploded with attacks on Sony Records, who owns Kemosabe Records, and Dr. Luke. Eventually he caved to the bad press, and let her perform. She performed an amazing rendition of Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t me Babe,” and fans and critics alike were delighted.
7 She said “F it” last summer and went on tour
After the two powerhouse performances in May 2016, Kesha took to Instagram to announce that she would officially be going on tour. She was touring with a new band she called “The Creepies” and the performances would only be in select, small venues. She told her fans that the performances would be different from anything she’d done before and she may never do anything like it again. She’d be singing unique remixes of her hits, but also covers that would demonstrate her “deep eternal love of dirty rock & roll and country music.”
The tour was certainly a departure from her former pop star, party girl image, which is exactly what Kesha said she needed. The post talked about how she felt like a withering flower not being able to perform and make music. So, despite the fact that she’d be touring under the thumb of Dr. Luke, she was still willing to get back on stage.
The tour was literally called the “F*ck the World” tour, which spoke to her willingness to plow ahead, in spite of, or perhaps because of, everything she’d been through.
6 Last week she released a new single called “Praying”
While Kesha was on tour for the latter half of 2016, she was relatively absent from the media. Then, just last week, she dropped her first single and music video in almost four years.
The single is a tear-jerking power anthem, and completely different from anything Kesha has ever done before. Whereas most of her old music involved pumping techno beats and a lot of autotune, “Praying” is a slow, piano heavy ballad.
The music behind her voice is all wandering piano melodies and strings, all very understated, to highlight Kesha’s voice, which she shows off completely new ways. Those unfamiliar with Kesha’s non-radio tracks often wondered if she could actually sing or if a mediocre voice was hidden under a lot of studio work. Anyone who wondered, must be convinced of her raw talent after listening to “Praying.” She belts out the song with incredible power, and at one point she hits a note reminiscent of Mariah Carey in her heyday.
The video itself is a psychedelic journey, obviously chronicling the emotional journey that Kesha has been on for the past three plus years.
5 She published a piece on Lenny Letter explaining what the single was about
After the single and the music video dropped, Kesha released a powerful essay on the site Lenny Letter about the song. The letter, addressed to her supportive fans who’ve been there for her through all her ordeals, starts by addressing the fact that she’s been through hell in the past few years.
Kesha goes on to describe “Praying” as the result of all that struggle. She says that she’s recently found a peace that she didn’t think she’d ever find, and that part of finding that peace was coming to believe in something bigger than her. Kesha’s not overtly religious in her description of coming to find a higher power, but she is overtly spiritual.
The letter says that she spent a lot of time in the past few years praying, and even praying for the people who hurt her. Kesha says that praying to forgive and not holding resentments allows her to be free from everything that’s happened to her and “Praying” is all about that. Though she never mentions Dr. Luke by name, it’s clear that “Praying” is her moving forward from him and the harm he caused her.
Kesha also says that she hopes “Praying” will be an example to her fans who are struggling that they can come through whatever is happening to them. She’s a phoenix emerging from the ashes.
4 She also announced that she’s releasing a new album called Rainbow
When she dropped “Praying,” Kesha also announced that she would be releasing her first album in almost five years on August 11th. The album is called “Rainbow” and Kesha says it’s “truly from the inside of my guts.” She says that the album is the most vulnerable piece of art she’s ever made. At a private screening, she debuted four songs from the new album and talked about how proud she was to share this new music with the world.
She chose to call the album “Rainbow” because it’s a representation of the beauty that happens after a storm, and that’s exactly what the album represents for her. The past few years of Kesha’s life have certainly been stormy, and “Rainbow” is how she is reclaiming her narrative and leaving her past behind.
Given what we’ve heard so far, this album is going to be nothing like we’ve ever heard from Kesha. She’s revealed that this is one of the first albums that she’s really made for herself, so it has a lot more of her essence in it than anything she’s released before.
3 And this week she dropped ANOTHER single called “Woman”
On July 13th, Kesha surprised us again with another single off “Rainbow” called “Woman.” The song is an unapologetic declaration of female power. Kesha’s music has always asserted her independence and her utter lack of need for a man, but woman is different. It’s a demonstration of a woman reborn. Ke$ha is officially gone. She’s been replaced by a strong, assertive woman, who’s here for herself, her ladies, and nothing else.
The sound is also relatively new for Kesha. On “Warrior” she dabbled in dirty rock and roll, but “Woman” is a call back to old school rock and roll/country fusion. Her voice carries a country twang and in the video she sports a cowgirl hat, with a group of cowboys in the back seat of her convertible. Her outfit is a mixture of Dolly Parton and Elvis and she rocks it effortlessly.
The lyrics are Kesha’s typical “F off” to the men in her life. She croons about making her own money, buying her own drinks, and being completely uninterested in what anyone’s trying to offer her. It’s assertive and aggressive and perfect.
Kesha told the media that the song was actually a response to Donald Trump’s “grab her by the p***y” comment. She heard the story on the radio and began screaming the lyrics and melody to “Woman” in her car.
2 The details of the record contract are unclear
When it became public knowledge that Kesha was finally releasing a new album, many were curious about the details of the contract that would allow her to do so. The courts had sided with Sony and Kemosabe Records in 2016, which meant that Dr. Luke still had control over Kesha’s music career.
Back in April, Sony announced that they would be parting ways with Dr. Luke and it announced that Dr. Luke was no longer the CEO of Kemosabe Records. They didn’t cite the legal battles with Kesha as their reasoning, but the bad PR that the situation brought on the company almost certainly a major factor in the split.
Many assumed this meant that Kesha would be free to move forward with her career, without Dr. Luke, which was true, but it didn’t improve the situation with her career. Without Kemosabe Records, Dr. Luke’s label, Kesha had no direct contact with Sony, which meant she had no one to produce and market her new album.
The details of the contract that allowed Kesha to record “Rainbow” are unclear. Reps for Dr. Luke say that his contracts with Kesha haven’t changed, that he did have to approve the album, and the album was being released under the Kemosabe label.
Many are concerned that this means Dr. Luke will be profiting off an album that is essentially inspired by the pain he caused.
1 But Kesha isn’t letting that stop her comeback
Regardless of where her contract with Dr. Luke stands, Kesha isn’t letting anything get in the way of her full-on comeback. Kesha is heavily promoting “Rainbow.” She also dropped another single, this week, which makes a single a week since she announced the album. Given the fact that she’s previewed four tracks for the press, it’s a fair assumption that she’ll be dropping a single weekly until the release of the full album. The album is already available for pre-order.
Kesha hasn’t yet announced tour dates for the “Rainbow” album, but we can only hope that the announcement is coming soon. Since this is her first album in almost five years it would be crazy if she didn’t have a full blown national, if not international tour.
Kesha has also been very active on social media, posting selfies and videos. She’s been heavily promoting the singles and the album on social media, but she’s also been particularly focusing on her fans. She’s been posting about how much she’s appreciated the support they’ve given her, and how her comeback couldn’t have happened without them.
I’ve always been an “Animal,” a rabid Kesha fan. Back when she was Ke$ha I was also a messy party girl, and her early party anthems were the booze soaked soundtrack of my life. As I grew up, so did she and “Warrior” became the background music for finding myself and learning to assert my place in the world.
When I found out what was going on between her and Dr. Luke I was heartbroken. I’d been through my fair share of struggles and I felt her pain in my bones. I followed the legal battle obsessively and cried every time the courts ruled against her.
Last week, when I found out she released new music I literally squealed. I’ve been listening to “Praying” and “Woman” on repeat since then. I’m so excited to hear “Rainbow.” So, I’ll be here, just counting down the days until August 11th.
Sources: The Today Show, Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, Lenny Letter, Mic, USA Today, Billboard Music, Humane Society International, The Atlantic, The Guardian, The Washington Post