In 2010, the world was officially introduced to a new pop songstress who would rush the stale music world into a new age of individuality and creative expression. Ke$ha burst onto the dance scene with powerful party anthems, a colorful wardrobe, and a personality that took the world by storm. She released two full-length albums that climbed the top charts and stayed there. In 2014, though, the music business failed her. Kesha, now sans dollar sign, suffered emotional and sexual abuse from a major producer close to her (out of respect for Kesha and a line from her new song which reads “When I’m finished, they won’t even know your name,” her abuser will not be named in this article). She sued the monster but the legal battle and latest ruling have been an unending mess of injustice, allowing Kesha to continue her suffering without any type of consequence for her abuser. The once self-proclaimed free-spirit was let down by the justice system and certain members of the music industry. As a result, she once again suffered through depression, anxiety, and hopelessness, and hasn’t released any new material in five years.
Today, Kesha dropped a new single, “Praying,” in promotion of her upcoming album, Rainbow, out next month. On “Praying,” she confronts the demons who destroyed her, opting for forgiveness instead of anger — the most powerful form of progress.
“Praying” is an emotional piano ballad building throughout the track with crescendos of instrumental unity. Opening the song is a spoken soliloquy in which Kesha heartbreakingly questions her purpose, noting that pain can sometimes feel too hard to live through. A minute into the track, a sparse piano rhythm pulses. Kesha’s voice comes in aching — gone is her woozy bubblegum timbre — and singing the first poignant lines, “Well you almost had me fooled / Told me that I was nothing without you.” Her voice is a barely there croon but her end notes are soulful sparkles. The piano builds towards the middle of the track and more sonic details are introduced, including a sudden harmony and distant repetitive vocalizing. Her lead vocal performance begins to bloom here, yowling a powerhouse note during the middle of verse two. Following that, Kesha comes undone in a beautiful fury. A swell of shrieking strings are layered above the subtly growing piano and she is free to give herself over to a wild vocal show. Suddenly, a heavy booming percussive line comes into play as Kesha wails the profound chorus, “I hope you’re somewhere praying, praying / I hope your soul is changing, changing,” aided by choir harmonies. The rest of the track blends all instrumental elements as Kesha’s voice strengthens, giving a powerhouse performance with gut-wrenching emotion.
You need to pay attention to this. Kesha has bravely and beautifully let her guard down, once again opening herself up to potential ridicule and alienation from her own industry, in response to the injustices thrown at her. She is at her most vulnerable on “Praying,” offering a spiritual alternative to cold-blooded rage (that she would be right to feel, and should, if she sees fit to). The song begins with Kesha accepting a painful resignation, but as each vocal and instrumental element grows with a fervor, she gains a fiery power and strength that allow her to become reborn by the end of it. “Praying” is a eulogy to past pain, an ode to emotion, a confession of struggle, and a plea for support. You need to pay attention to this. Are you listening? Kesha has been wrongfully scorned by both law and music — but she is back and more defiant, supreme, and exceptional than ever. On her new song, Kesha offers us her humanity in exchange for our own. She’s not asking a lot. We at least owe her that — so pay attention.