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Liner Notes

Kesha returns with grace amid continuing struggles

Pop star releases first album in five years


With the incredible abundance of music being released on any one of a dozen outlets every Friday, it can be difficult to get really excited about a new release.

That wasn’t the case on Aug. 11, when pop star Kesha finally released her long-awaited album, “Rainbow,” her first new release in five years.

The fact that one of the best pop musicians of the decade is releasing something new is reason to cheer, but it’s especially heartening given her long road to get here.

In February 2016, I wrote about the #FreeKesha movement, a social media campaign supported by the likes of Adele and Taylor Swift to support the singer’s efforts to legally free herself from Kemosabe, a record label created and run by Dr. Luke.

Dr. Luke, whose real name is Lukasz Gottwald, is a record producer and songwriter, who Kesha alleges drugged and raped her when she was 18 years old and continued to sexually and verbally abuse her throughout their work relationship.

In 2014, Kesha filed a lawsuit against Dr. Luke, which included Sony as a co-defendant, because the company owns Kemosabe. Dr. Luke and Sony countersued, alleging Kesha’s claims were false and a move by the singer to renegotiate her contract. As a result, she was unable to record any music or tour until the situation was resolved.

Kesha filed a preliminary injunction in February 2015 so she could record outside of her contract with Sony and Kemosabe. In February 2016, New York Supreme Court Judge Shirley Kornreich ruled against Kesha, saying the injunction was an effort to “decimate a contract that was heavily negotiated and typical for the industry.”

That means any attempts to make music had to be with Dr. Luke and Sony, and in the year and a half since I wrote that piece, there has been dispiritingly little progress made.

According to reporting by Joe Coscarelli in The New York Times, Kesha’s further contract claims were mostly rejected by courts or withdrawn, and Dr. Luke has filed a lawsuit for defamation and breach of contract. Kesha is in the process of appealing the decisions, but “Rainbow” was released by Kemosabe records.

So Dr. Luke will in all likelihood make money off the release. And Kesha still owes his record company two more albums if nothing changes.

But like any great artist, Kesha has taken her struggles and turned them into vibrant and vital music, making “Rainbow” the best album of her career so far. It demonstrates her astounding flexibility and range, and features appearances from Dolly Parton, soul group The Dap-King Horns, and Eagles of Death Metal. Although she doesn’t address her challenges explicitly, they’re all over songs like “Hymn” and “Praying,” two of the album’s best songs.

What really makes Kesha an artist worth rooting for is she’s using her music to inspire others who have had similar experiences. According to Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network statistics, one of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.

Kesha is making music for every person who has experienced this kind of violence, and everyone who wants to be a safe place for the people they love. It’s the kind of thing you want to stand up and cheer about, because chances are we all know someone affected by these kinds of crimes.

In an interview on “Good Morning America” on Aug. 9, the singer fought back tears as she spoke about the album. “I think this record has quite literally saved my life,” she said. “I hope you guys like it, I hope you can hear it and I hope it helps people.”

Clarke Reader’s column on how music connects to our lives appears every other week. A community editor with Colorado Community Media, he cannot state this enough — stand with women. Check out his music blog at calmacil20.blogspot.com. And share your favorite songs on the new album at creader@coloradocommunitymedia.com.


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