We need to talk about Kesha and her performance of “Praying” at the Grammys last night.
A lot has already been said about how so many amazing female performers were snubbed at the Grammys last night. I think a strong case could have been made for any of the women in the Best Pop Solo Performance category. (At least Ed Sheeran has the good sense to stay home.) Arguably, Kesha’s Praying seemed like a shoo-in. It’s powerful. It’s topical. It’s an anthem.
But I’m not here to worry about who got another award for their trophy case. I’m here for Kesha’s performance and why it matters in a big way.
There is the obvious reason: #FreeKesha. Kesha’s well-publicized legal battle in 2016 with producer Dr. Luke, born Lukasz Gottwald, who she alleges sexually assaulted her was basically a preamble to the Rose McGowan-led Harvey Weinstein #MeToo reckoning that came in October 2017. For the first time maybe ever, the public not only believed a victim — in this case Kesha — they used the collective power of social media to metaphorically “free” her. I daresay that opened a lot of minds and hearts. It opened the public consciousness to believing victims. It opened up newsrooms to the idea of telling the stories of those who accuse as credible and publishable, not suspect. That’s major.
Then came Kesha’s single Praying. Everyone everywhere was breathless. It was a completely different side of Kesha as an artist — both in her lyrics and in the power of her voice. Why had she never used the full range and power of her singing voice before? (Perhaps it was not her choice in the past?)
And that message of Praying — a startling and cathartic anthem. Startling in its power and startling in its grace. I’m a rape survivor and I can tell you that at the tender age of 41, I have never prayed for my perpetrator. I think it was only after I turned 40 that I started to loosen my grip on the anger that has always been there. It’s a noose around your own neck, because it doesn’t hurt the perpetrator one iota. So it took me about 36 years to *start* learning what Kesha Rose Sebert has already fully actualized in a pop anthem at the age of 30. Fuck yeah, Kesha!
Then came Kesha’s performance at the Grammys — a fully actualized woman, backed by a sea of powerful women (including my own favorite singer, Cyndi Lauper). She had the Resistance Revival Chorus behind her, because YES! She rattled the rafters with her voice. She rattled our hearts with her emotion and spirit and truth. Everyone in the audience was wiping tears from there eyes. I was wiping tears from my eyes.
It’s a bloody knuckle fight to survive sexual violence in all its forms — harassment, abuse, assault. It can take a lifetime to undo all those knots and lies and pain. Every survivor has their own journey with it. Mine has been fueled in many ways by anger. It’s why I understand on a deep cellular level the fury that Rose McGowan brings to the fight. I’ve been called shrill, too angry, hostile, a bitch … and a lot more. I’ve been told to try being nicer, to smile more, so people won’t be put off my message. I was raped. I don’t want to fucking smile. I want you to listen to me. I want you to feel my anger, because my rage is valid.
I don’t understand Kesha’s response. I don’t want to pray for him. I want him to suffer in hell. And by “him” I mean my perpetrator, her perpetrator, every perpetrator.
But here’s the thing — the heartbreakingly beautiful truth — I believe Kesha’s journey is 100% valid. I believe her response is a miracle. I believe her response has changed me and my own journey. I can’t promise I will be less angry. I can’t say I will pray for him. But just the thought of it, the briefest moment of consideration, is changing me and everyone else who hears her song.
That’s fucking powerful.