Anyone who tuned in to the Grammys on Sunday night likely still has chills from Kesha’s performance of “Praying.” It was one of the most tweeted-about moments of the night, so it make sense that the person on the keyboard end of a Sony Music account mentioned it too. Except things aren’t that simple when it comes to the singer, her label, and the purported subject of the song, and Twitter was not going to let that slide.
“No words. All love. #GRAMMYs,” @SonyMusicGlobal wrote on Twitter and Instagram, with a photo of Kesha and her backup chorus of women that included Camila Cabello, Cyndi Lauper, Julia Michaels, Bebe Rexha and Andra Day.
Sure, that’s how most viewers felt when watching Kesha belt out her defiant ballad that confronts an abuser who put her through hell and told her she’d be nothing without him. But the person everyone assumes she’s singing to is Dr. Luke, the producer whom Kesha has accused of sexually assaulting and emotionally abusing her for years. In 2014 she filed for an injunction attempting to free herself from her contract with Dr. Luke’s Kemosabe imprint of Sony. That case failed in court in New York in 2016, when the judge ruled that despite her claims of abuse, the contract wasn’t doing her “irreparable harm” because he was allowing her to record without him (but still for his company).
That’s when fans and celebrities rushed to support the singer, hoping to “#FreeKesha,” and Taylor Swift gave her $250,000 to help her with “any of her financial needs during this trying time.” She dropped her suit against him in Los Angeles later that year. Dr. Luke is still suing Kesha for defamation, however, claiming her suits made his career grind to a halt.
Meanwhile, she released her third album, “Rainbow,” including hit single “Praying,” on Kemosabe last year. Though Dr. Luke is no longer the CEO of the label, the New York Times reported that his financial ties to Kesha’s music (including through his music publishing company) remain in place, so he is profiting from her sales. The very album and song fueled by the pain he allegedly caused her earned Kesha her first Grammy nominations, for Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Pop Solo Performance.
All of this was on the minds of fans who spotted the praise from @SonyMusicGlobal. The backlash on Twitter was so harsh, the offending tweet has since been removed (a screenshot can be viewed here), but it remains on Instagram as of this writing. The comments there are similar.
“YOU PROTECTED HER ABUSER FOR YEARS. #timesup,” she_flyz commented on Sony’s Instagram post.
“You protect and perpetrate rapists,” alexinthesky added. “You don’t get to pretend like you’ve been a friend to Kesha or women in general. We see right through you, vultures.”
“Whomever is tasked with running this account needs an in-depth lesson in PR and propriety,” wrote nzipperman on Instagram. “Take 30 seconds and dig into Sony’s history with Kesha and then seriously consider deleting this unbelievably ignorant, patronizing and offensive post. #timesup”
To be fair, the person running a social media account on a Sunday night is not usually high up on the corporate ladder and probably didn’t have a say in Kesha’s contract.
Kesha, for her part, held her head high despite not taking home any trophies. She showed up to the Sony after-party in a bright red gown and cape, which Vanity Fair likened to a Handmaid’s Tale homage. Interpret that as you will.
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