Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Re$urrection

A few years ago now, I wrote a blog post called Party Mu$ic all about a particular singer I'm rather fond of, formerly known by the stagename of: Ke$ha
There were some jokes peppered throughout, but it was a serious character analysis of a singer who seemed to deliberately evoke a partygirl character, and rather than deconstruct it, she expanded it to encapsulate the character in all of its depth, despite how shallow that depth ultimately may have been.

It was a fun character piece of a singer whose music I rather like, and it's not something I ever thought I'd find myself writing about again. However, the real world has not been kind to any of us, let alone the woman who performs Ke$ha.
And that's something we need to remember, "Ke$ha" is a caricature, but she is performed by a real woman called Kesha Rose Sebert (for the sake of clarity, I will refer to the real person as Miss Sebert, and the singing persona as "Ke$ha", even though Miss Sebert has dropped the dollar sign from her stage name). Whereas Ke$ha is an unemployed, partying, simply-minded, functional alcoholic, singer and occasionally mildly romantic and sexually explorative young girl . . . Miss Sebert is an unconventional, highly-educated, Californian, talented, young musician and artist. Unfortunately, whereas Ke$ha is a fictional character, an exaggeration of reality impervious to conflict beyond that inflicted by her medium, Miss Sebert is a human being, and so when she was abused and assaulted by the hands of those in the music industry, in particular a man who goes by the name of Dr Luke, born Lukasz Gottwald (the record producer that owns Miss Sebert's contract), she was hurt in more ways than one.
[Blogger's Note: It occurs to me that, throughout most of this post, I include the accusations, and in some case explicit details of actual claims of rape, assault and abuse. I don't want to go triggering a panic attack or PTSD episode in any of my readers, so if you have reason to believe that will happen, please consider yourself warned and take necessary steps to avoid that.]
In October 2014, just a year after I wrote my original post in fact, Miss Sebert filed a civil suit against Dr. Luke -  for infliction of emotional distress, gender-based hate crimes and employment discrimination. She claimed that Dr. Luke had sexually, physically, verbally and emotionally abused her for the entirety of her professional singing career, and that he had drugged and raped her on more than one occasion; made threats against her and her family and called her derogatory names which were directly responsible for an eating disorder that she suffers from.

Unfortunately, her suits have all been denied by both the courts and the alleged perpetrators. However, some of these have been thrown out due to technicality, such as the statute of limitations and insufficient evidence. So, whilst you or I may have enough reason to believe that she is the victim of abuse, there is legal precedent that shows these reasons would not stand up in a court of law.
But, I'm not here to condemn or redeem alleged abusers. Not because I don't think it's important, but because I'm underqualified and uninformed as to many of the facts of these cases, so I hope that someone else might have more information in this regard.

All you need to know, for the purposes of this blog post, is that Miss Sebert is a musician who performs as Ke$ha, she claims to have been a victim of assault and as a result of the legal battles she has undergone, did not produce any music for four years (early 2013 to mid-2017) as a result of the prolonged legal proceedings.

See, after all that time, she finally released a comeback single on July 2017, called Praying which has thinly-veiled references to her abuser and the suffering she was put through. The song managed to reach #22 on Billboard's Hottest 100. Not long after on August 2017, she released her third studio album, called Rainbow which debuted at #1 on Billboard's Top 200.
It may not seem like a big deal at first, but there was a very high likelihood that after these allegations surfaced, Miss Sebert would never have been heard from again.

There have been several cases in the past whereby being the victim of abuse, assault or suffering was career suicide, especially if you went public with it.

Taylor Swift is a famous singer who claims that during a photo-shoot she was groped by David Mueller, a morning radio host, and when he sued her, calling her claims defamatory, she countersued him for the assault. Despite the courts finding in her favour, and also donating $250,000 to Miss Sebert after she lost her own court case, people demonized her actions, and the only possible "reason" seems to be that Taylor Swift wasn't very popular at the time of her trial. She had a reputation in the media for being a liar [you can look this up for yourself, but  her latest album, Reputation is about that controversy]. Despite winning her case, several people (including some celebrities I won't name) claimed that having a man forcefully grab your butt without consent "didn't count" as sexual assault.
As a direct result of retaliating against her assaulter and responding to sexism, Swift was publicly criticized and her image suffered.

Janice Dickinson is an actress and model who claims to have been raped by Cosby in 1982. When Dickinson wrote a memoir which included the details of this rape, she claims that Cosby and his lawyers threatened legal ramifications if she did not remove said details.
As a direct result of being raped, she was threatened with legal action. If she had gone ahead with the memoir, she could have lost a great amount of time to that case, which for some performers can be the end of their career.

Corey Feldman is a former child star who claims to have been molested as a child by several different people in the film industry, amongst which he has named Ron Crimson, Marty Weiss, Cloyd Jon Grissom & Alphy Hoffman. He also claims that he has good reason to suspect that paedophilia is rampant in the film industry.
As a direct result of these abuses, he and fellow child star Corey Haim fell victim to drug addiction, as one of his abusers was a dealer. This led to his co-star's death in 2010 from an overdose, and due to being sent to and from rehab throughout his life, his acting career has suffered.

Timothy Heller is a female musician (with a "boy" name, but Miss Heller is a girl), who claims that on or around the date of June 25th, 2015, she was raped by her best friend, Melanie Martinez, a fellow singer. After being solicited for sex multiple times over the course of two days, and saying no in every way she could imagine, the two smoked cannabis together and Heller claims that despite rejecting Miss Martinez's advances, she was molested and penetrated with a sex toy without her consent. Because the accused is also female, it appears as though Miss Heller's claims of assault have been largely ignored, but more importantly, because both of these women have a large online following due to their indie music reputations, an allegation of rape appears to have become a bizarre fandom rivalry. But, in a very sad twist to this tale, it appears that Miss Heller still held some favour for her rapist, to quote her directly: "I still love them in a fucked up way", and so seeing the accused suffer backlash from these allegations - despite how slight that backlash has so far been - has also impacted Miss Heller negatively.
As a direct result of being raped by her friend, Miss Heller (who already suffered mental health issues) struggled with codependency and insecurity. Her own reputation has been sunk as she is continuously called a liar, and a fake by zealous fans of her accused rapist.

And these aren't just my own speculation based on hearsay - the Guardian wrote an amazing piece with firsthand accounts from several women whose media careers were ended or derailed as a result of being sexually harassed or assaulted.

As it turns out, that whole "rape culture" thing that people talk about isn't just something feminists made up. Because I was so right it almost hurts, I'm going to go ahead and quote Festering an Unclean Culture, my blog post about rape culture:
"Rape Culture is the concept that certain attitudes and practices of a society - especially those which are sexist and promote inequality -  can normalize, excuse, tolerate & even condone rape and sexual violence.When I say "certain attitudes" I am talking about sexual objectification, victim-blaming; misandry/misogyny; rape trivialization & desensitization towards sexual assault."

—The Absurd Word Nerd, 2014

But, I'm not here to congratulate myself on my genius . . . well, not exclusively. Rather, I'm actually here to congratulate Miss Sebert, Kesha herself.
See, it appears that not only has the greater majority of Miss Sebert's reputation remained intact, and her credibility has not waned, despite the length and difficulty of her legal battle. Not only does it appear that she has overcome the greater pain and personal struggle of what she has suffered, in whatever capacity that took. But even moreso than that, she appears to have defied the odds and returned to her career without waning in quality, or (perhaps more importantly) losing her audience.
Don't get me wrong, at time of writing her legal battles are still ongoing and the legal system seems to have, again and again, failed to achieve anything resembling justice. But, the unstoppable partygirl is dancing again and making new music which she'd been prevented from doing for several years due to her contract.


I admit that when I first heard about the Kesha v. Dr. Luke lawsuit, I thought she was a goner. For the reasons I've already written about, and because of the history of past victims that I've just listed. In fact, there is an amazing piece written for the New York Times detailing the contractual limbo Miss Sebert found herself in, since her producer was unfit to do his job. I thought that she would disappear, perhaps return with a fizzle, but be lost to the mainstream and hidden. And since I had found her so fascinating (and because I'm a decent human being that doesn't like it when people suffer), I was saddened by that.
So, when she came back not only hitting the ground running, but when she came back swinging with an album that is an anthem for the oppressed; that celebrates female empowerment; which expresses her rage at those who made her suffer, that encourages self-worth and self-forgiveness & promotes moving stridefully into the future . . . that's not just a comeback, that's a goddamned resurrection.

My personal favourite song from the album would have to be Hymn, an anthem for the irreligious; with Praying, her visceral, heartfelt open letter to her abuser a close second. However, in regards to this whole mess - including what I've spoken about in this post - it is most fitting that the song which gives the album its name is Rainbow, a song all about how she has learned to move past depression, suffering & stress in her life, and encouraging others to finding the rainbow on their horizon after the storm.

And since Miss Sebert has changed a lot herself, Ke$ha, has as well. Whereas in the past, Ke$ha was singing about liquor and glitter, and enjoying the life you can live in them, now she's singing about rainbows and monsters and aliens, adding a touch of magic and fantasy to her repertoire of things that makes life more exciting. But as well as the fun and excitement, she has songs about sadness, anger and pride.
She has changed quite a lot, I can still see that same partygirl in there, wanting to get up and dance. But this time, Ke$ha is a little older and a little wiser. Sure, she's still just as refreshingly crude and she still just wants to live life to the fullest and dance, but now she also wants to encourage others to dance - especially those who have fallen off the dancefloor . . .

You'll find a rainbow, rainbow, baby
Trust me, I know life is scary
But just put those colors on, girl
Come and play along with me tonight . . .

You gotta learn to let go, put the past behind you
Trust me, I know, the ghosts will try to find you
But just put those colors on, girl
Come and paint the world with me tonight . . .

And the most amazing part of this? The Ke$ha persona we see now is much more akin to the character that Miss Sebert always wanted to encapsulate her music. To quote from Kesha Rose Sebert herself:
I was like, ‘I am fun, but I’m a lot of other things.’ But Luke’s like: ‘No, you’re fun. That’s all you are for your first record.’ . . . To this day, I’ve never released a single that’s a true ballad, and I feel like those are the songs that balance out the perception of you, because you can be a fun girl. You can go and have a crazy night out, but you also, as a human being, have vulnerable emotions. You have love.
Kesha, Interrupted by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Oct 2016

The reason her partygirl persona intrigued me so much was because I could see artistry and depth in her despite how unashamedly shallow she was, and I wanted to see more and as it turns out, so did she. Now, that depth is more than just a shadow, and she's portraying a rounded, human experience. I wish I could say that I expected that, but I genuinely didn't, I just thought that person writing the songs was incredibly talented, and it's fantastic to see that realized to a greater potential, when all I was hoping for was just to hear more from that glitter-soaked partygirl.
In fact, I still do. I hope you do too, because this isn't the last we'll hear from her. . .

1 comment:

  1. Hereditary is a refreshing example of a studio subverting expectations, as the trailer is purposely misleading (in a good way). losmovies Even as the film ventures into territory familiar to its genre, writer/director Ari Aster skillfully ratchets the tension into something that feels like a nightmare straight from hell. 123movies Hereditary conjures multiple indelibly brutal moments of pure horror - the likes of which made many in my audience giggle in anxiety. Aster truly seems to get as much tension as possible from each scene. zmovies The film's direction, writing, cinematography, production design, and score are all some of the best the horror genre has seen. It's a beautiful thing to see a film crafted so keenly.

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