KESHA'S PRAYING IS THE MOST IMPORTANT SONG ON THE RADIO RIGHT NOW
I’m on a river in the middle of Wisconsin blasting Lemonade, which is still the shiz, when my dear friend Kim asks me if I’ve heard the new Kesha album. I laugh. She tells me it’s good and I should listen to it. I nod and continue to think, “Are we going to die on this river?”
Weeks later, Kim’s suggestion rings in my head, and I load Kesha’s new album Rainbow on Spotify. Kesha is an artist who reminds me of a good time; fun songs to dance to or sing karaoke. I remember when Tick Tock was just coming out and my bestie Patryk and I would drive home from work, belting it out in my car on our way to happy hour. At the time, she felt like another come-and-go pop star who was adorable in the best trashy way.
When the songs stopped coming, I didn’t think of it much. I grew up in the decade of one-hit wonders pop stars - Martika, Josie Cotton, JJ Fad. Then an article came across my newsfeed questioning what happened to Kesha, where I learned about her ongoing battle with her producer, Dr. FUCK YOU. If you haven’t followed it, you can find more info here. This is a case that struck me hard, in between the years of “legitimate rape” and #metoo. Another gal, living with her abuser, once again where people questioned the truth of her claim while not understanding why it’s so hard for victims to speak out earlier.
I tossed my headphones on and started running. The first track on Rainbow is a song called Bastards. It’s the perfect song to describe what it’s like to be beat down and somehow maintain a hopeful outlook in life. I needed that song and continued listening to the album. Let ‘Em Talk is a catchy dance-your-face-off song that reminds me of 80s New Wave/Punk and I started picking up my pace. Woman felt reminicent of Shania Twain’s Feels Like a Woman and with the Dap Kings on that song, I was living. The album is rich in tone and scope, but the fifth song, Praying, punched me in the gut.
A piano opens the song - slow, purposeful. Kesha’s voice is so low that it’s almost as if she’s talking, “Well, you almost had me fooled, told me that I was nothing without you....” And before I knew it, I stopped running to listen. My insides felt like someone scooped them out and my heart was beating quickly. Her voice becomes stronger with each word she lets escape out of her mouth, “I'm proud of who I am; No more monsters, I can breathe again…” And now I am sweaty, surprised, and sobbing on a sidewalk.
I can’t stop listening and I can’t stop crying. The song is a movement. It’s powerful, it’s complex, and I feel Kesha’s words wrap around me giving me permission to move on. That’s the messed up part of being a sexual abuse survivor. Most days, you’re able to push it so deep inside you that you can almost convince yourself that it never happened. Other days, you’re bawling on a city sidewalk listening to Kesha.
The song begins to build and her voice moves from soft and low to a poetic almost shrieking sound. The vibrations of the piano and the choir ooo-ing in the background ring through my ears as Kesha sings, “I'll bring thunder, I'll bring rain...When I'm finished, they won't even know your name.” My heart beats faster because I’m propelled into a house in Southern California, my face is hot, holding back tears, my ears beating from being smacked so hard I’m on the floor; so much rage, but completely incapacitated with legs that won’t move.
My tears come harder as I’m listen to the piano playing in staccato, like a marching army; the choir lift their voices; Kesha competing with the singers. Her voice struggling to be heard above them all. I am fully bent over, water from my eyes rolling down my neck, “You brought the flames and you put me through hell, I had to learn how to fight for myself, and we both know all the truth I could tell.”
My body is shaking to the bass and I’m wondering if I had told someone earlier would it have made a difference? How could someone who feels so loved now, have felt so alone then? Why didn’t I find the strength sooner than I did? Why didn’t his family help me? Witnesses. What the fuck was wrong with me? What was wrong with him? And HOLY FUCK! I HATE HIM AND I HOPE HE’S DEAD.
My breathing speeds up because I am having a full panic attack; my mind flipping through all the memories. The beat of the song getting louder and stronger as I am releasing my anger, shame, and regret, “Oh, some say, in life, you're gonna get what you give, but some things only God can forgive....” And I think to myself: Fuck God. Why didn’t he help me?
Praying nails the difficulty of having to move on without resolution. Sometimes bad shit happens to good people and there is no justice; no way to right a wrong. Kesha sings of having to find her own strength after being victimized and trying to find a way to live with it, like many of us do. The chorus repeats, “I hope you're somewhere prayin', prayin'; I hope your soul is changin', changin'...” She never forgives him. She calls him out and tells him that she knows and she knows that he knows. She basically says that she’ll move on, but he’ll still be a monster until he faces the truth, accountable. She says this knowing that for most victims, it’s the best we’ll ever get.
I stand up straight, clean my face. It’s been a long time since I heard a song that spoke for me, I wonder if there ever has been, and I’m surprised it came from Kesha. I take a deep breath before I start running again and I hit repeat.