Have to thank my boyfriend for this one: he played me Kesha new single, Praying with zero prelude. I didn’t know the voice but did know I liked it. I liked the solitary beginning, the unwinding middle, the final transcendence. I heard it without the backstory: the Free Kesha T Shirts and Dr. Luke struggles, the crazy fact that someone alleging sexual assault is still contractually obligated to work with her offender — I heard this song without thinking of Kesha’s backstory, and from the grace Kesha conjures here, I’d say the same happened to her here.
I was asking myself why this song instantly meshed with my mind. Why does this song about overcoming sexual assault resonate more than any I’ve heard? It’s simple and concentrated, in lyrics and structure, giving it this beautiful form, a reflection of Kesha’s journey these last five years. As beautiful as pop songs by Angel Haze, Sia or Lady gaga, this one seems to be written solely for Kesha. Praying differs from say Till It Happens to You in that it’s not trying to educate or like angel haze where the attacker still holds a firm grip on her psyche. Kesha’s is the beautiful renunciation of all victimhood. It’s self statement, which is much more powerful (to me) than Katy Perry’s performance at the 2015 Grammys where a statement was read beforehand to dedicate the song to sexual assault awareness. This article in Telegraph nailed it:
Kesha’s comeback could have been a feud-inflaming rant of a song – or even a vacuous pop ditty; either would have gone viral. Instead, she has released something more nuanced and, in turn, has opened a new chapter in the public discussion surrounding sexual violence. In one song, she has turned the narrative about rape on its head.
Let’s get to one of the coolest moments of this beautiful (and catchy) song. The lyric “When I’m finished they won’t even know your name.” It’s the don’t-get-mad-get-even framework I love. The refusal to stop working or be compromised. The syntax was especially delicious. It reminded me of this Camille Paglia quote, something like “Someday, all anyone will know of my critics is what I wrote about them.” That’s some intelligent badassery you two.
Some have compared this video to Beyoncé’s Hold Up, and the visual similarities are undeniable.
Yet I don’t imagine Kesha ever making a Cater 2 U anytime soon.