It’s hard to listen to Kesha without feeling powerful. "We were born to break the doors down, fighting till the end,” she sings on her 2012 song “Warrior.” "It's something that's inside of us. It's how we've always been.” Her music broadcasts an uncompromising femininity, a glittering, bleeding pose of raw messiness that forgives us for our excesses as well as our inadequacies. It is so generous with its energy.
Before the details of her alleged ongoing trauma ever made their way into a court document, Kesha made music that turned what others might call victimhood into power. “Instead of being a victim, I’m always gonna be a warrior,” she said on Spotify’s “Warrior” commentary. "No matter what anybody throws at me, or what kind of shit I go through."
“Warrior” begins the last studio album Kesha released before she dropped the dollar sign from her name and revealed the hell where her career was forged, locking it into a standstill in the process. Something clicked and she decided not to be silent, even if the cost of her speaking was a different kind of stifling.
Kesha is not a pop star who just happened to suffer abuse. Like many young women in the music industry, she found her way to fame by way of a man whom she now alleges drugged, raped, and emotionally tortured her. The career she now fights to continue originated in a nightmare. She is not the first.
The machinations of fame and wealth and power lend themselves readily to abuse, but they also comprise the vehicle that can radiate songs to as many listeners as Kesha’s have reached. That she waited nearly a decade to publish her allegations only points to the predicament in which most survivors find themselves: Abuse makes you who you are, but you can still be that person without suffering it interminably.
More than any other pop singer, Kesha has made joyful battle cries for the fucked-up and the beaten-down. She’s an unabashed mess, honest about her pain but never seeking pity for it, always finding the edge where she can lift herself up from her hells. "We ain’t perfect but that’s alright,” she sings. “Love us or hate us, nothing can break us / Better believe us: times, they are a-changing tonight."