After nearly four years of almost complete musical silence, singer-songwriter Kesha has finally returned to the music scene with her new single, “Praying.” On July 5th, she announced via her Instagram that she was releasing “Praying” the following day, and its music video premiered on YouTube on July 6th. We now know that “Praying” is the lead single from Kesha’s third studio album, Rainbow, which is set to release on August 11th.
The last major song to feature Kesha was “Timber,” Pitbull’s lead single from his Extended Play (EP) Meltdown, in October 2013. It became Kesha’s third #1 and her eleventh Top 10 single on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, making it an international commercial success. At the time, she was riding a wave of popularity that few other pop artists could match. What happened after that?
In October 2014, Kesha sued her former producer Dr. Luke for alleged sexual assault and battery, sexual harassment, gender violence, emotional abuse, violation of California business practices, and more. She ended up fighting this ongoing legal battle for years, preventing her from focusing on her music.
New York Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich rejected all of Kesha’s claims against Dr. Luke in April 2016. Afterward, Kesha slowly but surely returned to the music scene. At the 2016 Coachella festival, she appeared during Zedd’s slot to perform one of his songs, “True Colors.” This cameo marked her first high-profile public performance since her legal battle with Dr. Luke. From July 2016 to October 2016, she embarked on her third world tour, the Kesha and the Creepies: Fuck the World Tour. During this time, news of developments regarding her third studio album started to circulate, and that’s how we got to where we are today.
Many people have been following Kesha’s activity closely, mainly her legal battle with Dr. Luke. Given her huge impact on the pop music scene earlier this decade, it’s no wonder that so many people are talking about “Praying.” People have been waiting for Kesha’s return for quite some time now, myself included. “Tik Tok,” “Your Love Is My Drug,” and “Die Young” dominated the radio when I was younger and I have distinct memories of that time. Therefore, when I heard about “Praying,” I was looking forward to listening to it.
“Praying” is a raw and powerful piano ballad that, honestly, blows me away. I didn’t expect this kind of song to come from Kesha given her previous sound, but at the same time, it doesn’t feel out of character, either. In fact, it feels completely genuine.
The song starts off with somber piano chords and Kesha’s grave yet calm vocals. The strings in the background do a nice job of fleshing out the instrumental side of things. However, about halfway through the song, Kesha’s vocals rise in volume and intensity, her voice becoming more raw and passionate. You can feel her emotional catharsis in full force. A pounding bass beat leads the last part of the song into total empowerment mode. Smoothly blended group vocals, perfectly placed string sections, and even a bit of brass all make “Praying” invigorating and authentic. Kesha closes the song similar to the way she opened it—just her voice and the piano—but the piano feels more forceful, and so do her vocals. It gives a real sense of finality and strength to everything that came before it.
It’s obvious to anyone even casually listening to “Praying” that the song is about Dr. Luke. The first verse and the pre-chorus are as follows:
Well, you almost had me fooled
Told me that I was nothing without you
Oh, but after everything you’ve done
I can thank you for how strong I have become
‘Cause 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
I’ll just say this is I wish you farewell
Pretty explicit, right?
What’s refreshing and unique about “Praying” is that Kesha chooses to approach the situation with a positive mindset of self-empowerment. She’s been through a lot because of Dr. Luke, to say the least. It was a major mental and emotional battle to try to confront an industry magnate like him, someone who has co-written and produced for major names in pop music like P!nk, Avril Lavigne, Katy Perry, and Kelly Clarkson. Although Kesha failed to find success in her legal battle with him, emotionally, she is asserting her strength and victory. “Praying” is a cathartic representation of that emotional resilience, and it succeeds on every level.
If you haven’t listened to “Praying” yet, then you should definitely check it out on YouTube below or on any main music streaming services. Additionally, you should keep an eye out for Rainbow come early August to see what else Kesha is going to bring to the table in her musical comeback. Personally, I am really looking forward to it!