Music

Kesha’s Comeback Needed To Be This Strong — And She Knew It

“You brought the flames and you put me through hell, I had to learn how to fight for myself” — Kesha, “Praying”

The only God I have left lives inside a song. Anymore, I can’t abide sacred texts, or pious people, least of all religious gatherings; they all end up unraveling into the same kind of hypocrisy I see everywhere, the same affectation I see in myself, even, when I look mirror. A song is not forgiveness, but it can be intercession, a tiny negotiation between us and the great nothingness or cosmos that occasionally seeps into this small world. So, Kesha’s “Praying” is enlightenment, briefly, a double-edge sword, or the kind of battle hymn I could recite before bed, a glowing pop-song-liturgy to ward off the night. I don’t pray anymore, but I have fallen asleep listening to this song in the dark for the past several nights.

Some things, only God can forgive. Sure. But I don’t have that luxury yet. Maybe I never will. In the meantime, music is an escape from the flawed, f*cked-up confines of human nature, a four-minute vacation in the divine. There’s very little gradient when it comes to a musical spiritual experience, if you’ve had one, you know it comes over you slow and soft, like a holy ghost, or quick and sharp, with fire and glass, like a car crash. Kesha’s “Praying” might be the first time I felt it as both, the shiver and the scream, the comfort and the disaster.

“Praying” is not quite intercession, it’s more like a molten psalm. It doesn’t wish for revenge, but repentance. It doesn’t forgive, but within it, Kesha masters the process of converting a wound into quiet, internal power; this is the emotional machinery trauma survivors must build in order to sustain themselves in order to continue to creating, loving and believing in… whatever. Still, to wish your own personal monster is brought to their knees — not in defeat, or pain, but in repentance — now that might be an act of God. I don’t really mind if I never make it there, but listening to this song, I finally understand what I’m striving for when I lay awake, silently longing for peace.

***

The wish for repentance is a kind of courage. Surely, it is akin to the kind of bravery required to accuse one of the most powerful men in the music industry of sexual abuse. This allegation, though it is one of the most frequent abuses of power in the world, remains a damning force with the power to destroy careers and reputations, as it should. However, because of our society’s historically ingrained misogyny and the deep-seated culture of victim-blaming, sometimes — or, even, often — the reputation destroyed in the process is not the perpetrator of the crimes, but the woman who speaks out against her abuser. While the idea that a man may be falsely accused is constantly brought up as a straw man argument in these situations, statistically, that happens so rarely that it’s become all but a moot point.

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