Kesha has released her first solo effort since 2013, a gap borne of tumultuous years of lawsuits and court appearances in the ongoing attempt to free herself and her art from the label that belonged to Dr. Luke, the superproducer the musician accused of raping her and holding her career hostage. (She could still record, but was obligated by her contract to continue under his label for three more albums.) In the interim, Kesha released some collaborative work — with Zedd, and her band, the Creepies. But the release of a new song (“Praying”) and the announcement of the accompanying album (Rainbow) are also huge news because of the difficulties she’s faced in releasing solo work.
After a New York judge denied Kesha’s request for an injunction to enable her to leave the Sony-owned Kemosabe label overseen by Dr. Luke, you may assume that this announcement involves some legal loophole wherein the singer managed to get a release through another company. But one loophole, rather, might be the conclusion of Dr. Luke’s CEO position at Kemosabe back in April (though he’s still apparently at Sony); the album, which is due out on August 11, will still be released through Kemosabe (alongside RCA). So while the release seems triumphant (and the content of what Kesha’s doing itself is), the company continues to benefit from her work.
The announcement of the album came with a video for “Praying” — directed by Jonas Åkerlund — and a personal essay in Lenny. There, she detailed how the song details the mental toll the last four years took on her :
For me, God is not a bearded man sitting in the clouds or a judgmental, homophobic tyrant waiting to send everyone to eternal damnation. God is nature and space and energy and the universe. My own interpretation of spirituality isn’t important, because we all have our own. What matters is that I have something greater than me as an individual that helps bring me peace…It’s from our darkest moments that we gain the most strength. There were so many days, months even, when I didn’t want to get out of bed…I hope this song reaches people who are in the midst of struggles, to let them know that no matter how bad it seems now, you can get through it…If you feel like someone has wronged you, get rid of that hate, because it will just create more negativity. One thing that has brought me great relief is praying for those people. Being angry and resentful will do nothing but increase your own stress and anxiety — and hate is the fuel that grows the viruses. Don’t let anyone steal your happiness!
The video for the song, which features belting, emotive vocals you might not associate with the singer of deadpan “Tick Tock” and “Blah Blah Blah,” sees Kesha running through Salvation Mountain, the massive (it’s called a Mountain, after all) piece of California folk art created by Leonard Knight with adobe, straw and thousands of gallons of paint. (The video unfortunately also subscribes to the now common notion that you need a long opening monologue in order for people to take a pop song seriously.)
As Pitchfork reports, the album will feature a cover of Dolly Parton’s “Old Flames Can’t Hold a Candle to You,” with vocals from Parton herself. Eagles of Death Metal also appear on two tracks.
Watch the video:
Here’s the album art:
Update: BuzzFeed News reports on the continued contractual obligations Kesha has to Kemosabe. A statement from Dr. Luke’s legal team reads: “Now, as legally required all along, the album was released with Dr. Luke’s approval by Kemosabe, which is a joint venture label of Dr. Luke and Sony. This is not an end to litigation.”