It’s a ripple around the world that many of us are still reeling from: a two-year legal battle ended recently for pop supernova Kesha-certainly to be confused with pop supernova Ke$ha-whereby she sought to terminate her contract with Sony based the mental mistreatment and sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of producer Lukasz Gottwald- to be confused with producer Dr. Luke. She lost. Lack of evidence and Sony’s investment in her career cited as reasons to continue trafficking Kesha in the music industry. The photo of her collapsing into tears when the verdict was read has accompanied many a #FreeKesha tribute – led almost exclusively by female singers.
There is much to be finger-pointed as to why male musicians have maintained mum on this, but it’s entirely possible that it continues to be empathy that raises female musician’s voices, because this is by no means the first time a female singer has cloaked her own abuse in her own recording sessions. So while some of us commiserate, other plot, others do whatever it takes to absolve themselves of any responsibility and carry on their sleight-of-patriarchy lifestyle, here’s a #FreeKesha playlist to keep us pushing to see change in the systemic abuse of female creatives, caught between using their talents and tribulations to enrich the world and so few opportunities to do so on a large scale.
#10: Beyoncé – Listen
It didn’t seem too coincidental that soon after producing this song for the Dreamgirls movie, arguably this generation’s most powerful woman decided to separate from the man who had guided her music career: her own father. The flack she copped was intense for deciding to establish her independence and be a role model for aspiring female businesswomen. It would have taken monumental courage to fire her own father, and her success since the move is a true indication of how important it is to pursue your intuition at all costs.
#9: Rihanna -What Now
Their relationship was as profitable as it was powerful, until suddenly her battered face flooded the internet. The boycott of Chris Brown was sh0rt-lived and stories of how he was abused have surfaced in contextual isolation of what he did to Rihanna. She went back to him briefly, and upon her leaving him again, spoke to Barbara Walters “When I realised that my selfish decision for love could result in some young girl getting killed? I could not be easy with that…I couldn’t be held responsible for telling them ‘go back'”.
#8: Alanis Morrissette – Right Through You
It speaks for itself mostly, about how women are objectified by the domination of men in power of various industries. The opportunity for men to call shots according to personal interests is compounded by the fact that there’s no-one to contest them, because they’re surrounded by their peers. This song was the first callout of this kind I ever heard, over twenty years ago and how much has changed?
#7: Lily Allen – Hard Out Here
A bold song, a Meredith-Brooks-esque reclamation of the B-word. Hopefully by this point in the playlist, you’re not losing hope but galvanising and knowing that it’s all our part to play when it comes to equity in all industries. Whether Allen still has that hope is unclear as she’s retired several times in the face of what is happening to the music industry as a result of profiteering labels and consumer piracy. Buy music people, and not just Taylor Swift’s.
#6: Lana Del Rey – F*cked My Way Up to the Top
Lana Del Rey spoke in an interview about how this song is meant more to callout public perception that her career should be credited to her sexual relationships with music industry figures over her talent. Del Rey doesn’t deny sleeping around, but was very clear that not one of those relationships led to her record deal. Does this do more damage than good? You be the judge.
#5: Kelly Rowland – Dirty Laundry
Another former Destiny’s Child. Purely for its references to how Rowland’s long-term abusive relationship was long kept from the public eye by herself, her friends, her management team. The culture of victim-shaming does not discriminate.
#4: Tina Turner – Let’s Stay Together
Leaving husband and musical partner Ike Turner left Tina penniless and without access to her former hits. She released two albums post-split that performed dismally until this cover of Al Green began her climb back up to the top. I still find it a twist of the universe that a song about sticking with your partner through everything should re-launch a woman who left hers for the better. Perhaps ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It’ would’ve been a better inclusion.
#3: Tori Amos – Me & a Gun
Similar to Turner, Amos found herself in a state of needing reinvention when she returned to her compositional roots with the Little Earthquakes album. Me & a Gun is a raw rendition of what it feels and means to be assaulted, what strength of the mind it takes to recover. If there is one hope I have for the recording industry, it’s that they continue to allow these stories to be shared in this way. Now if they’d just stop being at the root of so many…
#2: Lady Gaga – ‘Til it Happens to You
A song that went unnoticed by most outside the Little Monster community, but an important message originally written for a film about rape on American college campuses. I imagine this one will need a few repeats for those who take liberty to comment about rape and sexual assault without having experienced it for themselves.
#1: Kesha – Don’t Think Twice, it’s Alright
Take as long as you need. Seek support if you need it, don’t let this event discourage you from having heart, taking a stand against those who would shame and suppress you. Men, women, trans, null, human, animal. We all can make changes if we step beyond our own fear and look at how we can lead by example in our homes, workplaces, schools, stores, streets.
If you are experiencing violence or suffering, do not hesitate to call 1800-RESPECT (737 732) or Lifeline on 13 11 14. If you know or suspect someone going through trauma, you can contact these services too to be empowered to reach out and show your support.