Kesha took the Grammy Awards to church on Sunday night when she performed her best pop solo performance-nominated song “Praying,” backed up by an army of white-clad women that included Andra Day, Camila Cabello, Bebe Rexha, Cyndi Lauper, and best new artist nominee Julia Michaels.
The defiant piano ballad about surviving and thriving after abuse has been conjectured to be about producer Dr. Luke, against whom Kesha filed a 2014 lawsuit on charges including sexual assault and emotional abuse. It took on additional cultural resonance when later last year, the avalanche of #MeToo revelations gathered strength.
The singer’s 2017 album “Rainbow” was the first LP she’d released since 2012. Her contract with Kemosabe Records prevented her from releasing music anywhere else, even in the face of the ongoing legal battle. Dr. Luke, who was the CEO of Kemosabe until last spring, has denied Kesha’s allegations.
On Saturday, the singer tweeted about the catharsis and healing she found in writing the song. “i just want to say that i needed this song in a very real way, im so proud and nervous and overwhelmed to be performing it at the grammys on sunday, and if you need it i hope this song finds you,” she wrote, ending with two heart emojis. She was seen in tears at the end of the song, hugging her fellow singers.
Janelle Monae introduced the performance with a salute to all the women in the music industry and a warning. “To those who would dare try and silence us, we offer you two words: Time’s up,” she said. “Just as we have the power to shape culture, we also have the power to undo the culture that does not serve us well.”
Stars including Lady Gaga, Sam Smith, Anna Kendrick, and host James Corden sported white roses on the red carpet in support of the Time’s Up movement, following a push by a group of music executives.Zoë Madonna can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @knitandlisten.