“Am I dead? Or is this one of those dreams?” The opening to Kesha’s latest video for the single, “Praying”–the first official release since 2016’s “True Colors” with Zedd–is a far cry from the chirpy, chipper dance tracks of her past. The kind that touted brushing one’s teeth with a bottle of Jack and drinking from beverages left behind by others at the club. Instead, it is a candid and unapologetic glimpse into her mindset during the five years since 2012, when her struggles with Dr. Luke didn’t so much begin as reach their end in terms of Kesha ceasing to tolerate his abuse. In the legal battles that followed, accusations and stalemates ensued–and then there was that random insult to injury of Jerry Seinfeld not wanting to give her a hug.
But now, here we are at last in 2017, with Kesha triumphantly coming out of the other side of darkness and living to tell the tale about it. And it isn’t just Dr. Luke that toyed with her mind, it was the very act of being a pop star. Passing a series of signs that serve not only as the phrases society screams at us every day (“our values are your values,” “‘real’ men feel nothing,” “you need more stuff,” among some of the more cherry-picked ones), Kesha is also revealing that she has learned to ignore the external voices of others trying to corrupt her own internal one.
Unlike “Blow,” there are no unicorns in this video, only terrifying human-pig hybrids chasing Kesha through a desert-like landscape as she “learns to fight for herself.” In fact, the disparate sound and lyrical content of “Praying” might make devoted listeners wonder just how much of Kesha’s voice was really her own back when Dr. Luke was pulling the strings (was she really the type of person to say “put a little love in my glovebox”?). The tone and sound is, in fact, a lot like recent Kesha cohort Lady Gaga’s (think: “Perfect Illusion” or “Edge of Glory”).
The video’s intro persists in its Beyonce talking about plugging her mensies-esque monologue as she notes, “Please just let me die. Being alive hurts too much.” Quite literally stranded in a body of water to mimic the metaphorical marooning Kesha suffered (what do you want, it’s pop music?–arcane depth isn’t always easy to achieve), scenes of Kesha trapped in a net like a battered and abused fish give us some additional insight into just how low–how trapped–she was feeling during this time span of oppression.
And yet, ultimately, she must say to Dr. Luke, “I hope your soul is changing/I hope you find your peace.” This ability to suppress all sense of vengeance is, by both hippie and Kabbalist standards, the most seamless way to find inner peace and tranquility–for what good does it do to waste all of one’s energy on hating the person who has done you wrong (other than, you know, the satisfaction of seeing them ache the way you ached)?
Kesha addresses the years of allowing Dr. Luke to get inside her head with his loop of caustic haranguings as she sings, “You almost had me fooled/Told me I was nothing without you…/We both know all the truth I could tell/All I can say is I wish you farewell.”
As Kesha clearly embarks on her Ray of Light era of spiritualism and body paint, it’s only fitting that Jonas Åkerlund–director of the “Ray of Light” video–should impose his skills on this song, which as Kesha remarked, “is about coming to feel empathy for someone else even if they hurt you or scare you. It’s a song about learning to be proud of the person you are even during low moments when you feel alone. It’s also about hoping everyone, even someone who hurt you, can heal.”
Crying tears of blood and walking on water by the end of the video, Kesha has certainly adopted a Christ-like approach in attempting forgiveness. As Madonna, Queen of Pop and Kabbalah once said, “It’s the hardest thing to do in life. To forgive someone who, for lack of a better term, fucked you over.” But it is the primary tenet of Kabbalism 101, and Kesha is clearly praying to do her best to forgive Dr. Luke. There’s a rainbow (the name of her forthcoming album–sorry Mariah Carey) at the end of every storm, isn’t there? At least until the next storm comes. Moreover, she’s really put Liberace to shame in that silver winged bodysuit at the piano, so at least being emotionally decimated hasn’t ruined her sense of style and bombast.