On her first single in four years, aptly titled “Praying”, Kesha sings about finding freedom from her abuser, dealing with depression, and finding strength within herself to move forward.
After four years of legal battles against former producer Dr. Luke, Kesha has finally released new music. Her new album Rainbow is slated to come out in August. She released the first single, “Praying”, in an official music video on Thursday.
In a swift pivot from the “party girl” image carefully cultivated by Dr. Luke, “Praying” portrays a softer side of Kesha. Her vocal talent, previously hidden on most of her singles, takes the front seat. The track skimps on electronic beats or catchy hooks and relies instead on soft piano, a gospel choir, and Kesha. She belts the lyrics, which she co-wrote with Ryan Lewis, displaying incredible range.
The music video contains many of the elements that shot Kesha to superstardom. She wears wild costumes, throws around colored powder, and interacts with people wearing animal masks. However, the primary image of the video is Kesha, alone, floating on scraps of wood in the ocean. Slowly, as the song progresses, the color moves from complete grayscale to the colors of a sunset, complete with a rainbow in the background.
The scratches on Kesha’s face seem to represent the emotional blows she sings about in “Praying”. The song seems to be aimed directly at Dr. Luke, but also speaks candidly to Kesha’s struggles with depression. In a unique move for her, the video begins not with music, but with a monologue.
"Am I dead? Or is this one of those dreams? Those horrible dreams that seem like they last forever? If I am alive, why? If there is a God or whatever, something, somewhere, why have I been abandoned by everyone and everything I’ve ever known? I’ve ever loved? Stranded. What is the lesson? What is the point? God, give me a sign, or I have to give up. I can’t do this anymore. Please just let me die. Being alive hurts too much."
Kesha’s openness about her struggles with mental health is important and inspiring.
Kesha posted an essay to the Lenny Letter to accompany the single’s release. In it, she openly discusses her depression and anxiety, as well as her battle against disordered eating. She also seems to make reference to Dr. Luke: “This song 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.”
According to the essay, “Praying” is about that moment when the proverbial sun starts to come out from behind the clouds. Several of the lyrics stand out, but the overall theme of the song comes down to this: although she has been repeatedly hurt by people who were supposed to help her, she can manage her career and her life all on her own. She has the strength, the passion, and the ability to make a name for herself.
The song is deeply moving and incredibly emotional. Hearing Kesha channel everything she has gone through into music demonstrates not only that she is a talented songwriter, but that her career is far from over. She has found strength within herself (“I am proud of who I am / no more monsters, I can breathe again”) and won’t stop for anyone (“You said that I was done / well you were wrong / and now the best is yet to come”).
Already, Kesha has proven that she doesn’t need someone like Dr. Luke. Not naming her abuser in “Praying” is an incredible power move — especially because, as she sings, “When I’m finished / they won’t even know your name.” Moving forward is the best thing she can do for herself, her fans, and her career.