It’s been nearly five years since Kesha released an album, which may be part of the reason why seeing her on stage Tuesday at SXSW was just so nice. We need more Kesha in our lives, and her SX appearance was a major reminder of that. But Kesha was not on the Austin stage to sing — she was on stage to speak about the internet, cyberbullying, and how women can reclaim their space online. “I’ve never done a talking thing,” Kesha said, acknowledging her nerves, as she took the stage with Refinery29’s Amy Emmerich. “If this were me singing, and I had my dancers and my band, and everyone was kind of boogieing and drunk, that’d be different.” Then for a thoughtful, thought-provoking hour, Kesha and Amy discussed everything from Kesha’s upcoming music (she says she has 70-80 songs to choose from for her new album), turning 30 (which happened just a few days ago!), and finding an experience on the internet that works for her.
Before we get to yesterday’s talk, it’s important to understand where exactly Kesha is coming from. Kesha was pretty much an instant hit when she came onto the music scene as a teenager — “TiK ToK,” “Die Young,” “We R Who We R” — you likely know them all. But for nearly half a decade now, Kesha’s songwriting voice has been silenced thanks to a particularly ugly legal battle with music producer Dr. Luke. The reason stated by Kesha’s legal team was that Dr. Luke “sexually, physically, verbally, and emotionally abused [Kesha] to the point where [she] nearly lost her life.” As the two battle in and out of the courts, Kesha’s past and future music is basically being held hostage. According to Kesha’s team, a win for them would be Kesha receiving, “the freedom to make music without being bound indefinitely to the very producer who subjected her to years of abuse.” Even while Kesha has been barred from sharing her new songs, we’re so thankful she hasn’t stopped sharing her voice and opinion wherever and however she can.
As she said on the SX stage, “Anytime there’s truth that’s when you really have the power.” And power she definitely has.
Tuesday’s conversation hit on a very many truths for the singer. She went deep on how rather than hiding behind the facade of “Ke$ha,” she’s decided that being real is actually stronger. (That applies to her name too, “I took out the money sign because that was part of the façade,” she said.) “Criticism online used to tear me up. Then I realized you can’t make people you don’t know your higher power,” she said. Later on in the conversation she added the Instagram reminder we all need in our lives:”Just because somebody is posting a picture of themselves doing something fun doesn’t mean they don’t struggle with things.”
Kesha also got very real about the struggles she’s faced with an eating disorder:
“I almost died. I came closer than I ever knew. By the time I entered rehab, they were surprised I hadn’t had a stroke — because I hadn’t consumed enough. I’m not ashamed anymore. It’s emotional because it’s a deep-rooted disease. It can really affect your self-worth.”
And in that painful truth she also made sure to reach out to other’s who might be going through the same thing. “I just want people to know that they’re not alone. If you struggle with just looking in the mirror and being okay with yourself, you’re not alone,” she said. “The only sense I can make in this life of going through something like that is to help other people.”
Though dark at times, Kesha’s talk was filled with strength of all kinds, including the most impassioned definition of feminism we’ve heard in a while:
“To be myself unabashedly and unapologetically and to stand for all the things that I feel are right and to be able to be all the things that I want to be. I can be a sexy, funny, gross, pscyho, intelligent, animal rights activist who can piss in the street . . . I’m a motherfucking woman that can be every single one of those things.”
Praise hands emoji!
If that weren’t enough, Kesha also revealed her future dream (which just so happens to be ours too): “To live on an island full of cats one day. I’m just trying to stack it up until I can do that forever.”
As for when the new music is coming, she still doesn’t know and it all hangs on the court case. “I cannot wait to give it to you,” she said about her new album. “I pray to the ocean and the universe and any and every god out there that it will be soon.” Us too.