Kesha should be pissed.
On Sunday, January 28, the 2018 Grammy Awards took place in New York City. The results were largely unsurprising: The Recording Academy took the path of least resistance by handing out awards to an incredibly apolitical Bruno Mars in three major categories (Record, Song, and Album of the Year,) proving that no matter how exciting the year’s nominees are, institutions gonna institution.
That goes tenfold for Kesha, the pop singer who performed her ballad “Praying,” alongside “Havana” singer Camila Cabello, Cyndi Lauper and a handful of other incredible musicians. It felt like the Recording Academy relied on Kesha to address the industry-wide problem of sexual abuse in one big, symbolic gesture, unfairly placing responsibility on her and the other women alone. What’s worse: Kesha’s label Sony Music tweeted support for her performance, despite keeping her under contract and potentially financially bound to her alleged abuser, producer Dr. Luke.
It was one of the night’s biggest tone-deaf moments. Sony Music Global has since deleted the Tweet, but as seen in the screenshot above, the account posted a gif from the very end of Kesha’s performance with the caption, “No Words. All love. #GRAMMYs.”
For the last few years, Kesha has been engaged in a legal battle with Dr. Luke, whom she alleges sexually, physically, and emotionally abused her during their working relationship. (Kesha was signed to Kemosabe Records, Luke’s Sony Music imprint.) In 2015, Kesha directed her frustration at Sony Music proper, claiming representatives for the label were complicit in the abuses she experienced, and turned a blind eye to the producer and his inappropriate behaviors. It’s a conversation we’ve been having a lot lately: How do institutions within music’s framework keep the powerful and dangerous, powerful and dangerous? Did someone, somewhere at Sony think it was better to ignore and silence Kesha, as long as she continues to make the company hits and money?
Without finding and naming the people responsible, it’s all conjecture. What isn’t, however, is that as Kesha continues to rebuild and fight for justice, Sony Music is profiting off her. It’s feasible that the label who failed to protect Kesha is now commodifying that abuse, that failure. Simply put: Fuck them.