So, it appears that Sony is finally done with Dr. Luke, whose real name is Lukasz Gottwald (as if his real name is any less creepy). Disturbing monikers aside, there’s only one crucial question that Sony’s move raises: how does this play into the three-year-long saga of Kesha’s troubling abuse claims and ongoing legal battles against her former collaborator and boss?
Quite frankly, it means that Sony should have done this, well, hmm… about three years ago. It would have showed a greater solidarity for the young singer who had the courage to call out her employer for inexcusable behavior in an industry with a concerning history of sexual misconduct. Quick reminder: Dr. Luke and his company owe most of their success to Ke$ha, the popstar behind TiK ToK, We R Who We R and Take it Off. AKA, the middle school bangers you still know all the lyrics to.
According to court papers, the controversial producer Dr. Luke is no longer CEO of Kemosabe Records, the label he launched under Sony in 2011, nor does he have any authority to act on the label’s behalf. Kemosabe isn’t a spotlight label, yet considering the fact that its biggest talent claimed she was being abused by her producer, it took too damn long to get Dr. Luke out of the picture. In fact, the delay has made things even more dire for Ke$ha. Her attorneys expressed concern that Dr. Luke is “poised to acquire even greater control over Ke$ha and her career,” should Sony’s contract with the producer go under. In a court filing, which anticipated Dr. Luke getting the boot, her lawyers argued: “Without the court’s intervention and Sony’s facilitation, Kesha will remain contractually bound to Dr. Luke until she releases three additional albums, each containing six songs produced individually by Dr. Luke, no matter how many years that takes.”
The contract under scrutiny, which Kesha initially signed in 2005 at the age of 18, demands that she records five albums for Gottwald before the agreement is terminated. He also conveniently refused to negotiate terms in 2014; so, at this point, if she does not release three more studio albums, she could technically be stuck in the contract for the rest of her life,
Last April, a Manhattan State Supreme Court justice dismissed all but one of Kesha’s claims against Dr. Luke, delivering a heartbreaking blow to her case. The injunction would have allowed Kesha to record music outside Kemosabe Records while her case ensued. As footage of a post-decision Kesha sobbing in the courtroom spread across social media, online outrage ensued: #FreeKesha trended on Twitter while hundreds of thousands of people signed an online petition to cut the singer from her contract. She’s an artist, so we say let her make art. Dr. Luke getting the boot is a victory for the “Free Kesha” movement––a small victory, but one nonetheless.
In March, Kesha led a panel discussion at SXSW where she spoke about the bullies and trolls of the world. She made it clear that she’s working on putting her time with Sony behind her so that she can work not only on new music, but on herself, too.
“It’s empowering to sit with my imperfections and be real and vulnerable. In truth, there’s real power,” she said. “I used to nitpick everything and it was fucking exhausting. Now I’m feelin’ myself.”
Preach. We’re so team #FreeKesha—glitter, girl power and all.