Kesha's Newest Performance Was Totally Brave

by Emily Lackey

Talk about a woman who won’t take no for an answer. A new video of Kesha performing her Bob Dylan tribute on Wednesday night at a Ben Folds concert has emerged, depicting the same cover she says she was originally supposed to perform at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards. After being rumored to be one of the performers set to take the stage during Sunday night’s awards show, Dick Clark Productions released a statement claiming that Kesha would not be performing because of reported negotiation issues between the singer and label Kemosabe Records. But on Wednesday night, Kesha stood her ground, taking the stage alongside Ben Folds Five to perform. Despite everything that has happened recently for the artist, her decision to perform the number was an incredible show of courage and self-expression.

And whoever was watching took note, because a day later, Kemosabe Records released a statement saying her Billboard performance was back on:

Kesha's performance on the Billboard Music Awards was always approved, in good faith. Approval [for her performance] was only suspended when Kemosabe learned Kesha was to use the performance as a platform to discuss the litigation. Now that Kemosabe has obtained assurances, that it is relying upon, from Kesha, her representatives and Dick Clark Productions that neither Kesha nor her supporters will use the performance as such a platform, the approval has been restored.

It's encouraging to see her taking matters into her own hands, considering the legal battle she's been dealing with. After she alleged in a lawsuit filed in October 2014 that her music producer Dr. Luke (real name: Lukasz Gottwald) sexually assaulted her for 10 years beginning when she was 18 years old, Gottwald filed a countersuit in which he alleged extortion and denied the charges vehemently. As he said in a tweet in 2016, “I didn’t rape Kesha and I have never had sex with her. Kesha and I were friends for many years and she was like my little sister.”

Kesha’s lawsuit aimed to allow the singer to record music without Dr. Luke, but, in February 2016, New York Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich upheld Kesha’s original contract with Sony.

Kesha’s lawyer released the following statement to Billboard about the initial lawsuit on October 2014:

This lawsuit is a wholehearted effort by Kesha to regain control of her music career and her personal freedom after suffering for ten years as a victim of mental manipulation, emotional abuse and sexual assault at the hands of Dr. Luke. The facts presented in our lawsuit paint a picture of a man who is controlling and willing to commit horrible acts of abuse in an attempt to intimidate an impressionable, talented, young female artist into submission for his personal gain. Kesha is focused on moving her life and her career beyond this terrible time.

But on April 3, a spokesperson for Dr. Luke released the following statement to Rolling Stone:

The Court repeatedly stated Kesha is already free to record without Dr. Luke, and that she had not presented any facts supporting her claims. That's because all the evidence - including Kesha's own videotaped sworn testimony - show her allegations are false. The only thing Kesha is not free to do is to continue to lie about Dr. Luke through publicity stunts and outrageous smears, ignoring the fact that by her own free will she went to work and entered into new contracts with Dr. Luke years after this 'incident' supposedly happened. Her goal all along has been solely personal enrichment by seeking to break contracts that brought her success and millions so she can enter into more lucrative ones. We look forward to our day in court holding Kesha accountable for her lies.

For their part, Sony also commented on the legal situation they found themselves in. On February 24, an attorney for Sony told the New York Times:

Sony has made it possible for Kesha to record without any connection, involvement or interaction with Luke whatsoever, but Sony is not in a position to terminate the contractual relationship between Luke and Kesha. Sony is doing everything it can to support the artist in these circumstances, but is legally unable to terminate the contract to which it is not a party.

So after rumors surfaced that Kesha’s Billboard performance would include a statement on her legal battles with Dr. Luke, Dick Clark Productions announced that Kesha would no longer be performing at the awards show:

Kesha accepted an invitation to perform on the show and she received written approval from Dr. Luke’s record label, Kemosabe Records. Kemosabe subsequently rescinded its approval… regarding Kesha’s appearance on the BBMAs. Unfortunately, Kesha and Kemosabe have since been unable to come to an agreement for Kesha to perform on the show.

On Wednesday, Kesha posted a picture to Instagram that confirmed her cancellation and tried to clear up the original intention of her performance:

I was very excited to perform a tribute to Bob Dylan by singing a cover of "It ain't me, babe" at the Billboard awards this year. I'm very sad and sorry to say I won't be allowed to do this. I just wanted to make very clear that this performance was about me honoring one of my favorite songwriters of all time and has never had anything at all to do with Dr. Luke. I was never going to use a picture of him, speak of him or allude to my legal situation in any way. I simply wanted to sing a song I love to honor an artist I have always looked up to. thank u all for the continued support.

After all of this, to see Kesha still standing tall and performing “It Ain’t Me, Babe” on stage is quite an act of courage. The fact that she remained composed on stage and performed the song without any comment just goes to show what seems to really matters to this singer, and that is expressing herself through the only way she knows how: Through art and song.