The Rebirth of Kesha

Posted September 22, 2016 by J Matthew Cobb in Features

At Music Midtown 2016, Kesha shows off her new phoenix wings

“Girls just want to have fun,” pop party girl Cyndi Lauper once sung. That spirit of excitement, rebellion and hardcore rock and roll exudes inside the newly reconstructed live shows of Kesha Rose Sebert, known best as Kesha. Or the formerly-known Ke$ha.

As you’ve probably witnessed lately, Kesha no longer uses the signature dollar sign that defined the “s” in her name, produced in an era when desperate pop stars were anxious to make their stage name out from the norm. The dollar sign in her stage name represented the love of money and fame, the old skin marred with headlines of entering rehab, but now a new reality presents itself to her. One that comes with sacrifice and a huge reawakening.

Like the mythical phoenix rising from the burning ashes, Kesha is spreading her wings into a career rebirth and trying to soar high above the murky madness from her now-closed lawsuit with music producer and former boss Dr. Luke. Inside the earlier civil case, Kesha alleged that Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald afflicted her with emotional distress, gender-based hate crimes and employment discrimination. He turned around and sued her for defamation and breach of contract in the New York Supreme Court, with her countersuing, claiming Dr. Luke “sexually, physically, verbally and emotionally” abusing her throughout most of their tenure as professional partners. The end result tilted in Gottwald’s favor after Judge Shirley Kornreich previewed the evidence, mostly combing over Kesha’s videotaped deposition where she swore under oath that she was never drugged or assaulted by Dr. Luke. Despite her attorneys warning the court that the deposition was false and that she was too afraid and a victim of rape trauma, Kornreich denied Kesha a preliminary injunction and dismissed her abuse claims.

Towards the closing of the case, a startling revelation was exposed, proving that there may have been a little bias working on Dr. Luke’s behalf. The judge is married to Ed Kornreich, a partner in the legal firm that represents RCA/Sony. The outcome of the case could have brutally hurt Kornreich’s pocketbook.
Kesha lost her case in court, but in the court of public opinion she came out on the upside. Many celebrities along with female artists voiced their support for the bad-ass multi-platinum singer-songwriter sporting a trove of hits coming out of her two-album, two-EP catalog and cameos on some of the biggest pop anthems of this decade (“Timber” with Pitbull, “Right Round” with Flo Rida).

Possibly hungry for cash due to the on-going and legal blunders with producer Dr. Luke, Kesha — still a raw and raunchy party girl — now hits the music festival circuit searching to find that extra buck. It’s a means to survival, especially since Dr. Luke came out on the up end of victories. According to court documents, she is not allowed to release any new material due to previous contractual matters. It also seems as if she cannot use the actual productions during live staged performances from her eight year-long work relationship with Dr. Luke. What she can do, though, is take her songs, even the ones she co-wrote and co-produced with Dr. Luke, and recalculate them as newer mixes. Knowing her limitations, Kesha is morphing her big hits into rock-arena bangers and disco-infused workouts. She exercised those newer works at Atlanta’s Music Midtown festival, before the big headliners Alabama Shakes, Deadmau5 and the Killers. After a heavy rain/ t-storm warning delay, Kesha took to the Roxy stage around 7:45 pm, located on the top of a muddy hill in Piedmont Park as the Lumineers worked the crowd with their alt-Americana rock almost a half mile away at the  Electric Ballroom stage.


Her new show is supported by a live rock band who are meticulously skilled at going hardcore punk to LCD Soundsystem disco in a matter of minutes. There’s definitely a combination of Stevie Nicks, Iggy Pop and Chic on board. And she even cools down in between the set with sweet tributes to musical influences, this time her love for country and old-school glossy pop — Dolly Parton (“Jolene”) and Leslie Gore (“You Don’t Own Me,” a grievous smirk at Dr. Luke).

She’s known for pulling off Autotune on her biggest hits like “Tik Tok.” While live, the gimmicks are tossed away. And there’s this unexpected display of power ballad-like belting that fires across the speakers. It’s an element were not really used to from Kesha 1.0. Now she’s vocalizing like a soulful diva, only with a smidgen of Heart and Pat Benatar. She’ll easily slide from a controlled note hold into a manic banshee, blending both soul and punk.

Her treasure of radio jams were all in the set list, from the biggest (“Your Love Is My Drug,” “We R Who We R,” “Die Young,” “Blow”) to the heavy underground cuts (“Dinosaur,” “Cannibal,” “Boots & Boys”). And so was her admiration to her LGBT fans in Atlanta as a member of her rowdy posse rushes unto the stage with an American flag painted with rainbow stripes.

Although she talked extensively about her legal nightmares and the tough stronghold that’s causing her to not leak any new music, she seems to be moving on. But there’s still a fiery ball of hostility burning up inside. “I think that some people thought I would sit around, waiting to die,” Kesha told her fans. “Well, that somebody [Dr. Luke] fucked with the wrong woman.”

Whether she works with Dr. Luke again or releases new material on his record label (Kemosabe Entertainment) for the next album tentatively scheduled to be related through Sony Music Entertainment is still uncertain. But it’s clearly evident that the new and improved Kesha has a new sound on her, one that feels organic, substantive and heavier. For now, she’s transitioned from a EDM-meets-hip-hop powder-snuffing raver into a bitchy, ballsy new-gen Janis Joplin anxious to record her next chapter in music history.

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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