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Kesha bounces back on triumphant new song, 'Praying,' and announces next album

Kesha is to release a new album, "Rainbow," on Aug. 11. (Olivia Bee)
Kesha is to release a new album, "Rainbow," on Aug. 11. (Olivia Bee)

The pop star Kesha, who since 2014 has been embroiled in a nasty legal battle with her former producer and current label head, Dr. Luke, has issued her first new song in nearly five years. Called "Praying," it's a defiant ballad about overcoming adversity that opens with a haunting spoken-word intro.

"Am I dead," she wonders, "or is this one of those dreams, those horrible dreams that seem like they last forever?"

She continues: "If there is a God or whatever, something, somewhere, why have I been abandoned by everyone and everything I've ever known, I've ever loved?"

It's the first track from her just-announced new album, "Rainbow," which is to arrive on Aug. 11. 

The album is being released on Kemosabe Records, the Dr. Luke-owned imprint that was at the center of lawsuits for the last three years. Kemosabe is distributed by Sony Music Entertainment. 

Kesha has put out her first single since her protracted legal battle with Dr. Luke began. (Mary Altaffer / Associated Press)
Kesha has put out her first single since her protracted legal battle with Dr. Luke began. (Mary Altaffer / Associated Press)

Among those who collaborate with Kesha (born Kesha Sebert) for "Rainbow" are Dolly Parton, who duets with her on the 1980 Pepe Sebert song "Old Flames Can't Hold a Candle to You." Sebert, who, not coincidentally, is Kesha's mom, also helped write the Ben Folds-produced title track.

The chart-topping producer-songwriter Ricky Reed (Wallpaper) also contributed. Kesha drafted members of Palm Desert rock band Eagles of Death Metal for a few songs, as well. 

Dr. Luke (Lukasz Gottwald), who helped propel Kesha to stardom through his co-production on songs including "Tik Tok," "Your Love Is My Drug" and "Die Young," is notably absent from the credits. 

That stands to reason. In October 2014, Kesha sued Gottwald in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleging that he "sexually, physically, verbally and emotionally" abused her starting when she was 18. Gottwald denied the charges and counter-sued her in New York, alleging defamation and breach of contract.

In 2016, Kesha dropped her suit, stating in an Instagram post, “I need to get my music out. I have so much to say. This lawsuit is so heavy on my once free spirit, and I can only pray to one day feel that happiness again."

"Praying" is her first musical endeavor in support of that goal.

The video for the song alludes to past turmoil but embeds it within lyrics that address a spurned lover. "Well, you almost had me fooled / Told me that I was nothing without you," she sings to open.

"You brought the flames and you put me through hell," she adds later, and it's hard not to think that Dr. Luke is in her cross hairs: "I had to learn how to fight for myself / And we both know all the truth I could tell / I'll just say this is I wish you farewell."

In a note to fans published on Lena Dunham's Lenny Letter, Kesha explained the genesis of "Praying": 

"I have channeled my feelings of severe hopelessness and depression, I've overcome obstacles, and I have found strength in myself even when it felt out of reach. I've found what I had thought was an unobtainable place of peace.

"This song is about coming to feel empathy for someone else even if they hurt you or scare you. It's a song about learning to be proud of the person you are even during low moments when you feel alone. It's also about hoping everyone, even someone who hurt you, can heal."

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