Kelly Clarkson scored some of her biggest hits alongside Dr. Luke, but that doesn’t mean the pop star has fond memories of working with him.
Luke produced her smash “Since U Been Gone” as well as “Behind These Hazel Eyes” alongside Max Martin for the former “American Idol” star’s 2004 album, “Breakaway.” The two worked together again on her 2009 megahit, “My Life Would Suck Without You.”
But as the producer is embattled in a contentious lawsuit with Kesha, who is accusing Dr. Luke (born Lukasz Gottwald) of physically and sexually abusing her for years, Clarkson has said that she was forced into those collaborations with Luke.
In an interview on an Australia radio show Monday, Clarkson blasted the producer as “demeaning" and having “poor character.” She also said her longtime label, RCA, strong-armed her into working with the hitmaker.
“I only worked with him — even the last time I worked with him — because literally I got blackmailed by my label,” Clarkson told Australia's KIIS 1065. “They were like, 'We will not put your album out if you don’t do this.'"
“He’s a talented dude, but he’s just lied a lot,” Clarkson said of Luke. “I’ve run into a couple really bad situations. Musically, it’s been really hard for me because he will just lie to people. It’s like ‘What?’ It makes the artist look bad. He’s difficult to work with, kind of demeaning, it’s kind of unfortunate. People are like well you’ve worked with Max [Martin] and Luke, and I’m like Max and Luke are very different. Obviously the dude is a talented guy but character-wise, no.”
Kesha, who hasn't released new material since 2013, stunned the pop world in 2014 when she filed suit against the superstar platinum producer, who was her longtime partner.
In the 28-page suit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Kesha (born Kesha Rose Sebert) alleges a decade of sexual, physical and mental abuse by the producer that ultimately led to a struggle with an eating disorder and a stint in rehab that sidelined her career. Luke has continously denied all claims.
According to her account, on one occasion, "Dr. Luke instructed Ms. Sebert to take what he described as 'sober pills.' ... Ms. Sebert took the pills and woke up the following afternoon, naked in Dr. Luke's bed, sore and sick with no memory of how she got there." The suit continues with similar, detailed claims dating back to when she was 18 and first in L.A.
Coincidentally, Clarkson and Kesha are labelmates, and after a New York judge declared Friday that Kesha couldn’t escape her contract with Luke or RCA’s parent company, Sony (she’s under contract for six albums), a slew of pop stars — mostly women — have publicly stood with Kesha.
Lady Gaga, Demi Lovato, Ariana Grande, JoJo, Lily Allen, Halsey and Sara Bareilles were among the artists who tweeted their support. Jack Antonoff and Zedd offered production services. Taylor Swift donated $250,000 to the singer to help with any financial needs during the long-gestating case. And Adele dedicated her win at last month’s Brit Awards to Kesha.
Clarkson, too, also spoke out after the hearing, writing on Twitter that she was “Trying 2 not say anything since I can’t say anything nice about a person… so this is me not talking about Dr. Luke.”
The inaugural “American Idol” champ’s revelation that she was pushed into working with a producer shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Over the years, Clarkson has been vocal about her clashes with label brass.
There was that infamous clash with music mogul Clive Davis — the only blip of controversy in her career — over her rock-driven 2007 album, "My December." The spat was quickly forgotten when she released 2009's "All I Ever Wanted," with its massive hit, "My Life Would Suck Without You," which was co-written by Dr. Luke and Max Martin.
In Davis’ memoir, "The Soundtrack of My Life," the music industry legend said Clarkson cried while writing “Since U Been Gone” with Luke and Martin, who he said were "very strong, hands-on producers ... intent on getting the perfect vocal performance and are relentless in that pursuit." He wrote that Clarkson struggled to take direction in the studio and broke down in tears in his office, a claim she refuted.
“First, he says I burst into ‘hysterical sobbing’ in his office when he demanded ‘Since U Been Gone’ be on my album,” Clarkson wrote in a note on her WhoSay account. “Not true at all. His stories and songs are mixed up. I did want more guitars added to the original demo, and Clive did not. Max, Luke and I still fought for the bigger sound and we prevailed and I couldn’t be more proud of the life of that song. I resent him dampening that song in any way.”
In a 2011 Times profile for her fifth album, “Stronger,” Clarkson said it was the first album she recorded where she didn’t have to push back.
"Literally every album, except this album, I've had to really push for songs or say no on certain stuff," Clarkson explained. "It's very easy for people when their main goal is to make money. But I don't want to do the same formula. I want to do my own thing.
Requests for comment from Clarkson, RCA went unanswered. A representative for Dr. Luke declined to comment.
For the Record
March 7, 3:32 p.m.: An earlier version of this post referred to the title of Kelly Clarkson's 2004 hit as "Since You Been Gone."
For more music news follow me on Twitter: @gerrickkennedy