Pop singer Kesha delivered a powerful statement on behalf of women’s equality at the Grammys on Sunday as she led a fierce performance of “Praying,” her own account of abuse, with A-list back-up from a chorus of stars.
Her face intense and her voice building in ferocity, Kesha brought the crowd at Madison Square Garden to its feet and at times to tears at a time of growing public consciousness about sexual harassment and misconduct.
“Praying” is an autobiographical song clearly directed at Dr. Luke, the producer whom Kesha accuses of raping and psychologically tormenting her.
Even before the rise of the #MeToo movement in response to revelations about Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, Kesha rattled the industry by demanding the end of her contract to work with Dr. Luke, who has denied the assault charges.
“After everything you’ve done / I can thank you for how strong I have become,” Kesha sings.
Kesha performed at the Grammys surrounded by fellow stars including Cyndi Lauper, Bebe Rexha, Camila Cabello and Andra Day, who offered symbolic and literal support.
Kesha embraced them in a bear hug as she finished.
Singer Janelle Monae, introducing Kesha, said that the music industry needed to address its own abuse problems.
“To those who would dare try and silence us, we offer you two words: Time’s Up!” she said, using a slogan for the movement launched on New Year’s Day by hundreds of prominent women in the entertainment industry.
“We say time’s up for pay inequality, discrimination or harassment of any kind, and the abuse of power,” she said.
Despite the rousing reception, Kesha was passed over for the awards. She was not nominated in major categories and came up short for the two pop prizes for which she was in the running.
Before the Grammys, Kesha tweeted that “I needed this song in a very real way” and that she was nervous to perform.
“If you need it, I hope this song finds you,” she wrote.