I'm guilty of wishing bad things on good people. When I hear a beautiful album full of frustration and pain, I fall totally in love with the sound of the artist's struggle. When that artist inevitably finds success and happiness, I feel a little cheated. The music is never quite so alive. I secretly hope something bad will happen to them. I know it's wrong, but I do it anyway.
The best art comes from trauma, and no one feels that regrettable fact right now more than Kesha. Her "Fuck the World" tour is a brilliantly brash spectacle of strength and empowerment. It is a roaring victory in the face of oppressors the world over, and as she stripped and strutted before her live rock band the Creepies across the Fountainebleau's LIV stage, it became apparent that a most deplorable darkness has wrought one fine, shining beacon of rowdy resilience.
The glitter-punk party addict hit mainstream radio hard with trashy dance-pop anthems like “Tik Tok” and “We R Who We R” in 2010. The former is one of the highest-selling singles of all time, but to call her a serious artist then would have invited raised eyebrows and muttered chuckles. She was the messy foil to Katy Perry's whipped-cream American dream. Then tragedy struck.
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Rather, it seemed to have been striking all along. Then 27 years old, the singer stood up against her famous producer Dr. Luke in a very public and alarming lawsuit with claims that he'd sexually, mentally, and emotionally abused her throughout her entire career. Kesha admitted herself to rehab for drug addiction and complications from anorexia. Dr. Luke was accused of torturing the singer for her weight. She said he called her “the refrigerator.”
Kesha wanted out of her record deal, but a New York City court ruled against her. She's been in musical legal limbo ever since. Her hands have been legally tied, she can't release new music, and she has only recently returned to the stage, but things are different.
“Miami, we have come here to impregnate you with the sweet lord that is rock and roll,” she called to the heterogenous crowd of fabulous freaks ages 6 to 50-something. “Anything outside of these four walls that's bumming you out — bills, exes, lawsuits — there's no room for that shit here.”
Legally unable to mention Dr. Luke by name, she peppered the performance with heartfelt comments about “a certain someone.”
“I think a certain person thought, you know, I would just lay down and take this, I would just go away, I would just lay down and die,” she said into the standing mike, her hair whipping in mechanical wind, her legs bare in a blue cowgirl body suit, marquee lights shouting “Fuck the World” behind her. “I would just like to say that that someone fucked with the wrong woman!”
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“Free Kesha,” the crowd chanted. “Fuck Dr. Luke,” they'd chant later. She couldn't play any new music, but she could make us cry with a cover of Lesley Gore's “You Don't Own Me.” She was fabulous and fierce with a guitar in her hand on “My Love Is Your Drug.” She was almost frightening on an eerie, soulful version of “Blow.” Her bandmates threw glitter bombs in the air and wore costumes as they danced playful choreography to “Dinosaur” and more. The air was ecstatic by the time she teased her last song of the set, the megahit “Tik Tok.”
“We want Kesha,” the audience screamed as stage hands readied for encore. Kesha reappeared in a babydoll dress to play guitar on a Western take of “Timber.” She laid it all out and implored everyone to scream until they were hoarse for the big finale, “Die Young.” Confetti fell from the lighted ceiling as people climbed couches and rushed the stage.
It had only been an hour, and at 10 p.m. the night was still young, but we had all turned a corner together. Kesha has walked the darkest valley, but she has emerged from the shadows a blazing star.