Kesha (age: 32), formely Ke$ha, is an American singer, rapper, and songwriter known for the singles Tik Tok, We R Who We R, Die Young and C'Mon.
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Kesha Rose Sebert (born March 1, 1987) (formerly stylized as Ke$ha) is an American Singer, rapper, and songwriter. In 2005, at age 18, Kesha was signed to producer Dr. Luke’s record label, Kemosabe Entertainment, and publishing company. Although an active musician since then, singing background vocals and writing songs for other artists, such as This Love For The Veronicas. Her breakthrough came in early 2009 after appearing on rapper Flo Rida’s number-one single, “Right Round”. Her debut album, Animal, and her first extended play, Cannibal, were released in 2010. Kesha‘s Music and image propelled her to immediate commercial success, with Animal debuting as the number-one album in the United States. She also achieved two number-one singles, “Tik Tok” and “We R Who We R”, and a string of top ten hits from the album and its re-release. At the same time, she continued to write songs for other artists, including “Till the World Ends” for Britney Spears. Warrior, her second studio album, was released in December 2012, spawning Kesha‘s eighth top-ten hit with “Die Young”. “Tik Tok” is among the best-selling digital singles in history, selling over 14 million units internationally.
Influenced by various genres and artists, Kesha primarily draws inspiration from Music of the 1980s; Madonna, Queen, and Beck have been cited as instrumental to her artistry. After experimenting with country, pop rock, and electronic Music, Kesha stuck with the last. Thematically, her Music generally revolves around escapism, partying, individuality, Supernatural moments, rebellion and grief. Philanthropically, Kesha has been involved with animal rights and LGBT activism. Since her debut, Kesha has been nominated for over 60 awards, winning more than 13. Among these awards, she won the MTV Europe Music Award for Best New Act in 2010. As of November 2013, she has reportedly sold over 33 million records (albums, tracks, and ringtones) in the United States and 55 million worldwide.
2005–09: Career beginnings
I was so happy being broke. And I’m happy not being broke. It doesn’t really affect me either way. I care about taking care of people that have Taken care of me – that’s important to me. But to be honest, I’m kind of repulsed by the gluttony and excesses of a lot of people in the limelight.
—Kesha explaining the dollar sign in her stage name
In 2005, at 18, Kesha was signed to Dr. Luke’s label, Kemosabe Entertainment, and his Music publishing company, Prescription Songs. Kemosabe Records is owned by Sony Music Entertainment and is located in Los Angeles, California. Sony Music Entertainment partnered with Dr. Luke to create Kemosabe Records. Some artists that have signed with Kemosabe Records are Juicy J, Rock City, Zara Larsson, Lil Bibby and many others. Kesha later sang background vocals for Paris Hilton‘s single, “Nothing in This World”. Dr. Luke became preoccupied with other incoming projects, having enjoyed success writing and producing for pop star Kelly Clarkson’s album, Breakaway. Kesha then signed with David Sonenberg’s management company, DAS Communications Inc., in 2006, hardly interacting with Dr. Luke after that. DAS was tasked with obtaining a major label record deal for Kesha in a year’s time in exchange for 20 percent of her Music income, with her having the option of ending the relationship if they failed. She worked with several writers and producers while at the company and ended up co-writing Australian pop group The Veronicas’ single, “This Love” with producer Toby Gad. While furthering her career in studio, Kesha earned her living as a waitress. While struggling to get by, she began stylizing her name as Ke$ha, explaining the dollar sign as an ironic gesture.
Kesha appeared in the video for her friend Katy Perry‘s single “I Kissed a Girl”, and sang background vocals for the Dr. Luke-produced song, “Lace and Leather” by Britney Spears in 2008. DAS soon attracted the attention of songwriter and A&R Kara DioGuardi, who wanted to sign Kesha to Warner Bros. Records. The deal fell through due to her existing contract with Dr. Luke’s label. In September, she terminated her contract with DAS, reuniting with Dr. Luke. Kesha gained exposure in the mainstream media in early 2009 after appearing on rapper Flo Rida’s number one single, “Right Round”. The collaboration happened by accident; she had walked into a recording session for the song with Flo Rida and Dr. Luke. Flo Rida wanted a female voice for the song; Dr. Luke then suggested Kesha for the part. Flo Rida liked the end result so much that they did two more tracks. However, she is not credited for her feature on the United States release of “Right Round” and did not collect any money for the part. She also refused to appear in the video, explaining to men’s magazine Esquire that she wanted to make a name for herself on her own terms.
2009–11: Animal and Cannibal
After failing to negotiate with Lava Records and Atlantic Records in 2009, Kesha signed a multi-album deal with RCA Records through Dr. Luke’s imprint. Having spent the previous six years working on material for her debut album, she began putting finishing touches to the album with Luke and Max Martin. For the album, she wrote 200 songs. The album was executive produced by Luke, who produced the majority of the songs with Martin, and producers Benny Blanco and Ammo. The album is primarily of the electropop genre with beats and synths, marking a shift in sound for Luke from then on from his signature pop-rock productions. Animal debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 when it was released in January 2010. It was certified platinum in the United States and had sold two million albums worldwide by September. The lead single of the album, “Tik Tok”, broke the record in the United States for the highest single week sales, selling 610,000 digital downloads, the highest ever by a female artist since tracking began in 2003. It spent nine weeks at number one and became the longest running number one by a female artist on her debut single since Debby Boone and “You Light Up My Life” in 1977. As of 2015, “Tik Tok” has sold about 15 million copies, becoming the second best-selling single in the digital history – being the most sold single in history by a female solo artist. Subsequent singles from the album, “Blah Blah Blah”, “Your Love Is My Drug” and “Take It Off” achieved similar commercial success each reaching the top ten in Australia, Canada, and the United States. Kesha was also featured on two top ten singles by musician Taio Cruz and electro-pop duo 3OH!3.
Kesha’s deliberately unpolished aesthetic and juvenile stage persona, which she described as her own personality “times ten”, quickly made her a deeply polarizing figure. Some of her critics found her output to be unsophisticated, while others felt that she was manufactured and lacked credibility. Kesha‘s former managers from DAS Communications Inc. filed a lawsuit later that month, seeking $14 million from Kesha and $12 million from Luke for commissions on her RCA Records deal, alleging that she had extended the deadline for them to get her a major record label contract and squeezed them out of her career under pressure from Dr. Luke. Kesha launched her own lawsuit in October, citing the California-exclusive Talent Agencies Act and asking the California Labor Commissioner to declare her contract with DAS void because it had acted as an unlicensed talent agent while procuring work for her in California, where only licensed agents can do so. The case was settled in 2012 before the release of her second album. Kesha held a benefit concert on June 16, 2010 where all proceeds went to aid victims of the May 2010 Tennessee floods from her hometown Nashville. She raised close to $70,000 from the event. She was a supporting act on the summer North American leg of Rihanna‘s Last Girl on Earth Tour and was awarded Best New Act at the 2010 MTV Europe Music Awards. In November 2010, Animal was re-released with a companion extended play, Cannibal. The lead single Taken from Cannibal, “We R Who We R” debuted at the top of the Billboard Hot 100. With two number ones and four top ten hits, Kesha was named Hot 100 Artist of 2010 by Billboard, with “Tik Tok” topping the year-end chart. The follow-up single from Cannibal, “Blow” charted in the top ten on the Hot 100. As of June 2011, she has accumulated almost 21 million digital single downloads in the United States alone. In February 2011, Kesha embarked on her first headlining world tour, Get Sleazy. The tour was expanded with a summer leg due to the first leg selling out and spanned three continents. Kesha also co-wrote the song “Till the World Ends” for American popstar Britney Spears and she was featured on the remix of the song along with rapper Nicki Minaj. After meeting Kesha at the 2010 Grammy Awards and guesting at a number of her concerts, rock Singer Alice Cooper asked her to write lyrics for and vocally perform as a devil character for their duet track, “What Baby Wants”, on Cooper’s album, Welcome 2 My Nightmare.
Kesha was named rights group Humane Society of the United States’s first global ambassador for animal rights, for which she is expected to bring attention to such practices as cosmetics testing on animals and shark finning. Kesha received the Wyler Award presented by The Humane Society as a celebrity or public figure who increases awareness of animal issues via the media. She received the award March 23, 2013 at The 2013 Genesis Awards Benefit Gala. She also appeared alongside rock Singer Iggy Pop in a campaign for PETA, protesting the clubbing of baby seals in Canada and later wrote on behalf of the organization to fast food chain McDonald’s over the conditions of their slaughterhouses.
2012–13: Warrior and Dr. Luke controversy
Kesha’s second studio album, Warrior was released on November 30, 2012. She began writing for the album while on her own headlining tour in 2011. The album featured productions from her main collaborators Dr. Luke and Max Martin, as well as a song by Wayne Coyne, the lead Singer of the alternative band The Flaming Lips. Coyne had reached out to Kesha for a collaboration after hearing that she was a fan of the band. Besides working on Kesha‘s album, they recorded the song “2012 (You Must Be Upgraded)” for the band’s album, The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends. To coincide with the release of the album, Kesha released an illustrated autobiography, My Crazy Beautiful Life through Touchstone Books in November 2012. The first single Taken from Warrior was “Die Young”. The song debuted at number Thirteen on Billboard Hot 100 and eventually peaked at number 2. The song also charted across Europe and the Anglosphere and reached the top ten in Australia, Canada, and Belgium. “C’Mon”, the album’s second single, underperformed commercially; only peaking at 27 on Billboard Hot 100 and ending her string of top ten hits on the chart. Despite this, “C’Mon” continued Kesha‘s streak of top ten hits (with nine) on the Mainstream Top 40 Pop Songs chart graphed by Billboard. In March 2013, Kesha announced the Warrior Tour, which will support the album. The North American leg was co-headlined with rapper Pitbull. Kesha‘s third single from Warrior, “Crazy Kids”, was released in April 2013 and also under-performed, peaking at number 40 on the Hot 100, number 19 on Mainstream Top 40, yet did achieve massive success in South Korea and Belgium peaking at numbers 2, and 5 in those countries respectively. A TV series documentary, Kesha: My Crazy Beautiful Life began airing on MTV in April 2013.
In September 2013, a Kesha fan set up a petition to “free” Kesha from Dr. Luke’s management and accused Luke of “stunting” Kesha‘s creative growth as an artist. The petition currently has over 10,000 signatures. It was later revealed on My Crazy Beautiful Life that she had little creative control of Warrior, and was also stated that “Machine Gun Love”, her favorite song that she had written, was omitted from the record against her wishes. Kesha had written over seventy songs that were intended for Warrior but Dr. Luke scrapped many of them. The co-director of My Crazy Beautiful Life, Steven Greenstreet, tweeted a picture in November of front row fans at one of Kesha‘s concerts carrying banners labelled, “Fuck Dr. Luke.” Kesha‘s mother Pebe blamed Dr. Luke for her lack of creative input and said that she hoped that Kesha would be dropped from RCA Records. In July 2013, The Flaming Lips announced that they hoped to release a full-length collaborative album with Kesha, called Lipsha, although it was eventually cancelled in the winter of the same year. Kesha sent a message to a fan expressing how it was out of her control and that she wanted to release the material, even for free, saying that she didn’t care about the money. On October 7, 2013, Kesha and Pitbull released a collaboration, “Timber”, produced by Luke, which was an international commercial success and became Kesha‘s third number-one and her eleventh top 10 single on the Hot 100 chart.
2014–15: Personal struggles and lawsuit
On January 3, 2014, Kesha checked into Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, the rehab facility in Lemont, Illinois, for eating disorder treatment. Kesha‘s mother Pebe Sebert confirmed that the eating disorder Kesha was suffering with is bulimia nervosa and that she had been struggling with it ever since she was signed. She also asserted that Dr. Luke was partly the reason behind the development of Kesha‘s eating disorder, saying that he had told her to lose weight after he signed her and allegedly compared the shape of her body to a refrigerator, which caused Kesha‘s disorder to worsen. By March 6, 2014, after spending two months in rehab, Kesha had completed her treatment. Kesha chose to use her birth name in favor of her previous moniker, using a normal “s” instead of the symbol “$”. In June 2014, Kesha claimed the seat as an Expert in ABC’s Rising Star alongside Brad Paisley and Ludacris.
In October 2014, Kesha sued producer Dr. Luke for alleged sexual assault and battery, sexual harassment, gender violence, emotional abuse, and violation of California business practices over their 10 years of working together. She claimed that Dr. Luke repeatedly drugged her, with and without her consent, and that his abuse caused her eating disorder. Kesha asked the court to break her contract with Dr. Luke as well. In response, Dr. Luke filed a countersuit against Kesha for defamation, accusing her, her mother, and her management of fabricating the abuse claims to break her contract with him. In November, Dr. Luke asked the judge to dismiss Kesha‘s allegations of sexually abusing her. In early December, Dr. Luke filed a defamation lawsuit against Kesha‘s lawyer, Mark Geragos, accusing him of implications that Luke had raped Lady Gaga. Gaga’s team denied any such incident. Later in December, Luke’s defamation lawsuit took a new turn. His lawyers amended the official complaint which now included a handwritten birthday card from Kesha back in 2009. Luke’s attorney claimed the card is several years after Kesha alleges he started abusing her. Other additions included several emails between Luke and Kesha‘s mother, where the latter wrote to him ‘You are part of our family’. Dr. Luke further accused Jack Rovner, president of Vector Management of “longstanding antipathy” towards him, alleging Rovner wants more money and control of Kesha‘s career. On February 18, 2015 during New York Fashion Week, Kesha wore a Discount Universe dress with the words “You Will Never Own Me” on the front of the garment, which has been speculated as an obvious jab at Dr. Luke amid Kesha‘s recovery. On June 9, 2015, it was reported that Kesha amended her complaint against Dr. Luke and added a suit against Sony Music Entertainment, with Kesha‘s lawyer claiming “Dr. Luke’s proclivity for abusive conduct was open and obvious to [Sony Music Entertainment] executives, who either knew of the conduct and turned a blind eye, failed to investigate Dr. Luke’s conduct, failed to take any corrective action, or actively concealed Dr. Luke’s abuse.” Kesha sought an injunction with Sony against working and releasing Music with Dr Luke and for greater artistic freedom. Kesha‘s lawyer, Mark Gregaros, responded about the injunction saying “She cannot work with Music producers, publishers, or record labels to release new Music. With no new Music to perform, Kesha cannot tour. Off the radio and stage and out of the spotlight, Kesha cannot sell merchandise, receive sponsorships, or get media attention. Her brand value has fallen, and unless the Court issues this injunction, Kesha will suffer irreparable harm, plummeting her career past the point of no return.” Without the injunction, her career could be effectively over. Since then, a new petition has been started by Austin Dean, in hopes of gaining awareness to Kesha‘s situation and support for her injunction. The petition currently has more than 120,000 signatures.
On June 13, 2015, Kesha headlined LA! Pride 2015 Presented by Christopher Street West in West Hollywood, California. On August 4, 2015, Kesha signed with SESAC Inc., along with another 40,000 songwriters affiliated with the organization, including Bob Dylan and Charli XCX. Kesha guest starred in the second season of the U.S. television series Jane the Virgin, which aired on October 12, 2015. The Singer played Annabelle, Jane’s hostile neighbor.
As of August 2015, Kesha has released little information about her upcoming third studio album. In her August 2014 Teen Vogue cover interview, Kesha revealed she had recorded 14 new songs while in rehab. On November 2, 2014, a new song written by Kesha titled “Lover”, reportedly from Kesha‘s upcoming third studio album, was uploaded to Schpilkas’ SoundCloud, who produced the track alongside Spookey Ruben. The track was later included on Ruben’s album “Welsh Rarebits”. On June 10, 2015, Kesha posted a photo to Instagram that supposedly teased the title of her new upcoming single “Child of the Moon”, but the photo has since been removed. Kesha also spoke about the song in her Teen Vogue interview, saying that it had a “Stevie Nicks-witchy vibe”. In December 2015, Kesha revealed that she had formed a Music page’>Country Music– and classic rock-influenced band called Yeast Infection and performed a live show with the band in Nashville on December 23.
2016: Trial verdict and aftermath
On February 19, 2016, New York Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich ruled against Kesha‘s request for a preliminary injunction that would release her from her contract with Kemosabe Records, a label owned by Lukasz Gottwald, also known as Dr. Luke, under the umbrella of Sony Music Entertainment. The decision was made after the judge told her lawyer, Mark Geragos, that he was essentially “asking the court to decimate a contract that was heavily negotiated and typical for the industry”. According to the defense, Gottwald had already invested $60 million in her career and also offered to allow the Singer to fulfill her contract and record without his involvement. The judge also cited what she felt was vagueness in Kesha‘s counterclaims, referring to the lack of documentation or hospital records supporting the alleged attack. Before her legal battle against Dr. Luke, in 2011, Kesha had previously sworn under oath that the producer had never assaulted or drugged her in a deposition for a lawsuit against her former managers at DAS Communications, a key piece of evidence that played a role in the court ruling in favor of the defense. The verdict sparked protests outside the courtroom by Kesha‘s supporters, and started the “#FreeKesha” movement online. Several high-profile female musicians, including Lady Gaga, Kelly Clarkson, Iggy Azalea, Lorde, Janelle Monae, Miley Cyrus, Sara Bareilles, Halsey, Taylor Swift, Demi Lovato and Ariana Grande also voiced their support for Kesha through Twitter. It was reported that Taylor Swift donated $250,000 to Kesha on February 22, 2016 when the court ruled against her.
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