Even so, Kesha has a lot left to confront. While she does seem genuinely happy, the degree to which she repeats the word also feels like a reminder to herself: to focus on the present, even as threatening shadows from the past still loom. Her protracted legal battle with Gottwald -- which led to five separate suits in three states and more than 2,865 court filings -- is far from over.
While Gottwald’s defamation and breach-of-contract case against Kesha is pending in New York, in 2016, Kesha voluntarily dismissed her 2014 California case against him, saying at the time that she wanted to focus on her career. Gottwald’s lawyer, Christine Lepera, says that since then, Kesha “has continued to use the baseless accusations that were the subject of her failed lawsuit as a platform for publicity,” and adds that Gottwald “looks forward to the trial” of his suit against her, which has yet to be scheduled. (Kesha’s legal team declined to comment.)
Though Prescription Songs, where Gottwald is owner and principal, just reached its 10th anniversary, he has been largely absent from the music world. Rising pop singer Kim Petras is the most high-profile artist to acknowledge collaborating with him recently -- and she has faced criticism online both for working with him and for calling it a positive experience. In August, he appeared on the Hot 100 as a writer for the first time since 2016, on Doja Cat and Tyga’s No. 83-peaking “Juicy.” (He also last charted as a producer in 2016.) Throughout the lengthy litigation, his legal team has questioned Kesha’s motives both in court and in the media, claiming she and her team orchestrated a smear campaign to hurt his career and get out of her recording contract. Discovery later revealed that her team at the time had, even before her lawsuit, laid out a coordinated media blitz to turn public opinion against Gottwald. But Kesha maintained in court filings that she knew nothing about it.
In some respects, she has already won outside of court. When she performed “Praying” at the 2018 Grammys -- introduced by Janelle Monáe and backed by a chorus of women clad in all white, including Cyndi Lauper, Camila Cabello and Andra Day -- it became the most-tweeted-about moment of the evening and one of the most powerful in Grammy history. “It was one of the most gratifying experiences of my career to see her release Rainbow and for it to culminate with that performance, and to see the respect that she had,” says Rovner. “Her stature in the business reached a level that had never been there before.”
“It was so foreign to me to get good press, and about my voice and about my music,” recalls Kesha. “I felt more seen as an artist and as a person than ever.” Even so, she still hasn’t watched the performance and says she never will. (Sometimes, she has nightmares of accidentally Googling herself.) “It makes me nauseous thinking about it,” she says. “It was kind of like jumping out of an airplane. I’m really happy I did it -- and happy I lived through it.” Today, she has an open-door policy at her home for the friends, band members and dancers who “all weathered the storm with me. It’s not something I’m ever going to forget.”
Ten years ago, she says, things were drastically different: Just starting her career, she was “under the impression that to do this job, you don’t eat, you don’t sleep, you don’t have privacy, and you don’t have time for yourself.” No milestone felt important enough. “I would talk to myself in a way I would never talk to another human being in a million fucking years,” she says.