Single Review: Praying by Kesha

When you think of Kesha, you think of glittery parties, glittery alcohol and glittery vomit. That’s not a slight to her — it was the image she put out when she released her first single, ‘TiK ToK’ back in 2010 when she still went by Ke$ha. Pop needs a party girl, and she was pop’s #1 party girl, at least for a while. But since 2013, there’s been radio silence from her camp, at least music-wise.

That’s because she’s spent the past four years in a long, drawn-out, high-profile legal dispute against Sony and Dr Luke involving sexual harassment, sexual assault and, later, a counter suit from Dr Luke alleging defamation and breach of contract. It was a messy, tumultuous ordeal which, even looking in from the outside, seemed exhausting to live through.

It’s safe to say Kesha’s been through a lot the past few years, but what’s compelling is how much of that is imbued in her latest single ‘Praying’. The track starts off simply, with Kesha singing in her lower register over simple piano chords. It’s a bit boring, but it’s the opposite of what you’d expect from the artist formerly known as Ke$ha, and is all the more effective because of that.

When it kicks into the second verse, and she reaches into her higher register, then things start to get interesting; she’s not singing anymore — she’s screaming at the unnamed subject of the song. As the instrumental ramps up, with high-pitched synths sneaking into the mix and cinematic synths escalating the emotional stakes, you really start to feel where she’s coming from. “I hope you’re somewhere prayin’, prayin’ / I hope your soul is changin’, changin’” she pleads, with emotional depth suggesting both resentment and forgiveness.

Kesha attends the Billboard Women in Music 2016 event on December 9, 2016 in New York City.

The song isn’t perfect; the first verse is almost entirely built with vague, blanket lyrics like “Oh, but after everything you’ve done / I can thank you for how strong I have become” but these qualms become insignificant as the song peaks in a massive climax where Kesha belts out an impressive F6 as massive, heavy kick drums bring the song home. It’s a track that relies almost entirely on her vocal performance and emotional conviction, and she delivers both in spades.

Image: Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images

Mikhail Hanafi