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Column: Kesha Exposed the Music Industry’s Deviancy

It has been three long years since the New York pop singer put out a single, but just yesterday, Kesha changed all that with the release of her highly anticipated new single, “Praying.”

“I have channeled my feelings of severe hopelessness and depression, I’ve overcome obstacles, and I have found strength in myself even when it felt out of reach,” the pop artist proclaims in a Lenny Letter. “I’ve found what I had thought was an unobtainable place of peace. This song is about coming to feel empathy for someone else even if they hurt you or scare you. It’s a song about learning to be proud of the person you are even during low moments when you feel alone. It’s also about hoping everyone, even someone who hurt you, can heal.”

Kesha began writing for her forthcoming studio album, Rainbow, while spending an almost two-year stint in rehab. Working with longtime Macklemore cohort, Ryan Lewis, her third studio album features guest appearances by The Eagles of Death Metal, remaining members of The Dap-Kings’ horns section, and country music sweetheart, Dolly Parton.

Her new single, “Praying,” shows how Kesha has triumphed over tragedy.

Ten months after checking into rehab, Kesha filed a lawsuit against her longtime producer, Dr. Luke, alleging that he had sexually assaulted her and threatened to take away publishing rights. Fans of the pop artist were quick to rally behind her, launching the “#FreeKesha” movement online.

More than 18 months later, Kesha announced that while her fight continues, she would be dropping the case in Los Angeles, while still pursuing other legal claims made in New York in order to put out new music.

Despite the artist’s attempt at freeing herself from her contract with Kemosabe Records, an imprint label created by Dr. Luke under RCA Records and Sony Music Entertainment, Sony will retain the rights to Kesha’s third studio album.

Even though she showed remarkable strength, maintaining her composure throughout the entire legal process, Kesha’s case is still ongoing. But what’s even worse is the fact that since then, we have seen this kind of behavior continue in the industry.

Earlier this year, a very popular indie rock band was on the verge of breaking into the mainstream, when suddenly, on the eve of their album’s release, Jezebel wrote a story that would lead to the label pulling out from the tour and the band’s subsequently indefinite hiatus.

PWR BTTM had made a name for themselves within the LGBTQ community, but as soon as sexual assault allegations were made public, they were dropped from their label like a hot potato… and rightly so. No label wants to be connected with someone with a checkered past like Ben Hopkins, who had admittingly taken a photo of himself drawing a swastika in the sand.

“Throughout our 20 years, Polyvinyl has purposefully operated on the core principle that everyone deserves to be treated with fairness and respect,” Polyvinyl said via Facebook. “There is absolutely no place in the world for hate, violence, abuse, discrimination or predatory behavior of any kind.”

The Music Industry’s Most Deviant

Sexual abuse in the music industry is nothing new, however, the complacency and denial of witnesses and bystanders have led this to perseverate over the years. So, to quickly put a kibosh on your favorite band, here’s a list of music’s most notorious sexual deviants:

Gary Glitter

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Pop singer Gary Glitter was arrested in 1997 after a technician discovered pornographic images of children on the hard drive of the artist’s laptop.

Despite being placed on the sex offender registry and sentenced to four months in prison, Glitter continued to raise suspicion while living in Cambodia and Vietnam.

In 2014, Glitter was charged with eight counts of sexual offenses committed against two underage girls between 1977 and 1980.

The artist was ultimately sentenced to 16 years in prison by the Southwark Crown Court.

R. Kelly

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In 2002, a video surfaced which allegedly shows R&B singer urinating on an underage girl, and later that year was indicted on 21 counts of child pornography.

Although photos confiscated from the artist’s house were discredited from the case, due to a lack of probable cause for the search, officers recovered 12 images of a female minor on a digital camera.

The case went to trial in 2007 and after less than a day of deliberations found Kelly “not guilty” on all 14 counts.

Pete Townshend of The Who

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The Who guitarist was “formally cautioned” by British police in 2003, as part of a sting operation designed to catch and prosecute thousands of users of a website that reportedly featured child pornography.

Townshendwho claimed that he had used a credit card to access the website as part of his personal research for a campaign against child pornographywas subsequently placed on the sex offender registry for five years

Mike Gordon of Phish

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Phish bassist Mike Gordon was arrested in 2003 on charges of child endangerment after he was found with a nine-year-old girl in a secluded boathouse at Jones Beach in New York.

Gordon claimed that he was taking “art photos” of the minor, when the girl’s father, a leader of a local Hell’s Angels chapter apprehended the Phish bassist.

The motorcycle club detained the musician until police arrived and reportedly were “not gentle with sensitive areas of the rockstar’s body.”

Lloyd Roberts of Neck Deep

The U.K. pop-punk group, Neck Deep, was not devoid of a devious past.

Former lead guitarist Lloyd Roberts was removed from the band’s line-up after allegations of sexual misconduct with an underage girl, surfaced in 2015.

Roberts was subsequently replaced by Sam Bowden, former guitarist of hardcore punk bands, Climates and Blood Youth, who is currently on tour.

Britney Spears 

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“Oops,” Britney really did it this time. The pop artist’s bodyguard, Fernando Flores, sued for sexual harassment in 2010, claiming that the pop star had repeatedly flashed him.

Spears would settle out of court, according to The Daily Mail, which she had hoped would have prevented this humiliating information from coming to light.

Chuck Berrychuck-berry-01

Last, but not least, rock pioneer Chuck Berry was arrested in 1959 for taking a 14-year-old girl across state lines for “immoral purposes.” He eventually served two years in prison.

Berry contended that he met 14-year-old Janice Norine Escalanti and offered her a job in his St. Louis nightclub. She was fired after working for Berry for three weeks, before taking a different story to the St. Louis Police.

Berry’s defense was not found credible by an all-white, all-male jury and he eventually wound up serving two years in prison.

This list is definitive evidence that being a good musician does not necessarily make you a good person. Sexual crimes at any level are serious and should be treated as such, but that doesn’t mean we should feel like we should stop listening and enjoying their music. It is our hope that by shining more light on sexual abuse in the music industry, we may see an end to this trend someday soon. 

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