There is no hyperbole too great to describe Kesha’s return to solo music after nearly four years of virtual imprisonment. The video for her soaring new piano-driven song “Praying” uses multiple Biblical metaphors to mark her journey toward freedom. Kesha is questioning God and considering death from a casket in the spoken-word intro: “If there is a God or whatever, something, somewhere, why I have been abandoned by everyone and everything I’ve ever known and loved? Stranded. What is the lesson? What is the point?” Later she talks about becoming a fallen angel, and then finding heaven again on a mountaintop. “Praying” is a message of hopeful defiance that never names Dr. Luke, the producer with whom Kesha has been locked in a legal battle over abuse allegations since 2014, as the source of her pain, but there are hints sprinkled throughout. The video rages against consumerism and politics to buy instead into a higher faith and searches for a way to make peace with her abuser. “In life, you’re gonna get what you give. But some things, only God can forgive,” she sings, hitting the highest note of her career to date.
The ballad was co-written with Macklemore collaborator Ryan Lewis and is still credited to Luke’s Kemosabe Records (which he was recently ousted from by Sony). It’s unclear if he’ll still profit from it through publishing. “This song is about coming to feel empathy for someone else even if they hurt you or scare you,” Kesha said in an accompanying essay in Lenny Letter. “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.” “Praying” is also the first single from Kesha’s first album since 2012: Rainbow, out on August 11. It will feature Dolly Parton (for a duet of her song “Old Flames Can’t Hold a Candle to You”) and Eagles of Death Metal, plus production from Ben Folds — who’s been by Kesha’s side for much of her fight to reclaim her career — and songwriting from Kesha’s own mom, Pebe Sebert, who was also dragged into the war against Dr. Luke.