The Grammys and Kesha Highlight Just How Much the Music Industry Has Ignored #MeToo
Between Kesha’s powerful performance and Janelle Monae’s call-to-arms speech, music industry sexism and abuse is finally being addressed. Has the tide finally turned?
For those who initially thought Hollywood’s plan to wear all black to the Golden Globes in protest of sexual misconduct and abuses of power in their industry was lacking, the women of Hollywood actually put in the work at the Globes by discussing the #MeToo movement in their speeches, announcing the Time’s Up initiative, and bringing activists with them to speak on the red carpet.
By contrast, the music industry’s response has been tepid. Before Harvey Weinstein was toppled, Kesha battled her music label to be freed from working with superproducer Dr. Luke, who she claimed raped and tormented her. In a lawsuit filed in October 2014, she alleged that Dr. Luke roofied and then sexually assaulted her, and that she woke up in his bed the next day with no memory of what had transpired. In the aftermath, she said he threatened her career and family if she told anyone. A judge ultimately ruled that Kesha would not be allowed to break her six-album contract with Dr. Luke.
In the months since the Weinstein revelations, men who have been accused of misconduct have been removed from projects and disinvited to the Oscars. Meanwhile, Sony did all they could to force Kesha to still work with her accused abuser. It may be easy to forget the celebrities who chimed in to support Kesha during her trial, but there were many. Taylor Swift gave Kesha $250,000 to help her with legal fees. At the Brit Awards in 2016, Adele said, “I’d like to take this moment to publicly support Kesha.” She’s also received tweets of support from Ariana Grande, Snoop Dogg, Lady Gaga, Demi Lovato, Iggy Azalea, Kelly Clarkson, Lorde, Sara Bareilles, Adam Lambert, Lily Allen, Janelle Monae, Zedd, Wale, Halsey, Haim, Troye Sivan, and more.
Unfortunately, Kesha’s moment preceded—and was removed from—the overall attempt to improve industries for women in the past few months. Monae addressed the music industry’s lack of urgency at the 2018 Grammy Awards while introducing Kesha’s performance of her song “Praying.”
Monae said: “Tonight, I am proud to stand in solidarity as not just an artist but a young woman with my fellow sisters in this room who make up the music industry. Artists, writers, assistants, publicists, CEOs, producers, engineers, and women from all sectors of the business. We are also daughters, wives, mothers, sisters, and human beings. We come in peace, but we mean business. And to those who would dare try and silence us, we offer you two words: Time’s up. We say time’s up for pay inequality, time’s up for discrimination, time’s up for harassment of any kind, and time’s up for the abuse of power. Because, you see, it’s not just going on in Hollywood, it’s not just going on in Washington—it’s right here in our industry as well. And just as we have the power to shake culture, we also have the power to undo the culture that does not serve us well. So let’s work together, women and men, as a united music industry, committed to creating more safe work environments, equal pay and access for all women.”
Monae was one of the first musicians to truly embrace the #MeToo movement and the first to announce “Time’s Up” during the telecast, which was met with anemic applause. The unfortunate part is she had to talk around the concept of abuse in the industry without naming names like many could at the Globes, because so far, there hasn’t been a surge of men accused in the music industry besides Kesha’s indictment of Dr. Luke and Russell Simmons’ many accusers. And in the instance of Dr. Luke, he is very much still working. In fact, he’s profiting off Kesha’s own songs about breaking free from him and her empowerment, due to a preexisting contract between them.
During Kesha’s Grammys performance she was joined by Camila Cabello, Cyndi Lauper, Julia Michaels, Bebe Rexha, and Andra Day for a moving rendition of “Praying.” After, she embraced each and every woman who sang with her onstage, tears streaming down her cheeks. The music industry has so far lacked a galvanizing moment in the #MeToo movement, and this was a great way to (hopefully) kick off a solidarity with the Time’s Up initiative.
#FreeKesha was a popular hashtag during her trial, which ultimately failed when the judge didn’t actually free her from her contract, but Kesha has managed a magnificent comeback nonetheless. Here’s hoping that through the sheer might of some of the music industry’s most powerful women, the abusers who’ve gone unnamed thus far will finally meet justice.