Kesha (aka Ke$ha)

Birth Name: Kesha Rose Sebert
Birthplace: Los Angeles, CA
Birthdate: March 1, 1987
Active: 2009-Present

Music was always a part of Kesha’s life. During her childhood, her mother Pebe Sebert, made a career a songwriter for pop music royalty like Dolly Parton. Pebe often brought Kesha with her in recording studios, writing sessions, and live performances. Recognizing her daughter’s talent, Pebe encouraged Kesha to pursue a career in music.

Kesha entered the pop-music landscape as an uncredited back-up singer on rapper Flo Rida’s 2009 chart-topping single “Right Round”. Although she made a significant contribution to the song, Kesha did not receive any compensation for her performance. In 2010, she added the now-infamous $ (Ke$ha) as a reminder to herself to never such an injustice happen again. That same year, the singer released her debut album, Animal featuring the single “Tik-Tok”, which went on to break the record for the most digital downloads of a song in a week with 610,000  downloads. As of 2015, Tik-Tok has sold over 18 million copies worldwide.

Animal was a record six-years in the making. Ke$ha had begun writing songs for the album shortly after getting signed to music producer Dr. Luke’s label, Kemosabe Records, at just 18-years old. Thanks to the nearly 200 songs the singer penned in the intervening time between when she was signed and when Animal was released, Ke$ha put out the EP Cannibal a mere 10 months later and released her second full-length album Warrior in 2012. In addition to releasing three albums, this time period also saw Ke$ha collaborate with artists ranging from The Flaming Lips to Alice Cooper to Pitbull.

Signing with Kemosabe Records would prove to be both career-changing and life-altering for Kesha. In 2014, the singer sued Dr. Luke who also helmed her record label, accusing him of emotional and sexual assault in the hopes of being released from her contract. The singer also dropped the $ and reverted to Kesha, stating that she no longer wanted to hide behind a stage persona. The case went back and forth between the two parties, suing and counter-suing, and as of 2019 remains unsettled.

In spite of her legal dispute, Kesha released her third album Rainbow on August 11, 2017. The album’s release coincided with the advent of the #MeToo movement, in which several actresses spoke out against the abuse they allegedly suffered at the hands of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. The autobiographical album, which drew on the singer’s experiences working with the music industry, served as a rallying cry for women musicians who were fed up with being mistreated by some men in the industry.

Related Lessons

Private: “Praying” and the #MeToo Movement

Grades: High, Middle
Subjects: General Music, Social Studies/History

In what ways might Kesha’s legal battle and her song “Praying” reflect larger issues present in the #MeToo movement?

Glam: The Return of the Teenager

Grades: High, Middle
Subjects: ELA, General Music, Social Studies/History

How was Glam Rock part of a new teenage culture in the 1970s?

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