Pop singer Kesha delivered a powerful statement on behalf of women’s equality at the Grammys on Sunday as she led a fierce performance of Praying, her own account of abuse, with A-list back-up from a chorus of stars including Cyndi Lauper, Camila Cabello, Andra Day and Julia Michaels. Her face intense and her voice building in ferocity, Kesha brought the crowd at Madison Square Garden to its feet and at times to tears at a time of growing public consciousness about sexual harassment and misconduct.
Dressed all in white, Kesha and her cohort of female stars brought the crowd to their feet with their rendition of “Praying.” Some audience members were spotted in tears as the song ended, as well as Kesha herself.
Kesha has been mired in a legal battle with music producer Dr. Luke for years around allegations of sexual assault. Her comeback album, Rainbow, was nominated for a Grammy, as was the single “Praying.”
Even before the rise of the #MeToo movement in response to revelations about Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, Kesha rattled the industry by demanding the end of her contract to work with Dr Luke, who has denied the assault charges.
“After everything you’ve done / I can thank you for how strong I have become,” Kesha sings.
The performance was introduced by singer/songwriter/actress Janelle Monáe, who delivered a critical message in support of the Time’s Up movement for gender equality. “We come in peace, but we mean business. And to those who would dare try and silence us, we offer two words: Time’s Up,” Monáe pronounced. “Because you see, it’s not just going on in Hollywood, it’s not just going on in Washington D.C., it’s going on in our industry as well. And just as we have the power to shape culture, we 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.”
Before the Grammys, Kesha tweeted that “I needed this song in a very real way” and that she was nervous to perform. “If you need it, I hope this song finds you,” she wrote.