The Sunday Times Magazine: The ‘sexy pirate’ pop star keelhauled by men in suits

01_R28GLA_1212890kNine days ago the New York Supreme Court ruled that the singer Kesha would not be released from her recording contract, even though she alleges she has been abused by her producer, Dr Luke, whose record label is owned by Sony. As the days have passed, female singers have clamoured to offer Kesha support: Lady Gaga, Kelly Clarkson, Miley Cyrus, Lorde. Adele stood by Kesha in her Brits acceptance speech. Taylor Swift donated $250,000 (£180,000) to Kesha, who — unless she produces another album for Dr Luke’s label — cannot release new music.

Taylor Swift donated $250,000 to Kesha Taylor Swift donated $250,000 to Kesha (Mark Ralston) 

The case comes after a lawsuit in which Kesha has claimed she was drugged and sexually assaulted, harassed and emotionally abused by Dr Luke, to whose Sony imprint, Kemosabe Records, she is signed. Bringing the latest case, she says, was simply “about being free from [her] abuser”. Dr Luke (whose real name is Lukasz Gottwald) strenuously denies her allegations. He is suing Kesha for defamation.

Posting on Instagram last week, Kesha wrote publicly about the case for the first time. “I am beyond words in gratitude,” she told her fans. Attached was a photograph of herself, looking washed-out and expressionless.

It was the first picture I have seen of her since those that emerged of her crying in court. And it struck me — whatever is true in this tangle of allegations — something has gone seriously wrong. For how different she looks from the snarling, glitter-flecked, jubilant young star I once met. And how the workings of the music industry fame machine have taken their toll.

In 2010, for The Sunday Times Magazine, I was sent to interview an up-and-coming pop act who was attracting attention for her outrageous stage antics and near-obsessional fans, who caked their faces in glitter and scrawled dollar signs on their cheeks.


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