During Sunday night’s Grammys, Kesha took the stage to perform “Praying,” the lead single from her August 2017 album, Rainbow.
Kesha’s performance was introduced by Grammy-nominated R&B singer Janelle Monáe. In her remarks, Monáe asserted that sexual misconduct and abuse of power not only occur “in Hollywood or in Washington,” but are also present in the music industry. Two hours into the awards ceremony, Monáe’s introduction was the first extended reference to the Time’s Up campaign, which was formed to address sexual harassment in the entertainment industry and beyond.
For her performance, Kesha appeared in all white and was joined on stage by a group that included Cyndi Lauper, Camila Cabello, Andra Day, and Julia Michaels. Kesha appeared visibly shaken as she sang the powerful single, which traces an improbable journey of healing: “Oh, but after everything you’ve done / I can thank you for how strong I have become.” The scene concluded with her being embraced by her fellow performers and wiping tears from her eyes.
The 30-year-old pop star had been absent from the music world for nearly five years before the release of Rainbow, due in large part to an arduous legal battle with Dr. Luke, the Sony-affiliated megaproducer who she said sexually abused her. In recent months, the television and film industries have begun to address allegations of sexual misconduct and gendered discrimination through the Time’s Up campaign born of the #MeToo movement. The music industry has been slower to reckon with its own scandals. Leading up to Grammys, many wondered if there would be some sort of collective action taken to address issues of sexual misconduct similar to the one staged at the Golden Globes.
On Thursday, The New York Times reported that a small group of female music executives led by Meg Harkins of Roc Nation and Karen Rait of Interscope/Geffen/A&M Records had started an ad hoc email campaign urging attendees to wear a white rose to the ceremony as a sign of “hope, peace, sympathy, and resistance.” Many artists—including Lady Gaga, Khalid, and the Chainsmokers—donned roses, but the “Praying” performance stood out as a striking moment of solidarity.