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She burst onto the pop scene in 2009 as an image of reckless abandon, but Kesha’s life took a decidedly somber turn in 2014 when she filed a lawsuit against powerful music producer Dr. Luke and lobbied to be released from her Sony recording contract amid allegations of emotional and sexual abuse. Since then, her life and career have largely been on hold as her legal expenses have mounted. Taffy Brodesser-Akner discusses the singer’s strange, purgatorial existence in a discouraging New York Times piece called “The Exile: Kesha, Interrupted.” The courts have thus far refused to release Kesha from her contractual obligations, and Dr. Luke is counter-suing her for defamation of character. Meanwhile, lawyers cost money, and the singer has been legally prohibited from releasing new music to earn it. Her last album came out 38 months ago, an eternity in pop music. She’s recently been performing at smaller venues for loyal fans, who call themselves Animals, but the touring expenses have been paid out of pocket.

A settlement between Dr. Luke and Kesha is out of the question at this point, the article explains. Since the singer has made the very serious allegation that the producer drugged and raped her circa 2005, neither side can afford to back down now, even though the statute of limitations has passed. Brodesser-Akner puts it this way:

Kesha will not relent on her accusations, and Dr. Luke won’t relent on his defamation suit. How could they settle? Settling will only make either of them look as if they lied. The story of Luke v. Kesha is a story of reputational murder-suicide; it’s a grenade whose pin has been pulled; it’s a story of scorched earth.

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In the meantime, Kesha does have a cache of new music to release to the public: 22 songs, again recorded on the singer’s own dime. One track, “Rainbow,” was written by the singer while in rehab and given a Beach Boys-esque arrangement by Ben Folds. She showed off her more mature style at the 2016 Billlboard Music Awards.

UPDATE: Dr. Luke’s attorney has issued a lengthy statement refuting the claims made in the New York Times profile. It reads, in part: “The New York Times Magazine profile piece that ran today unfortunately has many inaccuracies. This article is part of a continuing coordinated press campaign by Kesha to mislead the public, mischaracterize what has transpired over the last two years, and gain unwarranted sympathy… The reality is that for well over two years, Kesha chose—and it was entirely her choice—not to provide her label with any music. Kesha was always free to move forward with her music, and an album could have been released long ago had she done so. She exiled herself.”

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