Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift supporting #FreeKesha

Kesha performing earlier this month in Los Angeles. Female musicians have voiced support for the singer, who said in 2014 that her former mentor, Dr Luke, abused her for years.
Kesha performing earlier this month in Los Angeles. Female musicians have voiced support for the singer, who said in 2014 that her former mentor, Dr Luke, abused her for years.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK • Some of the biggest names in music are picking sides publicly in the legal battle between pop singer Kesha and her former mentor Dr Luke, one of the industry's top hit-makers.

Rallying behind the #FreeKesha social media campaign, female musicians including Lady Gaga, Lorde, Miley Cyrus, Fiona Apple, Ariana Grande and Kelly Clarkson have voiced support in recent days for Kesha, 28, who claimed in a 2014 lawsuit that Dr Luke "sexually, physically, verbally and emotionally abused" her for years after she signed with his label at age 18.

Dr Luke, 42, whose real name is Lukasz Gottwald, has denied all the charges.

In the most high-profile statement of solidarity so far, Taylor Swift said on Sunday that she would donate US$250,000 (S$351,000) to Kesha "to help with any of her financial needs during this trying time".

Kesha's mother, Ms Pebe Sebert, responded to the donation on Twitter: "A person's wealth is not measured by what they have, but by WHO they help with it. And Taylor Swift is a truly RICH PERSON."

She added: "Most important for Kesha is that these beautiful, powerful women are standing behind her, letting the world see how powerful the truth is!"

On Monday, Ms Christine Lepera, a lawyer for Dr Luke, said: "Kesha is already 'free' to record and release music without working with Dr Luke as a producer if she doesn't want to. Any claim that she isn't 'free' is a myth."

She added: "As Dr Luke has said repeatedly, the allegations against him are outright lies that have been advanced to extort a contract renegotiation and money. Kesha and her counsel have cavalierly subjected Dr Luke and his family to trial by Twitter, using a vicious smear campaign to ruin his reputation for financial gain while failing to support their claims."

The outpouring on Twitter came after a judge in a state supreme court in Manhattan ruled last Friday that Kesha (whose full name is Kesha Rose Sebert) could not be released from her recording contract with Dr Luke and Sony Music Entertainment while the case plays out.

Mr Mark Geragos, a lawyer for the singer, argued that her career is "at a standstill" because of her refusal to record with Dr Luke. Her contract with his publishing company, Prescription Songs, and label, Kemosabe Records, a Sony imprint, requires that he produce at least six songs on each of her albums. (Kesha has not released an album since Warrior, her second, in 2012; she appeared on the Dr Lukeproduced Pitbull single Timber the following year, which went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Her earlier hits with Dr Luke include Tik Tok and Die Young.)

"Kesha Rose Sebert wants nothing more than to be able to record an album," her lawyers wrote in a motion for preliminary injunction that would block Sony and Dr Luke from pursuing damages if she releases music outside of her contract. "Her only condition is that she be allowed to record with a record label that is not affiliated with someone who has emotionally and sexually abused her."

In an affidavit supporting the motion, Mr Jim Urie, the former president of Universal Music Group Distribution, said that without an injunction, the singer would miss her window of commercial success and suffer irreparable harm: "If Kesha cannot immediately resume recording and having her music promoted, marketed and distributed by a major label, her career is effectively over."

Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich denied the motion. "You're asking the court to decimate a contract that was heavily negotiated and typical for the industry," she said.

However, Sony indicated at the hearing that the label would be open to having Kesha record outside of Dr Luke's direct purview.

Still, the ruling immediately prompted outraged responses from fans, who then lobbied pop stars on social media to address the case, like citizens urging their legislators to speak up on an issue.

The subsequent statements of support and encouragement came from artists in and around the orbit of Dr Luke, who is known for his platinum-selling singles for Katy Perry (I Kissed A Girl), Kelly Clarkson (Since U Been Gone) and Flo Rida (Right Round).

Clarkson wrote on Twitter last Friday: "Trying 2 not say anything since I can't say anything nice about a person... so this is me not talking about Dr Luke."

Lady Gaga wrote: "There are people all over the world who love you @KeshaRose. And I can say, truly, I am in awe of your bravery."

Swift, who has recorded with Dr Luke's frequent collaborator Max Martin, has not commented beyond her donation announcement.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2016, with the headline 'Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift supporting #FreeKesha'. Print Edition | Subscribe