But the “TiK ToK” star is back, releasing her new single “Praying” and its corresponding video on Thursday — while also dropping news that her third full-length album, titled Rainbow, is due Aug. 11.
The singer seemingly poured the emotional turmoil with her former boss into the tune. In 2014, she sued Luke, 43, alleging he drugged, raped and verbally, physically and emotionally abused her for years. Luke has vehemently denied the allegations and countersued for breach of contract and defamation. Last year, a New York City judge denied the pop star’s request for an injunction, which, if granted, would have permitted her to work on fresh music outside the Kemosabe banner. Dr. Luke’s contract with Sony Music expired in March, though a source tells PEOPLE he “still has a relationship” with the company. “Praying” was released Thursday on Kemosabe with RCA, though Dr. Luke isn’t credited as producer.
“Praying” has Kesha moving on from the pain — claiming at one point, “I’m proud of who I am / No more monsters I can breathe again.”
She begins, first, with a somber monologue — questioning her place in life. “Am I dead? Or is this one of those dreams?,” she asks. “Those horrible dreams that seem like they last forever? If I am alive, why? If there is a God or whatever, something, somewhere, why have I been abandoned by everyone and everything I’ve ever known? I’ve ever loved? Stranded. What is the lesson? What is the point? God, give me a sign, or I have to give up. I can’t do this anymore. Please just let me die. Being alive hurts too much.”
Kesha then launches into a heartfelt ballad — written by Ryan Lewis and Ben Abraham — about overcoming obstacles, much different than the desert-chic punk pop fans have come to expect from her.
“You brought the flames and you put me through hell / I had to learn how to fight for myself / And we both know all the truth I can tell / I’ll just say this, I wish you farewell,” she sings. “I hope you’re somewhere praying / I hope your soul is changing / I hope you find your peace / falling on your knees, praying”.
“Sometimes I pray for you and I / Someday maybe you’ll see the light / Some say ‘in life you gonna get what you give’ / But somethings only God can forgive,” she belts during the song’s most emotional moment.
The poignant video, directed by Jonas Åkerlund, has the colorful star running through a desert maze being chased by two figures wearing pig masks. Mixed with imagery of Kesha floating by herself in the middle of an ocean, the singer emerges with angel wings as a triumphant figure — walking on water, crying blood tears, and yes, praying.
A simple message falls across the screen at the end: “The beginning.”
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In a Lenny letter on Thursday, Kesha said she channeled her feelings of “severe hopelessness and depression” into the song.
“It’s from our darkest moments that we gain the most strength,” she wrote. “There were so many days, months even, when I didn’t want to get out of bed. I spent all day wanting to go to sleep, and then when I did fall asleep, I had horrible night terrors where I would physically cry and scream through the dark. I was never at peace, night or day. But I dragged myself out of bed and took my emotions to the studio and made art out of them. And I have never been happier with a body of work as I am with this record.”
“I’ve overcome obstacles, and I have found strength in myself even when it felt out of reach,” she continued. “I’ve found what I had thought was an unobtainable place of peace. … It is in these moments when even the most cynical among us are forced to turn to something other than ourselves — we turn to prayer, or something like it. You look past your shame, past your desire to hide, and admit you need help.”
Kesha was sure to thank her fans for their support and for not giving up on her, adding that she hopes the song reaches and inspires people who are in the midst of their own struggles.
“This song is about coming to feel empathy for someone else even if they hurt you or scare you. It’s a song about learning to be proud of the person you are even during low moments when you feel alone. It’s also about hoping everyone, even someone who hurt you, can heal,” she said. “This song is about me finding peace in the fact that I can’t control everything — because trying to control everyone was killing me. It’s about learning to let go and realize that the universe is in control of my fate, not me.”
“In the past couple of years, I have grown into a strong, independent woman. I have realized through this long journey of ups and downs that if I’m lucky enough to have a voice that people listen to, then I should use it for good and for truth,” she added. “I’ve battled intense anxiety and depression, a relentless eating disorder, and all the other basic bulls— that comes with being human. I know I’m not alone in that battle. Finding the strength to come forward about these things is not easy, but I want to help others who are going through tough times.”
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“I’ve written a record that reveals my vulnerabilities, and I have found strength in that,” she said. “In the past, I’ve always felt like I was trying to prove something, trying to be someone I thought people wanted me to be, but on this record, I’m just telling the truth about my life. This album is me. The most raw and real art I have ever created, and now it’s my gift to you.”
In her note, Kesha seemed to suggest she had moved on from her anger and is now in a positive place.
“If you feel like someone has wronged you, get rid of that hate, because it will just create more negativity,” she said. “One thing that has brought me great relief is praying for those people. Being angry and resentful will do nothing but increase your own stress and anxiety — and hate is the fuel that grows the viruses. Don’t let anyone steal your happiness!”