“Praying,” the centerpiece of Kesha’s album Rainbow, has become an anthem for women and men who are dealing with a history of sexual abuse, and at the Grammys, it was the centerpiece for a powerful #MeToo moment that had many in Madison Square Garden’s audience, and undoubtedly countless more at home, in tears.
Joined by Cyndi Lauper, Camila Cabello, Andra Day, Bebe Rexha, Julia Michaels, and the Resistance Revival Chorus, Kesha belted her way through the song, which alludes to her alleged abuse and assault at the hands of producer Dr. Luke—a point she underlined with a subtle change to the song’s lyrics, singing “No more monster/ I can breathe again.” (In the original, it’s “monsters.”) Clad all in white—a pointed contrast to the black outfits female celebrities wore to the Golden Globes—the other women flanked Kesha as she strode to a microphone in the middle of the audience, and held her when she was overcome with emotion at the end.
In her equally pointed introduction, Janelle Monáe called for “solidarity” among the music industry’s women and men, on the issue of pay equity as well as personal safety, and said that she was among the many who’d been inspired by Kesha’s perseverance and bravery. (Dr. Luke has denied all charges and countersued for defamation.) But it’s worth pointing out that while many in the room have undoubtedly shared the kind of experience Kesha has described, it was also full of the people who drew up the kinds of contracts that still bind her to her alleged abuser, and who have stood by as others have suffered similar fates. Emotional catharsis on Grammy night is a beautiful thing, but it’s not enough.