Kesha Vs. Dr. Luke: Details On the Controversy

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Kesha's Assertions

Kesha. Photo by Neil Lupin / Redferns

In January 2014 pop star Kesha checked into a rehabilitation center in northern Illinois for eating disorder treatment. Upon leaving the facility she dropped the $ from her professional name Ke$ha. In October of 2014 she filed suit against her long-term producer and mentor Dr. Luke.

She claimed that she was sexually, verbally, and physically abused for a decade. Kesha says that she met Dr. Luke in 2005 in Nashville, Tennessee, and he recognized her talent. She claims he encouraged her as an 18-year-old to drop out of high school and pursue a singing career in Los Angeles. Documents filed by Kesha claim that he bragged about getting dates drunk and having sex with them.

As the relationship between the pair continued, Kesha claims that Dr. Luke ultimately forced her to consume alcohol and drugs then proceeded to sexually assault her. She claims that in 2011 once she had become successful, the verbal abuse intensified with Dr. Luke insulting her over her weight and physical appearance. She also claims that she was forced to sing lyrics which she did not approve.

Most recently, she claims that Dr. Luke is publicly working to destroy her career by refusing to release her from contract. Legal proceedings have taken place over this issue. 

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Dr. Luke's Assertions

Dr. Luke
Dr. Luke. Photo by James LaVeris / FilmMagic

In October 2014 Dr. Luke countersued Kesha. He accused her of defamation, breach of contract, and making "false and shocking accusations." Dr. Luke's most direct statement about the controversy has been, "I didn't rape Kesha and I have never had sex with her." He also claims that she made sworn testimony in 2011 that she had never been drugged or raped by him.

Dr. Luke has worked extensively with other top pop stars including Pink, Avril Lavigne, and Kelly Clarkson. He first gained acclaim as a guitarist for the Saturday Night Live house band. Later, when he became a protege of Max Martin working on pop music production.

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Kesha and Dr. Luke Collaborations

Kesha Animal
Kesha - Animal. Courtesy Sony

Kesha's first gained widespread notice came when she sang uncredited backup vocals of the Dr. Luke-produced 2009 #1 pop hit "Right Round" by Flo Rida.  In the same year she was signed to a multi-album contract with RCA through Dr. Luke's label Kemosabe. 

Kesha's first single "Tik-Tok" was released in August 2009 and became a #1 pop smash. It touched off a series of seven consecutive top 10 pop hit singles. Dr. Luke worked as a producer on all of them. Kesha's first album Animal was a #1 hit and her follow-up Warrior climbed to #6 on the album chart. 

After controversy over the lyrics of Kesha's single "Die Young," she failed to return to the top 10 on the pop singles chart as a solo artist. Her 2013 collaboration with Pitbull on "Timber" went to #1. It was co-written and co-produced by Dr. Luke.

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Controversy and Legal Process

Free Kesha Controversy
Free Kesha Controversy. Photo by Steve Zak Photography / WireImage

Eventually Kesha sought a temporary court injunction to allow her to record new music while the legal proceedings to free her from her contract with Dr. Luke and with his parent label Sony unfolded. They each appeared in court in New York in February 2016. A February 19, 2016 ruling from Judge Shirley Kornreich ruled against the injunction. A later ruling in April concluded that the contracts could not be voided because the only details of abuse Kesha provided were older than the statute of limitations.

Kesha's fans have signed an online petition to demand her release from her contract to free her to do new recordings and public performances as she chooses. They have made appearances at court dates to protest in support. 

Sony indicated the parent label has no authority to void the contract. In March reports appeared from unnamed insiders that Sony was preparing to drop Dr. Luke from his contract. However, he later refuted the reports.

Controversy flared again in May 2016 when reports emerged that Dr. Luke was attempting to prevent Kesha from performing live at the Billboard Music Awards. She was later allowed to appear after an agreement she would not use the performance to discuss the legal controversy.

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Celebrities Weigh In

Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga. Photo by Gregg DeGuire / WireImage

A wide range of fellow pop artists have spoken out in support of Kesha. Lady Gaga, Kelly Clarkson, Ariana Grande, and Iggy Azalea among others have posted Twitter statements in support of Kesha. When Dr. Luke initially blocked Kesha's appearance at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards, Lady Gaga tweeted, "Isn't it strange that it's legal to own a woman this way?"