On Feb. 11, Kim Petras dropped her fourth EP, “Slut Pop,” as a Valentine’s Day gift for her fans. The sex-positive album consists of seven songs and is co-written and produced in its entirety by Dr. Luke, an American record producer and songwriter. Known for tracks such as Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” and Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream,” he has worked in the past with Taio Cruz, B.o.B, Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna and — most notably, Kesha.
In October 2014, Kesha filed a civil lawsuit against Dr. Luke, claiming a slew of offenses including sexual assault and battery, sexual harassment, gender violence, civil harassment, violation of California’s laws against unfair business practices, infliction of emotional distress (both intentional and negligent) and negligent retention and supervision. Dr. Luke responded to this by filing a countersuit alleging that Kesha’s lawsuit was an attempt by Kesha, her mother and her new management firm to extort him into releasing her from her contract.
Then, in Feb. 2016, Kesha lost the bid to be released from her contract with Dr. Luke and his record label, KMI. Within minutes of the verdict, Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande and other celebrities took to social media to voice their support for Kesha, who was photographed sobbing in court after the news. As a result, the hashtag #FreeKesha trended nationwide, as her fans and the world gathered around her.
The following April, Kesha’s claims of sexual assault, sexual harassment and gender violence were dismissed, with the ruling judge, Shirley Kornreich, writing, “While Kesha’s [claim] alleges that she was sexually, physically and verbally abused by [Dr. Luke] for a decade, she describes only two specific instances of physical/sexual abuse.” Kornreich goes on to say that the most recent described event happened in 2008, and therefore falls outside of the statute of limitations. Kesha’s claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress was also dismissed, as were her other allegations. However, the lawsuit that Dr. Luke filed in response to her claims is still ongoing.
In 2018, Dr. Luke sued Kesha a second time, again for defamation. This suit occurred after 2016 text messages between Lady Gaga and Kesha resurfaced. In the text messages to Lady Gaga, Kesha claimed Katy Perry had been “raped by the same man,” referring to Dr. Luke; however, Perry later testified that that was not the case. In February 2020, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Schecter ruled that Kesha had defamed Dr Luke in her 2016 text exchange.
In the background of all of this, a small number of artists — including Petras — have continued to work with Dr. Luke and are receiving large amounts of harsh feedback from those on social media. After receiving criticism last year for a previous collaboration with Dr. Luke, Petras told NME, “I would like my fans to know that I wouldn’t work with somebody I believe to be an abuser of women, definitely not.”
She later followed that statement up with a tweet, clarifying that while she has had a positive experience with Dr. Luke, that experience “does not negate or dismiss the experience of others or suggest that multiple perspectives cannot exist at once.”
With the release of “Slut Pop,” Petras is once again facing criticism for working with Dr. Luke. #FreeKesha organizer Michael Eisele expressed that seeing “Slut Pop” climb the charts fueled a new need to speak out about Kesha and her situation with Dr. Luke. “There are millions of people invested in Kesha, her music and her well-being,” he wrote in a statement to Rolling Stone. “So of course her supporters are going to be outraged when the product of a man she has allegations of sexual assault against is No. 1 on iTunes with a record called ‘Slut Pop.’”
Other Kesha supporters took to Twitter, bringing #FreeKesha back to Twitter’s trending topics. While most simply voiced their love for Kesha, others immediately took to her defense. Of major attention was the mention of Lady Gaga in the EP’s fifth track “Throat Goat,” given the fact that Lady Gaga has been vocal about being a survivor of sexual assault and has previously defended Kesha in a deposition against Dr. Luke. In the song, Petras sings, “These lips go ‘la-la-la’/This throat, Lady Gaga.”
“How do you name drop Gaga, a victim of SA, in a song produced by the same man she spoke out against in court?” wrote one fan on Twitter. Chris Steadman, host of the Unread podcast added, “Lady Gaga said that testifying in support of Kesha in her legal battle with Dr. Luke caused her to have a breakdown. Now, Gaga is name-dropped in a song co-written and produced by Luke. Very gross.”
Ben Abraham, the songwriter behind Kesha’s “Praying” — a song suspected to be written about Dr. Luke — also took to Twitter reminding users that litigation is still ongoing and that the support of the #FreeKesha movement matters greatly.
Petras has not yet commented on the criticism for “Slut Pop,” but in seeing the events of the #FreeBritney movement unfold, fans are newly emboldened. What do you think? Is it time for Kesha’s fight against Dr. Luke to gain that same level of attention? Tweet us, @VALLEYmag, and let us know.