There are some people in this world who I really don’t care for. It’s natural.
When I was in 7th grade, I had the door of a locker room bathroom stall kicked open on me (I was using it, obviously). It was an honest mistake (the guy explained he’d been TRYING to bully a kid who apparently wore the same un-cool Wal-Mart brand shoes I did and he saw them under the stall), but my panicked reaction and terror earned me some additional mocking from him and his friends (which he obviously told about it) when I was brave enough to emerge from the locker room twenty minutes later.
Needless to say, I’m not inviting those guys to any birthday parties I’m having these days. And that’s just one silly example from my childhood.
And I’m sure that there are people out there that feel that way about me. I’m unconscious of any harm I’ve ever caused anyone, but I’m sure that there was something; no one’s perfect to everyone they meet, and I’m sure there’s one person out there who (for whatever reason) just burns with hatred when they think about me and how much of a tool I am.
And these grudges, these universal bastions of hatred that we all manage to hold on to, feel bad. Whether it’s that person who cut you off in traffic today, someone who said something mean about your wardrobe in tenth grade, or your boss who manages to annoy you every single day, holding onto the anger hurts us a lot more than it hurts them.
So, what does all of this have to do with music? Honestly, not a ton. But it is deeply relevant to the song I want to highlight today: “Praying,” by Kesha. There are lots of great things I could say about this song. The melody is great, the vocal performance is great, sure sure sure. But what makes it a treat to listen to is how it makes the listener feel.
The context of this song, for anyone who is unaware, is that Kesha alleged she was sexually assaulted/abused by “Dr. Luke,” the Sony music producer/writer behind “California Gurls,” “Wrecking Ball,” “Tik Tok,” “Dark Horse,” “Dynamite,” “Roar,” “Timber,” “Since U Been Gone,” “Sugar,” “Party in the USA,” and just about every other song that’s ever been on the radio.
Unfortunately for Kesha, she was locked into a contract with the (less than) good doctor and took a break from music for 4 years rather than continuing to make him money. This song, “Praying,” is her triumphant return now that the contract is over, and it’s very obviously about her struggles.
But what’s so damn uplifting about it is that it’s not a song of hatred (i.e. every Taylor Swift song ever), though it easily could be.
It’s a song of rising above, of forgiving those who hurt you and moving on. It’s about letting go of that hatred we’re so good at hanging on to.
And when I listen to this song, when I sing along in my car (hitting every high note perfectly, duh), it makes me feel empowered to. That sense of peace and looking down on people who have hurt you with a sense of benevolent pity rather than malice is just. So. Freeing.
And anytime you can make your audience feel that good, and do it with a song that sounds amazing, you’re really onto something good. It’s one of the few songs I can remember hearing recently that’s bigger than itself, that reaches out into lives and touches them in ways that just one silly song shouldn’t be able to.
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