It was only a few weeks ago that a group of women working at record labels realized that, after the wave of #MeToo-related activism that defined the Golden Globes, there was no similar effort to mobilize en masse against sexual assault at the Grammys. Roc Nation’s Meg Harkins and Interscope’s Karen Rait hit upon the idea to ask attendees to wear white roses—a symbol, they told The New York Times, of “hope, peace, sympathy, and resistance.”
The white rose movement was bolstered by one of the show-stopping moments of Grammys night: Kesha singing “Praying” with the help of fellow pop stars Cyndi Lauper, Bebe Rexha, Camila Cabello, Julia Michaels, and Andra Day, as well as the Resistance Revival Chorus. Prior to the show, Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich had said that “Praying” would have made an appearance regardless of “whether these past few months [of #MeToo] had happened or not.” But the song was charged with the context of the time—and made a social statement more complicatedly powerful than might be expected.
Kesha released “Praying” as a comeback single after she underwent a very public legal fight with her producer and label boss, Dr. Luke, over her allegations that he harassed and raped her. He denied her claims, and a judge nixed her attempt to be released from her record contract. “Praying,” an intense piano ballad put out through the label Luke founded, took a moving but oblique approach to the matter. Kesha sang to an unnamed someone who had harmed her—to offer the hope that someday, his soul might be saved.