I put Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” on my running playlist when it came out in 2010 and reminisced on the year just following college when going clubbing in downtown San Diego was a regular event with my roommates. The song captured perfectly how we’d get ready together, sometimes swapping dresses or shoes, and definitely guzzling some booze before going out the door. As a Christian, I saw Ke$ha’s music as bringing out a latent secular side of myself — dangerous, but fun — and I never would have expected to be loving her music seven years later for totally different reasons.
Today, Kesha, now without the dollar sign in her name, released her new single, “Praying.” As the name hints, the song is deeply spiritual. It’s powerful, due both to the music itself, the vocals, and the story the lyrics tell. It’s probably the best Christian song of the year.
Kesha may not identify as Christian. She writes in Lenny Letter,
For me, God is not a bearded man sitting in the clouds or a judgmental, homophobic tyrant waiting to send everyone to eternal damnation. God is nature and space and energy and the universe. My own interpretation of spirituality isn’t important, because we all have our own. What matters is that I have something greater than me as an individual that helps bring me peace.
But, every last one of her lyrics affirm my own spiritual worldview, and are consistent with a biblical understanding of God. That’s more than I can say for some worship songs. Let’s take a look.
Oh, but after everything you’ve done
I can thank you for how strong I have become
Here, she sees that a person’s bad actions can have positive results. Or, as we read in Genesis 50:20 of Joseph talking to his brothers who betrayed him, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.” This is a stark contrast with purity culture — trying to never mess up. Resilience comes with believing pain and evil can only make us stronger, and that is essential for redemption.
I hope you’re somewhere praying, praying
I hope your soul is changing, changing
I hope you find your peace
Oh, sometimes, I pray for you at night
Someday, maybe you’ll see the light
Everyone can be saved. Even the person who did the worst possible thing to you. Love your enemies.
Oh, some say, in life, you’re gonna get what you give
To me, this line sounds like it is referencing karma. As a more conservative Christian, I saw karma as being opposed to redemption. Because we’re redeemed, we don’t always get what we deserve. It’s interesting to me that this line is prefaced with “some say” — as if the storyteller is not owning the karma worldview. It’s as if she’s rejecting the defensive posture of hoping a person’s foul actions will come back to haunt them.
But some things only God can forgive
This is a clever line because it has two meanings. Is she saying she doesn’t forgive him, that he’s done something so bad that only God could forgive? Or, she does forgive him but only God can set him free?
The lack of vengeance in this song is astounding and remarkable in pop music. Katy Perry, who was a Christian artist before hitting major success mainstream, just came out with “Swish Swish,” which is thought to be an answer to Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” in an ongoing feud. Country artist Carrie Underwood, whose “Jesus, Take the Wheel” consistently got played on Christian radio stations, had “Before He Cheats,” a song about revenge, on the same album.
If you’ve been following Kesha’s personal life, you know this song is a response to her alleged abuse and sexual assault. Out of that darkness comes a song that captures the essence of Christianity — and at the forefront of pop music.
It makes me want to blast the song in my ears on a long run.