Ke$ha vs. Dr. Luke: Pop Music's Ugliest Battle

Dr. Luke and Ke$ha in 2011. (Getty Images)When Ke$ha checked into Timberline Knolls Treatment Center last week to get help for an eating disorder, she issued a powerful statement: "I'm a crusader for being yourself and loving yourself, but I've found it hard to practice. I'll be unavailable for the next 30 days, seeking treatment for my eating disorder ... to learn to love myself again, exactly as I am."

It was a shocking moment for the performer's biggest fans, many of whom expressed their support on social media — often coupled with speculation about the causes of her health problems. The fanbase, which operates online under the twee "Animals" label, seemed collectively convinced that Ke$ha's executive producer Dr. Luke had something to do with it.
So when Ke$ha's mother, songwriter Pebe Sebert, told People she believed Dr. Luke to be directly responsible for her daughter's bulimia on Thursday, it was practically old news.

The showdown between Ke$ha's supporters and Dr. Luke has actually been brewing for over a year, with the first signs of tension showing just after the Newtown school shooting tragedy. Ke$ha, who had released her single "Die Young" just two months beforehand, responded to complaints about the "insensitivity" of the song's lyrics with a very interesting tweet: "I had my very own issues with 'die young' for this reason. I did NOT want to sing those lyrics and I was FORCED TO."

Though Ke$ha later deleted the tweet, it hinted at serious behind-the-scenes battles over the singer's creative freedom. There was also the fact that Ke$ha had expressed a desire to release a more rock-oriented album in multiple interviews before the release of her sophomore effort Warrior, which didn't stray very far from Dr. Luke's electro-pop formula.

Then there was the MTV docu-series My Crazy Beautiful Life, in which it became apparent that Ke$ha had very little control over her own sound. A fan named Rebecca Pimmel set up a petition demanding that Dr. Luke release the singer from her eight album record deal in response to the series.

"The numerous cries for help have been indicitave that all she wants is to make music that makes her and her fans happy, and nothing that's forced and blunt," Pimmel wrote. "When Ke$ha, young and naive at the age of 18, was signed to Luke's 8 album contract, it's obvious that she was unaware of the severe pop puppeteer act she was soon to play by. What our fear as her fans should be is that she will soon lose interest in playing this industry game and stop releasing music under the tyrannical finger of Dr. Luke."

A month later, Ke$ha voiced her appreciation for the fan movement, although she refrained from saying anything negative about Dr. Luke or her record label. "I feel like my fans are really protective of me. They just want to see me grow as an artist, which I agree with," she told Rolling Stone. "Hopefully in the future, I'll be in a position where I can put out a ballad or a more vulnerable song."

The rumors about Dr. Luke's role on Ke$ha's self-esteem started with a tweet, and a response from Ke$ha's mother.
On Monday, the story about Dr. Luke calling Ke$ha "a refrigerator" popped up on a number of popular gossip sites, and was even discussed on The Talk.

The following day, Radar Online published a story in which unnamed sources claimed that "Ke$ha's team" was concerned with the singer's drinking habits. And things quicky escalated from there. First, Ke$ha's mom got vocal on Twitter:

Then she turned to People.

"Dr. Luke had been telling her how she had to get in shape and lose weight and all this stuff. She was exercising and dieting and ultimately doing everything she could, but not getting thin fast enough," Sebert insisted on the record. "And that's when she first became bulimic." 

She also elaborated on the "refrigerator" story: "Dr. Luke told a friend of ours he thought she looked like a refrigerator on her latest video, and could she please try to control her weight ... After she went on a 14-day juice cleanse, he said, 'Thank God you finally got rid of the weight! We've all been talking about it!' So she felt like she couldn't trust anyone." 

Dr. Luke's rep issued a firm and swift denial: "These statements and allegations concerning Dr. Luke are completley false. It is unfortunate that at a time Ke$ha is suffering immensely and trying to heal at a treatment center, her mother is taking this approach with the media. I give Ke$ha my utmost support and well wishes for a quick return to health."

Then this happened:
At this point, it's hard to imagine that Ke$ha and Dr. Luke will be able to continue their professional relationship in light of all the ugliness. Though Ke$ha has yet to really speak on the situation (perhaps she is contractually obligated not to), she and her mother are famously close, and it's unlikely she'd come forward to contradict anything she's said.

The whole situation puts fans in a terribly uncomfortable position: How do you support the artist you love when it's clear they're not doing what you love? Do you continue to buy tickets to see someone if you're worried she's the victim of coercion?

I'm the former Zimbio Music Editor. Into music, cats, karaoke, and shiny things. Follow me: Google