Kesha’s lawsuit against Dr. Luke has been foreshadowed by past events, but it’s nonetheless heartbreaking. I’m support Kesha 100%; it seems remarkable we don’t automatically draw connections between pop stars suffering “mental breakdowns” and the potential abusive men in their lives that are heralded as the creative masterminds behind their work. I hope Kesha escapes this contract; her musical career seems like a minor point in the grand scheme of issues here, but Dr. Luke has been largely credited as the architect of her sound and if she makes a change in artistic direction, it will be met with an enormous amount of industry bullshit about agency and authenticity.
This has become a recurring theme in pop music: the shadowy male producers who are the so-called brilliant masterminds behind these public young women. Kesha had Dr. Luke. Lady Gaga had RedOne. Ariana Grande had Harmony Samuels. I can’t remember the last time we talked about an up-and-coming female pop star without talking extensively about her core production team, and that often makes sense when looking down the credits. This is what the industry does. It pairs young women off with the real geniuses and puts them to work.
This makes the Tinashe album that came out last week pretty incredible. There’s no shadowy male producer behind Aquarius, and any attempt to try to define that album as such is bullshit. Aquarius sounds like an extension of Tinashe’s mixtapes which she recorded and produced in her home studio. Even with this so-called assembled team of superstar hitmakers, all the tracks on Aquarius are unmistakably Tinashe. The Stargate songs sound like Tinashe. The Mike WiLL song sounds like Tinashe. The Detail song sounds like Tinashe. Even the guitar solo on “Bet” is Tinashe, whose idea it was because she thinks they are “cool.” The only song that actually sounds like its producer is “2 On,” but even that sounds like unmistakably like Tinashe with the flirting and the winking and the charming that only the girl next door could bring to a DJ Mustard beat.
My favorite thing written about the new Tinashe album was by Meaghan, who points out, “Aquarius is an anomaly in an age of major label standardization: a debut done unmistakably on Tinashe’s own terms.” This is the only correct framing. Any attempt to credit it to a team of dudes is a massive disservice, but I’m not surprised: old school music criticism is not particularly interested in the artistic vision and genius of black women. Just ask Beyoncé.
still boggles me that women can *hire men for a specific purpose* and all of their agency in the public eye immediately slips to the man working *under* them