Sony had a very, very bad year. After a hacking scandal leaked racist emails from company executives, in which producers Scott Rudin and Amy Pascal speculated if President Obama was a fan of “Django Unchained,” the embattled studio released a string of nasty flops in 2015. These included “The Walk,” “Chappie” and “Aloha,” the Cameron Crowe movie that embarrassingly cast Emma Stone as a “quarter-Chinese, quarter-Hawaiian” Air Force cadet.
In addition, the company was projected to lose $2.1 billion this year, meaning that over the course of the past eight years, Sony is $12 billion in the hole.
But the garbage fire that is Sony burns forever brightly: Just when you thought the company had reached its nadir, it sinks even lower. Amid its falling fortunes, Sony is facing an ongoing lawsuit from Kesha, who named the corporation as a co-defendant in a 2014 sexual assault and battery suit against Dr. Luke.
According to Billboard, the pop singer (neé Kesha Rose Sebert) alleged that the super-producer, who has worked with Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga and Britney Spears, “drugged and ‘forced himself’ on her, and used his position of power to take control of her career.”
The suit is strikingly similar to the Bill Cosby allegations, in which more than 50 women accused the comedian and former sitcom star of raping them over the course of three decades. As with Cosby—whose predatory reputation had been alleged for years—Kesha’s lawyers claim that Dr. Luke’s reputation was an open secret at Sony and the company did nothing. The amended lawsuit, filed in June, claims that Sony “knew of the conduct and turned a blind eye, failed to investigate Dr. Luke’s conduct, failed to take any corrective action, or actively concealed Dr. Luke’s abuse.”
Kesha is suing to be let out of her contract with Dr. Luke. Currently, the singer is legally obligated to make three more albums with his label, Kemosabe Records, and by remaining under contract, Sony is forcing her to work with the man she claims repeatedly raped her.
While Kesha is unable to make new music, the lawsuit has done little to halt Dr. Luke’s career: In the past two years, he’s worked with Katy Perry, Maroon 5, Nicki Minaj and Wiz Khalifa.
As if this horrifying situation weren’t damning enough, Sony isn’t missing out on yet another golden opportunity to make itself look like the worst company in the world.
In a recent statement, the company claimed that being stonewalled by her label is actually a good thing for Kesha. The singer filed an injunction with the court to expedite the case, worried that time off might harm her career. But Sony insists that’s hardly the case: In court documents leaked by TMZ, Sony claimed that years away from the recording studio helped D’Angelo and Justin Timberlake mount impressive comebacks. The company argued that Kesha “could be the next Adele.”
The spin is so insidious that the sleight of hand all but escaped mention in the press—because who doesn’t love Adele right now? After the Grammy-winning success of “21,” which launched three No. 1 singles, the British singer waited four years to release another EP. That album, “25,” has broken every record in the book since bowing in November. Her third album sold an unbelievable 3 million copies in its first week—at a time when people don’t buy CDs anymore.
But the reason Adele took that lengthy hiatus was to have her first child (who was born in 2012) and build a new family with her husband. In an Instagram post published before the release of “25,” the singer wrote, “Sorry it took so long, but you know, life happened.” It absolutely was not to escape her alleged rapist, and to equate the two is appalling.
Unfortunately, that’s par for the course for companies like Sony, as a culture of sexual assault is too often the definition of “life” in the music industry. For many female musicians, producers and executives, this is the reality that they must deal with every day. As Vice’s Rachel Grace Almeida wrote earlier this year, nearly every woman in the music business has her own story of unwanted attention, sexual harassment or assault—often from men in positions of power and authority.
Last December, Lady Gaga told Howard Stern that when she was just 19, she was raped by a music executive, and Taylor Swift is currently in a lawsuit with a radio executive she claimed “groped her” during a 2013 public appearance. Earlier this year, former rapper Dee Barnes wrote an essay for Gawker in which she detailed the evening Dr. Dre “straddled me and beat me mercilessly on the floor of the women’s restroom.” Two other women have alleged similar violence.
Barnes’ story is strikingly similar to Kesha’s. Instead of being supported by the industry, Barnes was “blacklisted” and her career suffered. As the Daily Beast’s Amy Zimmerman writes, “hip-hop insiders … didn’t want to jeopardize their relationships with the all-powerful D-R-E.”
Dr. Dre’s career hardly suffered following these incidents. In fact, Dr. Dre is bigger than ever: The N.W.A. biopic, “Straight Outta Compton,” earned $157 million at the domestic box office and is building momentum for a dark horse best picture nomination. In addition to being the face of the mega-successful headphone brand Beats by Dre, the rapper’s most recent album, “Compton,” sold 276,000 copies during its first week of release. That’s the biggest sales week in Dr. Dre’s entire career.
As Slate’s Christina Cauterucci points out, there’s a reason that Kesha’s lawsuit is so reminiscent of Dr. Dre’s victims and Bill Cosby’s accusers: This is what happens when women speak out about violence and sexual assault.
When survivors speak up, they are dismissed as liars or told they have ulterior motives. Dr. Luke’s lawyers claim that Kesha’s suit is just a ruse to break her contract, while actor Damon Wayans argued that the Bill Cosby allegations were motivated by greed; he called it a “money hustle.” In addition, they are often shamed for not acting sooner. Whereas many wondered why Cosby’s accusers would wait so long, Sony filed a motion to have Kesha's lawsuit dismissed on the grounds that she remained silent for half a decade before coming forward.
Here’s Sony’s take on the subject:
“This admission—that Sebert never spoke of or reported the alleged misconduct—is fatal to each and every one of her claims against Sony and Kemosabe Records. In short, Sebert cannot have it both ways: She cannot claim that Gottwald intimidated her into silence, then—as an apparent afterthought—seek to hold Sony and Kemosabe Records liable for failing to act on conduct that she did not report.”
While Kesha temporarily found a way around the impasse by performing a surprise show over the weekend in Nashville with her band Yeast Infection, the singer faces a long, hard road ahead. Unlike Adele, her hiatus may not have a happy ending. It might have been a crappy 2015 for one of America’s shittiest companies, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Kesha’s year—or what survivors go through every day.