"Praying" is a song recorded by American singer Kesha for her third studio album, Rainbow (2017). It was made available for digital download by Kemosabe Records on July 6, 2017 as the record's lead single. Kesha wrote "Praying" with Ben Abraham, Andrew Joslyn, and the song's producer, Ryan Lewis. The song is a gospel and soul-influenced pop piano ballad that features violins and drums in its instrumentation. It was written to showcase Kesha's vocal range and to represent her as a person. According to Kesha, "Praying" is about "hoping everyone, even someone who hurt you, can heal". Reviewers suggested that the recording is about Dr. Luke, whom Kesha accused of sexual assault and emotional abuse.
"Praying" received critical acclaim, with music critics finding the song powerful and noting it as a departure from the singer's previous efforts. Kesha's vocals were also praised, with many critics calling them her best to date. Commentators offered conflicting interpretations of the song's message; some felt that the song is about forgiveness, while others felt that Kesha displayed anger on the track. Commercially, "Praying" peaked at number 25 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and within the top 50 in various other countries. The song's accompanying music video was directed by Jonas Åkerlund and was released the same day as the song. It features the singer at Salvation Mountain and various religious symbolism, both biblical and Hindu. It received a mostly positive response, as well as comparisons to Beyoncé's visual album Lemonade (2016).
From July to October 2016, Kesha embarked on her third world tour, Kesha and the Creepies: Fuck the World Tour, performing various cover versions of songs and several rock and country reworkings of her own hit singles. During that time, she wrote multiple songs for Rainbow. Producer Ryan Lewis began working on the lyrics and production of "Praying" while he was on tour over a year before its release. He felt that the ballad would be suitable for a female artist, and his wife suggested that Kesha should sing it. Lewis contacted the singer's management to see if she would like to collaborate with him. Kesha accepted the offer due to her fondness for his work with Macklemore, particularly admiring how their discography together features a mix of "fun" and politically progressive songs. Lewis came to Kesha with a "rough idea" for the song and encouraged her to do whatever she wanted on the track. When she belted out a whistle note, she surprised him; Lewis later said it was one of his favorite moments ever to occur in a studio. "Praying" was completed two days after Kesha began working on it. Lewis said that his ambitions when writing the song were to showcase the singer's vocal range and to represent her as a person; he felt that the finished track accomplished both goals.
In a radio interview with SiriusXM, Kesha revealed that "Praying" deals with suicidal thoughts that she has had. In the same interview, she said that she feels it is healthy to discuss such emotions, and that " think the beautiful part is that you hold onto hope and you keep showing up for yourself." Prior to its release, the singer premiered "Praying" and four other songs from Rainbow at a press playback in London. There, she expressed her feelings about the song, saying, "I've never been more excited about a piece of art I've ever done in my entire life. This is truly from the inside of my guts." Kesha announced the single's release in a video made for her fans. In an accompanying letter posted to Lena Dunham's feminist blog Lenny Letter, she wrote about the meaning of the song, saying "I have channeled my feelings of severe hopelessness and depression, I've overcome obstacles, and I have found strength in myself even when it felt out of reach. I've found what I had thought was an unobtainable place of peace. This song is about coming to feel empathy for someone else even if they hurt you or scare you. It's a song about learning to be proud of the person you are even during low moments when you feel alone. It's also about hoping everyone, even someone who hurt you, can heal." The song became Kesha's first solo single since 2012.
"Praying" is a pop piano ballad written by Kesha, Ryan Lewis, Ben Abraham, and Andrew Joslyn that features elements of gospel music and soul music. The song was produced by Lewis and is written in the key of G minor, with a moderately slow tempo of 74 beats per minute. Vox's Caroline Framke felt that the song is a departure from the "dive bar party anthems" which Kesha has become known for. The song's production is minimal; Kesha is joined on the track by violins, "distant" backing vocals, and drums. Dan Weiss of Billboard deemed "Praying"'s arrangement "unfashionable" and said the song sounds unlike contemporary music. The chorus of "Praying" features Kesha singing "I hope you're somewhere praying, praying/ I hope your soul is changing, changing/ I hope you find your peace falling on your knees, praying." The song's chorus is "soaring but simple", in the vein of "Beautiful" (2002) by Christina Aguilera and "Til It Happens to You" (2015) by Lady Gaga.
According to Kesha, "Praying" is "about hoping everyone, even someone who hurt you, can heal." The song addresses a tormentor with the lyrics: "You brought the flames and you put me through hell/ I had to learn how to fight for myself/ And we both know all the truth I could tell/ I'll just say this: I wish you farewell." Spencer Kornhaber of The Atlantic said that the song's message was "love your enemies" and displayed "Christlike grace", further noting that Kesha did not exude invulnerability on "Praying" the way she did in some of her previous songs, like "Dinosaur" (2010). Similarly, Eve Barlow of Variety said that Kesha "pushes through her demons and possesses a remarkable level of empathy and understanding" on the track. Conversely, Pitchfork's Jillian Mapes felt that the song's sentiments were akin to "telling the person who ruined your life to 'take care' when you really mean 'fuck you,'" while Billboard's Dan Weiss interpreted the song as a "coded threat that will no longer be silenced." According to Tatiana Cirisano of Billboard, "While the chorus aims for reconciliation with an unnamed listener...there's still a flicker of anger in the singer's words, like in the lyric '...When I'm finished, they won't even know your name.'"
The Guardian, The Atlantic, MTV UK, and Complex each reported that the song was about Dr. Luke, the producer whom Kesha accused of sexually assaulting and emotionally abusing her; Dr. Luke is never mentioned in the song by name. Kornhaber felt that the song's opening lyrics—"You almost had me fooled / Told me that I was nothing without you"—recall Kesha's allegation that Dr. Luke told her "You are not that pretty, you are not that talented, you are just lucky to have me....You are nothing without me." Dan Weiss of Billboard found the song similar to Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know" (1995), a song which "empowered women to...call out men’s abuses," "A Torch" (1998), a song about a vengeful rape victim from Sarge's album The Glass Intact, and Rihanna's "Russian Roulette" (2009), a song about the singer's assault at the hands of Chris Brown.
Kesha has said that "Praying" "showcases my voice in a way my voice has never been showcased in my entire life." Her vocals on the track span from D3 to G6. Jillian Mapes of Pitchfork noted that the singer's vocals on "Praying" are less digitally manipulated than they are on her Dr. Luke-produced records. Three minutes and fourteen seconds into the track, she sings at the top of her register, nearly screaming in a manner reminiscent of Mariah Carey. Weiss compared Kesha's vocals on "Praying", particularly on the song's high note, to those of Demi Lovato on her song "Skyscraper" (2011) and Sia on her song "Alive" (2015). File Hashes