To music fans, producers are invisible. Standing behind the bright light of attention-grabbing stars, they enjoy a perfect mix of anonymity, notoriety, and power. This creates a set of conditions where producers can easily abuse the artists they work with. And, as more and more women are beginning to reveal, they often do.
Lady Gaga speaks out
This kind of misconduct happens at all levels of fame, something Lady Gaga made clear in a recent interview on Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry‘s documentary series The Me You Can’t See. Here Gaga opened up about the unbelievable sexual, physical and emotional abuse she suffered at the hands of her producer. This was no recent event. It occurred long before her rise to fame.
“I was 19 years old,” Gaga revealed, “and I was working in the business, and a producer said to me, ‘Take your clothes off.’ I said no. And I left, and they told me they were going to burn all my music. And they didn’t stop. They didn’t stop asking me, and then I just froze and I just…I don’t even remember… the person who raped me dropped me off pregnant on a corner.”
The producer remained unnamed. Nevertheless, Gaga detailed the disturbing events she endured, saying that she had been locked away in a studio for months. This interview must have taken a lot of courage. And boy was she strong to share it with us.
Lady Gaga strikes a confident pose for a Tudor Watches promotional photo.
Poppy and Titanic Sinclair
I can’t help connect Lady Gaga’s disturbing experience with recent allegations of abuse brought against another influential (yet anonymous) producer Titanic Sinclair. Recently Sinclair made an extended public apology on Twitter. The statement was direct at American singer-songwriter Melanie Martinez who had accused Sinclair of mistreating her.
Working under his Titanic Sinclair alias, Corey Mixter had been associated with acts like Grimes, Børns, and the internet’s favorite human question mark Poppy. Ironically like the iceberg that sank the Titanic, there was so much more under the surface when it came to Sinclair.
And this was far from where the irony ends. In Poppy’s semi-fictional ‘Poppyverse’ narrative Titanic is portrayed as the YouTube sensation’s controller. This storyline makes a mockery of the modern music industry, touching on how little control some artists have over their music and careers. Poppy, of course, plays the star while Sinclair is depicted as a shady figure pulling the strings.
Titanic was never seen in Poppy’s videos. Instead, he was shown to be monitoring and controlling her from behind the camera. “The narrative that we created in order to tell the story of the first album,” Poppy explained in one interview with NME, “was very much Titanic is the bad guy and he’s the leader.”
This role of a sinister producer was not so far removed from real life as fans assumed. In late 2019 Poppy and Titanic pair split as creative and romantic partners. Rumors Titanic allegedly abused Poppy began to emerge. The Poppy narrative, it seemed, had come full circle.
As Melanie Martinez’s story recounts, Sinclair’s role of being a literal ‘puppet master’ was, in fact, playing out in real life. Her account shattered the Poppy fantasy’s third wall in the worst way possible. In light of Martinez’s revelation, critics of Titanic have recently pointed to another under-reported lawsuit artist Mars Argo previously made against Titanic regarding stalking as well as physical and mental abuse.
Kesha’s ongoing dispute with Dr. Luke
Kesha has also remained outspoken during an ongoing legal battle with one of the world’s most successful producers Dr. Luke. For eight years Kesha has unsuccessfully battled it out with Luke in court. The reason for this is that Kesha alleges Luke sexually and emotionally abused her. If you accept Kesha‘s account as the true one, I can’t help but wonder how Luke has managed to get away with such questionable antics for such a long time frame.
These accusations against Dr. Luke sent shockwaves through pop culture. The public, along with other figureheads in the industry were unaware the producer could be this sinister. Kesha’s statements also inspired others like Kelly Clarkson and Lady Gaga to hint at eerily similar experiences.
Last month, the court ruled that Kesha defamed Dr. Luke in a text message sent to Lady Gaga. It rejected Kesha’s defense that Dr. Luke was a public figure. What qualifies as a public figure though? If the accepted definition that it can be anyone that is of great public interest or familiarity (such as influencers, celebrities, and politicians) it seems quite strange that the producer behind hits like ‘California Gurls‘, ‘Since U Been Gone, ‘Wrecking Ball’ and ‘Timber’ is not included.
Luke worked closely with Kesha to deliver many of her greatest hits including 2010’s ‘TikTok’.
The law supports Dr. Luke
For those not well versed in law, all this basically means is that it is easier to sue a public figure (like a celebrity that has a big fanbase) over a private figure (us for example). The reason for this is that private figures are not in the spotlight and do not have an influence over a fanbase. When Dr. Luke claimed defamation against Kesha, I take it to have been a kind of, “Hey you shouldn’t have said that, that’s going to hurt my career!” type statement. He only needed to prove that she acted carelessly with what she said. A public figure would have to prove that the claim was made intentionally and with malice.
This is yet another one of the perks of being, as producers are, only half in the spotlight. It is one of many grey areas that often advantages the abuser and holds back the abused from receiving a just outcome. Although there was a massive public outcry, Kesha’s claims against Luke continue to fail in court. Much to the stars’ dismay, Kesha remains legally obligated to fulfill a six-album contract with the man she believed abused her.
Kesha poses for a recent Instagram photo.
The Dr. Luke saga is ongoing
Kesha has informed fans that Dr. Luke has in fact offered to release her from this contract. Only, however, if she agrees to retract her accusations against him. This she could not accept. “I would rather let the truth ruin my career,” she stated on Instagram in April 2014, “than lie for a monster ever again.”
If you are a producer the world might sometimes know your name but rarely do they know your face. Behinds the scenes you receive praise and money for your hits. And when it comes to unethical antics? They have an upper hand. It amazes me that Dr. Luke is actually still producing artists to this day. It makes me shiver knowing that the upbeat chart-topping song ‘Say So’ by Doja Cat was another creation of the shady creator.
Another artist who has challenged the actions of shady producers is Australia’s Jaguar Jonze. Appearing on Australian television in May, Deena Lynch shared her own harrowing experience of sexual misconduct. Two producers and one unnamed male photographer were revealed to have mistreated her. After her story was shared in such a public way, several other individuals impacted by the photographer’s abuse came forward.
Women are no longer alone
This seemingly small gesture, also led to many of Jaguar Jonez‘ fans speaking up about their own sexual harassment and experiences of abuse. “When I was sexually assaulted last year by two producers,” Lynch recently stated, “I felt alone, ashamed, and didn’t know what to do, or where to go. I am just writing this to say, that if you have been affected by a similar story and need a safe space to land in this sometimes terrifying industry – please reach out to me.”
Producers are not the only predators protected by their status in the music industry. What is more, such abuse happens in every industry. It is a sad reality that starry-eyed and vulnerable young women are taken advantage of over and over again.
Lady Gaga in 2021.
Real people are suffering
Producers are often an invisible power responsible for an artist’s success. Many have also been the most eccentric and hard-living personalities to grace the history of popular music. Phil Spector, for example, held pop stars at gunpoint, imprisoned wife Ronnie Spector inside his Hollywood castle, and died in prison earlier this year after shooting actress Lana Clarkson dead in 2003.
Historically such antics flew under the radar. Which makes it incredibly important that we now look at these celebrities who are now speaking out and, as much as we see their lives as an escape from our own, acknowledge that they are real people suffering from real trauma. I am amazed to see such a great change in how people are starting to receive stories of abuse, and commend those that are willing to speak out.
Taylor Swift gifted Kesha $250,000 (US) in 2016 to help fund her legal battle.
Taylor Swift has been a notable supporter of Kesha during this difficult time, and support like this is incredibly important for other sufferers to see. Especially when their own abusers remain at large. What is more, if we can listen intently to those willing to speak up, and support them with our words and actions, we are creating further encouragement for victims to speak up about their abuse and trauma.
This goes for everybody. The is ball rolling. We now have to continue to encourage and support others. This is why I find people like Lady Gaga, Melanie Martinez, Kesha, and Jaguar Jonez so inspiring. If one message can be drawn from their actions it is this. We can do it.