The “Do What U Want” Chronicles: Or Lady Gaga Negates Both Her Feminism and Her Sense of Individuality

Lady Gaga’s second single and best song from the flailing ARTPOP album is shaping up to be one of her most telling career moves. Originally released as a duet with R. Kelly, the controversial Village Voice article that appeared in late December recast the light on Kelly’s lengthy history of sexual assault and statutory rape. Although his sexual depravity was no secret to anyone, Gaga still had no qualms about collaborating with him on the song. For someone who proclaims to be a feminist, this was already a contradictory action, but then Gaga had to go and make matters worse by reneging on her overt R. Kelly enthusiasm.

Instagram pals
Instagram pals
When leaks of the Gaga and R. Kelly track first surfaced, it was also around the time Gaga was quoted at a press conference for SiriusXM saying, “We share a connection in terms of what the song is about. A lot of people write untrue things about me and a lot of people write untrue things about him.” Much to her chagrin, the most scandalous things that have been written about Kelly have all been confirmed. And so, instead of embracing and owning her mistake, Gaga has opted instead to do as the lemmings do by distancing herself from Kelly by way of a Christina Aguilera version of “Do What U Want.”
Too close for comfort
Too close for comfort
After Gaga and Aguilera performed the song together on the season finale of The Voice, a studio version was released shortly after on December 31st. This release is quite convenient, considering Gaga still hasn’t released the video for the song and could easily replace Kelly with Aguilera to be featured in it. The one thing Gaga has always promoted in her pastiche is the importance of, in fact, doing what you want. In this case, however, Gaga’s intentions in recording a new version of the song with Aguilera seem fairly obvious: To put a certain country mile between her and the man who has continued to ignore or deny the concrete evidence against him.
Gaga's espousal of Kelly was conveniently waned when she re-made the duet with Aguilera
Gaga’s espousal of Kelly was conveniently waned when she re-made the duet with Aguilera
Jim DeRogatis, the journalist who has become Kelly’s most illustrious detractor, is the one person who has been condemned more than Kelly in all of this. Appalled by how fans and music critics alike can so easily dismiss Kelly’s actions, DeRogatis incisively noted, “The saddest fact I’ve learned is nobody matters less to our society than young black women. Nobody.” This revelation should be most alarming to Lady Gaga, a champion of the oppressed and maligned. But because she chose to collaborate with Kelly in the first place, Gaga is in a damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t sort of position. Now that she’s turned to Aguilera as her “organic” replacement to placate some of the outrage, she’s automatically admitted wrongdoing and gone back on her original compassion and admiration for Kelly. Whether the Terry Richardson-directed video will come out any time soon is up in the air. But either way, Gaga has generally come across in this entire affair as a misogynist conformist–two words she loathes.


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