The airing of “Surviving R. Kelly,” a documentary chronicling allegations of abuse, predatory behavior and pedophilia against R. Kelly, has had far-reaching impact, including social media pressure on his associates to denounce him. Lady Gaga in particular has been a target because she collaborated with Kelly relatively recently. Together they dropped “Do What U Want (With My Body)” just five years ago, long after the history of Kelly’s abusive behavior had been established. Today she released a statement regarding the song, but for many it was too little too late.
Gaga dropped the song as part of her ARTPOP album in October 2013, and then selected it as the album’s second single. In an interview about the album and the single with MTV, she emphasized her longtime appreciation for Kelly. Said Gaga, “This is a real R&B song and I [said ‘I] have to call the king of R&B and I need his blessing.’ It was a mutual love.”
In support of the song, she appeared with Kelly on “Saturday Night Live” in a November 2013 performance that included simulated sex. They also performed the song at the November 2013 American Music Awards.
But wait it gets worse. Gaga tapped sexual scandal-plagued photographer Terry Richardson of all people to direct the song’s video. And while it was never officially launched (for obvious reasons) in December 2013 as planned, clips of the video were leaked (the image above is a still) by TMZ in June 2014 that included scenes of a passed-out Gaga being assaulted by a hospital staff that included Kelly. If it sounds like a rapey mess that’s because it was, and while the song performed well on the charts, Gaga was widely panned at the time for not only working with Kelly, but also performing with him.
Gaga finally reacted today (January 10, 2018) with a tweet that read, “I stand by anyone who has been the victim of sexual assault.” In a statement attached to the tweet, she wrote, “I stand behind these women 1,000%, believe them, know they are suffering and in pain, and feel strongly that their voices should be heard and taken seriously. What I am hearing about the allegations against R. Kelly is absolutely horrifying and indefensible.”
Regarding her decision to work with Kelly, she wrote, “I think it’s clear how explicitly twisted my thinking was at the time. If I could go back and have a talk with my younger self I’d tell her to go through the therapy I have since then so that I could understand the confused post-traumatic state that I was in.”
She ended the note by promising the song would be removed from all streaming platforms and as of now it has been taken down. However, it’s still up on YouTube on a channel that doesn’t belong to either artist with video pieced together from prior Gaga and Kelly videos .
While well received by some, the statement has generated renewed criticism of Gaga who is viewed by many as making the apology-free statement now because it’s award season and she has an agenda of clearing the runway in advance of Oscar nomination announcements on January 22nd.
If anything, the reluctance to accept her at her word is a statement on just how egregious the song, performances and video were. It’s not just a single song, it was a series of bad decisions by Gaga that started with the decision to work with Kelly in September 2013 and continued until December when the video was scrapped. So while the statement might provide some shelter to her most ardent fans, for anyone else, the statement comes across as a weak attempt to play by the p.r. rules required by the movie industry, ones that are slightly higher than the rock bottom minimums of the music world.
Check out her statement below.
I stand by anyone who has ever been the victim of sexual assault: pic.twitter.com/67sz4WpV3i
— Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) January 10, 2019