So About Lady Gaga's History with R. Kelly

Fans are calling on her to speak out about the numerous sexual abuse allegations against R. Kelly

Lady Gaga is having a major moment right now thanks to her epic performance in A Star Is Born, but she’s also in the spotlight for a more sinister reason: She hasn’t denounced R.Kelly. While Lady Gaga has historically been a fierce advocate for sexual assault survivors (she’s even come forward as a survivor herself), the pop star has not spoken out regarding her murky working relationship with the R&B singer.

Following her notable absence from Lifetime’s recent Surviving R. Kelly docuseries—which details the awful alleged sexual assault cases involving the R&B singer and several underage black girls, including Aaliyah—Lady Gaga’s fans are calling on her to apologize for working with him. Here’s everything you need to know about their controversial song and why her silence is so deafening right now.

OCTOBER 21, 2013

Following the release of ‘Applause,’ the second single off Gaga’s 2013 Artpop album was ‘Do What U Want,’ which featured R. Kelly. At this point, R. Kelly already had a record of allegations and investigations against him that dated back to December 2000, so their collaboration was a total shock. Some speculate that because his victims were young black girls—a group that is, sadly, often marginalized and ignored by mainstream media—R. Kelly’s career continued. A collaboration with Gaga is no small feat, after all.

The fact that Lady Gaga would even work with R. Kelly was surprising, but the lyrics, videos, performances, and statements that followed were downright disturbing.

The Lyrics

Lady Gaga has explained that the ‘Do What U Want’ lyrics are about lies people have spread about her and how they can’t mess with her confidence because she knows who she is. However, with alleged creep R. Kelly on the track, the lyrics take on a whole other meaning. Take a look:

‘Write what you want, say what you want ’bout me
If you’re wondering, know that I’m not sorry
Do what you want, what you want with my body
What you want with my body! You can’t have my heart and you won’t use my mind but
Do what you want with my body
Do what you want with my body
You can’t stop my voice ’cause
You don’t own my life but
Do what you want with my body
Do what you want with my body’

NOVEMBER 16, 2013

Lady Gaga hosted and performed on Saturday Night Live, and, of course, R. Kelly was there by her side during the performance of ‘Do What U Want.’ Their set was pretty cringe-y, to say the least, and involved moves that can only be described as, erm, sex push-ups.

The video of their performance is still on Gaga’s official YouTube channel, which could mean she either forgot about it or just doesn’t see any issue with it.

NOVEMBER 24, 2013

The two perform at the American Music Awards. Alleged sexual assaulter R. Kelly is playing the president, which is unfortunately ironic in 2019. During the performance, Gaga sings, ‘Robert, are you OK? Or did they print some sh*it that makes you want to scream?’ As Gaga dances, R. Kelly shouts, ‘Who put these pictures on Instagram?’ Not the point, man, not the point, at all.


Gaga reportedly had just a week to get the ‘Do What U Want’ music video together, and she recruited alleged sexual abuser and photographer Terry Richardson to direct. The video, which was ultimately pulled, depicted Lady Gaga as a patient and R. Kelly as a doctor. In it, Gaga asks him, ‘Will I ever be able to walk again?’ He replies, ‘Yes, if you let me do whatever I want with your body. I’m putting you under, and when you wake up, you’re going to be pregnant.’ Wow, um, that’s hella creepy and gross on many, many levels.

The video and doctor-patient scenario was apparently a reference to Lady Gaga’s hip injury at the time, but there’s nothing that can explain that disturbing pregnant line. *SHUDDERS*

The video was originally set to premiere in December 2013, but it was never released. In a December 16 interview that year, Jim DeRogatis, a Chicago Sun-Times writer who has reported on R. Kelly for nearly two decades, described the ”stomach-churning’ sexual assault suits against Kelly in the 1990s, saying there were ‘dozens of girls—not one, not two, dozens—with harrowing lawsuits.”

You won’t find the official video on Lady Gaga’s YouTube channel, but there is a version of it floating around the internet.

DECEMBER 17, 2013

Following Gaga and R. Kelly’s live performances and the splash made by the DeRogatis interview, Gaga decided to drop R. Kelly and perform ‘Do What U Want’ with Christina Aguilera on the season finale of The Voice.

Gaga explained her decision to swap XTina for R. Kelly, but it’s somewhat hard to follow her exact logic: ‘I was really excited because The Voice called and said they wanted me to perform on the finale, and I obviously can’t refuse such an amazing show. And I said I want to know if Christina wants to do it with me.’

JANUARY 2, 2014

A few weeks later, Gaga and Christina release a new version of ‘Do What U Want’ without the ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ singer. Still no official statement, though. Hmmmm…


Gaga didn’t make a statement about Richardson or R. Kelly’s alleged assaults once the music video was chucked to the side. However, in January 2014, she blamed her management and scheduling issues, apologizing to fans for the delayed release—not the song itself. Here’s part of what she posted on her fan site, LittleMonsters.com:

‘Those who have betrayed me gravely mismanaged my time and health and left me on my own to damage control any problems that ensued as a result. Millions of dollars are not enough for some people. They want billions. Then they need trillions. I was not enough for some people.’

But previously, Gaga had flat-out defended working with the R&B singer, ‘R. Kelly and I have sometimes, very untrue things written about us, so in a way this was a bond between us…It was a really natural collaboration.’

JANUARY 3, 2019

Surviving R. Kelly premieres on Lifetime. Artists like John Legend and Chance the Rapper go on the record admitting they were wrong to ignore R. Kelly’s abuse for so long. According to Surviving R. Kelly‘s producer Dream Hampton, Lady Gaga apparently turned down the opportunity to appear in the documentary, choosing—once again—not to speak about her controversial relationship with the singer.

Here’s Hampton in her own words:

‘When it comes to celebrities, It was incredibly difficult to get people who had collaborated (artistically) with Kelly to come forward. We asked Lady Gaga. We asked Erykah Badu. We asked Celine Dion. We asked Jay-Z. We asked Dave Chappelle. (They’re) people who have been critical of him. That makes John Legend even more of a hero for me.’

JANUARY 9, 2019

After the docuseries premieres, Gaga fans continue pleading with her to acknowledge her shared past with R. Kelly:

As of January 9, Gaga still follows R. Kelly on Twitter and hasn’t commented on the docuseries or the work they did together. At the moment, the R&B singer is reportedlyunder investigation in Georgia—and he’s planning to ‘sue everybody.’

This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan US

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