"Do What U Want" is a song by Lady Gaga and R. Kelly from her fourth studio album, ARTPOP; it appears as the seventh track on the album. The song was written by Lady Gaga, DJ White Shadow, R. Kelly, Martin Bresso and DJ Snake between 2012 and 2013. The song was registered on Gaga's BMI on November 5, 2013. The name and part of the lyrics were first revealed via Twitter by Gaga on September 21, 2013. On October 16th, Gaga confirmed that the track would be released as a promotional single on October 21, 2013 in the United States and October 22, 2013 worldwide. The same day, Gaga confirmed that due to the positive commercial response upon the song's release, "Do What U Want" would be replacing "Venus" as the album's second single.
After the resurfacing of sexual assault allegations against R. Kelly brought to light by the "Surviving R. Kelly" documentary, Lady Gaga announced that this song would be taken down from all streaming services. The song was also removed from new vinyl and CD pressings of the album in November 2019.
- 1 Background
- 2 Release
- 3 Performances
- 4 Lyrics
- 5 Music video
- 6 Credits
- 7 References
During the recording process of the album, DJ White Shadow requested the assistance of one of his friends from Chicago, Martin Bresso. One of the beats he gave him was a groove that he created in 2010 for a remix project that ended up being shelved. The beat was then reworked by Gaga and DJ White Shadow in 2012 when they had started writing the song on the tour bus in Europe. According to Gaga, she started writing the song in Chicago and finished it on an airplane to Milan in October 2012. She felt the groove could be used for many different things but ended writing an R&B song to it. At the time, she wasn't sure the song would be taken seriously as she had never written a true R&B song before. One of her previous attempts at an R&B song was an unreleased song written in 2008 titled "Second Time Around". Part of the recording process took place in Chicago, Gaga explained that she was influenced by the R&B and hip hop music scene of the city.
According to DJ White Shadow, the song "kinda stayed on a back burner for a minute" until September 2013. He discussed the song with Gaga and he described the conversation as followed: “I was like ‘You know who would sound good on this? R. Kelly’ and she said ‘Yes!’ So I called him up and put them on the phone together literally like 10 minutes later. Then we just made it happen. It is two writing/singing geniuses on one track. Seemed logical to me.”
|“||The lyrics are not only about, you know, the way that I feel now — sexually as a woman, in my life — it’s kind of like one of the greatest gifts you can give to a man, that you love, is just like, “Do what you want with me, I don’t care.” And then, at the same time, it’s about the press and the media, and it’s about becoming more and more famous, and really needing to figure out a way to — in my mind — to handle all of those things, and I’ve really, kind of navigated all of that by knowing that: they do what they want with my body — but that’s just the vehicle for my music and my records — but my mind and my heart, that’s what I get to keep, that’s the part that’s sacred, that’s what they can never have. So, I asked R. Kelly to be on this not only because I’m a big fan but, because he’s from Chicago, and Paul’s from Chicago, and I was living there, so it just kind of made sense. And, this is something that we both really have in common, you know, a lot of people write a lot of lies about me all the time, and a lot of people kind of write about him all the time; so, we really really connected with this song, and it became like an emotional experience for me. For the both of us, on the set, we had a great chemistry, shooting the video, and I’m really excited for people to see it, and to hear it.||”|
Gaga explained that since she was also living in Chicago at that time and that both Paul and R. Kelly are from Chicago that it was a logical choice for Kelly to be involved. Gaga's insecurity regarding the genre of the song vanished when she received R. Kelly's "blessing" since he is regarded to by some as the "king of R&B". She also said that the press often printed lies about him which they also do to her and that the song was perfect for them. Before meeting him, Gaga revealed that she always been a fan of his and that "it is like an epic pastime in the Haus of Gaga that we just get fucked up and play R. Kelly."
Asked about the collaboration, R. Kelly revealed that before meeting Gaga, he had a preconceived notion of the singer being "locked into her character" and she would not "give a damn about what anybody has to say about it". However, when he came to know about Gaga's determination and her artistry, Kelly was impressed and described the collaboration as "natural jelling".
On April 30, 2021 during "no skips” ARTPOP party at the Scarlet Bar in Chicago DJ White Shadow revealed that Do What U Want is one of his favorite songs he’s ever made and “it’s a fucking shame what happened,” implying the release of the Lifetime series, Surviving R. Kelly, which documented the sexual abuse allegations against R. Kelly.
The song was mainly inspired by a media backlash in late September to October of 2012 due to her recent weight gain. Pictures taken during shows of the Born This Way Ball were posted in various media where Gaga is seen to have to put on weight. Gaga's mother soon called her when she heard it on the news to discuss the matter with her. At first, Gaga didn't believe her mother and thought it was extremely shallow to discuss her weight in the news when wars, famine, and illness are happening in the world. In the past, she has been vocal about her body issues and addiction to drugs which could be the cause of her weight gain. The real problem, however, was her then unidentified hip injury which made her swollen and her frequent drug use to ease the pain. Gaga then decided to write a song that would take a stance on such incidents and she would dictate whatever she wants to portray instead of being transparent in front of the world.
In the track-by-track ARTPOP commentary on Sirius XM, Gaga explained that in general, she found the media more and more invasive and critical to her as she became more famous. This leads her to the realization that they, the media, can do what they want with her body, which she described her vessel for her music and her record, but they can't touch her heart nor her minds which is the parts she gets to keep for herself and her fans.
A Body Revolution 2013
- Main article: The Born This Way Foundation
Around the same time Gaga's weight gain became news in the media, Gaga decided to turn the media scrutiny on her body into something more positive and self-empowerment. Thus, she created on September 25, 2013 "A Body Revolution 2013" which debuted with Gaga and Tara posting pictures of herself embracing her curves and insecurities. She then encouraged her fans to do the same on Little Monsters so they could all become brave together.
Musically the song is a synthpop and R&B track containing '80s throbbing synths and an electronic beat. Asked in an interview to MTV, DJ White Shadow described the sound of the song as being "some space age George Jetson R&B." According to the sheet music published at Musicnotes.com, "Do What U Want" is set in the time signature of common time, with a moderate tempo of 96 beats per minute. It is composed in the key of A major with Gaga's vocals spanning the tonal nodes of E3 to F♯5. The song follows a basic sequence of D–E–F♯m–E–D–E as its chord progression.
|“||"Do What U Want" featuring R. Kelly, which is a song that I wrote in Chicago, and I finished it on the airplane to Milan. It started out as a groove that DJ White Shadow sent me, and I was just so obsessed with it, but I just didn’t know what it was gonna be yet. I thought this could be so many different things, and I, I ended up writing an R&B song to it; and I was like, “Oh fuck — I don’t even know if anyone will take this seriously... I’ve never really made a true R&B song before,” but everybody loved this record.||”|
For the recording of the song, Gaga brought new collaborators that were mixed with people she had worked with in the past. Previous collaborators included DJ Snake, who contributed to the production of "Government Hooker" in 2010, recording engineer and mixer Dave Russell, who worked on the majority of her songs since 2008 and Bill Malina, who also assisted recording in 2011 for "Born This Way". The newcomers were Tim Stewart, Gaga's guitarist for the Born This Way Ball along with Martin Bresso and Dino Zisis who contributed to the music.
The song was recorded between 2012 to 2013 at Record Plant in Hollywood, California, USA. The production was done by DJ White Shadow and Gaga with additional contribution by Martin Bresso and DJ Snake. R. Kelly vocals were recorded during his recording sessions for "Black Panties" at Patchwerk Studios in Atlanta. For his vocals, Kelly used his own team consisting of Donnie Lyle, his musical director, and engineers Abel Garibaldi and Ian Mereness.
A snippet of "Do What U Want" (feat. R. Kelly) was first heard on a Best Buy commercial ("Beats Blue Studio") for Beats on October 17, 2013. Before the release, Gaga hinted at the commercial on October 15, 2013: "there MAY be a snippet of certain LADY GAGA R KELLY JAM in a @beatsbydre commercial thurs #ARTPOPsnippetDoWhatUWant R KELLY IS ON ARTPOP". The ad created by Wunderman agency featured John Wall, a NBA player and actor Azim Rzik as the Best Buy vendor.
The track was made available early on the iTunes Store ahead of the full release of ARTPOP. "Do What U Want" was released as the album's second single on Amazon.com on October 21, 2013. It was also used in "Balloon", a commercial for UK mobile company O2 as part of the "Be More Dog" campaign. The commercial was shot on October 18, 2013, in the United States and direct by David Wilson for agency VCCP London.
On October 16th, Gaga confirmed that this track is going to be a promotional single. It was released on October 21, 2013 in the United States and on October 22, 2013 worldwide. The same day, Gaga confirmed that due to the positive commercial response upon the song's release, "Do What U Want" would be replacing "Venus" as the album's second single, with Gaga planning to release "Venus" on October 27, as originally planned, though as a promotional single. An EP of remixes was released digitally on February 25, 2014.
The night before the song's release, Gaga took to Twitter to publicly and controversially address her critics. She included lyrics from "Do What U Want" with each tweet, and spoke about gossip that has surfaced throughout her career, including rumors of the singer being a hermaphrodite, gaining weight in 2012, as well as her drug addiction. Other subjects addressed included the negative comparisons between Gaga and Madonna, and the media pitting the singer against fellow pop musician Katy Perry when Gaga's single "Applause" and Perry's "Roar" were released within days of each other.
Gaga tweeted the cover art for "Do What U Want" on October 18, 2013. It follows the same design aesthetic started with the "Applause" cover. This time around, photographer Terry Richardson, took the picture of Gaga's buttocks and handwrote the text. The photograph was taken a day earlier.
In an interview with German television station ProSieben, Gaga said that the reason for choosing the explicit picture was her belief that the general public did not value art and would commercialize it, which she did not fancy. So the picture of her buttocks was a form of a statement from Gaga that it was "just another piece of ass for you to buy. You will not have my heart or mind, because you don't deserve it. I would give it to my fans because they would receive it with love... When I look at how society has changed, I feel like this is a good time to show you my ass, because its all I choose to give you."
A censored version of the cover featuring a pale mauve coloured skirt edited over the top of Gaga's buttocks was used in selected countries in the Middle East.
Gaga initially defended her collaboration with Kelly, saying that they both have had "sometimes [...] very untrue things written about" them. However, on January 10, 2019, Gaga spoke out after the release of the Lifetime series, Surviving R. Kelly, which documented the sexual abuse allegations against Kelly. The singer confessed her regret about working with Kelly, explaining that her thinking was "explicitly twisted" and that she had "poor judgement" at that time. Gaga vowed to support women who had been through abuse and by the next day had the track removed from iTunes and all streaming services. Keith Caulfield from Billboard reported that even the remixes featuring Kelly were not playable on Spotify and other platforms, only the version featuring Aguilera was present. He theorized that since changes to digital music services take time, Gaga's management were working and removing the song from every medium gradually. Following Gaga's statement and just hours before the song's removal, sales of "Do What U Want" rose by 13,720% in the US to 2,000 music downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The song was removed from new vinyl and CD pressings of ARTPOP in November 2019.
Remixes & alternate versions
Non R. Kelly version
Although the album version features R. Kelly, the original version featured only Gaga's vocals. Lyrics from the original solo version were posted on January 26, 2013 by Gaga via her Twitter: "My bones hurt from all the shows But I dont feel the pain cuz Im a pro I sink in then Im ok cuz my body belongs to u when Im on stage."
The original solo version was used during a promotional video for the 2013 opening of an H&M store in Times Square. For the majority of the live performances of the single, Gaga sang the solo version. The solo version was also used as the base for the duet with Christina Aguilera.
The solo version of the song surfaced online of April 7, 2014, and was later on a couple of radio compilations of songs titled "Do What U Want" (Non-R. Kelly Version, 3:37).
|Spain||April 1, 2014||Europa FM 2014||Track #3 on the 2nd CD|
|France||April 7, 2014||NRJ Extravadance 2014||Track #7 on the 2nd CD|
Gaga announced on Twitter on November 29 that: "Do What U Want the Remix feat. RICK ROSS. It's happening." The remix was produced by DJ White Shadow. Ross told in an interview with MTV that he was not prepared for collaborating with Gaga and that is was her team that contacted him about the collaboration. It was released on December 20, 2013.
The remix starts with Kelly's vocals with a new introduction, followed by Ross rapping on a verse, adding new lines like "Photos of the Bawse just to post 'em on a blog/Get alotta views cause they know we be the top/Jean Basquiats in the hall, she my work of art so I pin her to the wall."
The artwork for the song is the same as the original single cover, with Rick Ross' name added to the bottom.
Released: December 20, 2013
Photography: Terry Richardson
|1.||"Do What U Want" (DJWS Remix) [feat. R. Kelly & Rick Ross])||4:19|
Remix feat. Christina Aguilera
Prior to the announcement of Gaga's performance on The Voice, producer DJ White Shadow got a tweet by a fan on November 25, 2013, requesting a remix of either "Do What U Want" or "Sexxx Dreams" with Christina Aguilera. He replied "wouldn't that be fun? I'll ask." Gaga's performance was confirmed for The Voice on December 12, 2013. After the performance, Carson Daly asked how the collaboration came about, which Gaga replied with: "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'"
After Gaga and Aguilera performed "Do What U Want" on the December 17 finale of The Voice, Aguilera recorded her portion of the revamped single in the days before Christmas. On December 24, 2013, Aguilera posted on her social media accounts the following sentence: "Working on something special... Happy Holidays to all!! XoXtina" with a photograph of herself in a recording studio. For an article for Billboard, Interscope head of sales, Gary Kelly, explained that they wanted to release the song sooner but "by the time it was mastered and approved, iTunes was shut down—they weren't accepting any products." This led them to release it on all virtual stores on January 1, 2014. The artwork keeps the original layout but with a photograph of Christina and Gaga performing on The Voice finale. It was taken by Trae Patton for NBC Universal Media.
|Christina recording her vocals on studio.|
They used the original solo version to make the duet adding new ad-libs and the line "What you want Lady Gaga" and "What you want with me Christina" along with a few other modifications. The instrumentation was also altered with a new drums beats added among other things.
The artwork for the song features a brand new cover, with an image of Gaga and Christina performing "Do What U Want" together on The Voice.
Released: January 1, 2014
Photography: Trae Patton
|1.||"Do What U Want" ((feat. Christina Aguilera))||3:36|
Released: February 25, 2014
Photography: Terry Richardson
|1.||"Do What U Want" (DJ White Shadow Remix [feat. R. Kelly])||4:03|
|2.||"Do What U Want" (Samantha Ronson Remix [feat. R. Kelly])||4:27|
|3.||"Do What U Want" (Kronic Remix [feat. R. Kelly])||5:12|
|4.||"Do What U Want" (Steven Redant 'Madrid' Radio Remix [feat. Christina Aguilera])||4:00|
|5.||"Do What U Want" (Steven Redant 'Madrid' Club Remix [feat. Christina Aguilera])||7:31|
|6.||"Do What U Want" (Steven Redant 'Barcelona' Club Remix [feat. Christina Aguilera])||6:28|
|7.||"Do What U Want" (Red Ant & Amp Lexvas Deep House Remix [feat. Christina Aguilera])||6:49|
|United States||October 21, 2013||Digital download|
|Germany||October 22, 2013|
|Australia||October 23, 2013||Contemporary hit radio|
|Italy||October 25, 2013|
|United Kingdom||October 30, 2013|
|United States||November 5, 2013||Rhythmic radio|
|Contemporary hit radio|
|December 20, 2013||Digital download – DJWS remix feat. Rick Ross|
|January 1, 2014||Digital download – feat. Christina Aguilera remix|
|February 25, 2014||Digital download - Remixes|
|DJWS Remix feat. R. Kelly & Rick Ross||4:19||DJWS Remix||2013|
|Remix feat. Christina Aguilera||3:36||2014|
|Chew Fu House ReFix feat. R. Kelly||4:04|
|DJ White Shadow Remix feat. R. Kelly||4:03||Do What U Want Remixes|
|Samantha Ronson Remix feat. R. Kelly||4:27|
|Kronic Remix feat. R. Kelly||5:12|
|Steven Redant "Madrid" Radio Remix feat. Christina Aguilera||4:00|
|Steven Redant "Madrid" Club Remix feat. Christina Aguilera||7:31|
|Steven Redant "Barcelona" Club Remix feat. Christina Aguilera||6:28|
|Red Ant & Amp Lexvas Deep House Remix feat. Christina Aguilera||6:49|
Gaga performed the song for the first time on The X Factor (ITV) on October 27, 2013. She has performed the album version with R. Kelly, her original solo version and also as a duet with Christina Aguilera.
Although Terry Richardson did the artwork for the single, his role as director was unconfirmed until November 11, 2013. On the night of the artRave, Gaga confirmed and revealed that he was indeed the director and that the video was already shot. They shot the music video on November 4, 2013, in an unknown location. This is the second video collaboration by Gaga and Terry of their yet released film they shot during the Born This Way era. During a Q & A on Twitter, Gaga revealed that the video would be a little bit longer but less than the "Marry the Night" music video.
- Lady Gaga wears a shirt by Saint Laurent, underwear by Fleur Du Mal, and sunglasses by Moscot.
- Lady Gaga wears a custom paper dress by Perry Meek, and shoes by Pleaser.
- Lady Gaga wears a custom suit by Versace, and earrings by Swarovski.
- Lady Gaga wears a coat by Helen Yarmak, pants by Saint Laurent, and shoes by Marni.
- Lady Gaga wears a custom robe by Versace.
- Lady Gaga wears a custom glass overall by ThreeASFOUR.
On November 26, 2013, BitTorrent announced that they will release a "Lady Gaga X BitTorrent Bundle" as part of their partnership with VICE media. The bundle was to include 4K footage documenting the making of the music video, photos and exclusive video interview with Lady Gaga and Richardson, led by VICE Editor-in-Chief Rocco Castoro. The original release date was December 3, 2013, on BitTorrent Bundles but was pushed back as the video needed more work.
On January 6, 2014, Gaga posted a note on Little Monsters regarding the music video in which she explained the delay to some mismanagement of her schedule. However, she did not give a date nor any indication regarding the status of the music video. As of March of 2014, the third single "G.U.Y." got a music video which can be interpreted that the music video for "Do What U Want" was shelved and won't be released.
On June 19, 2014, a thirty-second trailer for the video leaked. Many said that the video was scrapped because it was literally 'an ad for rape'.
R. Kelly Version
|Writers||Lady Gaga, DJ White Shadow, Martin Bresso, William Grigahcine and R. Kelly|
|Producers||DJ White Shadow and Lady Gaga|
|Co-producers||Nick Monson and Dino Zisis|
|Recording by||Dave Russell and Bill Malina at Record Plant, Hollywood, CA|
|Additional recording||Ghazi Hourani|
|Assistant recording||Benjamin 'Ben' Rice at Record Plant|
|Musical director for R. Kelly||Donnie Lyle|
|Vocals recording for R. Kelly||Abel Garibaldi and Ian Mereness at Patchwerk Studios Atlanta, GA|
|Assistant recording||Zane Shoemake at Patchwerk Recording Studios|
|Guitar||Tim Stewart for Haus of Gaga|
|Synth arrangement||Lady Gaga|
|Union contract adminstrator||Ivy Skoff|
|Mixing||Dave Russell at Record Plant, Hollywood, CA |
Heard IT! Studios, North Hollywood, CA
|Additional mixers||Dino "Speedlove" Zisis and Bill Malina at Record Plant, Hollywood, CA|
|Assistant mixers||Benjamin "Ben" Rice and Ghazi Hourani|
|Mastering||Gene Grimaldi at Oasis Mastering, Burbank, CA|
|R. Kelly appears courtesy of RCA Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment.|
Christina Aguillera Version
|Mixing||Manny Marroquin at Larrabee North Studios, Universal City, CA|
|Assisted||Chris Galland and Delbert Bowers|
- Luis Gomez, "How R. Kelly ended up on Lady Gaga's 'Do What U Want' ", Chicago Tribune (2013)
- Lorena Chouza, "Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP Track-by-Track on SiriusXM Hits 1", Sirius XM (2013)
- Scott Mills, "Lady Gaga talks to Scott Mills", BBC Radio 1 (2013)
- Lady Gaga, Album listening party at Berghain club, Germany on October 24, 2013
- Staff, "R. Kelly Talks Lady Gaga Collabo & 'Black Panties' Album In CRWN Series: Watch", Billboard (2013)
- Staff, "Exklusiv-Interview", ProSieben (2013)