The Singles Party: Lady Gaga (f. R. Kelly), ‘Do What U Want’

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Lady Gaga. The ultimate pop music lightning rod. She is a divider of opinions, a constant source of controversy and in the end, entertaining. So when Mother Monster decided to drop her latest single featuring the one and only R. Kelly, we had to jump on this. And to no one’s surprise, the response to the song inspired the crew to write their longest responses to date. This an opinionated column this week…let us know how you feel too.

Nick Porcaro: I thought I accidentally put on “Hold On We’re Going Home” for a second there. Nope, “Do What U Want” is a bass-heavy, steady grooving, certainly intriguing choice of a second single from Lady Gaga’s upcoming Artpop. Gaga provokes on a number of levels as usual: her lyrics shut down any and all haters, asserting they can “do whatever they want” in discussing her body but they’ll never take her heart, her voice or her mind. In a way it sounds sort of like the assertion a recovering rape victim would make towards their assailant…

…and sure enough here comes R. Kelly, a man once indicted on child pornography charges. It should surprise no one that Kelly completely misses the double meaning Gaga is going for here, as he turns his verse into another tired alpha male assertion of sexual prowess. Kelly’s subject matter is the only sour spot on an otherwise solid effort from Gaga.

Between this and “Applause” it sounds like she’s finally embraced her powerful vocal cords as a songwriting force to be reckoned with, instead of drowning them out in tacky Eurotrash clutter—and here I was, ready to write her off after the mess that was Born This Way. Verdict: Add to playlist.

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Kelly Spoer: I honestly don’t know how I feel about this. On one hand, I hate R. Kelly, on the other hand, it’s utterly amusing to hear him totally ignore everything that Lady Gaga just talked about. He sings about how he’s her escape, while it quite obvious she’s much more than the sexy lady he sees her as. She is running intellectual circles around him and he’s too distracted to notice.

As a song though…eh. Not too excited about it. Especially as a follow up to “Applause.” Verdict: One and Done

Jason Stives: In 2008 Lady Gaga had every right to be the break out pop star of the year thanks in part to her fantastic first release The Fame. For two years it was nothing but solid pop and dance releases until her sophomore effort Born this Way split her audience in two. Minus a few select tracks the varying styles of Born This Way didn’t leave as much of an impression as it should have and up until recently I wasn’t sure if she could rebound from that with ARTPOP’s first single “Applause” far from impressing this reviewer despite being a current Top 10 hit.

But with “Do What U Want” Gaga has returned to her dance club beats and displaying the allurement that comes with her stunning vocals. The sexually charged track could be interpreted as a bit misogynistic in its intent but its part slow jam part club grinding euphoria. For all that can be said about the man and even his contribution here is questionable no one knows sexual energy and its blunt nature like R. Kelly who has been responsible for some of the best hip hop and R&B cuts of the past 20 years. It’s a wise choice on Gaga’s part and for me it might just be the revitalizing of her sound that she needed following Born this Way. At this point ARTPOP is guaranteed to be one of the most interesting releases of the coming month. Verdict: Add to Playlist

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Jason Kundrath: Musically, Lady Gaga’s latest single is a miss. The hook might get stuck in your head, but it’s more irritating than catchy. And while it’s got enough power in its propulsive, electro-bass engine to get heads nodding, mine was left shaking. If the song really soared, I might be able to look past the lyrics, but as it stands, the song seems to plod away with confused ambivalence, and its paradoxical message is to blame.

On the one hand, Gaga’s strong, defiant vocal seems to suggest some sort of self-empowerment. But ultimately, “Do What You Want” is a glib rationalization of her commitment to her own continued sexual objectification. Weird, right? Of course, the sexual element has been at work in her multimedia persona from the beginning. Apparently, she’s been thinking about it critically. This lyric, however, just seems unnecessary. You can hardly blame R. Kelly for missing the point on his verse. How else could he have played it anyway? (Plus, his “We don’t give a FUUUUUUUUUUCK!” is the priceless highlight of this whole affair.)

Gaga’s point here is confused and ultimately lost on those of her fans who aren’t super-mega-global pop stars struggling to define their images. In the chorus, she simultaneously resigns herself to the inevitable sexual element, weakly affirms ownership over her mind and voice, and – worst of all – provides her fans with the most overtly tawdry refrain of her career – “Do what you want with my body.”

Girl power!

Verdict: One and done.

Bill Bodkin: I’m supposed to be the tie-breaker here, but I honestly cannot be. This track is a whole bunch of “meh” followed by a shoulder shrug. Sure, it’s well-produced. Yes, it’s a bit catchy. But it’s completely unmemorable; it lacks any sort of staying power. R. Kelly does his R. Kelly thing…which only is awesome in the remix to “Ignition.” Lady Gaga, vocally, seems to vacillate between Madonna and Christina Aguilera. It’s just all over the place. I don’t hate this song, but I don’t love it either. Verdict: Abstain.

Final Verdict: Big surprise — Lady Gaga splits the panel. This one’s on you guys, are you going to listen to this new joint because of Gaga’s history of catchy pop songs or have you lost faith in her after you heard her last track, “Applause?” Let us know.

Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.

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