Trigger warning: sexual assault, rape
Reviled and revered in equal measure, there is little room to deny Lady Gaga‘s relevance as a modern queen of pop music. For years, she has topped charts worldwide with her infectious, dance fueled songs and gained a reputation as one of the great contemporary entertainers. In addition to her success as a solo artist, she last year worked on a collaborative project with jazz/show tune icon Tony Bennett, which resulted in the album Cheek To Cheek, winning the pair a Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Album. Her new song, Til It Happens To You showcases this side of Gaga’s vocal capabilities. However, perhaps infinitely more important than the song itself, is the message it, along with the accompanying video, carries.
The song was co-written by Gaga and Oscar-winning songwriter Diane Warren (Aerosmith’s Don’t Want To Miss A Thing) while the video was directed by Catherine Hardwicke who directed the first Twilight film and was made as a tie in with a US documentary The Hunting Ground, which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
The Hunting Ground follows two survivors and activists, Andrea Pino and Annie E. Clark who fought for more vigorous action to be taken by universities in cases of sexual assault following their own experiences with sexual violence while enrolled at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The video for Til It Happens To You is part of a wider social awareness effort to bring the issue of sexual violence across American college campuses to light. As stated in the video’s credits “one in five women will be sexually assaulted [on college campuses] this year…”.
At just over five minutes long, the black and white video makes for difficult, at times uncomfortable viewing (please observe the sexual assault trigger warning), with depictions of assault committed against four women (one of whom is shown as transgender). The song is (presumably) about ignoring bad coping advice (about moving on and that The video features further Twilight alum with Nikki Reed portraying one of the victims. Though it hasn’t been stated how, the proceeds of the video are set to be donated to survivors of sexual assault. A longstanding advocate for social issues including bullying and LGBTQI rights, Lady Gaga has in the past discussed her own sexual assault. Gaga has partnered with a number of social awareness campaigns such as the MAC Cosmetics Viva Glam line, which sees 100 percent of the proceeds of a Viva Glam lipstick donated to the M·A·C AIDS Fund to support men, women, and children living with HIV and AIDS.
Last week, Gaga released the video for Till It Happens To You with a strong message stating saying “we have a responsibility to protect victim of sexual violence”, she followed with a tweet to her 50 million-odd followers which read “We hope u feel our love&solidarity through the song & perhaps find some peace in knowing u r not alone through this film”. The video opens with this message.