Since thongs are having a moment now, we should let you know what’s up with Lady Gaga’s for “Do What U Want.” On the cover to the newly unveiled single, the pop star’s derriere, long hair and colorful lingerie are part of her new iteration, a turn at club R&B featuring R. Kelly.
Kicking off with some traditional ad-libbing over what could be the “Drive” soundtrack, Mother Monster tries to combine her signature defiance into a certain pop radio formula. “You can’t have my heart,” check, “You can’t stop my voice / ’cause you don’t own my life,” OK, “… but do what you want with my body.”
schlock shock to hear lines like these, and, “I would fall apart if you break my heart / so just take my body and don’t stop the party,” not because of its expression of fear or trepidation, but because this is the same artist who brought us the Disco Stick: where is the joy in this sexual summons? Why is it so plain? Where is the half-insane art preambles, since she actually seems a little sad?
And why is she growling?
With that, a Christina Aguilera comparison is apt here, with the vocal runs and punctuated attacks like a trigger. The patient tempo gives Gaga a lot of room to (mostly) succeed with this sort of diva brio, as far as her voice is concerned, though this best-take scenario seems imitative rather than expressive.
Meanwhile, R. Kelly isn’t an extension of Gaga’s voice; he’s not her match, he’s not her ego or her voice of reason. As is any hire of R. Kelly, R. Kelly is R. Kelly and mirroring lines like “I could be the drink in your cup” with “taking shots at the back of the club” is about as, erm, stimulating as the literature gets.
All this is to serve an artifice, a new genre frontier for Gaga in the R&B realm, and I’m not sure yet if it suits her. It’s like Justin Bieber jumping behind the drums in concert: it’s not to benefit the music, but to prove simply that he can. The groove is simple and easy to follow, except I find myself mostly interested in her just trying to pull something this stylistically familiar and thematically rote.
Which brings us back to the single cover to “Do What U Want.” The song is about a literal body offering without emotional attachment, a fantasy fit for any listener if it were not for the explicit gaze at the smooth, ravishing butt of a faceless woman, an invitation to a female body as sex object alone. Pairing it with an R&B/electronic number seems so overtly conventional, its practically parody. Should be fine, though, if (in Kells’ words) you “don’t give a f*ck.”
So as per the invitation by the artist, I’ll do what I want to her body, which is to apply googly eyes, a costume dog muzzle and a comically red hat to her body, out of frustrations seeing an imaginative artist pander so unimaginatively.
“Do What U Want” is the follow-up single to Lady Gaga’s “Applause,” both featured on her next “ARTPOP,” out on Nov. 11. You can buy the new single now, or get it instantly with a pre-order of “ARTPOP.”