Last October, Lady Gaga’s duet with R. Kelly, “Do What U Want,” was released as Artpop’s second single. The track began receiving the full promotional push, including a live performance alongside Kelly on Saturday Night Live. But in mid-December, the Village Voice published an interview with veteran Chicago music journalist Jim DeRogatis that assembled 15 years of research into allegations of Kelly’s history of assaulting young women into a damning portrait of a sexual predator.
Wisely, Gaga and Interscope stopped the single campaign almost immediately, and a video for the song that had already been shot was shelved. But on Thursday, TMZ posted a 33-second clip of the “Do What U Want” video, and it’s clear why Gaga’s camp wanted to keep it under wraps.
Riffing on Gaga’s hip surgery last year, the video opens with her on an operating table being felt up by Kelly, who then sedates her and messes around with her unconscious body with help from a team of scantily clad nurses. In another sequence Richardson’s shown taking photos of a nude Gaga simulating sexual acts on a pile of tabloids. A source who spoke to Page Six about the video calls it “literally an ad for rape.”
This week, the video’s director, Terry Richardson, has been in the news for his own history of alleged sexual assault. Rumors that Richardson routinely made unwanted advances toward his models, along with accusations from models who claim that he pressured them into sexual activity, have been swirling around the fashion world and blogosphere for years, and a profile in the current issue of New York magazine, while largely sympathetic to Richardson, has brought them to the attention of a much larger audience.
Gaga distanced herself from Kelly immediately following the Village Voice piece, and has kept away in the months since. Richardson has been a closer collaborator with her than Kelly was—he’s become something like her official photographer, and he’s published an entire book of photos he’s taken of her. Gaga was allegedly unaware of the claims that have been made against Richardson in the past.