It’s a difficult position where a highly exposed piece of art that puts forward a viewpoint that you support and is sorely needed is also a horribly right-on and unsubtle ballad trudging towards an ill-defined chorus and sloping off at the end to die in a corner. To think about the effect rape and sexual assault have on University campuses throughout the world, and the unique pain and suffering victims face, and to understand, to listen, and to work with these people to help them cope with the violence forced upon them and prevent others from becoming victims or perpetrators is possibly the most important social concern of our times and Lady Gaga’s ‘Til It Happens to You bravely doesn’t hint or suggest towards this point, but boldly steps up to it. Like her previous work with Born This Way it fails because it is so forthright, with no room for interpretation and no grey. Tell all the truth, but tell it slant.
The reason Robin Thicke’s revolting and inexplicably popular ‘Blurred Lines’ rubbed so many people up the wrong way is because its endorsement of sexual assault was veiled, however thinly, and its empty bluster stretched to cover a real conservative and ugly message about consent and coercion. Metaphors are powerful, suggestion is powerful because the stories we tell each other demand it. Gaga’s latest publicised output fails because the confrontation with the real is too stark, or too off-putting, or doesn’t allow us to imbue it with our own variation of meaning. The tragic photo of Aylan Kurdi dead on the beach of the nation he died trying to reach inspired more action than the cold statistics and stories that had been coming out of the growing refugee crisis for years. Stalin is (mis)quoted as saying that the death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions merely a statistic. Gaga’s song doesn’t engage musically the way it should and its message is too literal to seize like it should either.
Written under duress by Steven.