On Wednesday night (Jan. 9), Lady Gaga issued an apology for collaborating with R. Kelly on the 2013 single “Do What U Want,” following a week in which Kelly’s history of alleged abuse has been once again brought to light, this time on Lifetime’s recent documentary series Surviving R. Kelly. “What I am hearing about the allegations against R Kelly is absolutely horrifying and indefensible,” Gaga wrote in a note to fans posted to her social media accounts.
She later continued, “I intend to remove this song off of iTunes and other streaming platforms and will not be working with him again.” Less than 24 hours later, the Gaga-Kelly version of “Do What U Want” was no longer able to be streamed or downloaded on several major music platforms, including iTunes, Spotify and Apple Music, and is no longer playable on Gaga’s official YouTube channel. (An alternative version of “Do What U Want” that features Christina Aguilera duetting with Gaga, also recorded in 2013, is still available on digital platforms).
The idea that one of Gaga's singles can be swiftly and thoroughly removed from the Internet at large is a curious one. Upon its release, “Do What U Want,” the second single from her 2013 album Artpop, was a modest hit for Gaga: it has sold 1.2 million downloads to date, according to Nielsen Music, and accrued 92.6 million on-demand U.S. streams. The song, which Gaga and Kelly performed together on Saturday Night Live and at the 2013 American Music Awards, peaked at No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100.