Phew: R. Kelly not performing for President Obama at Selma

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

Someone thought it would be a good idea to let R. Kelly sing at an historic civil rights event, but thankfully, that idea has been nixed.


President Obama will be commemorating the 50 year anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery march this weekend, and according to Billboard, Lady Gaga and R. Kelly were tentatively set to perform together — but apparently never confirmed. I'm sure their performance is exactly what John Lewis had in mind when he was throwing his body on the gears of the system to fight for racial equality.

Just in case you forgot why this might have been an awful idea, Time has a breakdown of the skirmish behind the never-released video for the song "Do What U Want," which pairs sexual innuendo with sexual assault in a video featuring a man accused of sexual assault that's also directed by a man accused of sexual assault.

Imagine that you are a pop star who wrote a song called “Do What U Want” that prominently features the line “do what you want with my body.”

Now imagine that you invite a singer who has been the subject of several lawsuits alleging sexual assaults on minors to be the featured artist on the song.

Then imagine the song’s music video is directed by a photographer who has been accused of exploiting models and coercing them into sexual activity.

Then imagine that the concept of the video involves said featured artist playing the role of a doctor who does whatever he wants with your body while you are out cold on the operating table.

That’s the story behind the Terry Richardson-directed Lady Gaga video “Do What U Want,” which features R. Kelly.


Please note that Gaga and Kelly also performed the song together at the American Music Awards in 2013. The set was a mock-up of the oval office, and R. Kelly was literally pretending to be the president as he crouched over Lady Gaga on the presidential desk and she writhed around singing "So do what you want / What you want with my body / Do what you want / Don't stop, let's party" :

Considering the speech President Obama just made at the Grammy awards imploring people to help stop domestic violence, I'm glad he won't be sharing the stage with a man who has been accused of sexually assaulting minors, as if you can parse out violence against women into neat little boxes and ignore the ones that aren't part of your platform. The right hand doesn't seem to know what the left hand is doing, but consider this a dodged bullet.

Danielle Henderson is a lapsed academic, heavy metal karaoke machine, and culture editor at Fusion. She enjoys thinking about how race, gender, and sexuality shape our cultural narratives, but not in a boring way.

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