Lady Gaga “Till it Happens to You” Music Video Review


The costumed, brightly made up future-pop diva we once knew is back. But this time, she has ditched her playful, strobe light ready dance-pop anthem, and replaced it with an emotional ballad.  Lady Gaga’s newest hit,  “Till it Happens to You” carries much of its significance through the music video that accompanies it.  Or, it may be more accurate to call it a public service announcement. Written and directed by Catherine Hardwicke, the director of “Twilight” and “Thirteen,” the video begins with a trigger warning “The following contains graphic content that may be emotionally unsettling but reflects the reality of what is happening daily on college campuses.”  What follows are the experiences of various young women who have been raped.  The video depicts the shame and isolation that stems from their trauma, until eventually they find solace in their respective networks of support.

The song is also tied to a documentary released last year, titled The Hunting Ground, which explores the issue of rape on college campuses, and investigates various universities attempts to cover up these occurrences in order to protect their own name.  The music video provides a more promising narrative by the end however, one that focuses on recovery, than on concealment.

The song’s orchestral production of strings and Lady Gaga’s emotional vocal delivery, combined with the videos black and white graphics asks listeners to stand in the positions of these victims and recognize the profound inner turmoil they must face, often in isolation.  Words written on the victim’s arms like “I’m worthless” and “Sometimes I hate myself” reflect the deep impact of their experiences, experiences that have literally become a part of their flesh.  The song and video encourage the idea of coming forward for support, and being an agent of support.

The feel of Lady Gaga’s classically catchy hits carries over here, but this time, what we have stuck in our head is the images we saw, and hopefully the dire necessity to do something about it.  The song’s composer, Diane Warren, says in an interview with The Huffington Post, “I didn’t want to sugarcoat it.”  And what we see is certainly not sugar coated.  It is a harrowing depiction of reality.  As images of the women’s rape flash across the screen viewers feel the flash backs and incessant torment of these memories.

While rape culture is often tied to pop culture, especially through music videos, Lady Gaga’s “Till it Happens to You” reverses this convention, using media instead to challenge the culture that protects perpetrators and advocate for a culture that protects victims.  Till It Happens to you is a haunting, raw, and imperative call to action.  It is a video that refuses to placate our desire to think our world is satisfactory and forces us to recognize that what stands in plain sight is a culture that necessitates change.

***A portion of proceeds from sales of the song, available on iTunes and other music services, will be donated to organizations that help survivors of sexual assault.


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