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Til It Happens To You by Lady Gaga

Album: The Hunting GroundReleased: 2015Charted:
  • Lady Gaga recorded this song for The Hunting Ground, which is a documentary film that documents the lives of young people affected by rape on college campuses in the United States. Penned by Diane Warren with Gaga, one version is used during a scene in the movie to underscore the pain of a survivor of sexual assault. Producer Amy Ziering told MTV News: "[When it plays], you're watching one of our lead subjects, who is an assault survivor, and she's just reflecting on the impact of the trauma, and walking around campus. The song just beautifully and hauntingly and poignantly underlines her pain, in a way that words alone couldn't do."

    A second version of the song plays during the movie's end credits.
  • Gaga revealed to Howard Stern in 2014 that her ARTPOP track "Swine" was based on a teenage experience of being sexually assaulted by a man 20 years her senior. The Hunting Ground director Kirby Dick commented to MTV: "Lady Gaga recently came out as an assault survivor, so to write a song… to have a song with her signing it, singing 'you don't know what it's like until it happens to you,' you know the voice of that person has experienced very similar things to what our subjects have experienced. I think that adds a deeper level to the music."
  • Diane Warren wrote the original draft of the song after being shown scenes in early 2013. She took the song to Gaga who promptly recorded it. "There are a lot of levels to the song," Warren told Billboard magazine. "There's something very vulnerable about it and something very defiant about it, especially the way [Gaga] sings it. The first verse is vulnerable - 'You tell me its going to get better?' - and the second verse comes in and it builds. Really? It gets better? No. You don't know until it happens to you."
  • The song was released as part of a public service announcement video, directed by Catherine Hardwicke, to raise awareness about sexual assaults in college campuses. The black-and-white clip portrays sexual assaults against mostly women, and how they cope after the incident. Actor Harvey Guillen, who plays one of the attackers in the visual, said, "I usually don't play an attacker, I'm usually the best friend or the funny guy. I talked to Catherine [Hardwicke] and her approach was really interesting. She said, I want to put a human face on the attacker to show it can be anybody.' Something happens when this friend that you trusted and let into your life is forcing themselves on you."
  • Warren told The Hollywood Reporter that Gaga brought the song to life. She added: "When I brought it to her it was a very somber ballad and she had this vision of making it this epic song."
  • In a 2015 Vanity Fair interview, Lady Gaga talked more about her rape and what this song means to her. She was 19 when it happened, and she didn't tell anyone for seven years. "I didn't know how not to blame myself, or think it was my fault," she said. "It was something that really changed my life."

    She added that it took lots of therapy for her to heal, and that the physical effects were long-lasting. "When you go through a trauma like that, it doesn't just have the immediate physical ramifications on you. For many people it has almost like trauma, where you re-experience it through the years after it, it can trigger patterns in your body of physical distress."

    The song is her way of speaking out in an effort to help other rape victims heal.
  • This was nominated for the Oscar for Best Song, but lost to "Writing's On The Wall" from Spectre. When Gaga performed the song at the ceremony, she was introduced by Vice President Joe Biden, who asked viewers to take a pledge at itsonus.org promising to intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given. Said Biden, "We must and we can change the culture so that no abused woman or man, like the survivors you will see tonight, ever feel they have to ask themselves, 'What did I do?' They did nothing wrong."

    When Gaga performed the song, a group of 50 sexual assault survivors - many of whom appeared in The Hunting Ground - joined her on stage with messages written on their arms like "Not Your Fault" and "Unbreakable." According to one of the survivors who appeared on stage, Gaga told the group that they were her "support system" for the performance. After the show, Biden met with all 50 survivors.
  • Diane Warren was awarded the Emmy for best original music and lyrics for this song at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards show on September 10, 2016.
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