This was initially made available as a promotional single from Lady Gaga's ARTPOP
album. Upon its release, the song received acclaim from music critics and topped the American iTunes highest selling songs list within five hours. Such was the positive response, that it was released as the second single instead of the planned "Venus
The song features R. Kelly. At the time, Gaga was pleased to have Chicago's R&B mastermind on the tune. "Can you believe that R. Kelly is on my album? He sounds so amazing and the song is so great," Gaga said during an interview on Live 101.5. "It's an R&B record. I did a lot of genre tripping on this album."
But in 2019, after Lifetime aired the miniseries Surviving R. Kelly, Gaga recanted. The series gave voice to a number of women who accused Kelly of various crimes, including sexual assaults. The singer had been investigated before, but was never convicted - the Lifetime series finally swayed public opinion against him, leading many entertainers to renounce their collaborations with him.
On January 10, Gaga pulled the song from streaming services and issued a statement on Twitter standing by Kelly's accusers and offering insight into her mindset when she recorded the song. "As a victim of sexual assault myself, I made both the song and the video at a dark time in my life, my intention was to create something extremely defiant and provocative because I was angry and still hadn't processed the trauma that had occurred in my own life," she wrote. "The song is called 'Do What U Want (With My Body),' I think it's clear how explicitly twisted my thinking was at the time.
If I could go back and have a talk with my younger self I'd tell her to go through the therapy I have since then, so that I could understand the confused post-traumatic state that I was in - or if therapy was not available to me or anyone in my situation - to seek help, and speak as openly and honestly as possible about what we've been through."
A half minute snippet of the song was featured in a Best Buy commercial for Beats by Dre headphones in the US.
The song finds the two singers taking on their critics. Gaga also used lines from the song to tackle her detractors in a series of tweets. One missive was addressed to those who referenced her failure to outdo Katy Perry on the charts when they dropped their singles "Applause
" and "Roar
" on the same day. "APPLAUSE didn't DEBUT AT #1! KATY IS BETTER THAN HER! #UWontUseMyMind I write for the music not the charts," she tweeted.
Gaga told the story behind this song during a listening party at Berlin's famed Berghain club. "I've been living in Chicago and spending a lot of time there, and that's where R. Kelly hails from," she explained. "I was working on ARTPOP and I wrote ['Do What U Want'] on tour. It was about my obsession with the way people view me. I have always been an R. Kelly fan and actually it is like an epic pastime in the Haus of Gaga that we just get f---ed up and play R. Kelly. This is a real R&B song and I [said 'I] have to call the king of R&B and I need his blessing.' It was a mutual love. He's a very, very, very talented man. I'm so excited to be on this album with him."
Gaga told USA Today that R. Kelly is her close friend. "It's not that unlikely. I've been living in Chicago, and he's from Chicago. When it comes to R&B, there's really nobody else to call," she said. "The thing we have very much in common is that a lot of people write very untrue things about me, and a lot of people write very untrue things about him. Look, it was the perfect marriage in that way. It was very emotional singing the song with him. He wanted to be my friend. We're both songwriters. When I talk to him he gets it and vice versa."
Producer DJ White Shadow broke down to MTV News how this duet came about. "When she started singing the song, we were on a bus in Europe and I was like, instantly, 'This is my favorite song. It's never going to stop that this is my favorite song on the whole record,'" he recalled. "We had gone over the idea [of a collaboration] ... and I was like 'You know what would be awesome? R. Kelly.' And she was like 'Sure, let's do it.'"
Lady Gaga and R. Kelly came together to give a raunchy performance of the song on the November 16, 2013 episode of Saturday Night Live
, which included the mother Monster simulating a sex act on the Chicago crooner. Gaga also performed her anthemic ballad, "Gypsy
," during the show, which the singer hosted and performed in several sketches. They included an opening monologue in which she pandered for "cheap applause
," a takeoff where she played an elderly version of herself hoping someone would recognize her hits from yesteryear and a spoof of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, in which the singer portrayed a fashion-challenged Apple Store employee.
The song was initially intended to be a Gaga solo song with the R. Kelly collaboration earmarked as a remix. "That song is genius," White Shadow told Billboard magazine. "The funny thing is that track was originally a discarded track from a remix that was never going to see the light of day. It's kind of amazing when you recollect it all."
An alternate studio version featuring American recording artist Christina Aguilera was released on January 1, 2014, marking the first collaboration between the pair. The recording session took place in the living room of singer Carly Simon's Martha's Vineyard home, with assistance from producer Jimmy Parr. Their female-empowerment interpretation substitutes Kelly's vocals for a verse performed by Aguilera, which plays up the song's theme of taking on haters and critics.