After blowing away the audience at the 2015 Oscars with her tribute to The Sound of Music, Lady Gaga took the stage once again, this time in the Dolby Theater. She gave the crowd yet another performance that pulled at the heart strings of all viewers at the 2016 Oscar Awards. This year’s accolade was an incredible performance of her song Til It Happens to You, a message to all victims and survivors of sexual abuse.
People are more open about speaking and thinking about sexual assault and many are more aware that it exists and can be a very real situation, not just one on television or shown on the internet. It’s fed to the public eyes through movies and television shows, including one who’s plot revolves around the idea of sexual abuse: Law and Order: SVU. The newest way that it is being noticed by the community is through this song. However, the way she presented the song added much more to the meaning of it all than just the words alone.
Five of the best aspects of the performance:
1. The outfit
Lady Gaga wore an all-white Brandon Maxwell, strapless jumpsuit. The look was stunning but for this performance, the white could mean a lot more- even if it wasn’t intended to. White is symbolic for light, purity, perfection and safety. Such a positive color was worn when discussing a very negative topic. As a sexual violence survivor herself, it could be a way to show that she got back her own light after such a dark thing happened to her and that she found her safety again.
“You tell me it gets better, it gets better in time
You say I’ll pull myself together, pull it together, you’ll be fine”
2. The lyrics
This song doesn’t give you the facts about sexual abuse. You won’t be told that 54% of abuse aren’t reported every year. Coming through your speakers won’t be that one in four or five women are raped in college. You won’t hear that there were 16,500 rapes in the military last year or that one in seventy- one men have been sexually assaulted during their lives. Instead you are listening to words of the part of the reports that the people don’t hear of. You are listening to the words of the feelings and thoughts and words of the victims.
“Till it happens to you, you don’t know how it feels, how it feels
Till it happens to you, you won’t know, it won’t be real”
3. The orchestra
In many songs, instruments can run together making it hard to pull out the specific ones that are playing. However, in this song, each violin, cello, and bass was heard perfectly and individually. Her piano playing was the main focus but the strings pulled it all together beautifully in the background. It started off slowly and got more and more intense ending with it ending quietly again, fading away.
“Till you’re standing in my shoes
I don’t wanna hear a thing from you, from you, from you
Cause you don’t know”
4. The survivors joining her on stage
At the climax in the song, fifty sexual violence victims and survivors joined Gaga on stage after a back drop was lifted. These men and women walked out and held out their right arms. When looking closely (when the camera zoomed in) the words on their arms could be seen by the audience. The arms read “we believe you,” “survivor,” “not your fault,” “unbreakable,” “it happened to me,” etc. They were messages to anyone who was dealing with or had already dealt with sexual assault. It’s a way to show that if someone is dealing with this you will be okay, you will accept it, you cannot blame yourself and that there will be no one doubting your accusations. And at the end, they all joined hands, including Gaga herself.
“Till your world burns and crashes
Till you’re at the end, the end of your rope”
5. The audience
This performance brought tears to the crowd, people on stage, and viewers at home. It ended with a standing ovation from the entire theater. As the victims that were on stage exited, Brie Larson stepped forward towards them and hugged each of them as they passed.
“Till it happens to you
you won’t know how I feel”
Along with spreading general awareness of this topic, Gaga was reaching out to and for, fellow singer, Ke$ha. Ke$ha is currently in the public’s eye dealing with her own abuser and producer, Dr. Luke. She was attacked “sexually, physically, verbally and emotionally.” Unfortunately, a New York judge sided with her offender.
***This song was made for a documentary on sexual violence on college campuses called The Hunting Ground: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBNHGi36nlM ***