Lady Gaga can do “Do What U Want” with whomever she wants, it turns out. On uneven 2013 album ARTPOP, the disco-gliding single features recently re-embattled R. Kelly; on Saturday Night Live, the two performed the duet while simulating sex, and at the American Music Awards, they raised the stakes with some President Kennedy/Clinton affair-themed hijinks, just in time for the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination. On the December 17 finale of NBC’s The Voice, Gaga sang “Do What U Want” with Christina Aguilera, long pegged by the gossip mongers as a rival.
The powerfully sung (of course) performance, which came with slightly revised lyrics, drove home the way “Do What U Want” is less about sex than it is another “Applause”-like song about stardom. In place of Kelly’s hater-busting, naughty-getting verses, Aguilera sings, “My bones hurt / From all the shows / But we don’t feel the pain / ‘Cause we’re pro.” At one point, the Mother Monster rests her head on Aguilera’s chest; at others, they crossed arms hold champagne flutes. The general theme is one of commiseration between divas, which is appropriate.
Still, as the achievements of Beyoncé’s artfully pop, self-titled album sink in, the ARTPOP track’s neediness here — Queen B gives of her body, but only on her terms — is only another way 2013 has turned out to be, for Gaga and Mrs. Carter-Knowles, at least, something like the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards writ large. That’s the one where Gaga was in character all night as Jo Calderone, then Bey stole the show with her “Love on Top” baby bump. It’s sort of like, words can’t bring her down, you know?
The Voice season’s big winner was Jamaica’s Tessanne Chin, confirming her coach Adam Levine was not damaged by his supposedly unpatriotic gaffe. The evening’s guest performers also included Paramore, Aloe Blacc, and Céline Dion. Watch Hayley Williams & co. perform Paramore‘s “Sacrilege”-be-damned gospel-funk highlight “Ain’t It Fun” with Team Aguilera singer Jacquie Lee below. “Let’s take them to church,” Williams exults. Amen.