Can We Talk About?: The Only Version of “Do What U Want” That Matters

Once Xtina and Gaga donned complementary disco wigs there was no going back.

“Can We Talk About?” is a weekly series where we sip some lukewarm tea and kiki about what the kids are doing. Get into it.

Do you remember when Christina Aguilera joined Lady Gaga on The Voice to belt in each other’s faces for a searing rendition of Mother Monster’s “Do What U Want”? Possibly not since NBC has all but scrubbed the video from the internets, but the gays remember—the gays always remember.

Yesterday, Gaga, finally addressed that head-scratch of a duet with noted Pied Piper non grata R. Kelly, featured on her underrated [?] third studio album, ARTPOP.

It was a different time, I guess—2013 was a rough year for everyone. I can’t quite recall what happened, but somehow I still don’t think R. Kelly was an acceptable choice for anything other than a “Trapped in the Closet” joke. Gaga, though, to make it clear that she was courting controversy for controversy’s sake, employed beleaguered fashion photographer Terry Richardson to shoot the single’s artwork.


We’re talking ill-advised yikes on top of ill-advised yikes, here.

But still, Gaga doubled down and even performed with the embattled singer at the American Music Awards. There was a White House/Oval Office/JFK and Marilyn vibe happening that we don’t even need to acknowledge or remember. But soon enough, the Lady realized she had made an “Ignition”-sized mistake and backtracked in the name of love, or at the very least, common sense.

On December 12, 2013—a day that should live in gag-famy—Gaga appeared on the season five finale of The Voice, where her once-rumored rival Christina Aguilera (née Xtina) lent her a helping hand, and a few octaves. Through the magic of gifs, let’s strap on a platform heel and sashay on down memory lane.

First of all, these LEWKS. In complementary champagne latex, or something of similar luminescence, the two divas have rarely looked better. Hell, two people have rarely looked better anywhere ever. Gaga is serving you vintage paws-up couture with a shoulder that carried all of NBC’s drama until the premiere of This Is Us. Meanwhile, Xtina is proving she’s still a little “Dirrty” with a classic frock cut all the way up to reveal more thigh than a KFC during the lunch rush. And we haven’t even gotten to the wigs.

Come on, wigs! Xtina repurposed her “Lady Marmalade” lace front but had her gays chop off about a third of it to serve you an elegant disco tease, and Gaga kept it simple and stunning with a “Just Dance”-era blunt bang. Because—guess what?—these two love a stunt.

From the performance’s opening seconds, featuring Gaga twirling her bell sleeves in some variation of an interpretive dance—the interpretation being, “Listen up, gays, this is what you came for!”—it was clear we were about to have some fun.

Christina got a lot of flack for her sixth studio album, Bionic, for seemingly hitching her assless chaps to Gaga’s then-freshly painted, electropop wagon. So when the haters lovingly named Gaga’s critically and commercially unsuccessful project Artflop, maybe it was with a dash of solidarity that Xtina joined this upstart whose voice was so often compared to hers.

But “Do What U Want” also takes on new meaning when sung by two women.

Gaga originally wanted R. Kelly for “Do What U Want” because he, as Gaga had at this point in her career, been subjected to a harsh level of media scrutiny. But whereas the negative attention paid to Kelly—everyone has slowly learned—was warranted, Xtina can certainly relate more to the song’s message of sexual consent via an allegory of media consumption, having grown up in the public eye and gone through her own trials regarding her body and its depiction cum exploitation.

Have you ever seen two pop icons enjoying each other’s presence as much as Lady Gaga resting her weary bangs on Christina Aguilera’s maternal bosom? So often women are pitted against one another, particularly female singers, but here we have two sisters doing it for their damn selves. Just today, Xtina, in a show of further solidarity, posted her support of Gaga’s recent statements on the social medias:

So you see, substituting Aguilera for Kelly only elevates the song. Especially if you want to talk about vocals. And honestly, when don’t you want to talk about vocals? Gaga and Xtina decided to just show up, hang out, and casually sing the house down. I’m surprised Nike didn’t try to throw a sponsorship their way—what with all the unnecessary runs.

If you were watching this performance, you probably remember screaming your head off. Here were two stunt queens pulling a stunt—in primetime, no less—and clearly for the gays, only to triumphantly raise a glass of champagne, while wearing champagne.

I mean, were you not entertainted? And in a moment of sisterly slaying, they locked arms and sipped to their own greatness.

But how—how, I say!—do you even end something so perfect, so epic, so wig-snatching? Why, by hurling those champagne flutes to the floor and burning what’s left of that studio to the goddamn ground, as if to say, “You’re fucking welcome!”

Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to find actual, professional footage of this performance: It was lost in the subsequent fire as Gaga and Christina ran off, holding hands, and cackling their wigs off. In the same key. That’s literally the only excuse I will accept, otherwise, NBC, release the doves and release the tapes! Until then, there’s this version of less than desirable quality, which really doesn’t do this historic gag the justice it deserves:

Lester Fabian Brathwaite is an LA-based writer, editor, bon vivant, and all-around sassbag. He's formerly Senior Editor of Out Magazine and is currently hungry. Insta: @lefabrat