With reporting by Josh Horowitz
Out of all the impactful and socially conscious moments at Sunday night’s Academy Awards, one of the most memorable was Lady Gaga’s performance of “Til It Happens to You.” The emotional ballad -- co-written by Gaga and Diane Warren -- was featured in the 2015 campus rape documentary The Hunting Ground, and carries an empowering message for survivors of sexual assault.
On the Oscars red carpet prior to the show, Warren spoke to MTV News about the challenge of making a song that both works to the ear and can be a vehicle for change.
“How many songs do you hear that do that? That can really become a voice for change?” the famed songwriter said. “I mean, this song is changing things, and this song is becoming a voice for something that was silent. It’s making people feel empowered. And how cool to be a part of that and to do that.”
Onstage, Gaga was joined by dozens of sexual assault survivors, each with a message of strength written on their forearms. It was a chilling way to put real people’s faces to the cause, but there was one more person whose presence loomed large during the show: Kesha. The pop singer is currently embroiled in a legal battle with her alleged rapist Dr. Luke over her recording contract, and she’s been championed in recent days by Gaga herself.
“I feel bad for her,” Warren said. “I mean, if I was [Dr. Luke] I’d let her go, you know? I mean, I feel bad for her. She seems like a really nice person, I met her.”
Finally, Warren confirmed that she is collaborating with Gaga on the singer’s forthcoming fifth studio album, saying, “It’s going to be great stuff. It’s really going to be great. She’s going to have a great next album.”
Though she and Gaga went home Oscar-less at the end of the evening (they lost to Sam Smith’s Spectre theme song, “Writing’s on the Wall”), Warren did foresee the weight of the performance ahead of time.
“Tonight she’s going to kill it more than she’s ever killed it, so be prepared,” Warren said. “Because this is a whole different level. She was making sound men cry at rehearsal. Have Kleenex. It’s going to be powerful.”
She was right about that.