After being raped at 19, she and songwriter Diane Warren have turned a painful experience into the power of music.
Nearly a year ago on “The Howard Stern Show,” Grammy Award-winning recording artist Lady Gaga revealed that she was raped when she was 19 years old. Now, with all the emotion that came with that experience and as much empathy as she can put into words and music for those who have endured the same, she and seven-time Oscar nominee Diane Warren have crafted a song that serves as something of an anthem for the cause.
“Til It Happens To You” from Kirby Dick’s recently Oscar-shortlisted documentary “The Hunting Ground” is one of the strongest contenders in this year’s race for best original song, yes. But far more than that, it is a rally cry for a movement.
“Being nominated for awards and things like that, they’re useful to move messages forward,” Lady Gaga said at a Beverly Hills luncheon and private performance of the tune Tuesday afternoon. The room was full of members of the Academy’s music and documentary branches. Dick, in fact, learned of the film making it onto the final list of 15 documentary feature contenders while chatting about its themes of institutional protection with those seated at his table.
“When Diane first played me what she had begun with the song, I needed no convincing about the record… it was about sharing that part of myself with the world,” Lady Gaga said. “We talked a lot about what I felt the song needed in order to reach as many young people as possible. I felt that it needed to not stay in a purely emotional state, but that it was going to somehow grow throughout the performance and the song and by the end, kind of be full of rage.”
She said she used to feel awkward and even guilty when talking about her experience with rape, but now it’s something that is part of her, that she has triumphed over. Warren helped her feel comfortable with that and to put the depth of emotion into a song that could reach beyond the world of the film and become something more.
“I feel like what this song accomplishes is women — or men — rising to say, ‘You think you can hurt me? You don’t know about power,'” Lady Gaga said. “‘Because after what you did to me, you don’t even know how much stronger I am.'”
Warren’s first Oscar nomination came in 1988 for the song “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” featured in the film “Mannequin.” She is a consistent favorite of the branch, having most recently been nominated last year for “Grateful” from “Beyond the Lights.”
The songwriter said she frequently receives notes and Tweets from people who have either been raped or are close to those who have. She read one such correspondence from an individual whose friend had been drugged and gang-raped, and who found in the song the realization that she was not alone in her time of crisis. “I mean, that’s what it’s all about,” Warren said.