JoJo Siwa with a mic in her hand on stage

JoJo Siwa Sure Is Stirring Up Controversies With Her ‘Rebrand’

So not only is JoJo Siwa in the news because of her new look, but she’s been saying some things to promote her new song that has people talking. Well, that and the “new” song has people wondering what is going on with the former star of Dance Moms.

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While people like to poke fun at Siwa for her energy and her past moments on reality television, this latest string of controversies come at a time when we really are questioning what she’s up to. Her new song “Karma” is meant to be her invention of the “gay pop genre” which is neither new nor is “Karma” a stand-out song in that genre.

But it gets even weirder when you start to dive into who actually wrote this song that Siwa claims is hers (but not that she wrote it). Let’s talk about these controversies and what is going on with the pop star.

Who really wrote Karma?

“Karma,” as a song, is fine and feels dated. There is a reason for that. The song was originally written by Brit Smith and was supposed to be for Mily Cyrus back in 2011, but Cyrus didn’t want the song. Now, Siwa has taken it and fans are a little confused by what is happening.

Siwa’s version of the song has her standing and dancing with women on a boat.

Brit Smith released the song herself with Timbaland back in 2012, seemingly after Cyrus passed on the song.

While Siwa has never outright said that she wrote the song, she insinuated things about it that can be read as such. In an interview with Billboard, she talked about the creative process for “Karma” and talked a lot about how they wanted to frame it and what words she wanted to use.

“This song is so special and I knew that I wanted this song to be, not only a part of my life, but part of my life in such a massive way in such a big picture,” she said. “Originally, I was scared of the lyrics. I was 18 years old, I didn’t want to say b*tch, I didn’t want to say I was a bad girl because I wasn’t a bad girl. So then we did some versions of the song you know, we did a version where it was ‘You were a bad girl. You did some bad things.’ And then we did ‘she was a bad girl. She did some bad things.’ And I was like, well, why are we making it specific to girls? ‘They were bad.’ Okay, that doesn’t work. We tried all the versions and then nothing was as strong as ‘I was a bad girl.’”

She went on to talk about how many times they changed “Karma” during recording: “We actually recorded ‘Karma’ six different times. I had six sessions on ‘Karma,’ a couple of times with different vocal producers. That was really just because it’s such a massive song with so many elements. If you listen to the first version of ‘Karma,’ a whole different song, the bridge, a whole different bridge, the bridge basically the whole time was one note and it was really cool.”

Now, I will say that musically the two versions are a bit different, but lyric-wise, Smith’s and Siwa’s are the same.

The XOMG POP! of it all

A few years ago, JoJo Siwa hosted a show, Siwa’s Dance Pop Revolution, with her mother Jessalynn Siwa, that was meant to create a musical group. The original girls who made it through the show were Kiya Barczyszyn, Brooklynn Pitts, Leigha Sanderson, Dallas Skye, Tamara “Tinie T” Andreasyan, Kinley Cunningham, and Bella Cianni.

But as the group was on the rise, working towards their own performances and even a cruise, members started to slowly leave and fans questioned what was going on. An article for Rolling Stone detailed that the young singers were working in a toxic environment.

Leigha Sanderson and her mother, Anjie Sanderson, spoke to Rolling Stone, and one of the sources even details at one point that the entire vibe of the production of Dance Pop Revolution boiled down to production thinking, “It’s not a good day unless you make a kid cry.” Given Siwa’s history on shows like Dance Moms and working with Abby Lee Miller, the toxicity alleged by the Sandersons is not surprising.

None of this is new

Part of why everyone has a lens on Siwa is that she is selling her rebrand as a new thing. Many of us grew up in the Miley Cyrus and Lindsay Lohan versions of this same thing. In a way, Zendaya did a similar thing by going from Disney characters to Rue on Euphoria. The point is that young female stars who were child performers often do this transition from teen icon to “I am an adult” with their brand.

Siwa selling this as her own original idea just puts a target on her back with things like Smith’s song and her KISS-inspired look. It isn’t rare that someone uses a song writer, and it is fine to do so. Not everyone has to be Taylor Swift.

(featured image: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartRadio)


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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.