The Jojo Siwa Complex

Siwa’s new “gay pop” song, “Karma,” and the attached music video are objectively bad. I think the majority of us can agree on that—the humping, the footage reversing and bland lyrics—everything about it just screams a weird blend of children’s pop and unnecessary vulgarity. Her dance moves can only be described with the words “violent intent.” But Siwa’s transition to adulthood was just that: a transition. And her first step isn’t about the music quality, but her ability to grow up. 

After seeing all of the “Karma” controversy, it must be so hard to be a child star. I say this as someone who tries to fly under the radar as much as possible, and who got their first job at 15—not 9—years old. 

I cringe when I hear about myself in middle school, and I can’t look at pictures of myself and my fashion choices (the side part was atrocious). To have your past remembered by millions of people, face plastered around the country, would be my personal nightmare. Every mistake would be televised, along with every relationship and private detail that would be best concealed; because you’re not a person anymore, but a concept. 

I never really understood why my mom loved looking back at my awkward old pictures until I found myself doing the same to celebrities I’d grown up with. It’s an icon you’ve grown up watching, hearing and talking about—and to see them change and grow up, as you have—is unmooring. Your childhood is officially gone, once they are, too. 

How she reacts to the online reception says everything about her as a musician and as a person, one who only very recently became an adult. Her aesthetic rebrand to knock-off Kiss and Miley Cyrus’ love child isn’t the only reason she’s being laughed at online; the controversy has stemmed from the fact that she lied about writing her song. That, in and of itself, is the most immature thing an artist can do: the equivalent of tracing Pinterest art in middle school and claiming it as your own. 

“Karma” was written by Rock Mafia and later performed by Brit Smith in 2012, after which Siwa bought the copyright. Covers and remixes are a respected, creative process if they’re given credit, and Siwa didn’t give any for a song that she barely changed from its original form. I was expecting something at least a little different since Siwa’s personality has always been loud (like her car, which is decorated with her own face.) Instead, it’s a mimicry of someone else’s style. It’s what you do in middle school trying to fit into a new friend group, and certainly not the move for someone who wants to establish herself as an independent, adult music artist.

Above all else, Jojo Siwa is an incredible businesswoman, and she clearly knows how to market herself. After all, her “Karma” music video has already reached 23 million views in less than two weeks since it was posted on YouTube. If her goal was to make money, it worked. If the goal was to establish herself as a different person, I’m not so sure she succeeded, no matter how much vulgarity she puts in her songs, how many girls she humps on a beach or how many tattoos she gets. As it stands now, her behavior hasn’t changed much from that little girl we saw on Dance Moms ten years ago.