Why The White House Is Asking Students To Sing A Lady Gaga Song

The It's On Us campaign has launched a new contest to raise awareness about sexual assault.

College a capella groups around the country can now compete for the chance to get advice from big-name musicians -- and raise awareness about campus sexual assault at the same time. All the groups have to do is record themselves covering Lady Gaga's "Til It Happens To You."

The White House's It's On Us campaign, run in conjunction with the Center for American Progress, is helping lead the contest, which is part of a series of celebrity-backed efforts to bring attention to sexual assault on college campuses.

"Til It Happens To You," composed by Diane Warren, is the theme song for the campus rape documentary "The Hunting Ground." The film has been screened at hundreds of colleges, and the song has been nominated for a Grammy and an Oscar.

Before singing "Til It Happens To You" at a recent performance, Lady Gaga told the crowd that her aunt had suffered extensively after being sexually assaulted in college. The artist has also spoken about her own experience as a sexual assault survivor.

Catherine Hardwicke, who directed the music video for the song, told The Huffington Post she hopes the contest will help raise awareness about sexual assault, adding that student-created videos have the potential to inspire emotional reactions from viewers.

"A very visual performance by an actress can rip your heart out," she said.

"The video can feature the choir or feature other images too -- doesn't just have to be the singers," explained Hardwicke, who is also the director of "Twilight," "Lords of Dogtown" and "Thirteen." "If somebody wants to work with the dance troupe in their school, or drama group in their school, they can do that."

Last year, even before It's On Us decided to launch the contest, some college a cappella groups uploaded videos to YouTube of themselves singings "Til It Happens To You."

"It's kind of a cool, exciting idea," Hardwicke said. "It encourages people to take this beautiful song, this powerful song, and make it their own."

The contest will award the winning team with a Skype session with Pentatonix; a class with Warren and 16-time Grammy-winner David Foster; and a video chat with music supervisor Bonnie Greenberg and Trudy Green, who manages musical groups and artists.

Hardwicke, Warren, Pentatonix, Green and Greenberg will judge the contest, as will LL Cool J and Lady Gaga's mother, Cynthia Germanotta.

The contest was launched this week and is organized by the It's On Us campaign, ROK Mobile and "The Hunting Ground." It's only open to college a cappella groups that are registered on campus and are made up of current full-time registered students. They must create their own rendition of "Til It Happens To You" and post it to YouTube, then submit to the contest online. Videos for the contest are due on or before Feb. 26.

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