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Thou Shall Not Get Caught – JoJo Siwa’s Karma

The backlash surrounding XOMG POP! was so severe that many of JoJo Siwa’s followers have questioned whether her “Karma” era is a mere distraction from the controversy surrounding this group.

Shuttershock/Michael Mattes

What are the real motives behind JoJo Siwa’s “Bad Girl” rebranding?

On April 5, 2024, JoJo Siwa released her new song, “Karma,” which made the following assertions all within the first minute:

  1. I was a bad girl
  2. I did some bad things
  3. Thou shall not get caught or you’ll end up just like me

JoJo Siwa, born Joelle Joanie Siwa, is an American media personality who first made a name for herself as a fan favorite on the Lifetime show “Dance Moms.” On May 2016, Siwa released her first songs, “Boomerang” and “I Can Make U Dance”. Her fame only grew after her departure on “Dance Moms” when JoJo Siwa signed a deal with Nickelodeon in 2017. Under Nickelodeon, JoJo Siwa released several children’s songs and, in 2021, her own feature film, The J Team.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that the lyrics of “Karma”- and Siwa’s overall “Bad Girl” rebrand- has garnered an arguably equal amount of traction, pushback, and questions.

Oversaturated Karma

The traction began before Siwa even released her new song.

On March 18, she announced “Karma.” She then proceeded to post teasers of the song all over her social media platforms prior to its official release. Though, the word “oversaturated” might be a better word to encompass her marketing strategy.

On her TikTok alone, JoJo Siwa had posted over 130 videos about “Karma” in around a month. These videos consist of song teases, performing the dance from the music video, and highlighting parts of the creative process to produce both the song and music. She had also replaced all her previously pinned videos to three videos all about the production and release of “Karma.”

One of these pinned videos features Siwa sitting in her car, with “Karma” playing in the background. In the video, she says, “Like it or not, what’s been in your head the last three days.”

@itsjojosiwa

Just admit it’s a Guilty Pleasure🐻🔨🔃

♬ original sound – JoJo Siwa

As the song fades in, JoJo Siwa salutes to the camera with an energy drink. She then looks to the side to reveal the unicorn image sewn into the pastel blue driving seat of her car. Many commentors addressed the irony of this image paired with the line, “I was a bad girl.” Others question what “bad things” Siwa is referring to in the line that follows. They reference her Kid’s Choice Award and Bow Club in comedic disbelief.

Thou Shall Not Lie

The controversy only doubled within days of Siwa’s “Karma” release when Brit Smith’s 2012 unreleased music video of the same song resurfaced online. Smith’s version of the song became viral almost instantly, with millions of TikTok users praising Smith’s “Karma” over JoJo Siwa’s.

Brit Smith told Page Six in an interview that she once hoped the song would be her debut single. However, her record label at the time went with another song instead. Soon enough, Smith’s recording of the song ranked 8th on the U.S. iTunes pop charts. JoJo Siwa’s version of the song ranked 89th.  

When asked, JoJo Siwa told TMZ that she didn’t know who Brit Smith was. She denied any allegations of having “stole” the song.

Later, JoJo Siwa refers to the “first version of Karma” in a Billboard segment of “How It Went Down.” She claims that the first version was a completely different song. As evidence, she notes that the bridge of the song was “basically- the whole time- was one note.” She claims to have changed the bridge into something completely different to the original.

However, a quick listen to both songs would quickly reveal how untrue her words are. The songs are nearly identical, with JoJo Siwa’s bridge being a near replica to Brit Smith’s unreleased version. Many have even posted the same parts of both songs back-to-back to highlight the similarities.

@audrey.sienna

No respect for lying about being a creative recording artist. Yes, she has rights to the song (OG was Miley and thn Brit Smith), but no need to spin tales about writing it. Her costume was copied from someone else. Choreographed by someone else (she credits him👏🏼👏🏼). She refuses to take voice lessons or take care of her voice. The video is unique otherwise w/ her “plot” and visual ideas, and she’s great at marketing, so I’ll give her that. But, if she wants to be a recording artist, she needs to truly interpret or create her own art! Not click copy/paste. I think she has way more potential! #jojosiwa #itsjojosiwa #dancemoms #abbyleemiller #singing #vocals #vocalcoach #musicproduction #musicindustry #mileycyrus

♬ original sound – audrey.sienna

Following the resurfacing of Brit Smith’s version of “Karma”, the comment section under JoJo Siwa’s TikTok posts about the song have been filled with debate over whether Siwa ever claimed to having “written” it. Some comments even claim that JoJo Siwa’s team had destroyed any evidence of her claiming to have written the song herself.

JoJo Siwa’s History of Controversy

JoJo Siwa continues to expertly maneuver around all the pushback she’s received for “Karma.” She remains steadfast in highlighting the iconic “Karma” dance and indulging in the trend it has become. Her response to the hate is no surprise considering that Siwa has received some sort of scrutiny in virtually every step of her career.

On Dance Moms, her fellow dance members considered JoJo Siwa to be obnoxious and too much. Even their dance coach, Abby Lee Miller, tried to reign a young Siwa back from her signature big, sparkly bows and loud personality.

Shortly after her time in “Dance Moms”, JoJo Siwa came out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. This also faced public pushback, even from the LGBTQ+ community itself, following controversial moments from Siwa’s coming out.

For example, in one Yahoo Life interview, JoJo said that the word “lesbian” was “just like, a lot.” She compared it to the word moist, a word that’s “just like… ugh!”

This received backlash from many of her followers, who felt that that JoJo Siwa had called “lesbian” a “dirty word.”

When she began her very own dance group, XOMG POP!, she received pushback for the alleged mistreatment of the girls. This, of course, shadows that of Abby Lee Miller’s treatment of her dance group a mere decade prior.

XOMG POP!

Rolling Stone recently released an article pertaining to the dance group and the reality TV show, “Siwas Dance Pop Revolution.” In this show, participants aged 8 to 14 competed to join the elusive dance group. Rolling Stone article provides a platform for multiple unnamed sources close to Dance Pop Revolution who claim that producers intentionally attempted to make participants cry on the show. This is in addition to claims that Jessalynn and JoJo Siwa would regularly insult participants. Other claims center around the demanding rehearsal schedule and overly competitive environment unsuitable for the age group of the participants.

The claims only become more outrageous following the conclusion of the show and the official creation of XOMG POP! Leigha Sanderson, one of the group members, and her family allege that she was bleeding through her belly button during a rehearsal and that Jessalynn Siwa, JoJo Siwa’s mother and manager, told Leigha to put a maxi pad over the bleeding to protect her costume. This is only one example of the sort of treatment the Sandersons have spoken about pertaining to the dance group.

Other members of the group have declined to comment. However, there have been four of the original seven members that have since left the group, leaving only three members remaining.

The backlash surrounding XOMG POP! was so severe that many of JoJo Siwa’s followers have questioned whether her “Karma” era is a mere distraction from the controversy surrounding this group.

If this is not the case, it poses the question: what did spark Siwa’s music career?

A Work of Art or A Grab at Fame?

On a recent interview on Call Her Daddy, a popular Spotify podcast, JoJo Siwa said, “Like I said, I will never, ever, claim to be a singer, but I will claim to be an artist. I am giving the world art. They might not like it- they might hate it- but they are enjoying it.”

This, however, contradicts JoJo Siwa’s statements in her Billboard interview about “Karma”, and other songs, being the start to her inventing a new genre of music, entitled Gay Pop. When asked about this by TMZ, though, JoJo Siwa conceded that there were icons who invented Gay Pop before her, but that she wanted to “make it more clear” that Gay Pop is a genre.

@maddie_lyn111

#stitch with @billboard please jojo are you in delusion or are you just doing a bit?? #jojosiwa #karma #jojokarma #jojosiwakarma #popmusic #bangersera #jojosiwaoffical

♬ original sound – maddie_lyn111

The contradicting information makes it hard to pinpoint what exacly her intentions are with her music career. At times, she seems to address her career with humility, admitting to not being a singer, but at the same time, she seems to consider her career as revolutionary- not only in queer history but in music history.

@lemongayde

#stitch with @billboard i saw someone say she has what jlo has and i cannot agree more #lgbtq #queer #fypシ #queercommunity #lesbiansoftiktok

♬ original sound – ZB

In her Billboard segment, JoJo Siwa claims to have recorded “Karma” for the first time about two years ago. She also claimed to have been working on her brand relaunch for the same amount of time. With this in mind, it’s hard not to doubt any of Siwa’s actions during the last two years. What parts of it were her, and what parts of it were part of a marketing strategy? Was JoJo Siwa putting herself in situations to justify the lyrics of her new song? Was any of it genuine?

Thou Shall Not Cheat

The line in “Karma” that is most notable to me when considering these questions is, “Thou shall not cheat. Thou shall not get caught or you’ll end up just like me.” It seems to parallel a situation JoJo Siwa found herself in around September 2022, two years ago, when Siwa confirmed her relationship with a well-known TikTok creator, Avery Cyrus.

To this day, people continue to scrutinize JoJo Siwa’s relationship with Avery Cyrus, as their relationship appeared to begin incredibly close to the end of Avery Cyrus’s relationship with her previous girlfriend of two years, Soph Mosca.

Both Soph Mosca and Avery Cyrus had released statements on their Instagram Stories regarding their breakup on August 3, 2022. On September 10, 2022, JoJo Siwa posted a TikTok video of her and Avery Cyrus kissing at Chuck E. Cheese, confirming that they were a couple. Prior to this TikTok, both Avery Cyrus and JoJo Siwa denied being a couple, insisting that they were just friends.

@soso_swag

“Hey babe wanna go to Chuck E. Cheese” “OMG that’s exactly what I was thinking” #jojoandavery #wlw #lesbiansoftiktok #gayngels #philly

♬ original sound – Sophia Schiaroli

The confusion around their relationship, and the proximity of the relationship reveal to Cyrus and Soph’s breakup caused many fans to question whether Cyrus and Siwa’s relationship began during or after Avery Cyrus broke up with Soph Mosca.

The end of JoJo Siwa’s relationship with Avery Cyrus was also controversial, with Siwa making claims that Avery Cyrus was using her for “views and clout” in a social media post uploaded by Jessalynn Siwa just one day after Avery Cyrus confirmed her and Siwa’s breakup.

Thou Shall Not Get Caught

These claims contradicted statements made by Avery Cyrus in a two-part “storytime” on TikTok. Cyrus does not directly name JoJo Siwa as the ex-girlfriend being discussed in these videos, but the details provided in the videos and her posting these videos after the breakup, made it clear to many fans that JoJo Siwa is, in fact, the unnamed girlfriend.

@averycyrus

in my storytime era 😗✌🏼

♬ original sound – Avery Cyrus

In the videos, Cyrus claims that the ex-girlfriend “liked nothing about me.” She addresses several notable moments in the relationship, such as being chastised for singing quietly in the car and the messy details surrounding their breakup. In these videos, it’s highly alluded to that the unnamed ex-girlfriend left Cyrus for someone the ex-girlfriend had previously been in a relationship and had just reconnected with.

Is this the cheating that JoJo Siwa references in “Karma”? Are Avery Cyrus’s videos what JoJo Siwa means when she warns her listeners to “not get caught”? How much of those relationships were real? Was Avery Cyrus Siwa’s first step in building a bad girl reputation for herself? Or was it the role she played in the XOMG POP! group?

JoJo Siwa’s Karma?

JoJo Siwa has shared incredibly significant portions of her life on social media, but has it been done in an effort of connecting with her fans? Is it all just a grab at fame by whatever means necessary?  

Every day, it’s becoming increasingly challenging to give our favorite celebrities the benefit of the doubt. Sure, Siwa’s rebranding has garnered the attention of millions, but is it worth the cost of her integrity?

Some might find that to be an over-exaggerated perspective, but it returns to the age-old question of where to separate the art from the artist.

Not to mention that the marketing tactics Siwa’s using are becoming more and more common amongst so many of our society’s most revered. It paints a rather bleak perspective on the entertainment industry as a whole.

Luckily, as the consumers of this entertainment, we have the authority to deem the limit, which is what many seem to be doing in Siwa’s case. By continuing to look into the deeper meaning of our artists’ actions, we can uncover their true motives and determine what, exactly, we’re willing to accept.

Written By

Hey, there! I'm Eli, and I'm currently finishing up my last semester at the University of Florida. I'm an English Major on a Pre-Law track, and I'm writing with Trill Magazine as a very exciting part of my gap year prior to starting law school. I'm currently fostering cats with the Humane Society, I've broken somewhere between 15-20 bones, and I'm a competitive fencer!

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