‘The internet has taken me through the ringer!’ The incredibly harsh JoJo Siwa backlash, explained

JoJo Siwa dressed in a rainbow concert outfit and rainbow makeup band across her eyes.

Rebrands can be challenging for anyone, particularly for young celebs with a previously clean-cut image. But few have been as badly-received as JoJo Siwa’s, with some people claiming they ‘hate Jojo Siwa’ now.

Over the past few weeks, it’s been hard to not notice the 21-year-old Dance Moms star, singer, dancer and actress as she debuted a bold new look and musical style.

Transitioning from a child star to a more mature, edgy brand has long been a treacherous path for stars and JoJo Siwa is no different. 

The release of “Karma” in early April triggered a snowballing backlash from fans and haters alike, often for relatively minor “crimes”, like appearing to drink alcohol, even though she’s legally allowed to do so.

Siwa, who came out as a lesbian in 2021, has seemingly been the subject of numerous controversies, but do they bear any weight at all? Did she really steal a song? And is she the “creator of gay pop”? Let’s find out.

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Did JoJo Siwa steal ‘Karma’?

With the release of “Karma,” Siwa was accused of “stealing” the track and passing it off as her own.

However, if you look at the details of the controversy, this wasn’t really the case.

Speaking to Billboard, Siwa details that she had recorded six versions of “Karma” and had been working on the track for years. 

Many alleged that Siwa had stolen the track from Miley Cyrus and Brit Smith.

However, at no point, does Siwa take credit for penning the track. Many pop stars don’t write their own songs: even songs they’re best known for. For example, the Miley Cyrus hit “Wrecking Ball” was written by MozellaStephan Moccio, and Sacha Skarbek, with Dr. Luke and Cirkut, who served as the producers.

Investigating the origins of “Karma,” a TikTok user posted that it seemed that the track originally belonged to Cyrus.


THIS MAKES SO MUCH SENSE. Need to hear Miley’s version #mileycyrus #jojosiwa #karma #cantbetamed #popmusic #adamtheflop

♬ Karma – JoJo Siwa

However, this was all cleared up when Smith was interviewed by Page Six. She confirmed that she had recorded the song in 2012 and the track was “written with Miley Cyrus in mind.”

Smith’s recording of the track is the evidence many who fronted the backlash cited when claiming Siwa had stolen “Karma”.

The track was written by Antonina Armato, Tim James and Desmond Child and the song was produced by Rock Mafia.

Smith added that it was “nice to hear” Siwa’s version of the song. So there’s no bad blood between Smith and Siwa – yet the internet spun a whirlwind of accusatory allegations.

Even fellow musicians decided to stick the boot in, with internet personality Lil Tay using the fact she ‘bought a song’ as an opportunity to slam Siwa on X.

“Wish I didn’t just find out who that is, I wrote SUCKER 4 GREEN myself. Didn’t buy the song or hire a ghostwriter, ” Lil Tay wrote.

JoJo Siwa performs at 2024 LA Pride in the Park, performing intimately with dancers.
JoJo Siwa has been accused of being over-sexualized. (Chelsea Guglielmino/WireImage)

Is JoJo Siwa over-sexualised?

Another issue linked to “Karma” was that some pearl-clutching individuals were outraged by the sexual nature of the raunchy – but far from explicit – music video.

On Instagram ahead of the music video dropping, Siwa warned viewers: “The following content is not made for children and may be disturbing or offensive to some viewers. May contain sexual themes, violence, strong language, traumatic scenarios, and flashing lights.”

In the “Karma” music video, Siwa is seen singing “Karma’s a b***h, I should’ve known better,” as she gets intimate and embroiled in a love triangle on a boat.

Later, on an isolated beach in sparkling skin-tight outfits, Siwa grinds on another woman against the sand as they wrestle and tumble into the sea. 

As could have been easily predicted, many were outraged by the “over-sexualised” music video. You may not like the video, that’s an entirely separate topic, but the excessive backlash against it points to what types of queerness we are willing to accept.

Siwa is by no means the first queer artist to engage in a provocative music video, for example, Troye Sivan or Olly Alexander also recently released music videos and performances featuring queer intimacy. 

But in these cases, the controversy surrounding the explicitness of queerness has not originated from within the LGBTQ+ community itself: whereas LGBTQ+ people also criticised the “Karma” video.

Even in the LGBTQ+ community, there seem to be lingering differences in how comfortable we are with how queer women express their sexuality.

Her live performances have come under fire too. On X (Twitter) one user posted: “JoJo Siwa drinking and touching herself on stage while her fans are literally minors are so disgusting?

“At least try to hide the alcohol and maybe dont get so drunk u start touching urself infront of kids… also the lipsyncing is insane”. Again, Siwa is an adult of legal drinking age, who is trying to create a more “adult” image.

The post includes an image of Siwa drinking onstage and performing choreography. The tweet has over 105,000 likes. 

However, the reception of “Karma” has been far from completely negative. The track charted well, and she performed at the Miami Beach Pride Festival to a record-breaking crowd: so perhaps she’s having the last laugh, after all.

JoJo Siwa in a radio studio on the mic
JoJo Siwa spoke about what genre “Karma” belongs to.(Tommaso Boddi/Getty)

Did JoJo Siwa create ‘gay pop’?

In her press following the release of “Karma”, Siwa was absolutely roasted for stating that she invented a new genre of music: gay pop

“The internet has taken me through the freaking ringer,” the young woman said in an interview with Billboard, following the public shaming she received.

“But at the end of the day, I made the art that I wanted to, and I’m so happy, so proud, so excited to bring this version of pop music back.”


@JoJo Siwa says she is “so excited to bring this version of pop music back” with her new song #Karma 🎵 Watch her #BillboardNews interview at Billboard.com. #jojosiwa #rebrand #popmusic #interview #newera

♬ original sound – billboard

“The genre is — I said it back in the day when I first signed with Columbia. I said, ‘I want to start a new genre of music.’ And they said, ‘What do you mean?’ And I said well, ‘It’s called gay pop.’”

Siwa then listed Lady Gaga’s “Applause” and her track “Karma” as contributions to this genre. 

In response to the claim, many pointed out that queer pop artists have a long history of contributing to pop music and by no means is Siwa the first or the originator.

In response to the backlash, Siwa corrected her claim and told TMZ that she was “definitely [was] not the inventor” of gay pop, clarifying that she simply wants to “be a piece in making it bigger than it already is.” 

JoJo Siwa posing with her tongue out, big chains and her hands in the rock symbol position.
Is JoJo Siwa really controversial? (Tommaso Boddi/Getty)

So, why do people hate JoJo Siwa?

Look, we’ll admit it, like a lot of young people finding their way in life, JoJo Siwa may be a bit cringy sometimes, but is she really deserving of the consistent and unrelenting internet hate and backlash?

The 21-year-old is growing up in front of us all and it would be unfair to not give her some forgiveness when it comes to misspeaking in the heat of the moment – or being hugely enthusiastic with her dance choreography.

Her lively, fist-pumping dance routine for “Karma” has kept TikTok well-supplied with memes for weeks, and we’re certainly very grateful for that.

At the end of the day, JoJo Siwa is a young, queer woman who’s recently come out and is entering a truly transformative stage of her young adulthood.

Lesbians 30 or older: remember what you were like at 21? Exactly. Maybe it’s time to cut JoJo some slack.

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