The Ballad of Mona Lisa

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"The Ballad of Mona Lisa"
Single by Panic! at the Disco
from the album Vices & Virtues
Released February 1, 2011
Format Digital download, CD single
Recorded Summer 2010
Length 3:47 (Album Version)
3:34 (Music Video Version)
Label Fueled by Ramen, Decaydance
Writer(s) Brendon Urie, Spencer Smith, Butch Walker & John Feldmann
Producer(s) John Feldmann, Butch Walker
Panic! at the Disco singles chronology
"New Perspective"
(2009)
"The Ballad of Mona Lisa"
(2011)
"C'mon"
(2011)

"The Ballad of Mona Lisa" (commonly referred to as simply "Mona Lisa") is a song by American rock band Panic! at the Disco, released February 1, 2011 as the first single from the group's third studio album, Vices & Virtues (2011). Vocalist Brendon Urie wrote the song to express personal struggles and convictions many years prior to its official production for Vices & Virtues.

The song has received positive critical reviews upon its release.

Background[edit]

"The Ballad of Mona Lisa", written by lead singer Brendon Urie, was one of the first tracks composed for the band's third album, Vices & Virtues. As a song written before the band even began recording their second album, Pretty. Odd., it proved to be an inspiration for the production of Vices & Virtues. "A few of the ideas — like "The Ballad of Mona Lisa", specifically — was from an idea I had probably four years ago, before we even started touring on Pretty. Odd., and it was just sitting in my laptop collecting figurative dust on my hard drive, not really doing much," said Urie. "That ended up being a really good intro to the whole process."[1] "I showed the band a couple times," said Urie, "but it just fell to the wayside, we never did anything with it. Other ideas beat it out or whatever reason it was.”[2] He wrote the song dealing with his own personal convictions and struggles. "On the surface it can seem like just the story of drama between a guy and a girl," explains Urie. "But it's really about what I've been going through, an inner-struggle within myself, and fighting the dualities of my personality -- the side that fucks everything up and destroys everything and the other side that tries to pick up the slack. It's all growing pains." The song was also inspired by Urie's move from Las Vegas, Nevada, where he's lived his entire life, to Santa Monica, California with Panic! drummer Spencer Smith. Urie notes that the move was "a huge part of growing up."

Musically, the song is similar to those produced for the band's debut album, A Fever You Can't Sweat Out (2005); however, Urie explained in a 2011 interview that the song represented more of a new beginning. Urie said "It was a new start when Spencer [Smith] and I started writing, so it was gonna end up sounding different, sonically."[3] The music has been described as a combination of buzzsaw riffs, punchy percussion and literate, multi-layered lyrics.[4] The song's title is, of course, an allusion to Mona Lisa, the famous Renaissance-era oil painting by Leonardo da Vinci. The painting inspired Panic!, which pulls their style from the nostalgic romanticism of the Elizabethan and Victorian eras. In a 2011 interview, Urie regarded the name and theme of the song as neither male nor female. “That whole thing with Mona Lisa was the idea that there is this character. For us, you look at the painting, and you can’t tell what this person is thinking. Not showing too much emotion, there’s this Mona Lisa smile masking what’s going on in that person’s head," he explained. "The song is about a battle in yourself […] an inner struggle in oneself. The duality in nature, where you see yourself as a bad person, and the good person trying to correct your bad habits. That’s what it was about. We thought that would be an easy way to describe how we were masking our own emotions and trying to figure out how we can solve the bad choices we make."[5]

Release and reception[edit]

The single was announced in the December 2010 issue of Alternative Press.[6] The track was originally titled "Mona Lisa", and was originally due for January 2011.[6] On January 17, 2011, Fueled by Ramen posted a 30-second clip of the track on their Tumblr and YouTube accounts.[7] On January 21, 2011, the song leaked in its entirety,[8] and Panic! at the Disco released a lyric video on YouTube on January 24, 2011.[9] Shortly after its February 1 debut on the iTunes Store, the single shot to #1 on iTunes' "Top Alternative Songs" chart, and remained a top ten favorite for the weeks following.[10] The music video has had an even greater success: the video debuted at #1 on iTunes' "Top Alternative Music Videos" ranking, having also recently entered into heavy rotation across the MTV Networks: MTV, MTV2, mtvU, MTV Hits, and Logo's NewNowNext PopLab.[10] The video received 120,000 streams on MTV.com within the week of its debut there and, as of 6 July 2011, has over 10,000,000 views on Fueled By Ramen's official YouTube Channel.[10] In Australia, "The Ballad of Mona Lisa" held the top position on iTunes' "Top Alternative Songs" chart for months following its release. The single's greatest charting success was in Australia where it reached #21 on the ARIA singles chart, spending eleven weeks on it.

"The Ballad of Mona Lisa" has received positive reviews upon its release. Two journalists from Spin reviewed the song positively. William Goodman of Spin, regarding the single, described the song as "an anthemic power-rock ballad with dark and personal undertones,"[11] while John MacDonald, in a review of the band's first official live show of the Vices & Virtues Tour, commented "At the Bowery, Panic! swung the song's sinister faux-cabaret verses into an absolutely towering chorus -- one that's destined to get blasted out of every sports bar and strip mall in the country over the next few months."[12] USA Today called the track a "midtempo rocker" in lieu of a "ballad."[13] Many journalists have noted the similarities between "The Ballad of Mona Lisa" and A Fever You Can't Sweat Out. Prior to the song's official release, Wendy Rollins, disc jockey for Philadelphia's WRFF (Radio 104.5) described the song via her Twitter account as "sounding a whole lot like A Fever You Can't Sweat Out."[14][15] Emily Tan of AOL Music regarded the song's sound as "bringing fans back to the sound they were introduced to when the band first broke onto the scene."[13] The track was described by Alternative Press as "[having] the upbeat pop energy of A Fever You Can't Sweat Out, with the focus and clarity of Pretty. Odd."[16] The song was nominated for the Kerrang! Award for Best Single.

In the UK on BBC Radio 1 the song, which was not released until 27th March was Scott Mills' record of the week and went on to make the Radio 1 A-list on Wednesday 23rd March.

"The Ballad of Mona Lisa" re-entered the Billboard Hot Digital Songs chart at #142 upon the release of Vices & Virtues.

Music video[edit]

Urie in steampunk attire in the music video for "The Ballad of Mona Lisa".

The video of "The Ballad of Mona Lisa" was directed by Shane Drake (who previously directed the video for the band's breakthrough hit "I Write Sins Not Tragedies")[17] and produced by Brandon Bonfiligo.[18] The video was released on February 8, 2011, on MTV's website shortly after midnight.[4] In a review of the video, MTV News' James Montgomery remarked, "In a lot of ways, "Mona Lisa" is as much about saying goodbye to the band's past as it is about embracing its future ... which sort of makes sense, and not just because the video takes place at a wake."[19]

The steampunk-themed video bears many similarities to the video for "I Write Sins Not Tragedies", from the church setting to various camera shots (The top hat used in the clip of the dusty pews, is the same one used years prior for the music video for "I Write Sins Not Tragedies").[17] The video documents the steps for preparing and displaying a body before burial in the Victorian era, from shutting the windows and covering up mirrors to laying the body out in white so loved ones could mourn. The similarities to "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" were not lost on Smith and Urie. "When we were talking about the concept, somebody had the idea to kind of tie in to the beginning of the "Sins" video, and we realized it would work with it", Smith said. "It was a nice homage to some of the first stuff that we had done with Shane", Urie added. "And also, for us, mostly, it was closure."[19]

The League of STEAM's full ensemble cast appear in key roles in the video.[19] They also brought in additional cast members to further populate the scene and create a richer atmosphere with a unified aesthetic. With a newcomer by the name of Misty Rose acting as the betrothed of the deceased in which the wake is for. In addition, The League's Creative Director Nick Baumann acted as the production’s primary steampunk consultant. On the set for the video, shot in Newhall, California in January 2011, nods to Panic! at the Disco's past were present, from a clock on the wall (the main one set to nine o'clock, in honor of their "Nine in the Afternoon" video) to the dusty top hat resting on a church pew and the closing of the church's door (recalling "I Write Sins Not Tragedies").[19] Urie plays two separate characters, one "inspired by Sweeney Todd and very Johnny Depp," which Urie insists "was all [Shane Drake]'s direction."[19] The ranch at which the video was shot was once the set for the HBO series Deadwood.[12]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Brendon Urie and Spencer Smith

"The Ballad of Mona Lisa" digital download
No. Title Length
1. "The Ballad of Mona Lisa"   3:48
Total length:
3:48

Charts[edit]

Charts (2011) Peak
position
Australia (ARIA)[20] 21
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[21] 43
US Billboard Hot 100[22] 89
US Alternative Songs (Billboard)[23] 24
US Rock Songs (Billboard)[24] 50

References[edit]

  1. ^ James Montgomery (February 3, 2011). "Panic! At The Disco Have 'That Feeling Again' On Vices & Virtues". MTV News. Retrieved February 3, 2011. 
  2. ^ Bill Palmer (March 21, 2011). "Panic! At The Disco – the Beatweek interview: Vices & Virtues & more". Beatweek. Retrieved March 23, 2011. 
  3. ^ James Montgomery (February 2, 2011). "Panic! At The Disco Move Forward, Address The Past On Vices & Virtues". MTV News. Retrieved February 3, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Kyle Anderson (February 9, 2011). "Panic! At The Disco's 'The Ballad Of Mona Lisa' Video: The Key Scene". MTV News. Retrieved February 9, 2011. 
  5. ^ Valerie Nome (March 22, 2011). "Panic! At The Disco Frontman Moves Forward". OK!. Retrieved March 23, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b Tyler Common (December 20, 2010). "Panic! At The Disco say new album is “nearly finished”, reveal title and single details". Nova 96.9. Retrieved January 17, 2011. 
  7. ^ "I Read The News Today... For Jan. 19, 2011". ChartAttack. January 19, 2011. Retrieved January 19, 2011. 
  8. ^ Becky Bain (January 21, 2011). "Panic! At The Disco Are Back With “The Ballad Of Mona Lisa”". Idolator. Retrieved January 21, 2011. 
  9. ^ Mitch Michaels (January 25, 2011). "Check Out Panic! At The Disco's New Song". 411Mania. Retrieved January 25, 2011. 
  10. ^ a b c "Panic! At The Disco Respond to Public Demand; VICES & VIRTUES to Be Released on March 22nd". Marketwire. February 15, 2011. Retrieved February 14, 2011. 
  11. ^ William Goodman (January 31, 2011). "Panic! at the Disco Grow Up for New Album". Spin. Retrieved January 31, 2011. 
  12. ^ a b John MacDonald (February 2, 2011). "Panic! at the Disco Unveil New Tunes in NYC". Spin. Retrieved February 3, 2011. 
  13. ^ a b Jon Pareles (February 3, 2011). "A Return to Power, Properly Punctuated". USA Today. Retrieved February 3, 2011. 
  14. ^ "New Panic! at the Disco single "more like debut album."". Nova 96.9. January 9, 2011. Retrieved January 17, 2011. 
  15. ^ Wendy Rollins (January 6, 2011). follow up to all those asking...the song i heard from #panicatthedisco is called "the ballad of mona lisa". Twitter. Retrieved on January 20, 2011.
  16. ^ Annie Zaleski (January 24, 2011). "Panic! At The Disco frontman Brendon Urie opens up about Vices & Virtues". Alternative Press. Retrieved January 24, 2011. 
  17. ^ a b James Montgomery (February 8, 2011). "Panic! At The Disco's 'The Ballad Of Mona Lisa' Video: A Steampunk Wake". MTV News. Retrieved February 9, 2011. 
  18. ^ Jillian Mapes (January 19, 2011). "Panic! At The Disco Sets Mar. 29 Release for 'Vices & Virtues'". Billboard. Retrieved January 19, 2011. 
  19. ^ a b c d e James Montgomery (February 8, 2011). "Panic! At The Disco's 'Mona Lisa' Video: Go Behind The Scenes". MTV News. Retrieved February 9, 2011. 
  20. ^ "Australian-charts.com – Panic! At the Disco – The Ballad of Mona Lisa". ARIA Top 50 Singles.
  21. ^ "Archive Chart" UK Singles Chart.
  22. ^ ""The Ballad of Mona Lisa" Chart Performance on the Billboard charts". Billboard. Retrieved February 13, 2011. 
  23. ^ http://www.billboard.com/artist/277193/panic-disco/chart
  24. ^ http://www.billboard.com/column/chartbeat/chart-highlights-adult-contemporary-alternative-1005073232.story#/column/chartbeat/chart-highlights-adult-contemporary-alternative-1005073232.story

External links[edit]