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Paparazzi (Lady Gaga song)

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Two greyscale images of a blond woman in police mugshot, holding her name tag to her chest.
Single by Lady Gaga
from the album The Fame
Released July 6, 2009 (2009-07-06)
Recorded 2007–2008
Length 3:29
  • Rob Fusari
  • Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga singles chronology
"Bad Romance"
"Bad Romance"

"Paparazzi" is a song by American singer-songwriter Lady Gaga from her debut studio album, The Fame (2008). It was released as the fifth and final single by Interscope Records. Gaga wrote and produced the song with Rob Fusari. The song portrays Gaga's struggles in her quest for fame, as well as balancing success and love. Musically, it is an uptempo techno-pop and dance-pop song whose lyrics describe a stalker following somebody to grab attention and fame.

Although released on July 6, 2009, in the United Kingdom and four days later in Australia, "LoveGame" initially had been planned as the third single release in the former but deeming its lyrics and music video potentially controversial, it was decided that "Paparazzi" would be released instead. "Paparazzi" was critically acclaimed for its "fun-filled" and club-friendly nature. It was also commercially successful, reaching top-ten positions in the music charts of Australia, Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States and topping the charts in the Czech Republic and Germany.

The accompanying music video portrays Gaga as a doomed starlet, hounded by photographers, who is almost killed by her boyfriend. It shows her survival, comeback, revenge on her boyfriend, and experiences on the way to fame. The video won two MTV Video Music Awards in 2009 for Best Art Direction and Best Special Effects. Gaga also performed the song at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards in a performance art piece symbolizing the negative effect of fame leading to death. Additional live performances of the song include on The Fame Ball Tour, where it was the opening song, on an October 2009 episode of Saturday Night Live and on The Monster Ball Tour. On the first leg of the tour, she appeared as a Rapunzel-like character; from the second leg onward, she performed the song alongside a giant anglerfish ("The Fame Monster") who, attempting to devour her, was killed after her leotard shot sparks into the creature.

Background and release[edit]

What am I really trying to say here? What will the act of me writing this song really do? Me making a conscious decision to write about the paparazzi – I thought about performance art and shock art and how Paris Hilton and her sister and Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie are shock artists in their own way. They're not necessarily doing fine arts – something they put in the museums – but it's an art form. That's what this song is trying to say.
—Gaga talking about the different aspects of the song.[1]

Before she rose to fame, Lady Gaga met music producer Rob Fusari in March 2006 and began dating him in May.[2][3] Gaga traveled daily to New Jersey to work on songs she had written and compose new material with Fusari. While working together, he compared some of her vocal harmonies to those of Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen.[4] He also created the "Lady Gaga" moniker after the Queen song "Radio Ga Ga". Although the musical relationship between Fusari and Gaga was unsuccessful at first, the pair soon started writing more songs for Gaga.[5] Towards the end of 2007, Gaga's management company introduced her to songwriter and producer RedOne, whom they also managed.[6]

By 2008, Gaga relocated to Los Angeles in order to work extensively with her record label to complete her debut album, The Fame, and set up her own creative team called the Haus of Gaga. "Paparazzi" was one of the songs written by Gaga and Fusari who also produced the track.[1] In a 2009 interview with Rolling Stone, Gaga recalled her relationship with a heavy metal drummer called Luke, who became an inspiration for most of the songs on The Fame, including "Paparazzi". The song became a symbol for Gaga to escape her own narcissism and desire for fame. She was infatuated with Luke, calling him "the love of her life", and ready to be his fan, to turn the camera around and photograph him.[7]

To the Australian Daily Telegraph, Gaga explained that "Paparazzi" was about struggling to balance success and love.[8] Further explanations said that the song was about trying to win the paparazzi and the media in one's favor. "It's a love song for the cameras, but it's also a love song about fame or love – can you have both, or can you only have one", she concluded. "Paparazzi" was the album's third single in Ireland, Italy and the United Kingdom, the fourth in Canada and the United States and the fifth in Australia, France and New Zealand. Although released on July 6, 2009, in the United Kingdom and four days later in Australia, "LoveGame" initially had been planned as the third single release in the former but deeming its lyrics and music video potentially controversial, it was decided that "Paparazzi" would be released instead.[1]

Recording and composition[edit]

"Paparazzi" was recorded at 150 Studios in Parsippany-Troy Hills, New Jersey. Along with the production and songwriting of the track, Gaga also did the background vocals and played piano and synthesizer. Calvin "Sci-Fidelty" Gaines did the programming and Fusari did the audio engineering and recording. Other personnel involved in creating the final version of the song included Robert Orton who did the audio mixing, and Gene Grimaldi who mastered the song at Oasis Mastering Studios, Burbank, California.[9]

"Paparazzi" is a dance-pop[10] and techno-pop[11] song with an uptempo, sultry beat similar to Gaga's previous singles "Just Dance" and "Poker Face".[12][13] According to the sheet music published by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, the song has a moderate electro-synth groove. It is composed in the key of C minor with a tempo of 115 beats per minute. It is set in common time, and Gaga's vocal range spans from a low-note of G3 to the high-note of E5. The verses follow in the chord progression of Cm–A–Cm and the chorus uses an A–E–Fm–D progression.[14] The lyrics of "Paparazzi" deal with stalking and the trappings of fame.[15] Gaga sings about her desire to get attention from the cameras: "I'm your biggest fan/I'll follow you until you love me/Papa, paparazzi."[16]

Critical reception[edit]

Gaga performing "Paparazzi" on ArtRave: The Artpop Ball tour, 2014

The song received positive reviews from music critics. In 2011, Rolling Stone called it the second greatest Gaga song of all time, praising the song's theme and beat.[17] Jill Menze of Billboard, while reviewing The Fame Ball Tour, complimented Gaga's vocals on the song by saying, "The fame-obsessed ballad 'Paparazzi' showed how adept she can be with her range."[18] Alexis Petridis of The Guardian said that, "You may quickly tire of hearing the album's theme constantly reiterated, but the tune of 'Paparazzi' takes up residence in your brain and refuses to budge."[19] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic called the song clever and said that it "functions simultaneously as glorious pop trash and a wicked parody of it."[20]

Priya Elan of The Times thought that "even the trio of songs that provides the core of the album's celebrity theme ('Paparazzi', 'Beautiful Dirty Rich', and the title track) don't ruminate on the addictive inanity of fame, choosing instead to observe passively."[21] David Balls from Digital Spy praised Gaga's decision of releasing a mid-tempo track after two uptempos ("Just Dance" and "Poker Face") saying that "thanks to a typically catchy chorus and some smart, celebrity-themed lyrics, very nearly as thrilling in the finish. Backed with a hilariously self-indulgent video, it seems GaGa still has us firmly in her clutch and, ahem, squealing for more."[22]

Evan Sawdey of PopMatters said that both "Paparazzi" and the earlier single "Poker Face" are comparable with the musical styles of first single "Just Dance" but added that "never once does it feel like Gaga is deliberately repeating herself; instead, her faults only come from covering territory that she's obviously not prepared for."[10] Freedom du Lac of The Washington Post said that even though Gaga turns somewhat serious while disapprovingly singing "Paparazzi", the song comes across as flat and faceless as well as vapid.[23] Erika Howard of the New Times Broward-Palm Beach called it the most telling track from the album.[16]

Jon Caramanica of The New York Times said that "'Paparazzi' is a love letter from camera to subject but stops short of admitting that the affection runs both ways. Any notion that Lady Gaga is sketching an elaborate stunt is stopped cold at the lyric sheet, a perverse flaunting of simplicity that betrays no cynicism whatsoever."[24] Pitchfork Media ranked "Paparazzi" number 83 on their list of 2009's 100 best tracks.[25] NME ranked it at number 9 in their list of the best songs of 2009.[26]

Chart performance[edit]

A blond woman standing on a stage. She wears a black tutu shaped dress with a shiny triangle attached on her right bosom. Her hair is in bob and she wears sunglasses while singing to a microphone held in her left hand. Behind her, a set piece encrusted with broken glasses is visible.
Gaga opening The Fame Ball Tour with "Paparazzi"

In the United States, the song debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 74 on the issue dated September 12, 2009, and reached a peak of number six, becoming her fourth consecutive top-ten song on the chart.[27] With the song, Gaga joined Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé, and Fergie as the only women this decade to collect four Hot 100 top-tens from a debut album.[28] It also reached the top of Billboard's Pop Songs chart, thus making Gaga the first artist in the seventeen-year history of Pop Songs chart to have her first four singles from a debut album reach the top of the chart.[29] The song also topped the Hot Dance Club Songs chart.[30] It has sold 3,500,000 paid digital downloads in the United States as of April 2015, according to Nielsen Soundscan.[31] It became Gaga's fourth song to top the three-million mark, and was certified three-times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[32][33] "Paparazzi" debuted on the Canadian Hot 100 at number 92 and moved up to number 57 the following week becoming the week's greatest digital gainer.[34] The song ultimately peaked at number three on the chart, in its 13th week.[35]

"Paparazzi" debuted on the official Australian Singles Chart at number seventy-three on the issue dated June 1, 2009 and leaped to twenty-seven the next week. The song ultimately peaked at number two, giving Gaga her fourth top five single in Australia.[36] The song was certified two-times Platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) for shipment of 140,000 copies.[37] In New Zealand, "Paparazzi" debuted at number twenty-three on the week ending June 22, 2009 and reached a peak of number five.[38] The song was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ) after fourteen weeks on the chart, for shipping over 7,500 copies.[39]

In the UK, "Paparazzi" debuted on the UK Singles Chart at number ninety-nine in February 2009 due to digital downloads after the release of The Fame. It reached number thirteen for the issue dated June 21, 2009, after jumping from forty-three to this position from the last week.[40] The next week the song further climbed to number eight and ultimately peaked at number four.[41][42] It was certified Platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and sold a total of 585,000 copies according to the Official Charts Company.[43] "Paparazzi" debuted at number thirty-eight on the Irish Singles Chart and peaked at number four.[44][45] "Paparazzi" reached number one in Germany, making it her second chart-topper there.[46] The song also debuted on the Dutch Top 40 at number twenty-seven on the issue dated July 18, 2009. It peaked at number four on its sixth week on the chart.[47] In Italy, the song debuted at number nineteen and then climbed to number three, becoming Gaga's second top three there.[48]

Music video[edit]


The music video was directed by Swedish director, Jonas Åkerlund, who has previously directed music videos for artists like The Smashing Pumpkins, Madonna, Moby, Rammstein, and U2. His wife Bea Åkerlund was hired as Gaga's stylist for the video.[49] It was filmed at Villa de Leon in Malibu, California, and at Chateau d'Or in Bel Air, Los Angeles.[50][51] Gaga told MTV News that she was satisfied with the finished version of the "Paparazzi" video, likening it to a short film.[52] In an interview with The Canadian Press on May 26, 2009, Gaga cited her video as "the most amazing creative work that [she's] put together so far."[53] She went on to describe the message of the video:

"It has a real, genuine, powerful message about fame-whoring and death and the demise of the celebrity, and what that does to young people. The video explores ideas about sort of hyperbolic situations that people will go to in order to be famous. Most specifically, pornography and murder. These are some of the major themes in the video.[53]

Later, in her V magazine cover story, Gaga believed that Princess Diana was referenced in the video, claiming she died because of being a martyr symbolic of fame.[54] The video was supposed to premiere on June 4, 2009, in the United Kingdom and Ireland, on Channel 4. However, while touring in Australia, Gaga posted a message on her Twitter account on May 29, 2009 saying "Stop leaking my motherfucking videos", which referred to the video being released without the singer's consent.[55]


Refer to caption
Gaga wearing a metallic leotard—a reference to the film Metropolis—with matching helmet, while attempting to walk with the help of crutches in the music video for "Paparazzi".

The music video is eight minutes long. Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgård plays Gaga's boyfriend. The video features a murderous plot line involving a doomed starlet who is constantly followed by photographers. The video opens with a shot of a seaside mansion, where Gaga and her boyfriend are shown lying on a bed talking in Swedish. They move to the balcony and start making out; however, when hidden photographers start taking pictures of them, Gaga realizes that her boyfriend has set the paparazzi to photograph her and tries to stop him. Her struggles nevertheless remain futile even when she punches him, and in a final frantic attempt at defense, she smashes a nearby bottle of liquor into his face. The enraged boyfriend throws her over the balcony. Gaga lies on the ground in her own blood as the photographers continue take pictures of her bloody body and tabloid headlines proclaim that her career is over.[55] According to Rolling Stone this scene pays homage to Alfred Hitchcock's film Vertigo.[56]

Gaga is shown getting out of a limousine, being carried by male dancers to a wheelchair. It is during this scene, that the song starts.[57] As the dancers gyrate around her, she starts walking down the carpet with the help of a pair of crutches while wearing a metallic bustier and a matching helmet. The metallic outfit is a reference to the film Metropolis. These scenes are interspersed with scenes of dead models lying around the mansion.[55] Next Gaga is shown on a golden couch where she makes out with a trio of hair metal rockers during the line "Loving you is cherry pie". The trio, which consist of the triplets Calle "Kelii" Landeberg, Nisse "Izzy" Landeberg, and Pelle "Rock" Landeberg are known as Snake of Eden and they are from the reality television dating program Daisy of Love.[57] According to MTV this scene is a reference to the song "Cherry Pie" by American glam band Warrant. The video continues through the intermediate bridge with Gaga wearing a dress made up of film strips and a towering feathered Mohawk headdress.[55]

In the next scene, Gaga and her eye-patch wearing boyfriend are reading magazines on a sofa in a tea room. Gaga wears a yellow jumpsuit with circular glasses and shoulder pads. The Guardian compared this look with that of Minnie Mouse.[58] She finally takes her revenge on her boyfriend by discreetly poisoning his drink with white powder concealed in her ring. As he falls dead, Gaga calls 9-1-1 and declares that she just killed her boyfriend. The police arrive at the mansion and arrest Gaga who, wearing a tall ice cream cone corkscrew wig, walks to the police car as the paparazzi surround her once again.[55] Images flash by, with newspapers proclaiming her innocence and that Gaga is back in the spotlight and has regained her fame. The video ends with Gaga posing for mug shots like a fashion model while wearing a tulip shaped metallic dress similar to the single cover.


Rolling Stone writer Daniel Kreps compared the video with the music video of "November Rain". The scenes of the dead models were described as stomach turning while he complimented the video for "brimming with cinematic style [so] that it's hard to take your eyes off it, though it will likely be labeled as a little self-indulgent." He also commented on the leaking of the video saying that it "warranted more than just a simple leak; it deserved a red carpet."[56] Anna Pickard from The Guardian complimented the video saying that "quite a lot of work has gone into it". However, she opined that the video was too long.[58] Entertainment Weekly gave a positive review of the video, saying it "gives us even more of the next-level cuckoo we've come to expect from the girl born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta." The paparazzi theme of the video was compared to Britney Spears's 2004 music video, "Everytime".[57] MTV News called the video a "1940s romantic-epic-style video" that "proves once and for all that Gaga is a true original with a unique vision."[55] The video was nominated for five VMAs at the 2009 awards in the categories of Best Direction, Best Editing, Best Special Effects, Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction. Along with four other nominations for "Poker Face", she and Beyoncé were tied for most nominations that year.[59] The video won the award for Best Art Direction and Best Special Effects.[60] The music video for Gaga's single "Telephone" is a continuation of the "Paparazzi" music video, and is a short film as well. The video picks up right where "Paparazzi" left off; starting with Gaga in prison.[61]

Live performances[edit]

Gaga performing "Paparazzi" on The Monster Ball Tour while getting attacked by the Angler fish

Gaga performed "Paparazzi" live on the UK program, The Album Chart Show on February 14, 2009 as promotion for The Fame.[62] The song was performed at Capital Radio 95.8 FM in an acoustic piano version on May 1, 2009.[63] On June 26, 2009, Gaga performed the song at the Glastonbury Festival emerging from a silver case on stage.[64] The song was a major part of Gaga's performance in her first headlining Fame Ball tour as the opening number of the setlist. The show started with a video intro called "The Heart" where Gaga played an alternate persona called Candy Warhol.[65] She wore a silver and black short skirt like a tutu and shaped like peplum on both sides.[66][67][68] She was surrounded by her dancers holding plates which were encrusted with crystals and completely hid them.[12][69] The stage was surrounded by mechanical fog and heavy lighting was being emitted from the background.[66][68]

It was also performed at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.[70] The performance began with Gaga lying on the floor, on a set that was described as an ornate mansion. Gaga staggered across the stage and pirouetted behind a dancer in a lily-white wheelchair. She made her way to a white grand piano which she played by placing one foot up on the keyboard. Once again, she staggered across the stage, with theatrical blood dripping from her ribcage. She collapsed on the stage wailing in agony as one of the dancers gently lifted her. Gaga then hung liflessly with one hand rising above her dancers and blood smeared on her face with a golden halo being projected on the screen behind her.[70] The ending climax of the performance pays homage to a similar-sounding ending climax in "A Day In The Life" by The Beatles. She later commented that the performance was for her fans: "I wanted to say something honest and real and not just give a performance where I was jacking off on stage the whole time about my record," [...] It was really for my fans, who I knew would be at home cheering and swooning."[71] In a poll conducted by Billboard, the performance was ranked as the fourth best in the history of MTV Video Music Awards.[72]

The song was performed by Gaga in a similar choreography at the thirty-fifth season of NBC's late night comedy show Saturday Night Live.[73] It was also present on the set list of Gaga's The Monster Ball Tour. She wore multiple donned braided extensions and was perched atop a railing. From each of her braids, a dancer was attached on the stage. A backdrop of stars were shown during the performance.[74] During the revised shows of The Monster Ball, Gaga changed the concept and the performance of the song. She wore an emerald green dress by Thierry Mugler, and was attacked by a giant, mechanical Angler fish. Gaga then removed the dress to reveal a leotard of the same color and during the bridge she is lowered beneath the stage to acquire her pyro-technic bra. In the final chorus of the song Gaga returns and kills the monster with the sparks from the bra.[75]

The song was performed on the Born This Way Ball[76] and ArtRave: The Artpop Ball tours; in the latter she dressed up in a polka-dotted rubber outfit with tentacles growing out around her waist and her head. Rob Sheffield from Rolling Stone described her look as "she had an inflatable rubber order of fried calamari growing out of her spine",[77] while Adam Carlson from Billboard said that the outfit made Gaga look like a "dancing Ursula from The Little Mermaid".[78]

Track listing[edit]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from The Fame album liner notes.[9]



Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Australia (ARIA)[37] 2× Platinum 140,000^
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[133] Gold 7,500^
Germany (BVMI)[134] Gold 150,000^
Italy (FIMI)[135] Platinum 30,000*
New Zealand (RMNZ)[39] Gold 7,500*
Sweden (GLF)[136] Gold 10,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[137] Gold 15,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[43] Platinum 600,000^
United States (RIAA)[33] 4× Platinum 3,500,000[31]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Release history[edit]

Region Date
Ireland[138] July 6, 2009 (2009-07-06)
United Kingdom[138]
Australia[80] July 10, 2009 (2009-07-10)
United States[139] September 8, 2009 (2009-09-08)
Germany[140] September 11, 2009
France[141] December 7, 2009

See also[edit]


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