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Swine (song)

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Song by Lady Gaga from the album Artpop
Recorded Record Plant Studios
(Hollywood, California)
Length 4:28
  • Blair
  • Lady Gaga
  • Monson
  • Zisis
Artpop track listing

"Swine" is a song by American singer Lady Gaga, recorded for her third studio album, Artpop (2013). It was written and produced by Gaga, Paul "DJ White Shadow" Blair, Dino Zisis, and Nick Monson. A dubstep and industrial track, "Swine" was inspired by the singer's sexual experiences and the rage she felt from being raped when she was 19 by an unidentified record producer. Throughout the song, Gaga screams out the lyrics, which talk about denouncing a suitor by comparing them to a pig.

"Swine" was critically appreciated for its harsh composition and craziness. It debuted at number 88 on the Gaon Chart in South Korea, selling 2,430 copies. In the United States, "Swine" reached a peak position of number 23 on the Billboard Dance/Electronic Songs chart. Gaga performed the song on her iTunes Festival and at the South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Austin, Texas. The latter performance was harshly criticized for promoting bulimia when artist Millie Brown vomited paint on Gaga onstage. "Swine" was featured in the 2015 documentary The Hunting Ground, along with Gaga's "Til It Happens to You" (2015), which focuses on rape at American universities.[1]

Background and writing[edit]

 Black-and-white portrait of Paul Blair.
Paul "DJ White Shadow" Blair co-wrote the song.

Development of Gaga's third studio album, Artpop, began shortly after the 2011 release of her second record, Born This Way. By the following year, the album's concepts were "beginning to flourish" as Gaga collaborated with producers Fernando Garibay and DJ White Shadow.[2][3][4] One of the songs on Artpop was "Swine", which the singer explained was personal, and dealt with challenging and troubling sexual experiences she had encountered in her life.[5]

In December 2014, Gaga revealed on The Howard Stern Show that she was raped at age 19 by a producer twenty years older than her.[6] During her conversation with Stern, the singer recalled, "I went through some horrific things. I'm able to laugh now because I've gone through a lot of mental, physical and emotional therapy [...] I wasn't even willing to admit that anything had even happened [...] I saw him one time in a store, and I was paralyzed by fear." She confirmed that the incident further inspired "Swine", saying, "I wrote a song called 'Swine'; the song is about rape. The song is about demoralization. The song is about rage and fury and passion, and I had a lot of pain that I wanted to release."[7]

Recording and composition[edit]

Entrance to the Record Plant studios, surrounded by trees.
"Swine" was recorded at the Record Plant studio.

Musically, "Swine" is a dubstep and industrial song.[8][9][10] Based on the "teaser" of Gaga rehearsing for the iTunes Festival, Entertainment Weekly's Nick Catucci described "Swine" as a "real shocker with Nine Inch Nails lyrics and bull-in-a-bong-shop Deep Purple groove."[11] Consequence of Sound noted the creation of the Twitter hashtag #swinefest, and called the song a "melancholy piano ballad that eventually erupts into a raging pop-rocker, backed by piercing guitar and synths."[12]

Gil Kaufman of MTV News described the track as a "rock-heavy" song.[13] Bradley Stern saw the music as "several hair-raising, teeth-gritting, heart-stopping acid techno-laced beat drops."[14] According to, the song is set in the time signature of common time with a fast tempo of 120 beats per minute. It is composed in the key of G minor, with Gaga's harsh vocals ranging from G3 to D5. The song has a basic sequence of C/G–Gm–C/G–Gm as its chord progression.[15]

Lyrically, the recording denounces a suitor by comparing them to a pig.[16] Gaga wanted to lessen the harshness of the lyrics developed for the track by making it sound more lighthearted. However, she ended up "screaming and squealing throughout the track." The dance nature of the song vanishes when the chorus is reached, with Gaga belting the lyrics backed by the "chaotic" synths shouting, "You're just a pig inside a human body / Squealer, squealer, squealer, you're so disgusting / You're just a pig inside", finally uttering the word "Swine" continuously as the groove "thrashed".[5]

Critical reception[edit]

After the song was made available online, Idolator website contributor Carl Williott compared it to her iTunes Festival performance and said, "That rendition was particularly wild, and the studio version is even more schizophrenic and rave-ready." Furthermore, he wrote of the song, "It's a sonic onslaught of synth washes, a ground-churning bass line, jittery keyboards, hiccuping vocal samples and crescendos leading to drops in all the expected places. But amidst the EDM overload, Gaga manages to humanize things with one of her raspier, rawer vocal performances. And, for a dubstep song, it's got a remarkably huge 'Swiiine' refrain hidden in there."[8] Nicole James of Fuse deemed it "basically the polar opposite of 'Applause'."[17] Kitty Empire of The Guardian praised the song as the album's "wow-factor centrepiece, if not its greatest hit."[18] Mike Driver of Clash magazine found Gaga's vocal enunciations on the track comparable to those of singer Christina Aguilera.[19] Maura Johnston of Spin magazine listed "Swine" as one of Artpop's highlights, describing Gaga's belting of the lyrics and the sounds from the keyboards being reminiscent of Trent Reznor's songs.[20]

Bradley Stern of MuuMuse called "Swine" the album's most "unhinged moment" where the singer "let her freak flag fly higher." He also theorized that "Swine" would do well in a live concert.[14] Jason Lipshutz of Billboard described the track as a "shrieking industrial number" in which Gaga sounds "physically disgusted." Lipshutz said the song was not as "accessible or cleverly penned" as other songs on Artpop, but "as far as detours go, this one's fascinating."[10] Chris Bosman of Consequence of Sound website criticized the length of the song, saying that "once the sound of the record has been thoroughly established, many of the songs tend to feel overly long [...] ['Swine'] could easily have chopped a verse and maintained the same effect, with the benefit of brevity."[21]

Live performances[edit]

In August 2013, Gaga released a one-minute teaser of the song, which showed her rehearsing for the iTunes Festival, along with an image of her performance.[22][23] The singer's show at the iTunes Festival, held in London on September 1, 2013, was streamed online.[12] During her performance of "Swine", Gaga's dancers wore pig masks and sprayed paint into the crowd. Robert Copsey of Digital Spy rated her performance 3.5 on a scale of 5 and said that she "reached the peak of bonkersness." He continued, "Fortunately, beneath the madness seemed to be quite a good song that we can only describe as an angsty raveathon."[24]

A closeup of Gaga, in a neon colored dress with her head tilted to the left side. She has her right hand raised and is singing to her mouthpiece.
Gaga performing "Swine" in Glasgow in 2014 as part of ArtRave: The Artpop Ball tour.

In March 2014, Gaga introduced "Swine" at the South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Austin, Texas as a song about "rape and rage",[25] which was followed by her inviting performance artist Millie Brown to accompany her on stage. During the duo's performance, Brown vomited green-colored liquid onto the stage and Gaga.[26][27] They then climbed atop a large mechanical bull with a pig's head and a ball gag inserted in its mouth,[25][28] riding it together and simulating sex acts.[26] Brown continued to vomit on Gaga and her white apron during their time atop the bull.[28] She even inserted her fingers inside Gaga's throat making her regurgitate the black paint all over. A writer for Rolling Stone noted that "[f]or the rest of the show, Gaga would have this black sheen, marking her as a metaphorical survivor of rape and an actual survivor of performance art".[25][27] In the background was a neon sign with the text, "Lady Gaga's BBQ – Haus of Swine".[26][28] "Swine" has been called an "anti-rape track" and similarly her SXSW performance was called an "anti-rape demonstration."[27]

The performance of "Swine" at SXSW was criticized for the vomiting sequence. Recovered bulimic Demi Lovato complained that the show "glamorized" eating disorders.[29] In response to the controversy, Brown told MTV News, "I can understand why people would make that association, but my performance is really not a statement about eating disorders themselves."[30] Gaga confessed on Today, "Millie and I know that not everybody's going to love that performance, but we both really believe in artistic expression and strong identities, and I support her and what she does. Artpop, my new album, is about bringing art and music together in the spirit of creative rebellion, and for us, that performance was art in its purest form."[31]

Credits and personnel[edit]

  • Lady Gaga – songwriter, lead vocals, producer, vocal arrangement
  • DJ White Shadow – songwriter, producer
  • Dino "Speedlove" Zisis – songwriter, producer
  • Nick Monson – songwriter, producer, mixing
  • Dave Russell – recording
  • Daniel Zaidenstadt – additional recording
  • Benjamin Rice – recording assistant
  • Tony Masterati – mixing
  • Jon Castelli – mixing engineering
  • Justin Hergett – mixing assistant
  • Rick Pearl – additional programming
  • Nicole Ganther – background vocals
  • Natalie Ganther – background vocals
  • Lyon Gray – background vocals
  • Ivy Skoff – union contract administrator
  • Gene Grimaldi – mastering

Credits adapted from the album's liner notes.[32]


Charts (2013) Peak
South Korea International (GAON)[33] 88
US Hot Dance/Electronic Songs (Billboard)[34] 23


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  14. ^ a b Stern, Bradley (November 23, 2016). "Lady Gaga 'Artpop' (Album Review)". MuuMuse. Retrieved November 11, 2013. 
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