The lead single from ARTPOP was penned by Gaga with the Chicago producer DJ White Shadow, who also worked with the singer on Born This Way. The song was originally scheduled to be released on August 19, 2013 but the singer's label was forced drop it a week earlier following a series of online leaks. Gaga debuted the tune live at the MTV Video Music Awards on August 25, 2013.
Gaga sings on the song of living for her fans' applause - the way they cheer and scream for her. "In my heart of hearts as I was writing, I knew that if I asked [the fans] to cheer for me before I sang or if I alluded to the fact that they would cheer for me before I sang," said Gaga to Women's Wear Daily. "They do that all the time for me; before I even open my mouth, the fans start cheering for me. And so this exclamation, 'Give me that thing that I love. Give it to me. I'm ready, start the music.' I'm from New York. I've worked since I was a five-year-old to be a performer. All my life. I deserve to be here. I'm ready."
Speaking with Ryan Seacrest on his radio show, Gaga spoke about how her failing hip influenced this song. "When I was finishing the [Born This Way] tour, I was physically breaking," she said. "I was in a lot of pain, but didn't know where really. I have a strong threshold for pain, so I kept slapping myself saying, 'Get it together.' The only thing that kept me going was the applause. And I was able to drown out the pain and finish the show."
Gaga was diagnosed with a labral tear of her right hip, and was forced to take a break for surgery. The singer told Seacrest how she put all of her energy in to making her third album while she was recovering from her injury. "ARTPOP is a celebration and a poetic musical journey through my friends and I hanging out and enjoying being Pop stars," she explained. "And that's what really inspired the record is that time off."
Gaga told Seacrest that the track "almost didn't make the album" until she met with Interscope Records chief Jimmy Iovine and played him 40 songs during a meeting. She said: "We played 'Applause' last and Jimmy said to me, 'Well every single record you've played me has been better than the one you played before it, so the last one should be the first single.'"
DJ White Shadow explained to MTV News how the song took on a whole new meaning after Gaga canceled her remaining dates on her Born This Way tour to undergo hip surgery. "Over a period of time it develops into a cohesive idea," he explained. "We write the songs in parts. So basically what I'm saying is that all of them have some kind of meaning. And when she wrote that [song] ... she was hurting that whole entire time. And after she figured out what it was that was hurting and figured how severe that was and had that time off, we had time to go back and like really sit around and craft and take it to the next level."
He added, "When she did that to her hip we didn't know what the single was going to be. We had no idea."
Some Twitter users have joked that they thought the song was titled 'Applesauce'. "So I guess @LadyGaga lives for the applause," tweeted one. "I, on the other hand, live for the applesauce."
Gaga sparked controversy with a Twitter competition which urged her followers to buy multiple copies of the song, make constants radio requests, and post about the track repeatedly on Twitter. The Mother Monster offered her fans the chance to fly to her appearance at the iTunes Festival in London to meet her, but the suggestion that followers who buy multiple copies of the single and prove it would be entered into the contest caused a bit of a hullabaloo. With multiple purchases counting toward the track's chart placing, many complained that Gaga was artificially inflating the success of the tune.
Gaga came under fire in 2011 when similarities were noted between the melody of her "Born This Way
" and Madonna's 1989 hit single, "Express Yourself
." After releasing this song, fans and reviewers took to the net concerning resemblances between this song and another Madonna track, her 2012 cut, "Girl Gone Wild
." A 'mash-up' of the two songs quickly spread across the web.
The song's music video was directed by Dutch fashion photographers and past Gaga collaborators Inez & Vinoodh and was inspired by Gaga's passion for shapeshifting. We see the singer wearing an assortment of outfits including a clam shell bikini and a dress made of grass-green mosaic tiles. There are 12 costume changes in total and Gaga told Good Morning America: "When we were on set we did a lot of different looks and they're each very representative of different parts of me, as well as my obsession with transforming."
Inez van Lamsweerde, who is one half of Inez & Vinoodh told MTV News that the big idea of the video was to have Gaga symbolize the moment of her hip breaking. She explained: "That's why she's sort of holding up her right leg as a trophy and this idea that no matter what it takes, she'll get back onstage."
The Clamshell Bikini was inspired by Botticelli's famous painting of The Birth of Venus, which depicts the goddess Venus, having emerged from the sea as a fully grown woman, arriving at the seashore. Inez added that they were also inspired by "having this idea that she goes through this struggle to go back onstage, which is in that pink laser tower. And she's sort of dragging that leg as a trophy and making it back on stage as a fully-realized, complete new person and that's why the Botticelli came to mind."
The scene where Gaga's head appears on a black swan was inspired by the singer's fascination with eggs. Inez told MTV News: "She's always had the egg reference in her work and since this video is kind of about a rebirth and at the end there's the Botticelli Birth of Venus reference, so we said, 'OK, an egg... a fur egg and what comes out of a fur egg?' In our minds, a black swan with her face on it."
Gaga sings about her affinity for American artist Jeff Koons in this song:
"One second I'm a Koons fan
Then suddenly the Koons is me."
Jeff Koons is known for his reproductions of banal objects, one of which, Tulips, was sold for $33,682,500 at Christie's New York on November 14, 2012. The artist created the ARTPOP album cover, which features his nude sculpture of Gaga.
Gaga told The Guardian that rather than being a song for herself, "Applause" is as universal as any love song. "It's so interesting for people to say that the lyrics are all about me the performer," she said. "I want you to feel that way about yourself, that's why I wrote the song. I want you to wake up in the morning and say: 'I live for your applause, look at me today, I'm having a great day, I'm going to work and I'm going to have a fantastic lunch with my friends.' But it's not to be taken quite as seriously and as literally as people make it to be, which is why in the verses I'm sort of making fun of what people think about fame."
When she hosted Saturday Night Live on November 16, 2013, Gaga used this song in her monologue, turning the concept of cheap applause into a comedy bit. "Give it up for New York," she said, before explaining that there were two types of applause: the kind you earn and the kind you get by pandering to the audience. "I am a fan of both, and I wrote a song about," she said, launching into a brief performance of the song.
The song topped the singles charts in several countries including Hungary, Lebanon and Spain. It also reached #1 on Billboard's US Dance/Electronic Songs and US Hot Dance Club Songs listings.
In 2014, this was used in commercials for the Kia Soul.