On March 1, 2013, the Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon cargo capsule lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida to dock with the International Space Station. Why are we telling you this? Well, in addition to 1,2000 pounds of scientific experiments and cargo, the capsule contained the first copy of this single. "It was a phenomenal morning; it's been a mind-blowing experience, sending our music up into space, where it's pushing into orbit and going around the earth, that's a pretty amazing thing to think about," Jared Leto told MTV News. "It seemed impossible; for a moment I played with the idea of a weather balloon, but I had been speaking with NASA for quite some time about ways to find something creative to do together. And I presented them with this idea and here we are."
Leto claimed to MTV News that the decision to launch the song into orbit had nothing to do with its title. Instead, he and his bandmates were looking to kick off the next chapter of their career in an appropriately massive manner. "From the beginning, it was clear this was a special song for us. I wrote and recorded about 70 songs for this album, and I think there's a feeling that all of us in the band have that, especially after touring as long as we did last time, that this is a really important album for us ... and 'Up in the Air' is the first step, the beginning of a conversation," he said. "It's a song that has a lot of energy, a lot of optimism, a lot of life in it. And it's incredibly important to me and Shannon and Tomo."
The song was received by the crew of the International Space Station upon the berthing of the Dragon resupply spacecraft on March 4, 2013. It was premiered on NASA TV on March 18, 2013 when Astronaut Tom Marshburn played the song from the space station back to Earth via Mission Control Houston. "My brother and I, our grandfather was in the Air Force and FAA so aviation was always a big part of our lives," said Jared Leto about the decision to premiere the song from space. "We used to come visit him in Houston and always used to drive by NASA, so there's a bit of a history there."
The song's concept of constraint and tension is particularly evident in the line, "I'll wrap my hands around your neck so tight. With love, love, love." Leto said that as well as the idea of erotic asphyxiation, the lyric has a parallel meaning. "It does play on two different levels; there's an obvious sexual connotation to the line... But it's also about power, it's about control, and the song is about that," he explained to MTV News. "It's about getting to a point in your life where you're ready to let go and move on and become the better version of yourself, the self-actualized version of yourself. So I'm curious to see what responses to that are going to be; it's interesting to be asked about it. "Music is weird, you write it and sometimes it comes from a very conscious place, other times it comes from a subconscious place, and sometimes you don't know what the f--- you're doing and you do it anyway, you make a lot of bad choices," he added. "I say a lot in the studio 'Let's try and fail,' because through the failure you learn, and it can lead you to the next solution." Leto concluded: "I think that lyric is really important for us as a band, because it's a conversation that started with 'Hurricane' a song that had a very strong sexual component to it. I think that's a very worthy conversation to have. Songs don't just have to be about your dad or your girlfriend; there are other avenues to explore, and we certainly did that with 'Up In The Air.'"
The song's music video was directed by Bartholomew Cubbins and shot in Los Angeles, California between February 7-9 2013. The clip features allusions to the Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams album title and a cameo by burlesque artist Dita Von Teese, who can be seen riding a pink mechanical bull plus spot artwork by Damien Hirst. We also see gymnasts Jordyn Wieber and McKayla Maroney, writer Neil Strauss, and a shirtless Jared Leto.
Leto referred to the clip as a "hallucinogenic journey through an incredibly surreal landscape."
Every word in the Love Lust Faith + Dreams album title is mentioned throughout each of its twelve tracks. In the case of this song, two of the words were used: love and lust. As for why they picked these four words in particular, Leto told Radio.com: "[They] really sum up the record in a really pointed way. It's a new beginning for us. It's an entirely new chapter of our lives."
The album cover is British artist Damien Hirst's painting, Isonicotinic Acid Ethyl Ester 2010 – 2011.