Ghost Town

Album: The Original High (2015)
Charted: 71 64

Songfacts®:

  • The first song to be released from The Original High is centered around a spooky whistle hook. The haunting tune switches between softly sung verses and a deep house chorus. Lambert told Hunger TV: "The first single feels like the perfect introduction to The Original High. It establishes itself in a very earthy, vulnerable way and transforms into a hypnotic dream full of surreal imagery and set to a minimal yet massive deep house beat."
  • On the face of it, the song appears to be Lambert taking shots at the entertainment industry:

    Died last night in my dreams
    Walking the streets of some old ghost town
    I tried to believe in God and James Dean
    But Hollywood sold out


    The San Diego-raised singer is using the selling out of Hollywood as a metaphor for being let down by love. "It's a bit schizophrenic," Lambert told Ryan Seacrest about the song on his radio show. "We all have heartache, we all go through things that maybe make us a little jaded or bitter in life, and the song is kind of asking, 'Hey, despite all that, am I still able to love? Is that going to happen for me? Is it in the cards?'"
  • Lambert wrote the song with Sterling Fox (Lana Del Rey's "Video Games," Gym Class Heroes' "Stereo Hearts") and Tobias Karlsson, who has worked extensively with the Swedish-American rock band Carolina Liar.

    The tune was produced by Max Martin with Ali Payami. Martin co-wrote and co-produced Lambert's early-career hits "Whataya Want From Me" and "If I Had You."
  • Lambert told Attitude magazine that he has toned down the campness of his previous material on The Original High. "It's really dark. For someone who listens to lyrics, it's dark," he said. "I've done a lot of camp in the past and worn 'out there' clothing - feathers and glitter - and I've had a great time doing it."

    "I kind of grew up thinking that every day was Halloween," Lambert added, "but as I've gotten older, in the last five years, I've become a little bit past that."
  • The song was released on April 20, 2015. It should not be confused with Madonna's single with the same title (albeit one word not two), which was dropped five weeks earlier. Lambert admitted to Billboard magazine's Keith Caulfield that he panicked a little when he first came across the clashing titles. "My reaction was so complicated," he said, "because I think I texted my management, like, 'Did you see this? Did you see this? What are we gonna do?' And they said, 'You know, it's fine because the songs are so different.'"

    "Hers is like a post-apocalyptic love song, mid-tempo," Lambert continued, "and mine's like an existential dance goth rave thing. So they're two different songs -- they just share a title."
  • The song's stylish music music video was directed by Hype Williams, who has overseen clips for the likes of TLC ("No Scrubs"), Aaliyah "Rock The Boat"), Kanye West ("Gold Digger"), Coldplay ("Viva La Vida") and Beyoncé ("Drunk In Love"). "The inspiration was more like a fashion film," Lambert told MTV News. "The styling was something that I talked to Hype about in depth, like I had a lot of photographs and stuff… it was really fun because I got to get in there obviously with my own wardrobe and bring a lot of my pieces in, and then even when we were styling the dancers and the models, I got to sit there with them and help style."

    Lambert added that he was inspired by "retro Hollywood" icons. "I'm talking about James Dean and Elvis and some of this retro Hollywood imagery," he said. "One of the other photos I gave him was Clint Eastwood as 'Dirty Harry.'" He was also inspired by Yves Saint Laurent's men's fashion."

    "We threw it all in a blender creatively and just pressed 'whip' and made a big old smoothie out of it all," Lambert continued. "And I loved what we came up with."
  • The dancers and models in the video are all personal friends of Lambert, which helped make the shoot fun for the singer. "The energy on set was like a house party. It was so relaxed and upbeat a lot of laughs, which is funny because the tone of the video, the lyrics are a bit darker," he said. "It's a nice balance on set not to keep things too heavy, and I think that's kind of the secret to the song, because it's dealing with some sadness, but it's also an upbeat dance track and in a way, the beat and the dancing help pull you out of the sadness."
  • This is not unique in combining whistling with a traditional chorus. Other hit songs incorporating a wordless whistle within its hook include J. Geils Band's "Centerfold," Roxette's "Joyride" and Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger."

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