"Alejandro" is a song by American singer Lady Gaga. It was released as the third single from her third extended play (EP) The Fame Monster (2009). Co-written and produced by herself and Nadir "RedOne" Khayat, the song was inspired by her "Fear of Men Monster", and the lyrics portray Gaga bidding farewell to her lovers. Musically, it is a mid-tempo synth-pop song with a Europop beat.
Contemporary critics predominantly gave "Alejandro" positive reviews and noted that it takes influence from the pop acts ABBA, Ace of Base and Madonna. The song charted in the United Kingdom and Hungary due to digital sales following the album's release. Upon release, "Alejandro" charted again in the United Kingdom as well as in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, and the United States while topping the Czech, Finnish, Mexican, Venezuelan, Polish, Russian, Bulgarian, and Romanian charts. "Alejandro" became Gaga's seventh successive single to reach the top-ten of the US Billboard Hot 100.
The accompanying music video was directed by fashion photographer Steven Klein and inspired by Gaga's love for her gay friends and admiration of gay love. Within the video, Gaga dances with a group of soldiers in a cabaret, interspersed with scenes of Gaga as a nun swallowing a rosary and near-naked men holding machine guns. The music video was controversial and received mixed reviews. Critics complimented its idea and dark nature while the Catholic League criticized Gaga for alleged blasphemy, despite Klein dismissing the idea and claiming that the scene in question (the swallowing of Rosary beads) was Gaga's "desire to take in the Holy". Gaga performed the song on the ninth season of American Idol and has performed it on all dates of The Monster Ball Tour and on all subsequent tours to date.
Composition and release
Gaga co-wrote and co-produced "Alejandro" with RedOne. It was recorded at FC Walvisch Studios in Amsterdam. She told Fuse TV that the inspiration behind "Alejandro" was her "Fear of Men Monster".Billboard described "Alejandro" as a synth-pop song with a "stomping Euro-pop beat". The song is influenced by ABBA and Ace of Base, the latter being prominent in the beats of the song, the vocals, and the melody. The words are slurred in Gaga's vocal delivery while the composition consists of an uplifting melody.
The song opens with the main melody from the Hungarian piece "Csárdás" by Italian composer Vittorio Monti played on violin, as a distressed Gaga (speaking in a Spanish accent) states: "I know that we are young, and I know that you may love me/But I just can't be with you like this anymore, Alejandro." The track then changes to a stomping Europop beat. Gaga bids her ex-lovers farewell with a bitter-hearted pre-chorus where she sings: "You know that I love you, boy/Hot like Mexico, rejoice!/At this point I've got to choose/Nothing to lose." By the end of the song, the three protagonists--Alejandro, Fernando, and Roberto--are bidden farewell by Gaga.
According to the sheet music published at Musicnotes.com by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, the song is set in the time signature of common time, with a moderate tempo of 99 beats per minute. It is composed in the key of B minor with Gaga's vocal range spanning from F♯3 to G5. The song has a basic sequence of Bm-D-F♯m as its chord progression. The lyrics talk about Gaga defending herself against a group of Latin men and has a number of ABBA allusions, including a reference to their 1976 song "Fernando", which Gaga cited as one of her influences.
Originally, "Dance in the Dark" was planned to be released as the third single from The Fame Monster, as a preference of Gaga's record label. The singer's own choice, "Alejandro", initially saw poor reception in terms of radio play, thereby was not seen as a viable choice for a single. A quarrel then arose between Gaga and her label where "Alejandro" was ultimately chosen to be released. Through her account on Twitter, the singer remarked on the decision, "Alejandro is on the radio. Fuck it sounds so good, we did it little monsters." The single was officially sent to radio on April 20, 2010 in the United States.
Gaga performing "Alejandro" on the Born This Way Ball (2012), sporting her "gun-bra" from the music video
Chris Ryan from MTV described the song as a "lush paean to a love that's 'hot like Mexico'." Evan Sawdey from PopMatterssaid that Gaga's vocals sounded like those of Shakira in the song's chorus. Ben Patashnik from NME called the song light-hearted. Michael Hubbard of MusicOMH complimented the song as "brilliantly catchy, deceptively simple and wonderfully melancholy," while Sarah Hajibagheri from The Times dismissed it for being a "painful Latino warble [and] a would-be Eurovision reject."The Boston Globe's James Reed also gave a negative review of the song, writing that it is "a tepid dance track in which she trills the song's title over and over again as if she had nothing better to say." The song won Best Pop Dance Track at the Annual International Dance Music Awards, the major event held during the Winter Music Conference 2011.
Comparisons with Swedish pop music groups ABBA and Ace of Base's work were constant in reviews. Paul Lester from BBC felt that "[Alejandro] moves at an Ace of Base pace." Lindsey Fortier from Billboard compared it to Ace of Base's "Don't Turn Around" and ABBA's "Fernando", adding that: "By the song's end, Alejandro, Fernando and Roberto aren't the only ones sent packing--the listener is dancing out right behind them". Sal Cinquemani from Slant Magazine also made an Ace of Base connection calling the song a homage to them.Stephen Thomas Erlewine from Allmusic denoted the song as an "updated ABBA revision". Mikael Wood of Los Angeles Times called it bubbly and also went to compare with ABBA's style.
Jon Dolan from Rolling Stone called it a "loving ABBA spoof". Scott Plagenhoef of Pitchfork Media noted that although "Alejandro" is an ABBA morph, "it comes off very modern, in part because U.S. pop and hip-hop is currently drawing heavily from Europop, hi-NRG, and dance music." Brian R. Fitzgerland from The Wall Street Journal compared the song with Madonna's 1987 single "Who's That Girl". Robert Copsey of Digital Spy gave the song five out of five stars and compared it to Madonna's song "La Isla Bonita" and Ace Of Base songs, but felt that Gaga added "her own twist to hers". He also praised the song's melodies describing them as "deceptively catchy" and the lyrics as "wistful".
In the United States, "Alejandro" debuted at number 72 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the issue dated April 17, 2010. The song also debuted on the Mainstream Top 40 chart at number 35, and the Hot Digital Songs chart at number 71, after selling 24,000 paid digital downloads according to Nielsen Soundscan. It reached number five on the Hot 100, becoming Gaga's seventh consecutive top ten hit in the United States. She became the second female artist to have her first seven singles reach top-ten in the United States, since R&B singer Monica did so from 1995-1999. "Alejandro" peaked at number four on the Mainstream Top 40 chart, becoming the first single by her not to reach the number one position there. It also debuted on the Hot Dance Club Songs chart at 40 and reached the top on the issue dated July 7, 2010. The song has sold 2.63 million digital downloads in the United States as of February 2019, making Gaga the only artist in digital history to amass seven consecutive two million sellers as a lead act. The track was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in February 2016. In Canada, "Alejandro" debuted at number 78 on the Canadian Hot 100 issue dated April 4, 2010, and reached a peak of number four, on the issue dated May 8, 2010.
On April 5, 2010, "Alejandro" debuted at number 49 in Australia on the official ARIA Singles Chart, and moved to number 28 the next week. It ultimately peaked at number two, thus becoming Gaga's seventh top five hit in the country. "Alejandro" was certified platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) for shipment of 70,000 copies of the single. The song debuted at number 35 on the New Zealand Top 40 on April 19, 2010. It has peaked at number 11.
With the release of The Fame Monster, "Alejandro" charted on the UK Singles Chart at number 75, on November 29, 2009, due to digital sales. On the May 16, 2010, chart, the song re-entered at number 95 and ultimately peaked at number seven. According to the Official Charts Company, "Alejandro" has sold a total of 436,000 copies as of February 2014, and was certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). They also revealed it as the 37th best-selling vinyl single in the UK for the 2010s decade. Across Europe, the song reached the top five in Austria, the Ultratop charts of Belgium (Flanders and Wallonia), Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland, while topping the charts in Finland, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and Russia.
Development and release
In January 2010, it was reported that Gaga was holding casting calls for the music video of "Alejandro" and was eager for David Walliams to appear in the video alongside his wife Lara Stone. On March 23, 2010, Women's Wear Daily reported that photographer Steven Klein would direct the music video, which Gaga confirmed herself. While touring Australia with The Monster Ball Tour, Gaga was interviewed by Australian radio station, Melbourne's Nova 100, where she confirmed that the clip would not be a follow-up of the music video for "Telephone".
After confirming that Klein was directing her video, Gaga explained that she "doesn't know what [the video is] going to look like until it's finished", and commented that "[Steven Klein is] a very good friend of mine and I love him so much, [...] I have so much respect for him. And we've been excited to collaborate and have a fashion photographer tell us a story, the story of my music through his lens and this idea of fashion and lifestyle." Gaga explained that Klein understood her "I am what I wear" lifestyle, making him a suitable director for the video. She added, "It's all about where I'm from and love of theater and love of music and love of the lie in art, and Steven really knows and understands that, [....] So we're making a beautiful video, and I'm so excited." In May 2010, Gaga told The Times about the concept of the video: "[It's about the] purity of my friendships with my gay friends, and how I've been unable to find that with a straight man in my life. It's a celebration and an admiration of gay love--it confesses my envy of the courage and bravery they require to be together. In the video I'm pining for the love of my gay friends--but they just don't want me to be with them."
A snippet of the video was shown on Larry King Live on June 1, 2010. The clip was from the portion of the video in black-and-white, where Gaga and her dancers perform variations on a sharp military march throughout. Kara Warner of MTV said that it seemed reminiscent of Madonna's "Vogue" video and Christina Aguilera's "Not Myself Tonight", but stated that in "Alejandro", Gaga's style was more cutting, masculine and militant in contrast to Madonna's. Because of the video's military theme, comparisons were also made to Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation". On the program, Gaga said to King that the video has a "homoerotic military theme" [...] "It is a celebration of my love and appreciation for the gay community, my admiration of their bravery, their love for one another and their courage in their relationships." The video premiered on Gaga's official website and her YouTube and Vevo accounts on June 8, 2010.
Lady Gaga dressed as a nun in a red latex habit, swallowing rosary beads
A portion of the video is dedicated to the Broadway musical Cabaret. The video begins with soldiers in black leather uniforms in a cabaret with a close-up of a soldier passed out in female fishnet stockings and heels as another lone soldier stares into the distance. The scene then cuts to male dancers performing elaborate choreography while marching forward with a Star of David. As the intro of the song begins, Gaga is shown leading a funeral procession, carrying the Sacred Heart on a pillow. When the lyrics begin, she sits on a throne wearing an elaborate headpiece and binocular-like eyepieces, with a smoking pipe in her hand, watching her dancers perform a rigorous routine in the snow. Gaga is then seen as the character Sally Bowles from Cabaret, dancing and simulating sex acts with three men on a stage with twin beds surrounded by spotlights, all wearing nothing but underwear, intercut with shots of Gaga lying on a larger bed dressed in a red latex nun outfit. She subsequently appears dressed in a white hooded robe, reminiscent of Joan of Arc, with her dancers, interspersed with a shot of her as the nun, consuming a set of rosary beads. After this, Gaga and her dancers are shown in a sequence in black-and-white in their military uniforms performing a tribute dedicated to the late choreographer Bob Fosse, who won an Academy Award for his direction of the film version of Cabaret. Gaga is seen in a blonde bob and a similar outfit to one of Liza Minnelli's performance costumes. The video moves to a scene of her wearing a bra equipped with AR-15 rifle barrels and her dancers performing another dance routine. She is then shown in the empty club, scenes of war breaking out flash by, and the lone soldier appears again. Going back to the Joan of Arc scene, she struggles with her dancers and disrobes. The video ends with her dressed as the nun, the film burning away from her face outwards. Klein explained that the video was, "about a woman's desire to resurrect a dead love and who can not face the brutality of her present situation. The pain of living without your true love."
Multiple critics compared the video to the work of Madonna.
James Montgomery from MTV commented that "Gaga has created a world that, while oppressive, also looks great." In a separate piece Montgomery added that "... she may have finally reached the point in her career where not even she can top herself."Rolling Stones Daniel Kreps called the video a "cinematic epic." Brad Wete of Entertainment Weekly, liked the video; however, he had no idea what was going on: "I can't wait to hear Lady Gaga explain her latest video, "Alejandro." Mostly because after watching it (twice!), I have absolutely no clue what's going on beyond the obvious." Anthony Benigno from Daily News felt that "the shock songstress' new music video [...] is chock full of bed-ridden S&M imagery that makes it look like the softcore answer to The Matrix. Randall Roberts from Los Angeles Times said "the clip reinforces the notion that no one understands the convergence of image and music right now better than Gaga." Jed Gottlieb from the Boston Herald said that "The plot [of the video] is hard to decipher, but it's clearly not a story that ends happily ever after." Jen Dose from National Post commented "Gaga's new vid for 'Alejandro' certainly brings the crazy we've all come to expect from her. It's like an 8+ minute homage to Madonna--with some gay Nazis thrown in for good measure". Amy Odell of New York said the video's outfits were not as "intense" as those of "Bad Romance" or "Telephone." Nate Jones of Time Magazine disliked the song, but felt the video "looks fantastic... the self-conscious ballsiness of Gaga and director Steven Klein works here." Jennifer Cady from E! liked the video, but did not think it was as good as Gaga's previous work. Julie Moult from Daily Mail said "[After the video], no-one could accuse Lady Gaga of being the shy and retiring type."
The video was also heavily compared to works by 1980s pop artists like Madonna and Janet Jackson. Critic Monica Herrera viewed the video as a hybrid of Madonna's "Like a Prayer" and Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation". MTV's Kyle Anderson found references to Madonna's 1996 film Evita and the music videos for her songs "Like a Prayer", "Human Nature" and "Vogue."Rolling Stone compared the black-and-white cinematography of the video to that of "Vogue," and noticed some "not so subtle" hints toward "Like a Prayer." The magazine believed that the "Alejandro" was so similar to Madonna's work because director Steven Klein had closely worked with Madonna prior to shooting "Alejandro." Devon Thomas from CBS News said the "Madonna-isms run high in the clip." He noted Gaga's short, cropped hair and black blazer "set against the stark, post-industrialist mood of the ["Alejandro"] clip" was similar to "Express Yourself" and the machine-gun bra in the video was similar to the cone bra Madonna sported in "Vogue." He also compared the video to Madonna's early Blond Ambition World Tour era by saying that "[this video] is a visual love letter to [Madonna]".New York said the video "reeked" of Madonna. James Montgomery of MTV News defended Gaga against the Madonna comparisons, saying, "Just to say, 'Oh, 'cause it's in black and white and she has a bowl haircut at one point, it's Madonna,' that's sort of selling their vision short." He also said that the music video for "Alejandro" is "not the best video in the world." In an article for The Sunday Times, Camille Paglia wrote "Gaga has borrowed so heavily from Madonna (as in her latest video-Alejandro) that it must be asked, at what point does homage become theft?"
Fellow pop singer Katy Perry criticized Gaga's use of "blasphemous" religious imagery in the "Alejandro" music video.
"Alejandro" created a media uproar after the release of the video because of its use of religious imagery. One of the most discussed scenes in the video was when Gaga, dressed in a latex nun outfit, swallowed rosary beads. The Catholic League criticized the video for its use of religious imagery, accusing Gaga of "playing a Madonna copy-cat". Moncia Herrara said of the mayhem: "['Alejandro'] courts religious controversy in much the same way that Madonna's 'Like a Prayer' video once did, intermingling Catholic imagery like rosary beads and nun's robes with sexual cues." In an interview with MTV, Klein explained that the religious symbolism was not meant to denote anything negative, but to represent Gaga's battle between the darker and lighter forces. Thus at the end of the film, she is portrayed again in her nun's habit. Klein added that the significance behind her mouth and eyes disappearing was "because she is withdrawing her senses from the world of evil and going inward towards prayer and contemplation." He added that the scene where Gaga devours the rosary beads was her act of theophagy, the desire to consume the body of God, the rosary being symbolic of the Holy.
Many critics agreed that the religious imagery was a calculated move by Gaga to create controversy. Simon Voxick-Levinson from Entertainment Weekly felt that the move was calculated, saying, "Gaga wants to offend people. She's a provocateur. Gaga would probably be disappointed if no one was offended by her latest video. She's doing that stuff for a reason." He did not think that the risks were very original or as exciting as the ones in "Telephone." "The risks that she was taking [...] were easier targets [...] It's a little bit been there, done that," he said.The New York Timess Jon Caramanica thought the controversy was Gaga's attempt to take the "Queen of Pop" throne. He said, ""I'm sure she'd say she loves Madonna ... but I also think she's saying, 'This [Queen of Pop title] is mine.' And also, like, 'I'm murdering you with my own style. I've learned this. I know how to do this ... And look how flawlessly I do it.'" He did feel, however, that the religious imagery was obvious and lazy: "Even the worst provocation is going to succeed. She got what she wanted." Singer Katy Perry took to her Twitter account and wrote, "Using blasphemy as entertainment is as cheap as a comedian telling fart jokes." The Huffington Post ascertained that while Gaga had not been mentioned directly by name that it was definitely a slam by Perry towards Lady Gaga. In an interview on NRJ Radio's Le 6/9, Perry said that the tweet was not solely about Gaga, stating that it was based on her personal views of religion.
The performance of "Alejandro" on the original show portrayed sexual innuendo between Gaga and her dancer (left), while on the revamped show, she took a bath in a fountain (right).
Gaga performed "Alejandro" on her 2009-2011 The Monster Ball Tour. It was the fourth song of the set list on the North American leg of the tour. However, on the European and British legs of the tour the song was performed towards the end of the show. The live performance saw her wearing a silver bodysuit and then being carried by her crotch by one of her male dancers and lowered onto another male dancer, engaging in a threesome with them. T'Cha Dunlevy from The Gazette said that "the song followed in fast order, with not quite enough to set [it] apart. It was one choreographed dance number after the next." Jeremy Adams from Rolling Stone commented that the performance was "[one] of several moments [...] that gave parents in the audience consternation." Jim Harrington from San Jose Mercury News compared Gaga's performance of the song with that of an erotic dancer. On the revamped show performances, Gaga moved to take bath in a fountain like architecture on the stage, a replica of the one present in New York's Central Park.
On April 20, 2010, Gaga performed the song at the MAC AIDS Fund Pan-Asia Viva Glam launch in Tokyo where she wore a doily lace dress. She entered the stage in a procession inspired by a Japanese wedding, and as the lights dimmed, she sat at her piano on the rotating stage and belted out "Speechless", which was followed by the performance of "Alejandro", where she was picked up by one of her dancers, who appeared to be covered in talcum powder. Gaga taped a medley of "Bad Romance" and "Alejandro" for the ninth season of American Idol on April 28, 2010. Her performance aired on the show's May 5, 2010 episode. The performance started with Gaga playing the piano for a slowed-down snippet of "Bad Romance". She was dressed in a revealing-but-veiled black outfit, wielding a cape and was surrounded by shirtless dancers. Halfway through the performance, she shed her cape and began writhing on the floor. Over in one corner of the stage, a statue of the Virgin Mary had flames pouring out of the top of it, as Gaga sang the chorus. Fog filled the stage, as Gaga and her dancers performed an energetic dance routine. Luchina Fisher from ABC News called it a "thinly-veiled performance dripping with sex and violins" and "Gaga doing her best Madonna impression." On July 9, 2010, the song was performed on The Today Show, where she sang it on a stage, outside the studio. In May 2011, Gaga performed the song during Radio 1's Big Weekend in Carlisle, Cumbria.
"Alejandro" was performed on Gaga's Born This Way Ball tour, in 2012-2013. The performance included her lounging on a couch made of meat and wearing her gun bra with half naked men dancing around her. For her 2014 tour, the ArtRave: The Artpop Ball, Gaga wore a green wig and leather hot pants for the performance of the song. In 2017, she performed "Alejandro" during her shows at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, while wearing a red crop-top sweatshirt. The song was also part of the setlist of the Joanne World Tour (2017-2018), where she performed it in a mesh leather cut-out bodysuit. Gaga has also performed the song on her 2018-2019 Las Vegas residency show, Enigma.
^"Media Forest - Weekly Charts. Media Forest. July 12, 2010. Retrieved July 2, 2018. Note: Romanian and international positions are rendered together by the number of plays before resulting an overall chart.
^"Media Forest - Weekly Charts. Media Forest. July 5, 2010. Retrieved July 3, 2018. Note: Select 'Songs - TV'. Romanian and international positions are rendered together by the number of plays before resulting an overall chart.