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"Poker Face" is a song by American singer Lady Gaga from her debut studio album, The Fame (2008). It was released on September 26, 2008 as the album's second single. "Poker Face" is a synth-pop song in the key of G♯ minor, following in the footsteps of her previous single "Just Dance", but with a darker musical tone. The main idea behind the song is bisexuality and was a tribute by Gaga to her rock and roll boyfriends. The song's lyrics feature various sexual innuendos.
"Poker Face" was acclaimed by most critics, who praised the song's robotic hook and chorus. The song attained worldwide success, topping the charts in 20 countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and many European countries. "Poker Face" is the best-selling single of 2009 worldwide, with over 9.5 million in sales that year. It is one of the best-selling singles of all time, having sold over 14 million copies. The accompanying music video for the song portrays Gaga singing it in various costumes and playing strip poker in a getaway villa.
RedOne co-wrote and co-produced "Poker Face" with Gaga
"Poker Face" was written by Gaga and RedOne, while production was handled also by RedOne. Gaga stated in an interview that "Poker Face" was written by her as a pop song and was a tribute to her "rock 'n' roll boyfriends". She also stated that the main idea behind the song was sex and gambling. In an interview with UK's Daily Star, Gaga noted of the song, "It's about a lot of different things. I gamble but I've also dated a lot of guys who are really into sex and booze and gambling, so I wanted to write a record my boyfriends would like too." When Rolling Stone magazine asked about the meaning of the line "bluffin' with my muffin", Gaga explained that it really was a metaphor for her vulva, noting "it's my pussy's poker face!" She added that it came from a lyric "Blueberry kisses, the muffin man misses them kisses" from an unreleased track called "Blueberry Kisses" where a girl wanted her boyfriend to perform cunnilingus on her.
During her Fame Ball Tour performance at Palm Springs, California, on April 11, 2009, Gaga explained to the crowd the true meaning behind the term "Poker Face" used in the song. She suggested that the song dealt with her personal experience with bisexuality. The idea behind the song was to be with a man but fantasizing about a woman, hence the man in the song needs to read her "Poker Face" to understand what is going through her mind.
"Poker Face" is a synth-pop and dance-pop song, and follows the footsteps of Gaga's previous single "Just Dance". Whereas "Just Dance" was predominately electropop, "Poker Face" carries a dark sound with clear vocals on the chorus and a pop hook while combining the synths from "Just Dance" and the more dance-oriented beat of the next single "LoveGame". According to Kerri Mason of Billboard, the composition "carr[ies] the pleather-and-sequins vibe of the downtown New York scene out of the underground and onto the FM dial without losing its smut and sass."
Poker Face is set in a common time time signature, with a fast tempo of 120 beats per minute. It is written in the key of G♯ minor with Gaga's vocal range spanning from the note F♯3 to the note B4. It begins with a medium tempo followed by electronic chord arrangement and the "Mum-mum-mum-mah" hook. The chords follow in this order: G♯m-E/G♯-F♯, and then for the chorus G♯m-E-B-F♯. This is followed by the sound of dance music, produced by a powerful beat from the instruments, and a stuttering hook following the chorus.
Lyrically, "Poker Face" is all about sexual innuendo and teasing. According to Daily Star, the chorus repeats two alternating lyrics. After the hook "Can't read my Poker Face" the backup singer says "He's got me like nobody" and then in the next line says "She's got me like nobody". Gaga explained in an interview with them that the line carries a bit of an undertone of confusion about love and sex. However, the liner notes from the album booklet indicate both these lines only repeat "she's got me like nobody". According to BBC, the "Mum-mum-mum-mah" hook used in the song references Boney M.'s 1977 hit "Ma Baker".
Upon release, "Poker Face" received critical acclaim. Priya Elan from The Times, in a review for The Fame, said that "Poker Face" was one of the finest moments of the album with its "love-as-card-game cheek".BBC Music reviewed the "strut-tastic" single as "expressing her overwhelming desire for celebrity and fortune." Bill Lamb of About.com said, "'Poker Face' works well on pop radio, but with slight mixing alterations it would be equally at home in a dark, sweaty, late night party atmosphere. She has refreshed the pop world in the US and UK at one of the slowest times of the year. 'Poker Face' keeps the motors humming as everyone waits for the next step forward from Lady Gaga." Chris Williams of Billboard also gave a positive review of the song saying, "Once again, hooks are aplenty, with '80s-inspired synthesizers, robotic verses and a warm, sunny hook in the chorus, which is even more addictive than the previous single ('Just Dance')...With a focused artistic vision, a swagger in her interview style and above all, a fantastic collection of diverse pop nuggets, Gaga is playing her cards right--and "Poker" is another obvious ace."
Gaga wearing a yellow leotard and an admiral's cap, performing "Poker Face" on The Fame Ball Tour
In the United States, the song entered the Billboard Hot 100 at 92 and reached number six on the issue dated March 7, 2009. The next week the song climbed another three places to reach a peak of three and stayed there for two additional weeks. On the Billboard issue dated April 11, 2009, the song topped the chart. "Poker Face" became Gaga's second consecutive number one song on the Hot 100, marking the first time a new artist has had their first two charting singles hit number one on the Hot 100 since Christina Aguilera did so with "Genie in a Bottle" and "What a Girl Wants" in 1999-2000. The song spent one week at the summit of the chart, 9 weeks at number two, 18 weeks in the top ten and stayed on the Hot 100 for a total of 40 weeks. "Poker Face" also peaked on both the Hot Dance Airplay and Hot Dance Club Play charts. It became the first single since Madonna's 2006 single "Sorry", to top all the three dance charts in a single week including the Hot Dance Singles Sales chart. The song has been certified Diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and sold 7.5 million paid digital downloads in the United States as of February 2018, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Gaga is the first artist in digital history to top the six and seven million mark in paid downloads with two songs, the first being "Just Dance". "Poker Face" is Gaga's most digitally-sold track in the United States.
In Canada, the song debuted at number 41 on the Canadian Hot 100. On the chart dated December 13, 2008, "Poker Face" ascended to the number one spot and then spent nine non-consecutive weeks at the top. The song was certified eight times platinum by the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) for paid digital downloads of 320,000. "Poker Face" entered the Australian charts at number 26, and in its seventh week peaked at number one. "Poker Face" has shipped over 420,000 copies in Australia, earning six-times Platinum certification by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). It held the record for the longest-charting song in ARIA Chart history of 106 weeks until this was broken in May 2015 by Vance Joy's "Riptide". In New Zealand, the song debuted on the official chart at number 21. In its sixth week, it peaked on the chart spending 10 consecutive weeks at number one. "Poker Face" was certified two times platinum after 27 weeks on the chart, selling over 30,000 copies, according to the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ).
In the United Kingdom, "Poker Face" debuted at number 30 on the UK Singles Chart. After three weeks, it climbed to number one, thus giving Gaga her second consecutive British number one single. It was the biggest selling digital single in the United Kingdom, before being overtaken by "I Gotta Feeling" by The Black Eyed Peas in June 2010. However, the song became the country's biggest-selling single of 2009, and was awarded The Record of the Year. As of January 2017, it has sold 1.18 million copies and has been streamed 8.27 million times according to the Official Charts Company, receiving a double platinum certification from the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). In Italy the song debuted at number 19 and peaked at number two. The song has also reached the peak in a number of European countries including Austria, Belgium (Flanders and Wallonia), Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden and Switzerland. In Germany "Poker Face" became the most successful download single of all time and the first one to sell more than 500,000 downloads. The song also spent 16 non-consecutive weeks atop the BillboardEuropean Hot 100 Singles chart. Worldwide, the song had sold 9.8 million copies by November 2009 according to IFPI. It has since gone on to sell over 13.4 million copies as of September 2013, making it one of the best-selling singles of all time.
The music video for "Poker Face", directed by Ray Kay and aided by Anthony Mandler, was filmed at the luxury villa on bwin PokerIsland. bwin also provided the poker equipment and obtained product placements in return.
The video premiered on October 22, 2008. It is set by a pool, as well as in a mansion. It begins with Gaga emerging from the pool wearing a mirror masquerade mask and a black sleeveless latex bodysuit with a jagged shoulder pad, with two Great Danes beside her. She throws the mask aside and the song begins with a facial shot of Gaga singing it. Gaga wears a metallic sticker on her left cheek in this shot. Featured in the video are scenes of Gaga in a mansion and dancing poolside with her dancers in a turquoise leotard. Gaga attends a wild party where every man and woman tries their luck on a strip poker game. The party gets wilder when all the party's guests strip down to their underwear, dance around, and share kisses with each other. The video also features several white mannequins on her swimming pool deck. During the musical interlude before the "I won't tell you that I love you" hook, Gaga is shown in her trademark "Pop Music Will Never Be Low Brow" sunglasses while sitting beside the pool. The video ends with the head shot of Gaga singing the Mum-mum-mum-ma hook.
Gaga performing the piano version of "Poker Face" during The Fame Ball Tour, wearing a dress made of plastic bubbles and playing a transparent piano
"Poker Face" has been performed by Gaga at a number of shows including the AOL Sessions, the Cherrytree House of Interscope Records, and also the MTV sessions. The song was performed by Gaga both in the original version and the acoustic piano version in her headlining The Fame Ball tour. She performed the piano version wearing a dress made of plastic transparent bubbles and playing the glass piano with her stilletoes with a glowing mannequin, like the music video, standing in front of the stage. Gaga claimed that the transparent bubble filled piano was specifically made to match her dress. The actual version was performed by Gaga as the final song of the encore, after "Boys, Boys, Boys". She started the performance saying "Some say Lady Gaga is a lie, and they're right: I am a lie, and every day I kill to make it true." Gaga wore a nude corseted leotard embellished with crystals and an admiral's hat during the performance. The hat as well as the fingerless gloves worn were decorated with the word Gaga on it.
On April 1, 2009, both the acoustic and normal version of "Poker Face" was performed live on Fox's American Idol. The performance started with Gaga sitting at a Plexiglass piano filled with bubbles and bathed in pink light. She started singing the second verse of "Poker Face" in a Bette Midler style accompanied by a violin player while wearing a shiny aluminum shoulder pad and platinum bleached blond wig. After the first chorus, the pace increased whence the original intro for the song started. Gaga got up from her seat and proceeded to perform the song in the middle of the stage. She wore a silvery leotard with a giant star on her shoulder and tassels. As the song progressed to the intermediate verse, the violinist played a hoe-down version of the music and Gaga danced around frantically over the stage. The performance ended with Gaga staring towards the audience while revealing an open zipper, patched over her left eye. The performance was described an "alien-disco performance art." Cortney Harding of Billboard wrote, "[it was] Gaga's crowning TV moment ... show[ing] middle America that she was a bona fide pop star."
The acoustic version was performed by Gaga at BBC Live & In-Session on April 19, 2009. On the same day, she had her first appearance on Italian TV, on the TV program Quelli che... il Calcio. She also performed "Poker Face" in the United Kingdom on The Paul O'Grady Show. First she played an acoustic version first before going on to the normal version, and a rock version on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross. On May 12, 2009, Gaga performed "Poker Face" on The Ellen DeGeneres Show while wearing a gyroscope on her head, designed by theatrical hat designer Nasir Mazhar and playing the piano while standing on the stool. Gaga referred to the gyroscope as her "Gaga barrier". It prevented Ellen DeGeneres from greeting her because of the size of the gear. A remixed version of "Poker Face" and "LoveGame" was performed at the 2009 MuchMusic Video Awards, during the indoor-outdoor streetside show. This performance, which included Gaga being trapped in a fake subway car surrounded by fake police officers, was billed as a tribute to New York City. Snippets of the song was performed by Gaga at the thirty-fifth season of American comedy show Saturday Night Live, while wearing a giant contraption ("The Orbit") of several metallic concentric rings that rotated around her. In September 2009, Gaga appeared in French television show Taratata, where she added an improvised verse in French while performing "Poker Face".
Gaga, surrounded by her male dancers, performing "Poker Face" on the Joanne World Tour (2017-2018)
The track was part of the setlist of Gaga's The Monster Ball Tour. The piano version was played by Gaga while balancing on the piano stool and holding one leg up in the air. Rapper Kid Cudi joined her then to perform his song "Make Her Say" which contains a sample of "Poker Face". The actual version was performed at the last segment of the show. Gaga wore a dress made of guns and during the performance she pumped her hands in the air. For the revamped Monster Ball shows in 2010-11, Gaga was dancing around the stage while whipping a chain. "Poker Face" was also performed at the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards, where Gaga opened the show with the song while standing on a pedestal. Midway through the performance, she was flung into the garbage chute of her 'Fame Factory' stage set, before emerging seated at a piano, facing Elton John. In May 2011, Gaga performed the song during Radio 1's Big Weekend in Carlisle, Cumbria. The song was included on the set list of her Born This Way Ball tour (2012-2013), where she sported a modified version of her infamous meat dress. Gaga and her dancers put themselves headfirst into enormous meat grinders during the performance. For her 2014 residency show, Lady Gaga Live at Roseland Ballroom she chose to perform the song in a piano-only rendition. In the same year, at the Artrave: The Artpop Ball tour, Gaga performed the song in a medley with "Just Dance" and "Telephone" while wearing knee-length white dress and heels, and a bob wig.
In October 2016, Gaga appeared in the Carpool Karaoke segment of The Late Late Show with James Corden, where "Poker Face" was one of the songs Gaga sang in the vehicle. On February 5, 2017, Gaga performed the song during the Super Bowl LI halftime show. After descending from the top of the building, she started singing "Poker Face" on a tall pillar, before continuing air acrobatics and performing the song while hanging on a rope in the air. "Poker Face" was later performed at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, where Gaga performed it in the encore alongside with "Bad Romance". The track was also part of the setlist of Gaga's Joanne World Tour (2017-2018), where she was wearing a black bejewelled fringe leotard for the performance. The singer performs the song during Lady Gaga Enigma (2018-2019), her Las Vegas residency, which involves two different shows. During the Engima shows, Gaga performs "Poker Face" as the second track of the setlist, while on the Jazz and Piano show, a stripped-down piano version of the song is performed.
^ abHudson, John (February 25, 2010). "Lady Gaga's Ambiguous Feminism". The Wire. Archived from the original on March 18, 2014. Retrieved 2013. Ever since Lady Gaga stormed the airwaves with her synth-pop super-hit Poker Face, she's been an irresistible enigma to culture critics.
^" December 2009 ~December 2010 (R)? 2010(:?)" [Record Association Analysis: December 16, 2009 - December 14, 2010 Full-length Cellphone Download 2010 paid digital sales "Yearly Chart" (Abbreviated: RIAJ Chart)] (PDF). RIAJ. December 20, 2010. Archived(PDF) from the original on December 23, 2010. Retrieved 2010.