"Poker Face" is a song by American recording artist Lady Gaga from her debut album, The Fame (2008). Produced by RedOne, it was released as the album's second single in late 2008 for some markets and in early 2009 for the rest of the world. "Poker Face" is an uptempo synthpop song in the key of Ab 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. Lyrically, the track is about a woman engaged in the practice of cockteasing.
"Poker Face" was acclaimed by most critics, who praised the robotic hook and the chorus. The song attained worldwide success, topping the charts in twenty countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and many European countries. "Poker Face" was the most downloaded song in the British chart in 2009. It is among the best-selling singles of all time, having sold over thirteen million copies. The accompanying music video for the song portrays Gaga singing it in various costumes and playing strip poker in a getaway villa.
Gaga performing the piano version of "Poker Face" on The Monster Ball Tour, accompanied by Kid Cudi. The backdrops display videos submitted by her fans.
"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." In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, when asked about the meaning of the line "bluffin' with my muffin", Gaga explained that it really was a metaphor for her vulva.
"Obviously, it's my pussy's poker face! I took that line from another song I wrote but never released, called 'Blueberry Kisses.' It was about a girl singing to her boyfriend about how she wants him to go down on her, and I used the lyric. [Gaga sings] 'Blueberry kisses, the muffin man misses them kisses'."
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. The idea was taken from AC/DC's song "The Jack" off their High Voltage release.
"Poker Face" is a synthpop 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."
According to the sheet music published in Musicnotes.com by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, the song is set in the time signature of common time, with a fast tempo of 120 beats per minute. It is written in the key of A minor with Gaga's vocal range spanning from the note G3 to the note C5. It begins with a medium tempo followed by electronic chord arrangement and the "Mum-mum-mum-mah" hook. The chords follow in this order: Am–F/A–G, and then for the chorus Am–F–C–G. 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".
Gaga performing "Poker Face" on The Monster Ball Tour, wearing a dress made of guns.
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 ninety-two 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 stayed on the Hot 100 for 40 weeks. The song also peaked on both the Hot Dance Airplay and Hot Dance Club Play charts. "Poker Face" 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 sold 7.117 million paid digital downloads in the United States as of September 2013, according to Nielsen SoundScan, making Gaga the first artist in digital history to top the six million mark in paid downloads with two songs, the first being "Just Dance". As of March 2014, "Poker Face" is Lady Gaga's most digitally-sold track in the United States.
In Canada, the song debuted at number forty-one 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 twenty-six, 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). In New Zealand, the song debuted on the official chart at number twenty-one. In its sixth week, it peaked the chart spending ten consecutive weeks at number one. "Poker Face" was certified two times platinum after twenty-seven 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 thirty on the UK Singles Chart. On the chart issue dated March 22, 2009, "Poker Face" climbed to number one, thus giving Gaga her second consecutive British number one single. According to The Official Charts Company, the song has sold over 1.11 million downloads there. It became 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. In Italy the song debuted at number nineteen 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, the song spent 75 weeks on the chart, 13 weeks of them at number one. There, Poker Face is the most successful download single of all time and the first one to sell more than 500,000 downloads. The song also peaked on the BillboardEuropean Hot 100 Singles and was on the top for sixteen weeks making it the longest running single in the 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.
Gaga emerging from a pool in a black leotard wearing a mirrored masquerademask in the music video for "Poker Face"
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 full-body leotard, 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.
"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.
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.
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 violist 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."
It was also performed on 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. It was also performed at the 52nd Grammy Awards, where she opened the show with the song while standing on a pedestal. In the middle, she was then flung into the garbage chute of the Fame Factory 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 2012 Born This Way Ball Tour in which she sports a modified version of her famous meat dress. At the end of the song Her dancers dump her down a giant meat grinder.
^Hudson, John (February 25, 2010). "Lady Gaga's Ambiguous Feminism". The Wire. Retrieved September 20, 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."