Lady Gaga — Judas

"Judas" is the second single from Lady Gaga's second studio album, Born This Way. It is an electro-house song about a woman in love with a man who betrayed her. It embodies the incidents that have haunted Gaga in the past, and its core meaning refers to the negative parts of her life that she cannot escape. Gaga further explained that the song was also about honoring one's inner darkness in order to bring oneself into the light. The artwork for the single was designed by Gaga in Microsoft Word. In spite of a polarizing impact on several religious groups, the song was generally well received by critics, who likened the song to "Bad Romance" with some noting it should have been the album's lead single.

"Judas" was revealed as the name of the second single in Gaga's interview for Vogue. Gaga confirmed the release of "Judas" as the second single, on Ryan Seacrest's radio show on February 14, 2011, and also revealed RedOne as the co-producer of the song. At the 53rd Grammy Awards, RedOne told MTV News that if the previous single, the title track from Born This Way, polarized people, "Judas" was expected to shock them more. On the talk show Last Call with Carson Daly, Gaga explained to the host that "Judas" was about always falling in love with the wrong man over and over again. "'Judas' is a very, very dark song. It's rad", she added. With MSN Canada, Gaga revealed the metaphors and the meaning behind the song:

"'Judas' is a metaphor and an analogy about forgiveness and betrayal and things that haunt you in your life and how I believe that it's the darkness in your life that ultimately shines and illuminates the greater light that you have upon you. Someone once said to me, 'If you have no shadows then you're not standing in the light.' So the song is about washing the feet of both good and evil and understanding and forgiving the demons from your past in order to move into the greatness of your future. I just like really aggressive metaphors—harder, thicker, darker—and my fans do as well. So it is a very challenging and aggressive metaphor, but it is a metaphor."

Gaga further elaborated on the inspiration behind the song as walking towards the light force in her life and peering towards the devil in the back, while clutching onto the source of the light. "I sing about what a holy fool I am, and that although moments in my life are so cruel and relationships can be so cruel I’m still in love with Judas. I still go back again to those evil things," she said. During her interview with Google, Gaga added to the song's meaning of honoring one's inner darkness in order to bring themselves into the light. One has to learn to forgive themselves in order to move on with their life. With Popjustice she clarified that she has a lot of things that have haunted her from her past, including her choices, men, drug abuse, being afraid to go back to New York, and confronting old romances. Hence "Judas" represented something that was not good for her, something she could not escape. Gaga said: "I keep going back and forth between the darkness and the light in order to understand who I am."

"Judas" was generally well-received by most music critics. Jonathan Van Meter from Vogue gave the song a positive review, saying the song sounded like it was written for The Ronettes, but was set to a "sledgehammering" dance beat. MTV's James Dinh noted that the song was very similar in its composition to "Bad Romance". Popjustice also compared it to "Bad Romance" describing it as "a highly evolved, Titanium-plated 'Bad Romance' from the year 2511 traveling half a millennium back in time to save music from a tidal wave of 'in the club'-obsessed pop drivel, and that's 'Judas'." Kevin O'Donnel from Spin felt that the song sounded like a rowdy, industrial-disco banger, and described Gaga's performance as "insanely over the top: She alternates between rapping, a robotic monotone, and a crow-like squawk — before gliding into a more conventional chorus that hews closer to 'Bad Romance'." He complimented the primal energy of the music of "Judas," and felt that the breakdown was one of the weirdest moments to hit the pop music scene in 2011. Slant Magazine's Eric Henderson noted that the disconnection and deviation from Gaga's previous single "Born This Way" were more pronounced with "Judas". Musically he felt that "Judas" had the same "glitter-jackhammer level as 'Born This Way', though the big anthemic chords are almost inverted—not unlike Inner City's Big Fun vs. Good Life. It's a good twin, evil twin thing." Henderson continued that the song conjured the imagery of a disturbing vision of hell, and in a warped sense the song seemed more forward-thinking to him and less of a message, "than the 'gay = great' equation at the heart of 'Born This Way'."

Amos Barshad from New York declared that the song reminded him of being drunk and dancing in a remote discothèque in Berlin. NME's Dan Martin was of the opinion that "Judas" was the song that Gaga should have come back with. But he understood why she did not choose it as the lead single from Born This Way, given the fact that the song was characteristic of Gaga's music. Pointing the same thing, Matthew Perpetua from Rolling Stone wrote that the song played to Gaga's established musical sensibilities. He added that although "Judas" certainly had its own charms and "at least three insanely catchy hooks it leans hard on Gaga's signature moves." Maura Johnston of The Village Voice summarized the song as a twin of "Bad Romance" describing its "instantly memorable wordless vocalizing, a pummeling beat, lyrics about a romance that is, well, bad." Digital Spy's Robert Copsey gave the song five out of five stars, commending the "blasphemously camp" chorus and comparing it to be worthy of Eurovision – "a Scooch-meets-Lordi affair that, unsurprisingly, takes a few listens to get your head around." Mark Lepage from The Gazette praised the song and understood that as Gaga's music has progressed, so have her themes and inspirations, indicated by the conflicted relationship she has with the character Judas in the song. Rick Fulton, while writing in the Daily Record, compared it to "'Like a Prayer' on steroids" and gave it three out of five points. NME called the song "Gaga's worst single so far" in November 2011.

After its release to digital outlets and radio, Billboard theorized that "Judas" would need to sell between 350,000 and 400,000 copies in two and a half days, and make a large number of radio listener impressions through the end of the airplay tracking period on April 19, 2011, in order to debut at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song debuted at number 30 on the Billboard Pop Songs chart with 1,405 detections on 118 of the Pop Songs panel's 132 reporting stations, translating to an opening audience of 13.6 million. For the issue dated April 30, 2011, "Judas" debuted at number four on the Hot Digital Songs chart with 162,000 copies sold. It debuted at its peak position of number ten on the Hot 100—Gaga's third debut in the top 10—and started at number 48 on the Radio Songs chart with a 26 million audience. The next week "Judas" dropped two places on the Hot 100 while selling 156,000 downloads (down 4%) in its first full week at retail. However, on Radio Songs, "Judas" jumped from number 48 to number 36 (34 million impressions, up 29%), while also moving up to number 19 on the Pop Songs chart, reaching a peak of number 15 to date. "Judas" also debuted on the Hot Dance Club Songs Chart at number 38, and on Adult Pop Songs at number 40, for the issue dated May 14, 2011. It has since reached the top of the Hot Dance Club Songs chart. According to Nielsen SoundScan, "Judas" has sold one million copies of digital downloads in the US as of February 2019.

In Canada, "Judas" debuted at number nine on the Canadian Hot 100 with three days of sales, entering the Digital Songs chart of Canada at number five with 16,000 copies sold. The next week it moved up one position to its peak of number eight while becoming the greatest gainer on the chart in terms of airplay. The song moved from number 66 to number 23 on the Canadian Hot 100 Airplay chart, with a 161% increase in audience. In the United Kingdom, "Judas" debuted at number 14 on the UK Singles Chart on April 17, 2011, with 20,729 copies. The next week it moved to number nine. The song debuted at number nine on the French Singles Chart with 5,719 copies of the single and has since reached a peak of seven. In New Zealand, "Judas" debuted at number 13 on the New Zealand Singles Chart on April 18, 2011, and also debuted at number six on the ARIA Singles Chart of Australia, which became its peak there. "Judas" was certified platinum in Australia by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA), for shipment of 70,000 copies of the single. In Ireland and Finland, "Judas" achieved a top-five debut at positions four and three respectively. Other top-ten debuts happened in Belgium (Wallonia), Norway and Spain. In Japan "Judas" debuted at number seven on the Billboard Japan Hot 100 chart. The song debuted and peaked at number 23 in the German Singles Chart, ending her consecutive top-ten placings in that chart since her debut "Just Dance".

The music video for "Judas" was filmed on April 2–3, 2011, and was directed by Gaga and her then choreographer, Laurieann Gibson. The singer's stylist Thierry Mugler and creative director Nicola Formichetti announced on the coming Monday that the filming for the clip was over. The cast included Norman Reedus as Judas, while Gaga played the part of Mary Magdalene and Rick Gonzalez as the Jesus-like character. Gibson and Gaga wanted to make sure the video's direction was perfect—so they directed it themselves. Gibson explained that while working with Nick Knight on the music video for "Born This Way", they had felt that the ideas presented did not execute in the way they wanted. But with the music video of "Judas", the whole idea and the inspiration were clear enough. They had initially approached a director, but the dates did not work out with him, so Gaga's manager asked her and Gibson to direct the video instead. With MTV News, Gibson explained that there was a "groundbreaking" message in the clip, which might "shock" the audience.

Gibson said she took a moment before agreeing, as she had just wrapped up work on Gaga's Monster Ball HBO special but she could not resist in the end. "It's a phenomenal video: really powerful, really impactful," she added. With The Hollywood Reporter, Gibson explained that within the video they created a new Jerusalem. The team had two different views about the storyline and hence there were many debates about the content to be included. The shock value in the video was purposefully added, but ultimately the story was about oppression, and about following one's heart and the glory of being free.

With NME magazine Gaga revealed that the video involved motorbikes and a death sequence. She also described the portrayal of her character as being "beyond repentance", which evolved from the continuous media accusations towards her that " trashy. or pretentious or this and that. is my way of saying 'I've crossed the line, I won't even try to repent. Nor should I'." Forgiveness and destiny also played a part in the video, and Gaga wanted to portray a Federico Fellini-esque story with apostles being revolutionaries in modern-day Jerusalem. They are led to Jesus, by Gaga as Magdalene. Although initially reported to be premiered during an episode of the tenth season of American Idol, the music video premiered on May 5, 2011, on E! News at 7 pm.

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Size400.19 Mb
Duration5:34 min
Artist Lady Gaga
Genres Dance-Pop, Electro House, Electropop
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