“Just Dance” by Lady Gaga (ft. Colby O’Donis)
In terms of interpreting Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance”, this is a pretty-simple dance song. This is especially true if you understand the narrative backdrop, which for the most part is firmly established by the end of the first verse.
The setting is the singer being inside of a party, i.e. a nightclub. And in terms of her disposition, she is totally smashed, i.e. drunk. Beyond that, based on how Lady Gaga has elaborated on the meaning of this tune, is the idea of she being so intoxicated that the only remedy is to dance through it.
This is what the singer means for instance when in the second verse she alludes to ‘controlling her poison’. But that being noted, everyone in the place is “getting hosed”, i.e. noticeably drunk this evening.
So as opposed to letting her drunkenness get the best of her, the singer rather decides to use it, as apparently they all are, in the name of enjoying the party.
Meanwhile Colby O’Donis represents one of the male partygoers. His verse isn’t about being intoxicated or anything like that. Rather, simply put, he’s enjoying watching the women on the dance floor.
Amongst the many “without a flaw” there is one in particular who has caught his eye, who he is trying to convince to leave with him after the party. But in the meantime he’s just admiring her body as she dances. And just to note, this verse was originally intended to be recited by Akon (as expounded on later in the article).
Gaga and Colby
So when combining the lyrics of Lady Gaga and Colby O’Donis, what we have here is fundamentally a song about enjoying a party. And the tune is in fact adult-oriented, which the primary subtheme being the main vocalist’s intoxication.
And overall, said intoxication and partying combined has an uplifting effect on the participants. Or as Lady Gaga has described it, she intended this song “to be appreciated” by anyone who is battling tough times in their lives.
In other words, she envisioned it as a cheerful tune for those who may be into partying and boozing, which apparently it has proven to be given its overall success.
The music video to this track was directed by award-winning filmographer Melina Matsoukas.
Lady Gaga likened the experience to “being on a Martin Scorsese set”. Akon appears on the clip as does Colby O’Donis.
Another musician called Space Cowboy also pops up on the scene. And it features Gaga rockin’ a blue lighting blot underneath her right eye (similar to the track’s cover art). This is a style she copied from the cover of David Bowie’s 1973 “Aladdin Sane” album.
Did Lady Gaga write “Just Dance”?
Yes. Gaga wrote this song with RedOne and Akon. In fact Akon, an equally-popular pop star, was instrumental in putting her on the map.
For instance, “Just Dance” is the very first single that Gaga ever released. And one of the labels that supported the track’s issuance is Akon’s Kon Live. And just to note, Akon also provides background vocals on this track.
RedOne is a singer from Sweden who actually spent his childhood is his country of birth, Morocco. And in addition to serving as a co-writer, he also produced this song. Additionally he served similar roles on “Poker Face“, Lady Gaga’s second single, which was an even bigger hit than “Just Dance”.
The Song that “saved” Lady Gaga’s Life
According to Gaga, she and RedOne in particular “wrote the song in about 10 minutes”. It was sort of a do-or-die situation for her. And why? To her, this was because at the time she was a “depressed” songwriter who had been given a single opportunity to compose a song “that would change (her) life”.
(She had previously been signed by Def Jam but was promptly dropped by the label.) This included her leaving NYC behind, boyfriend and apartment and all, to go to Hollywood to put the track together. And as detailed below she did achieve her goal.
And concerning the promptness in which the song was written it should be noted that, according to Akon, the entirety of “The Fame”, Lady Gaga’s debut album that it is featured on, “was done in 30 days”.
At the time this song was put together Lady Gaga was known in the industry as a songwriter, not a singer. In fact for a second there, “Just Dance” was on the verge of going to the Pussycat Dolls.
And it was Akon in particular who lobbied Jimmy Iovine, the head of Interscope Records, to rather let Gaga keep the song.
Success of “Just Dance”
And a pop artist could not ask for a better way to begin his or her career. For instance, this track topped both the UK Singles Chart and Gaga’s native Billboard Hot 100.
Outside of that, it also reached number 1 on nearly 10 other major music charts, including the following:
- Canadian Hot 100
- Dutch Top 40
- Billboard’s Mainstream Top 40
And overall it was a massive worldwide hit, achieving multi-platinum status in seven nations. This includes the US where the song is on the verge of achieving RIAA-Diamond certification, as in being certified nonuple-platinum as of 2020.
In fact having sold in excess of 10,000,000 copies, it is one of the best-selling songs in music history.
Moreover “Just Dance” was nominated for a 2009 Grammy Award (for Best Dance Recording. The prize in question ultimately went to Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”.
In terms of the song’s performance on the Hot 100, “Just Dance” was what is referred to as a sleeper hit. In this particular case, that means it was present on the list for a solid 22 weeks before finally reaching number 1. It subsequently went on to spend 49 weeks on the Hot 100 in total.
More Interesting Facts about “Just Dance”
The first time Lady Gaga performed this song live was actually in Vietnam. And the occasion was 2008 Miss Universe pageant.
Another notable rendering of this song occurred in 2017 in Houston, when Lady Gaga headlined that year’s Super Bowl Halftime Show. And she also utilized “Just Dance” as her opening tune during her Lady Gaga Enigma Las Vegas residency, which lasted from 2018 to 2020.
Many times while performing this song live, Lady Gaga plays an instrument know as a keytar (i.e. a portable keyboard shaped like a guitar).
The other labels that put this song out besides Kon Live are Interscope Records, Cherrytree Records and Streamline.
In terms of its pop media presence, “Just Dance” has been featured on the likes of “The Office” (2009), “The Simpsons” (2010) and “Bones” (2014).
Colby O’Donis is a singer from Orlando who went pro in 1999. And some two decades later, “Just Dance” by far remains the most-notable song in his discography.
And he kinda lucked out being featured on the track in the first place. That is to say that Akon himself was originally the feature on this song. However, according to the singer Universal Music Group, whom he is (indirectly) signed under, “didn’t clear (his) vocals”.
And that’s when he sought out Colby O’Donis to “do (his) verse” instead. In fact by that point an original version featuring El Negreeto “was done, finished [and] ready to go”. But Akon did not want to fight with Universal – who reigned over Interscope Records – and thus pulled back.
And apparently that is one of the reasons why it took so long for “Just Dance” to blow up, because there were no big names (with Lady Gaga herself being an unknown artist at the time) directly attached to it.