"Black Widow" is a song by Australian rapper Iggy Azalea, from her debut studio album, The New Classic (2014). The song's hook is sung by British recording artist Rita Ora, and its lyrics chronicle subjects of revenge and feminism in a failed romantic relationship. "Black Widow" was written by Azalea, Katy Perry, Sarah Hudson, Benny Blanco, and duo Stargate; the latter also produced the song. Initially a track recorded by Perry for her fourth studio album, Prism (2013), the song was excluded from its track listing, however Perry handed the demo to Azalea for her to complete.

"Black Widow"
Black Widow cover.png
Single by Iggy Azalea featuring Rita Ora
from the album The New Classic
Released8 July 2014
Format
RecordedNovember 2013
StudioRecord Plant and Westlake Recording Studios (Los Angeles); Jungle City Studios (New York City
Length3:30
LabelDef Jam
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
Iggy Azalea singles chronology
"No Mediocre"
(2014)
"Black Widow"
(2014)
"Booty"
(2014)
Rita Ora singles chronology
"I Will Never Let You Down"
(2014)
"Black Widow"
(2014)
"Doing It"
(2015)

On 8 July 2014, the song impacted on mainstream radio stations in the US as the fifth single from The New Classic and the accompanying music video for the song was released on 13 August 2014. "Black Widow" has been described as "channeling the trap" genre, containing an ominous steel drum rhythm, heavy bass and a sparse beat. The song peaked at number three on the US Billboard Hot 100, becoming Azalea's third top-five hit, following "Fancy" and "Problem". The song also became Ora's first top-three hit in the US. It has also reached number four in the UK and number fifteen in Australia.

Its composition has been the subject of music critics' comparisons to Perry's "Dark Horse". Other journalists, praised its beat and Azalea and Ora's vocals. "Black Widow" charted due to strong digital sales during the debut week of The New Classic. Accordingly, before becoming a single it achieved peaks of number 91 in the United Kingdom and number 86 in Australia, and appeared on several component charts. Azalea has performed the song live as part of the set list for her first headlining tour, The New Classic Tour (2014). The song is featured on the video game series Just Dance 2015.[1]

BackgroundEdit

 
"Black Widow" was initially co-written by Katy Perry (pictured) for her fourth album Prism, but gave it to Azalea after it was completed.

In early 2013, Azalea became friends with American singer Katy Perry through Chris Anokute, an A&R at Azalea's record label Def Jam Recordings. Anokute, who previously was an A&R for Perry at her label Capitol Records, told Azalea that Perry was a fan of her music. When Azalea was nominated at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, Anokute asked Perry if she could promote Azalea's nomination in her category for Artist to Watch. Perry then took to Twitter to rave about Azalea's music, and Azalea later consulted Anokute about a future collaboration with Perry. Shortly afterward, Azalea and Perry begun working together with the latter's frequent collaborator Dr. Luke, but the collaboration proved unsuccessful. Azalea then heard about a song Perry recorded, "Black Widow", which was going to be given away to another artist.[2] The song was initially written as a last-minute addition to Perry's fourth studio album, Prism (2013), but the composition finalized only after the album's release.[3] Azalea described the track as "a legend" and a "mysterious record", before she could finally hear it.[2]

"I've known Iggy for many years. She supported me on my first tour. It was only an eight show tour in America. She only had 'Pussy' out at that time. I've always loved her vibe and her energy. I knew [her new album] was going to be a shock and it was a good shock, and I'm really happy for her. What we've done together is so cool and 'Black Widow' has an amazing message. We've always wanted to work together and we found the perfect song. It's all about women empowerment." —Rita Ora on collaborating with Azalea on the song.[4]

On 4 June 2013, Azalea confirmed that British recording artist Rita Ora would feature on her debut studio The New Classic, after previously announcing Ora's feature on 26 December 2012. She stated, "I had a song in mind, and I need a woman with a big voice to sing the chorus because I can't do it".[5] Azalea then asked Perry if she could record "Black Widow" for her album, which Perry then agreed to.[3] The record, however, was never sent to Azalea and on 1 August 2013, she denied that Ora would be collaborating with her on the album.[6] Azalea then met Perry for the first time, as her supporting act at the iTunes Festival that year. At the festival, Perry approached Azalea with an offer to record "Black Widow" as she felt the song would suit her better. Azalea was then invited to Perry's after party that night, where the two exchanged numbers, and Perry sent Azalea the record. When Azalea received the song, it only consisted of a hook and a beat. She initially wanted Perry to sing the song's hook, but Perry was unable to because of time constraints. In an interview, Azalea mentioned, "It needed someone who could really sing, as Katy's voice is awesome. The sky's the limit for Rita. Rita's a superstar and she will only get bigger. Rita is a great fit. Her voice can blow people away."[7] Azalea and Ora then begun recording "Black Widow" in November 2013 after the MTV Europe Music Awards, and completed it in January 2014.[2]

The final version of "Black Widow" was co-written by Azalea, Perry, Sarah Hudson, Benny Blanco, and its producers StarGate. Tim Blacksmith and Danny D. were responsible for the song's executive production and production co-ordination. StarGate provided the track's instrumentation and programming. Azalea and Ora recorded their vocals for the song at Record Plant and Westlake Recording Studios in Los Angeles, and Jungle City Studios in New York City. Their vocals were engineered by Daniel Zaidenstadt and Eriksen, while Miles Walker was credited as the track's assistant vocal engineer. Phil Tan completed the mixing process at Ninja Club Studios in Atlanta, with the assistance of Daniela Rivera.[8] The song was originally rumoured to be produced by both duo StarGate and Benny Blanco, though upon the release of the album, Blanco was only credited as a songwriter.[9]

ReleaseEdit

On 26 February 2014, in an interview with Los Angeles radio station Power 106, Azalea stated that the album's fifth single would be written by Perry and feature an undisclosed female artist.[10] A 90-second preview of "Black Widow" was released on 11 April 2014.[11] The song's full version then leaked online on 17 April 2014, five days prior to the release of The New Classic on 22 April 2014.[12] In an interview with music website HotNewHipHop on 3 June 2014, Azalea confirmed the song as the forthcoming fifth single from the album.[13] It was released on 14 September 2014 in the United Kingdom.[14]

CompositionEdit

"Black Widow" is a song which runs for a duration of three minutes and 29 seconds and has been described as a song that "channels more trap music with its beat".[15] The song combines a sparse snap and heavy trap beat with a refrain that follows a slow-building, clapping chorus formula which peaks but deliberately never capitalizes.[12] Instrumentally, "Black Widow" is composed of an ominous steel drum rhythm,[3] and heavy bass,[16] while its dance breakdown is employed with minimalism.[17] Azalea solicits the track's verses with a snarling, bitter technique,[12] consisting of rhyming employed with a spitting delivery.[18] While Ora uses a seething element to sing the track's hook, "I'm gonna love ya, until you hate me / And I'm gonna show ya, what's really crazy / You should've known better, than to mess with me harder / I'm gonna love you, I'm gonna love you / Gonna love you, gonna love you / Like a black widow baby".[19] Combined, Ora and Azalea's vocals are based on a call and response structure throughout the song.[20]

Lyrically, "Black Widow" is a dark love song which deals with the subjects of revenge and feminism in a failed romantic relationship.[21] According to Nedeska Alexis of MTV Buzzworthy, the song "captures the fallout when love turns sour" and is clarified in the lyric "I'm gonna love ya until you hate me / And now I'm gonna show ya what's really crazy".[22] Digital Spy's Emily Mackay denoted the lyrical content in "Black Widow" to contain a theme of "dark, dangerous sexuality" and felt it owned "the bunnyboiler femme fatale stereotype".[19] Nick Aveling of Time Out summarized the track's theme as "boy-baiting drama".[23] The song's beat, hook and production formula garnered many comparisons to Perry's single "Dark Horse" (2013).[9] While Tshepo Mokoena of The Guardian felt "Black Widow" was sonically reminiscent of Azalea's previous collborations with American disc jockeys Diplo and Steve Aoki,[24] and Craig Mathieson of The Sydney Morning Herald likened the song to the music of Beyoncé.[25]

"Black Widow" is performed in the key of D minor with a tempo of 82 beats per minute. The vocals span from D4 to B4 in the song.[26]

Critical responseEdit

 
Critical response to Rita Ora's guest vocals was generally positive.

"Black Widow" was met with generally mixed to positive reviews from music critics. Brittany Spanos of Rolling Stone called "Black Widow" a "great song" and praised its "hypnotic chorus."[27] Rory Cashin of Entertainment.ie felt the track had "future hit written all over it", and lauded Ora's "sing-along chorus", Stargate's "fantastic" production, and considered the song to be a "darker alternative" to "Dark Horse".[28] A writer for MuchMusic felt "Black Widow" was "a killer collaboration", in the same vein as Azalea's fourth single "Fancy" which featured Charli XCX.[15] MTV Buzzworthy's Nedeska Alexis placed the song in her list of the 4 Songs You Have To Hear from the album, and said Perry "worked her magic on the track."[22] Lucy O'Brien of The Quietus called the track a "call-and-response anthem."[20] Marie Claire journalist Lauren Valenti deemed the song "deliciously wicked" and "nothing short of brilliant", and commended Ora's vocal delivery on the track's hook.[18] A writer for Rap-Up called Azalea and Ora "a deadly duo" on the song.[29] Saeed Saeed of The National highlighted "Black Widow" as a stand out track on The New Classic and praised its "strong chorus and slithering beats."[30] Saeed's view was echoed by John Wiley of The Heights who listed the song as one of two highlights on the record.[31] Writing for The Sydney Morning Herald, Craig Mathieson stated, "while her verses don't have the sustained length of her previous underground releases, Azalea skillfully upsets convention."[25] Kyle Moody of the Marquette Wire preferred Azalea's sound "Black Widow" to the more rap-orientated songs on The New Classic.[32] Laetitia Wong Wai Yi of Today felt the track attained well-deserved hype and commended it for "perfectly" combining Azalea's vocal fluidity with its minimalistic dance breakdown.[17] Glamour journalist Megan Angelo positively reviewed the song, writing, "'Black Widow' isn't just an excellent get-up, get-ready, get-moving song for Friday night—it also happens to be a Women Killing Music summit in the form of a neat little track."[33]

Idolator reviewers were divided in their opinion of the song. Christina Lee deemed it "a surprisingly thrilling, high-stakes moment" on the album,[3] while Carl Williot felt Ora's hook overshadowed Azalea's verses on the song.[12] Exclaim! journalist Erin Lowers wrote, "'Black Widow' should pass the threshold between mediocrity and superstardom, but falls by the wayside with little personality."[34] Drowned in Sound's Giuseppe Zevolli negatively reviewed the song, writing, "'Black Widow' is so preoccupied with its overfilled, catchall crescendo that it oozes away before you even notice".[35] Kellan Miller of XXL felt that the song intended to be "a hit-to-oliberate-all-other-hits-forever-and-ever-amen", but ultimately was "a fourth quarter Hail Mary pass at best." In his review, Miller added, "Instead of remaining steadfast to the shimmer that made the early offerings bright spots, Iggy veers off course in an all too contrived effort to meet the quota of her colossal ambition."[36] Gigwise's Alexandra Pollard criticized the track's similarities with "Dark Horse" and dismissed Perry for repeating her "tried-and-tested-formula".[9] StarGate's involvement was panned by Alfred Soto of Spin, who said the song's hook was borrowed from the duo's previous production for Barbadian recording artist Rihanna's "Hate That I Love You" (2007). Additionally, Soto dismissed the track's synth line as being "nicked" from StarGate's production on American singer-songwriter Ne-Yo's Libra Scale (2010).[37] The song was named the eighth worst song of 2014 by Time magazine.[38]

Chart performanceEdit

In Australia, due to strong digital sales during the debut week of The New Classic, "Black Widow" debuted at number eighty six on the Australian Singles Chart on 5 May 2014.[39] In Ora's native United Kingdom, the song debuted at number ninety one on the UK Singles Chart, eventually peaking at number four on the chart, becoming Azalea's highest charting single as a lead artist in Britain to date.[40] The song also debuted at number fifteen on the UK R&B Chart.[41] In the United States, "Black Widow" debuted at number nine on the Billboard Bubbling Under R&B/Hip-Hop Singles chart issued for 10 May 2014 [42] and entered at number 97 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart issued for 10 July.[43] It debuted at number 36 on the New Zealand Top 40 Singles Chart of 23 June 2014.[44]

On the week ending 17 August 2014, the song advanced 15-8 on the Hot 100 becoming Azalea's third US top 10 hit. The ascent made Azalea the third female act to score three top 10 spots simultaneously in the Hot 100, after Ashanti, Adele and Ariana Grande, with the latter also doing it on the same week as Azalea, marking the first time in Hot 100 history that two acts each tripled up in the chart's top 10 simultaneously. The pair's team-up, "Problem," fell 6-7 (after reaching No. 2 for five weeks) and Azalea's former seven-week No. 1 "Fancy," featuring Charli XCX, slid 3-5.[45] "Black Widow" had sold 2,119,182 copies in the US, as of 28 December 2014, and peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100.The song was one of four different songs to be held off from number one by Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass" and Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off", which held the top two positions for 11 consecutive weeks.[46]

With "Black Widow," Azalea also became just the fourth artist in the Mainstream Top 40 chart history to send her first three chart entries to No. 1, after Lady Gaga, Avril Lavigne and Ace of Base. Ora, meanwhile, earned her first No. 1 on the chart. The track also topped the Rhythmic Songs chart for multiple weeks.[47] On 23 December 2014, "Black Widow" was certified Double Platinum in Canada after peaking at number six on the Canadian Hot 100.[48]

Music videoEdit

BackgroundEdit

On 3 June 2014, Azalea confirmed an accompanying music video[permanent dead link] for the song, stating, "We're gonna have a very crazy music video, with a lot of other people that you guys may know, playing different characters. I'm really excited about it."[13] Ora also talked about preparing for the video in June, "It is going to be amazing; I can't even tell you what's going to happen because I am sworn to secrecy. It is going to be major. You've seen her video for "Fancy"? She loves a theme and the theme for this one is fucking genius. All I am saying is I am in training for days for this video."[49] The video was shot in mid-July in Los Angeles.[50] On 8 August 2014 during a performance, Ora announced that the video should premiere officially on 11 August 2014.[51] On 11 August 2014, a 16-second teaser for "Black Widow" was uploaded on Azalea's VEVO channel. The video was directed by Director X and Iggy Azalea[52] and premiered through VEVO on 13 August 2014. Daps was the second unit director for the music video. American actors Michael Madsen, Paul Sorvino, and actor/rapper T.I. also appear in the video.[53] On 14 August 2014, exclusive behind-the-scenes footage from the video set was shown on the second episode of MTV's show House of Style, hosted by Azalea and where she revealed the visuals are inspired by 70s kung fu films and Tarantino movies.[54]

SynopsisEdit

The video starts with Rita Ora and her boyfriend, played by Michael Madsen, entering a diner. The man steps on and squishes a spider with his boot, just before Iggy Azalea is shown as a waitress named Fox behind the diner counter. Azalea then approaches the couple and hands them the menu. The man orders a BLT sandwich "dripping with melted cheese" and just when Ora is about to order he interrupts her by saying "she's gonna have the same damn thing", which causes Ora to look at him somewhat upset. As Azalea arrives with the order, the man starts complaining about the sandwich and refuses to eat it. Then, the owner of the diner, Big Wanda, jumps over the counter and asks if there's a problem. After hearing the man's complaint, Azalea tries to explain but to no avail when the owner says "What did the Fox say? Nothing!" and she is told to make another sandwich with more cheese. Ora is shocked when the owner begins to flirt with her boyfriend in front of her, and her boyfriend ignores her because the owner promises him a "big, juicy BLT sandwich" that is the menu's special. When Ora tries to speak up, she is verbally put down by the owner, who says her special order is "nothing like the little sandwich" Ora has. Ora continues to show disapproval towards the situation.

The song starts just when Azalea starts chopping the lettuce. Azalea's dream starts, in which she can be seen with Ora in a snowy scene, both dressed in similar jumpsuits with a "Black Widow" on each of their backs. When the scene changes, Azalea is training with an older Japanese man, followed by her intercepting a poison dart. She opens the dart to find an image of Madsen with the word "Destroy" written on it. Meanwhile, Ora is playing poker in an underground casino alongside Paul Sorvino and rapper T.I. and wins a large amount of money. Following this Sorvino becomes upset and aggressive, and Ora kicks him to the ground. As Sorvino lies motionless on the ground, Ora receives a Wickr message with the image of her next target - Madsen. She and Azalea both ride motorcycles to Madsen's club. Azalea unsheathes her katana and strides towards Madsen as the terrified club patrons flee. Madsen summons his guards to attack Azalea but Ora arrives as her backup, and the pair defeat the guards. They then confront Madsen who draws a gun on them, but before he can shoot them he is bitten by a black widow spider and dies.

The scene snaps back to reality, revealing all the previous events were a dream sequence of Azalea's, who is actually still chopping lettuce with the owner of the diner yelling at her.

ReceptionEdit

The clip was generally well received by fans and critics. Brian Anthony Hernandez of Mashable wrote: "Step aside, Uma Thurman. In what could essentially amount to an audition tape for Kill Bill 3, "Fancy" rapper Iggy Azalea and "R.I.P" singer Rita Ora have transformed into beautiful assassins in their elaborate music video for "Black Widow."[55] Samantha Nelson of AXS claimed "the video coincides with the female empowerment concept," but was disappointed with the lack of single shots of Azalea rapping and the focus being on the Kill Bill theme rather than the actual performance of the song itself,[56] while Brittney Stephens of PopSugar noted that "Iggy Azalea has already proven that she can pull off the music-video movie spinoff."[57] "Black Widow" was nominated for "Best Video" at the 2014 MTV Europe Music Awards.

Live performancesEdit

"Black Widow" was first performed by Azalea and Ora together at Wireless Festival in London on 4 July 2014.[58] The song was also included in the setlist of The New Classic Tour. Azalea and Ora performed the track in spiderweb-inspired catsuits at the 31st annual MTV Video Music Awards, on 24 August 2014.[59] Ora then also joined Azalea's set on stage at the Budweiser Made in America Festival in Los Angeles on 30 August 2014, to perform the song.[60] They performed it again together on The Ellen DeGeneres Show's season 12 premiere week on 9 September 2014.[61] Azalea and Ora also performed "Black Widow" in the fourth episode of Saturday Night Live's season 40 on 25 October 2014.[62]

Track listingEdit

US Remixes EP[63]
No.TitleLength
1."Black Widow (featuring Rita Ora)" (Vice Remix)3:39
2."Black Widow (featuring Rita Ora)" (Justin Prime Remix)5:41
3."Black Widow (featuring Rita Ora)" (Justin Prime Radio Edit)3:24
4."Black Widow (featuring Rita Ora)" (Justin Prime Instrumental)5:41
5."Black Widow (featuring Rita Ora)" (Oliver Twizt Remix)5:07
6."Black Widow (featuring Rita Ora)" (Oliver Twizt Remix Radio Edit)3:22
7."Black Widow (featuring Rita Ora)" (Dank Remix)4:24
8."Black Widow (featuring Rita Ora)" (Dem Slackers Remix)5:31
9."Black Widow (featuring Rita Ora)" (Dem Slackers Remix Radio Edit)3:17
10."Black Widow (featuring Rita Ora)" (Bordertown Remix)4:35
UK Remixes EP[64]
No.TitleLength
1."Black Widow (featuring Rita Ora)" (Tiga Remix)5:12
2."Black Widow (featuring Rita Ora)" (Darq E Freaker Remix)3:31
3."Black Widow (featuring Rita Ora)" (Mtrnica & Malachi Remix)3:31
4."Black Widow (featuring Rita Ora)" (DJ Turkish Remix)3:07
5."Black Widow (featuring Rita Ora)" (86 Remix)4:29

Credits and personnelEdit

The credits for "Black Widow" are adapted from the liner notes of The New Classic.[8]

Locations
  • Recorded at: Record Plant and Westlake Recording Studios, Los Angeles; Jungle City Studios, New York
  • Mixed at: Ninja Club Studios, Atlanta
Personnel

ChartsEdit

CertificationsEdit

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[133] Platinum 70,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[134] 2× Platinum 20,000^
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[135] Platinum 60,000^
Germany (BVMI)[136] Gold 200,000^
Italy (FIMI)[137] Platinum 30,000 
New Zealand (RMNZ)[138] Gold 7,500*
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[139] Gold 20,000^
Sweden (GLF)[140] 2× Platinum 80,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[141] Platinum 600,000 
United States (RIAA)[142] 4× Platinum 4,000,000^
Streaming
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[143] Platinum 2,600,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
 sales+streaming figures based on certification alone

Release historyEdit

Country Date Format Label
United States 8 July 2014 Mainstream radio[144] Def Jam Recordings
United Kingdom 14 August 2014 Contemporary hit radio[145] Virgin EMI Records
14 September 2014 Digital download[14]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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