It was released as the album's lead single through Interscope Records on August 12, 2013. Written and produced by Gaga, DJ White Shadow, Dino Zisis and Nick Monson, additional songwriters included Martin Bresso, Nicolas Mercier, Julien Arias and William Grigahcine. "Applause" was inspired by the cheering of her fans, which kept her motivated during the months she toured with the Born This Way Ball in pain, before cancelling it due to a hip injury.
It is an electropop and Eurodance song built around synthesizers and hi-NRG beats, with lyrics addressing how Gaga is dependent upon her fan's adoration and how she lives to perform.
The song received generally positive reviews from music critics, who praised its catchy chorus and favorably compared it to the material featured on Gaga's debut album, The Fame (2008). "Applause" achieved commercial success in a number of major music markets. In the United States, it peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Gaga's twelfth top-ten single. "Applause" has been certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
An accompanying music video directed by fashion photography duo Inez and Vinoodh was released on August 19, 2013, and broadcast on jumbotrons across Times Square. The video received positive reviews from critics, who saw it as a profile of Gaga herself and noted references to German Expressionist cinema and Andy Warhol.
To promote the record, Gaga opened the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards with a performance of the song in which she represented her career through several on-stage wardrobe changes. She also performed it live on Good Morning America, Saturday Night Live, her residency show at Roseland Ballroom, and on her tour ArtRave: The Artpop Ball.