What does The Ballad of Mona Lisa mean?

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Panic! At The Disco: The Ballad of Mona Lisa Meaning

Song Released: 2011

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The Ballad of Mona Lisa Lyrics

She paints her fingers with a close precision
He starts to notice empty bottles of gin
And takes a moment to assess the sin
She's paid for

A lonely speaker in a conversation
Her words are swimming through his ears again
There's nothing...


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    Feb 9th, 2011 2:42pm report

    The hardest part of interpreting the song is finding out the context in which the lines are sung. I feel that there are 4 different members of this story: the Narrator, Mona Lisa, a man who is most likely a very close friend of Mona Lisa, and a client.

    I'll start analyzing the lines from the beginning

    "She paints her fingers with a close precision, he starts to notice empty bottles of gin, he takes a moment to assess the sins she's paid for" this is relatively obvious. a woman, mona lisa, has suddenly begun to drink a lot and get all dressed up before going out somewhere. A man of unknown relation to her starts to notice these things, and he wonders what they mean. These lines are said by the narrator.

    "A lonely speaker in a conversation" This shows that he tries to talk to her about it, but she's being very stubborn and won't say much, making him the only one saying anything. Again said by the narrator.

    "Her words are spinning through his ears again: Theres Nothing Wrong With Just A Taste Of What You Payed For" in this line, mona lisa seems to have finally given in and said something of use. The first part is the narrator, but the second part is clearly a quote said by mona lisa directed towards the man in the story. This leads the listener to believe that she is a prostitute; she dresses up nicely, drinks a lot, and gives people what they payed for. It leads to no other logical conclusion

    "Say what you mean! Tell me i'm right, and let the sun rain down on me! Give me a sign, I want to believe!" These are the first lines in the song which the man says himself. He is asking her, probably desperately and emotionally, to tell him exactly what she's talking about without being so unclear and mysterious. The sun naturally represents enlightening or a gaining of knowledge, so he's asking her to tell him the truth. He then says give me a sign i want to believe, which is possibly a way of saying "i think you're a whore based on what ur acting like right now. just tell me the truth. if you aren't then i want to believe that you're a good person"

    "Whoa Mona Lisa, you're guaranteed to run this town." The man shows that if she were a prostitute she would become the main event of the town because she is most likely an outgoing, beautiful, and mysterious woman. She would become the town's secret obsession, and the man knows it, so he tries to warn her not to go through with prostitution.

    "Whoa Mona Lisa, I'd pay to see you frown" The painting The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci is famous because of Mona Lisa's smile; it appears that she has some kind of dark mysterious secret, and people always wonder what it is. The man in the song makes a reference to this, by saying that instead of paying her for sex he would pay her to end her secrets and wipe that smug, mysterious smile off her face.

    "He senses something call it desperation, another dollar another day" The narrator is now telling of a NEW man, different from the first man who sings the chorus. This man is a client of mona lisa and is paying her for her services. He senses something different in her, possibly that she's only in the prostitution business in order to get money, not because she wants to be. She is desperate, and probably poor.

    "And if she had the proper words to say she would tell him... But she'd have nothing left to sell him" The narrator shows that the client seems to have questioned her about her desperation and why she chose to be a prostitute. She knew exactly what she wanted to tell him, but whatever she wanted to say would have made the man decide not to hire her, so she didn't say anything. She most likely would have told the truth, leading the man to feel sorry for her and not pay for her services, or she would have insulted him, which obviously would have pushed him away too.

    (Chorus again, same interpretation except at this point she seems to have gotten home from the client and the first man is singing to her again)

    "Mona Lisa, wear me out. Pleased to please ya" This is spoken by the client. In all seriousness, it's probably a kind of orgasmic feeling that he's going through and he's really liking her services. She's wearing him out and he's pleased to have sex with her.

    (Chorus, same interpretation)


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    Feb 9th, 2011 2:56am report

    i think the song is a bit of an inner struggle. Take "he" and "she" to be two sides of a person's personality. "She" being a bit of the devil, trying to coax to good in the person that "there's nothing wrong with just a taste of what you've paid for", as if tempting him to do something immoral. In the first two stanzas, it introduces the two sides, and the bottles of gin suggest the "vice" that is "her" (remember the album name is vices and virtues).

    "Say what you mean, tell me I'm right" Is sort of an argument between the two sides, and the person with the two sides later goes on to say "give me a sign, I wanna believe", as if to say he doesn't know what to do or what to believe.

    As for the chorus, it may imply that Mona lisa is in fact the person with this inner struggle, but on the surface she looks proud and fine "guaranteed to run this town", and always seeming happy on the outside, "I'd pay to see you frown"

    "he senses something call it desperation" sort of later implies that the virtue is winning, because the vice has "nothing left to sell him", so it no longer has a hold on the person anymore.

    In the end, it appears the virtue has won, and the final line is either a cry or an echo of the vice, or maybe the fact that the virtue has come to accept a part of the vice. with the final line previously said by "her", "there's nothing wrong with just a taste of what you've paid for"

    that's just what i think, probably not really true.

    -Panic!Fan :D


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    Feb 8th, 2011 2:42am report

    This is definitely not putting a story to the painting of Mona Lisa. He's saying that this girl is like the Mona Lisa, because she's smiling on the outside but no one really knows her secrets.


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    Feb 4th, 2:52am report

    Brendan was killed by Mary and she tries to stop him commutating with the world that's why there is all the rules (e.gstop the clock cover the mirrors). but he can communicate with the little girl who he tells to find the note he wrote before he died because he knew she was going to kill him and he couldn't stop her. so the girl finds the note and revels Marys secret.Mary probably is taken to jail and Brendan has had his revenge. Because there's nothing wrong with just a taste of what you paid for


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    Oct 22nd, 2015 10:25pm report

    Not going to type an essay on what I think this means like everyone else. Okay so according to the music video and lyrics, I think this song Is about a woman who seems so sweet but her true personality is horrible. "id pay to see you frown" he would pay for everyone to see her real side.


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    Jun 21st, 2015 6:12am report

    What I think. I think the narrator or whatever was brutally murdered and the killer was bloody Mary she killed him (aka Mona Lisa) so she drinks so ease the guilt so she locks his spirit from the outside world


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    Apr 9th, 2012 4:24pm report

    I think it is the story behind her smile...

    ... don't know why


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    Feb 1st, 2012 2:57pm report

    The singer of Panic! At the Disco said that even though it may look like just a struggle between a guy and a girl at first, it really is a story about his personal struggles. I think it is all up to your own interpretation and how you want to view the story in this song- whether it's about a prostitute or a socialite, whether the use of the name "Mona Lisa" actually refers to the painting or is symbolic of a girl who smiles despite her pain and secrets. I think the cool thing about this song is that it could pretty much go either way. It's just about how you look at it.


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    Nov 26th, 2011 11:41am report

    As you see the setting is a funeral type place. Brendan Urie ( the singer ) seems to have sometime of hate towards "Mary" So im thinking maybe mary and him were like enimies or like battleing for a spot at the towns mayjor or Mary killed him to get the spot . the she trys doing a spell on him ( thats why there are rules involved ) to keep him from contacting the living & thats why he was walking around trying to get peoples attention then he reliezes the girl is seeing him so he goes up & makes sure he isnt just seeing things & she smiles telling him she can see him & he tells her to get the note he put in his pocket before mary killed him , because he knew what was going to happen but he had no way of stopping it therefore he prepared to get payback on her. ( obviously the girl is sensitive to ghost and can see them more than regular people) so she finds the note & puts it up . & mary get put away to jail . Thats what i think everytime i watch the music video .


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    Oct 12th, 2011 10:27pm report

    i think that the guy who looks like a vampire is dead and is a ghost, so he is talking to her to get her to tell everyone that she killed him. So when he's talking to the little girl in the video "Mona Lisa, wear me out" I can't much explain why he's saying "wear me out" unless this whole thing has worn him out, and the little girl can see and hear him, so he wants her to prove that Mary (Mona Lisa) killed him. That's what I think but i could be wrong.


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    Sep 19th, 2011 9:35pm report

    I think that if you people would actually watch the music video AND read between the lines you'd understand. Mona lisa is what the man is referring to that she's a 2-face bc first off the guy is dead GET THAT THROUGH YOUR HEADS!!! 2nd you can understand that the guy as in a close relationship with the girl and that she didn't truly love him, if you look close at all of the stuff the guy and girl had at their house in the video you can tell that it was all nice and that most likely means she was a goldigger and wasn't telling the man something, and probably he got to deep in her personal life that she got drunk, angry, and decided to kill the man, it never said anything dirty, the song was mostly REVENGE!watch the video and make your own interpretation bc a lot of the time everyone has their own different view of everything.


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    Sep 18th, 2011 9:27am report

    If you all think about it, music as an art form is not reserved, thus meaning one can derive completely different meanings for the same song. It doesn't mean anyone is right, or wrong. The only way to actually get the meaning in which the song was written under, you would have to ask Urie himself, and that probably won't happen.


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    Aug 6th, 2011 8:52am report

    “That whole thing with Mona Lisa was the idea that there is this character. For us, you look at the painting, and you can’t tell what this person is thinking. Not showing too much emotion, there’s this Mona Lisa smile masking what’s going on in that person’s head," he explained. "The song is about a battle in yourself […] an inner struggle in oneself. The duality in nature, where you see yourself as a bad person, and the good person trying to correct your bad habits. That’s what it was about. We thought that would be an easy way to describe how we were masking our own emotions and trying to figure out how we can solve the bad choices we make." - Urie's words on The Ballad of Mona Lisa


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    Jul 10th, 2011 7:34pm report

    This song is aboutBrendon's struggle with ADHD. He feels like he is two different people and it is a constant fight, but on the surface it looks like drama in a relationship.


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    Jul 10th, 2011 7:33am report

    It's really holey and full of gaps. That is, the interpretation.

    She paints her fingers with a close precision- she's not regretting what she did/she was drunk so she doesn't regret it
    He starts to notice empty bottles of gin- she's probably been drinking to get rid of the guilt/she was drinking, and she was drunk when she did whatever was wrong, so she didn't really have much control, and didn't remember/she's been forced to sin, so she drinks so she doesn't feel so guilty
    And takes a moment to assess the sin
    She's paid for- he's starting to find out what she did

    He senses something, call it desperation- she's desperate for this money or whatever
    Another dollar, another day- she needs the money. the money puts food on the table, meaning another day
    And if she had the proper words to say,
    She would tell him- tell him what she's doing
    But she'd have nothing left to sell him- she could be giving him lies to cover the fact she's done wrong, and she's 'selling' him these stories so he'll stay or something

    There's nothing wrong with just a taste of what you paid for- she's paid for all the gin so she's tasted it and decided to drink it to cover the guilt and regrets

    And there is my holey interpretation


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    Jul 10th, 2011 7:22am report

    I have two interpretations, but only for small parts, like, one line.

    Another dollar another day:
    She's done something wrong, but she's still doing it, because it means money, and money puts food on the table, meaning another day

    Nothing left to sell him:
    It doesn't neccessarily mean that he is buying something from her. Selling stuff can mean giving them lies. She has nothing left to sell him-she's soon going to have to tell him the truth about what she did.


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    Jul 10th, 2011 7:38am report

    This may make no sense but I Brendon once mentioned that this song sort of represented an inner battle he was having with himself. He was changing a lot an so was the band ( which can evidently be seen by their change in hair styles and wardrobe) and this song is sort of about the way he delt with it.


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    Jun 21st, 2011 6:01am report

    Trying to interpret this song is hard without the music video.
    The music video suggests that the man is dead and Mona Lisa (Aka Mary in the video) killed him. She's trying to be inconspicuous about and never frowning to show that something is wrong -hence the name 'Mona Lisa'. The man is just trying to show that she killed him and he finally does that by getting a girl to look in his pocket to reveal a note that say 'Mary did it'. At the end he says 'there's nothing wrong with just a taste of what you payed for' meaning she got her comeuppance for killing him.

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