Madonna’s Controversial ‘Justify My Love’ Was Released 30 Years Ago Today

Credit: YouTube

One of Madonna‘s most controversial songs of all time, “Justify My Love”, was officially released thirty years ago today. 

It was one of two new tracks featured in The Immaculate Collection which included all of her biggest hits up to that point in her career like “Holiday”, “Like a Virgin” and “Vogue”. 

A big reason for this song’s notoriety revolved around its salacious music video that was directed in Paris in November of 1990 by Jean-Baptiste Mondino. It featured her then boyfriend Tony Ward and some of her dancers from The Blond Ambition World Tour including the iconic Jose Xtravaganza

It raised a ton of eyebrows at the time thanks to the jaw-dropping visuals that viewers witnessed as the video went along. The action takes place inside an elegant hotel that appeared to cater to alternative lifestyle couples. You see Madonna and Tony enjoying a romantic fling while others engage in BDSM, voyeurism and same-sex activity with a running theme of androgyny seen throughout. 

MTV thought it was way too sexually explicit and banned it as a result leaving the “Material Girl” in a very frustrated state. The network also pulled her later videos “American Life” and “What It Feels Like For a Girl”. 

“Why is it that people are willing to go and watch a movie about someone getting blown to bits for no reason at all, and nobody wants to see two girls kissing and two men snuggling?” she said in response to the banning.

But the joke was on them as Madonna flipped the script and turned the song into a VHS video single. This helped “Justify My Love” hit the number one spot on Billboard Hot 100 charts where it remained there for two weeks. The song has sold over one million copies with the video version getting about half of that.

“It may seem like it was a publicity stunt, and I was very lucky, I must say,” she said during a 1991 Nightline interview about the VHS single. “But I did not plan on selling this video. The controversy just happened. It wasn’t planned. So lucky me.”

There’s a lot of fun facts to “Justify My Love” that go outside its famed video. Lenny Kravitz was one of the song’s co-writers alongside Madonna and Ingrid Chavez. It has also been sampled by a number of massive artists including Jay-ZAshanti and Insane Clown Posse.

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Madonna’s controversial ‘Justify My Love’ is 30 years old

Three decades ago Madonna was ruffling feathers by talking about sex

Madonna’s Justify My Love is celebrating it’s 30th birthday, the spoken word song kicked off a new phase of the iconic singers career. As we headed into the 1990’s Madonna released her Sex book, the controversial Erotica album and took on a role in the steamy thriller Body of Evidence. 

At the end of 1990 Madonna encapsulated her first two decades in the music industry by releasing her first greatest hits compilation The Immaculate Collection. As is common with hits compilations a few new songs were needed for the record so uber-fans would have a reason to buy the new record.

Justify My Love which was a collaboration with Lenny Kravitz was the new single, while Shep Pettibone who Madonna had recently worked with to create her massive hit Vogue delivered the track Rescue Me. 

The video for the largely spoken word was incredibly controversial at the time and was banned by MTV. One of the issues people had with the video was it’s prominent display of bisexuality. Warner Brothers put the clip out on video tape, making it the first video single. It immediately sold half a million copies.

The track was written in collaboration with Kravitz who was a new artist at the time, only having put out his first album in 1989. His backing vocals can clearly be heard on the track. A few months after this song came out Kravitz put out his second album Mama Said which scored him a series of hit songs.

The initial lyrics were written by singer Ingrid Chavez who had previously worked with Prince. When she didn’t get a songwriting credit she sued Kravitz and later releases of the track include her name, and she got her share of the royalties. The song is based around a drum beat from James Brown’s tune Funky Drummer, in 1990 many tunes utilised this beat.

The video features model and actor Tony Ward who was Madonna’s boyfriend at the time. One of the top male models of the 1980’s he later became an actor appearing in movies by queer director Bruce La Bruce. Some of the dancer’s from Madonna’s 1990 tour are also featured in the clip they would later gain more prominence when the documentary film Truth or Dare: In Bed With Madonna was released.

One of the remixes of the tune, The Beast Within Mix dumped most of the lyrics and instead quoted sections of the Book of Revelations. Madonna has often included this version in live shows and it’s now generally treated as being a completely separate tune. The single would also be the first time Madonna worked with producer William Orbit, he remixed the track for dancefloors. They would later team up to create her Ray of Light album.

Revisit Justify My Love.

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From Like a Virgin to WAP: The truly provocative pop songs

The music-video age definitely brought sharp focus to such pop awakenings – and one pivotal scene came at the first-ever MTV Video Music Awards show in September 1984, courtesy of 26-year-old rising star Madonna, clad in bridal attire and a ‘BOY TOY’ belt buckle as she performed her new single Like a Virgin. Within three minutes of slinky synth pop splendour, Madonna had discarded her veil, lost a stiletto, writhed beneath a 17ft wedding cake, and sealed her place in mainstream consciousness.

Nearly 40 years on, Like a Virgin retains a curious allure within Madonna’s formidable catalogue; it outraged the Vatican upon release, and it recurs throughout pop culture, across movie references including the ‘mansplaining’ intro to Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (1992), academic studies (Camille Paglia described its “coruscating polarities of evil and innocence”), and cover versions – including one by singing nun Sister Cristina, who won the 2013 TV competition The Voice Of Italy. Madonna always appeared breezy amid the furore: “I was singing about how something made me feel a certain way – brand new and fresh – and everyone else interpreted it as, ‘I don’t want to be a virgin anymore.’” she told Rolling Stone in 1987. “That’s not what I sang at all.”

As a pop fan raised in the ‘80s, I was too young to originally understand what Like a Virgin was about, but I was enthralled by the music, and aware of some scandalous energy. It was a brash era and also a weirdly priggish one; female bodies were used to sell everything from cars to snacks, but sexual assertiveness was not ‘ladylike’. These conflicts have persisted; as British music journalist Lucy O’Brien writes in her excellent Madonna biography Like an icon (2018): “Many saw a continuum between advertising, music videos and soft porn, with women constantly depicted as submissive beings, there for the pleasure of men. This was why Madonna’s exploration of the virgin/whore stereotype was so incendiary – not just to the Christian right wing of the ‘moral majority’, but also to feminists, who saw it as disempowering.”

Read the full article at BBC

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From Madonna to Mank: Why David Fincher’s greatest film is an erotic pop music video

Madonna in the David Fincher-directed music video for ‘Bad Girl'
Madonna in the David Fincher-directed music video for ‘Bad Girl’
It was in the winter of 1993 that David Fincher murdered Madonna. The crime scene: a music video for one of the latter’s greatest singles, “Bad Girl”, and what would be the last of the pair’s four collaborations. In its wake, Fincher would become one of cinema’s most revered directors, the prickly genius behind Se7en (1995), The Social Network (2010), Gone Girl (2014) and the forthcoming Mank. But it’s “Bad Girl” that remains Fincher’s most important venture. It is a short, stylish erotic thriller that begins and ends with Madonna’s lifeless corpse; a video that nods toward the filmmaker Fincher would become, and a final act of artistic symbiosis between two titans of pop culture.

Back in the Nineties, Fincher was coming to the end of a luminous eight years as a music video visionary. The likes of Aerosmith’s “Janie’s Got a Gun” and George Michael’s supermodel-filled “Freedom ‘90” were gorgeous exercises in style and short-form storytelling. Little was more thrilling, though, than his work with Madonna – from the grandiose myth-making of “Vogue” and “Express Yourself” to the richly personal “Oh Father”. They both recognised the cinematic potential of the form, even if it came at a cost – all of their collaborations rank among the most expensive videos ever made.

That trilogy of music videos – which came before “Bad Girl” and were shot over the course of 10 months between 1989 and 1990 – would reflect a fruitful creative tussle between the pair. Despite Fincher’s relative lack of clout in the industry at the time, and especially compared to Madonna’s cultural ubiquity, they would approach their work as somewhat begrudging – and almost flirtatious – equals.

Read the full article at The Independent
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‘Justify My Love’ turns 30 today!

One of Madonna’s most iconic singles and music videos is without a doubt the sensual ‘Justify My Love’ a collaboration with Lenny Kravitz. The music video (with Tony Ward) was banned by MTV so Madonna decided to release it on homevideo, which sold like hot cakes. 

She has only ever performed the track once on her Girlie Show, while it served as an interlude during her MDNA Tour in 2012.

Check out the discography HERE

Check out the album promo page HERE

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Andrea Riseborough on Luxor: ‘It’s the film on which I found the love of my life’

The moment Andrea Riseborough realised her life would never be the same, she had Madonna kneeling at one knee and Patti Smith at the other. “There were using my legs as a table. I felt so out of place: it was unreal,” she tells me over Zoom from her sofa in Los Angeles.

This was at the Venice premiere for W.E., the 2011 film, directed by Madonna, in which Riseborough played Wallis Simpson. “Madonna kept looking at me, and said to Patti, ‘She’s never usually this quiet.’ I was just frozen. Also, I was serving my purpose as a table, albeit a well-dressed one.”

Madonna is right – as a rule, the British actress is a hilarious, beguiling raconteur. Describing the next occasion on which she met Smith, a night at the New York gallery MoMa that cemented their friendship, she says, “I was wearing something that was deeply uncomfortable and felt totally self-conscious. You feel you’re on show, so you’d better not misbehave.”

After the event, walking to her car, she heard a voice saying, “Hey, I’m a really big fan,” from under an umbrella. “It was Patti. I felt I was going to pee myself. She came to the after-party and we talked all night, particularly about one of my favourite pieces of her writing, a short play she wrote with Sam Shepard, called Cowboy Mouth. I’ve always thought if there was a chance I could do something with that material, wouldn’t it be wonderful. We became friends. I don’t see her often but, to be honest, I don’t see anyone very often.”

Read full article at iNews

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Madonna performs ‘Hung Up’ at Wetten Dass 15 years ago today (a personal report)

Fifteen years ago today I traveled to Mannheim Germany by train to try and attend the taping of Wetten Dass. You see, Madonna was planned to perform her new single ‘Hung Up’ and after seeing the MTV Awards performance I just HAD to be there.

I did not have a ticket, so there was no confirmation at all that I would actually end up seeing her, but sometimes in life you just got to take your chances. 

It was a chilly day and after hours of traveling I went down to the studio’s to see if there were still tickets available. Well everything was closed and only a few Madonna fans with the same goal were keeping an eye on things. I decided to come back later when the doors would open.

Back again at the studio I joined the queue with the people who were there to pick up their reserved tickets. Once it was my turn of course there was no reservation in my name but I asked if they could be so friendly to check if there might be some tickets left for me. The German guy decided to help me out and told me to wait at the window. When he came back he told me I was very lucky as he had two ‘restricted view’ tickets left for me and my friend without a charge. I couldn’t believe my luck and was about to explode with joy.

I won’t be getting into details about the show because as you know ‘Wetten Dass’ is quite the production. We saw Madonna’s tour manager on stage right before she was about to perform, checking out things. The set up was similar to that of the MTV Awards performance but without the giant disco ball. The logo was projected on a huge screen behind the stage. The first thing I saw when she entered the stage was this silver jacket and silver boots, I remember thinking that I loved the MTV Awards outfit more. 

Thomas Gottschalk announced her and the clock started ticking….’times goes by….so slowly’ and the audience went wild. Seeing Madonna perform at Wetten Dass was a dream come true, and seeing this particular song performed was the icing on the cake. We managed to snap some (good old fashioned) pictures with disposable camera, without having any idea how they would turn out. Madonna looked fantastic, she looked happy. When the song finished and dancer Cloud Campos had planted a very dirty handprint on her white outfit (that’s why you shouldn’t wear white) Thomas spoke a little to Madonna and handed her flowers. It was fantastic to see her again and I was so happy I took the gamble of going. 

The rest of the show was meh. I remember seeing Shakira perform and Cameron Diaz sitting down for an interview, but that’s it. Our disposable camera pictures didn’t turn out so great (as expected) but after years of being online here in our photo gallery, I decided to try and enhance them just a bit. I will be writing little reports in the coming weeks to celebrate the 15th anniversary of this exceptional promotional tour, of which I was very lucky to attend. 

Check out our Wetten Dass photo gallery HERE

Check out my full COADF promo tour report HERE

Check out our COADF album page HERE


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From Tattoo Balms to Bronzer, Here’s What to Buy From the Best Musician-Backed Beauty Brands (MDNA Skin)

9. MDNA by Madonna

After debuting in Asia in 2014, Madge’s luxury skincare line, MDNA, arrived in the U.S. in 2019. The company (which shares a name with the OG pop queen’s 2012 album) uses Japan’s innovative techniques and “miraculous” thermal water sourced from Montecatini, Italy. Think best-sellers including the multi-tasking Reinvention Cream that’s packed with plant stem cells for bringing visible radiance back to the visage, and restorative eye masks that de-puff and soothe. The Madonna-owned brand’s face and body-contouring Beauty Roller is also quite the hit.

Best Celebrity Beauty Brands - MDNA Skin


MDNA The Trinity Rehydrating Revival Trio, $175, available at MDNA

Read full article at Rolling Stone

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Living For Love discography online – 14 items

Living For Love was the lead single of Madonna’s 2015 album ‘Rebel Heart’. Originally scheduled for release on Valentine’s Day but rush-released in December 2014 because of the infamous leaks. The music video wasn’t released until February 2015 and premiered on Snapchat. Madonna performed the track for the very first time at the Grammy Awards and later at the Brit Awards where the notorious fall down the stairs occurred. She also performed the song at Jonathan Ross, Le Grand Journal and The Ellen Show. 

For the collectors there was very little to hunt down, aside from a couple promotional discs there was a 2 track and 4 track CD single.

We have collected 14 items for you to view in our brand new discography HERE

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TONIGHT on NPO 2 extra Damien Jalet (Madame X Tour) in Podium Dans (Dutch TV)

NPO 2 extra (Dutch TV) will air a documentary on Damien Jalet who worked with Madonna on her Madame X Tour. Damien Jalet is an internationally praised Belgian/French choreographer. He has worked with choreographers and artists like Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Marina Abramovic, Ryuichi Sakamoto and of course Madonna. 

Podium Dans (Stage Dance) visits him in Antwerp


NPO 2 extra

November 2

22.20 – 23.10

Repeated on: Nov 4 (17.45) + Nov 7 (04.30 + 13.15)


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Madonna’s ‘Don’t Tell Me’ Turns 20: Co-Writers Mirwais and Joe Henry Tell the Story Behind One of Her Most Underrated Hits

Madonna Don't Tell Me

Twenty years ago this month, Madonna released “Don’t Tell Me,” the second single from her triple-platinum, Grammy nominated “Music” album.

The song may be less remembered today than the title track from “Music,” but it arguably holds up even better, thanks not only to its minimalist production and forlorn lyrics, but also its fresh melding of country-and-folk with electronic music production (long before names such as Lil Nas X and Diplo won praise for doing the same in recent years). Co-writer and producer of the song, Mirwais Ahmadzai, has a few ideas as to why “Don’t Tell Me” still resonates with listeners, two decades on.

“I think ‘Don’t Tell Me’ has remained since that time as an iconic song for several reasons,” he says from France, where he is making music at home during the pandemic. “We can call this song the very first ‘Folktronica’ or ‘Cyberfolk’ song. I think Madonna and I invented this style. And the magnificent music video made by Jean Baptiste Mondino helped to crystallize the ‘Electronic Cowboy’ image, which was something totally new at the time,” he adds.

But the French producer thinks the main reason “Don’t Tell Me” has held up so well, is Madonna’s vocal delivery on the single.

“This song is one of the very rare singles Madonna performs with no effects on her vocals, and on this, everyone noticed it,” he says of the tune, which was recorded at London’s Sarm West Studio (minus the strings, which were done at AIR Studios).

The French producer confirms he borrowed heavily from the electronic music world for the drum programming on “Don’t Tell Me,” drawing inspiration from the UK’s jungle music scene, which was booming at the end of the last millennium.

“I loved the jungle programing vibe, this is why I incorporated it on ‘Don’t Tell Me.’ It sounded very ahead of the times with its rolls.”

As for the glitch-y start/stop guitar riff that anchors the song and repeats throughout, the hook comes from Ahmadzai not being able to play what he wanted. “I couldn’t play some parts that I had in mind, so I decided to ‘computerize’ the performance by creating this start/stop effects,” he says. (Ahmadzai recently released a new song, “2016 – My Generation” and premiered a short film collaboration at Amsterdam’s ADE conference last month).

Lyrically, Madonna got her inspiration for “Don’t Tell Me” via her sister Melanie’s husband, veteran singer-songwriter Joe Henry. Melanie sent Madonna Henry’s demo of a song called “Stop,” and she fell hard for the wistful, poetic lyrics.

“My [demo] version was written in about 20 minutes, and I did not revise it — I let it stand for the burst that it was,” says Henry. “I always hear its primary influence to be tango, [and] I was thinking about [Argentine composer] Astor Piazzolla, but Madonna heard its pop sensibility, and sculpted a chorus out of a passing stanza from my original take. That repetition gave it weight, and expanded it, sharpened a hook that I had barely gestured toward. That evidences her gift of taking something fairly obtuse, and translating into something memorable.”

Henry was wowed with Madonna’s take on his tune when he finally heard it, marveling at the juxtapositioning of his at-times dark lyrics (“Tell the bed not to lay/ Like the open mouth of a grave/ Not to stare up at me/ Like a calf down on its knees”) with heartfelt delivery grafted onto a sunny-sounding pop song.

“That verse is dark, but playfully so,” Henry says. “I was watching a lot of Luis Bunuel’s movies at the time, and relishing how darkly comic are many of the films from his so-called ‘Mexican period’ can be,” he adds. “I think as little as possible when i am initially writing [for a song].”

The song took its sweet time climbing the charts, finally peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in March of 2001, some four months after its release as a single, and six after “Music” was released. Henry went onto release his version of the song (“Stop”) in 2001 on Mammoth Records, and it ended up being used in an episode of “The Sopranos.”


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Madonna Uploads “Secret” Remix Package

Madonna has been unusually nostalgic in 2020. The Queen of Pop celebrated the 20th anniversary of “Music” by releasing a HD version of the video and has been rifling through old demos as research for her upcoming biopic. She now celebrates the 26th anniversary of Bedtime Stories by uploading an EP of “Secret” remixes. While there’s nothing new here, it is the first time we have been able to stream or even download some of them — which is exciting news for anyone without the CD single lying around.

It should also be noted that Madonna has promises to share a HD video of “Secret” in the coming days. Apart from rereleasing old hits, the enduring hitmaker has been making steady progress on her biopic, live streaming screenwriting sessions with Academy Award winner Diablo Cody. The sexy 62-year-old has also made a trip to In N Out (her box full of hamburgers quickly became a meme) and indulged in Halloween festivities with her children. Take a trip back to 1994 by streaming the “Secret” remixes below.


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EXCLUSIVE: Leon on Appearing in Madonna’s Controversial “Like a Prayer” Video

Leon spoke about appearing in Madonna’s controversial “Like a Prayer” video shortly after co-starring with Robin Givens in the ABC miniseries, “The Women of Brewster Place.” Leon initially turned Madonna down because he was more focused on studio films and didn’t receive details on what his role would be. But after his agent suggested he meet with the director because it could lead to more work, he became intrigued by the role and knew the song would be a hit. However, Leon was unaware that the video would become a major news story due to the controversial imagery of Madonna dancing in front of burning crosses. Despite the controversy, Leon spoke on how well the video relates to today by addressing interracial relationships and the policing of African Americans.

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