Justify My Love

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For the video release single, see Justify My Love (video).
"Justify My Love"
Single by Madonna
from the album The Immaculate Collection
B-side "Express Yourself (1990)"
Released November 6, 1990
Format
Genre Trip hop
Length 4:59
Label
Writer(s)
Producer(s)
Madonna singles chronology
"Hanky Panky"
(1990)
"Justify My Love"
(1990)
"Rescue Me"
(1991)
Audio sample
file info · help

"Justify My Love" is a song by American recording artist Madonna from her first compilation The Immaculate Collection (1990). It was released on November 6, 1990 by Sire Records, as the first single. The song later appeared on the greatest hits compilation album Celebration (2009). The song was written by Lenny Kravitz and Ingrid Chavez, with additional lyrics by Madonna. Chavez was not credited on the song, which led to a lawsuit against Kravitz. Chavez settled out-of-court, the terms of which included a songwriting credit. Madonna's vocals are primarily spoken and whispered, but almost never sung, a style which she again employed on her following album Erotica (1992).

Musically, "Justify My Love" is a trip-hop inspired song, with mid-tempo settings and instrumentation. The lyrics of the song are primarily about sex and romance. "Justify My Love" received mixed reviews from older critics, but was critically appreciated from many contemporary critics, noting it as one of Madonna's best songs to date. The song became Madonna's ninth number one on the Billboard Hot 100, while reaching the top ten in countries including Australia, Canada, Finland, New Zealand, Italy, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, including more other countries.

The accompanying music video portrayed Madonna as a woman walking in a hotel hallway, looking distressed and tired from work, until being seduced into having sex with a mysterious man and woman. It caused controversy worldwide, due to its explicit sexual images, and was subsequently banned from MTV and other TV networks. The video, which contained imagery of sadomasochism, voyeurism, and bisexuality, made its U.S. television debut December 3, 1990 on ABC during its late-night news program Nightline. The song has been performed on three of her concert tours, most recently being on her MDNA Tour in 2012.

"Justify My Love" has a legacy as one of the most, if not the most, controversial songs and videos of Madonna's career. It has been covered multiple times by other artists and also frequently parodied.

Background[edit]

"Justify My Love" was originally written by Ingrid Chavez, Prince's protégé and friend, and Lenny Kravitz: he and producer André Betts composed the music while Chavez penned the lyrics based on a poem she had written for Kravitz,[1] with whom she had an affair at the time. Kravitz added the title hook and chorus to the demo while Madonna corrected one line.[2] Chavez was not credited for the song and later sued Kravitz in 1992: she received an out-of-court settlement, and gained a co-writing credit for her work. When the lawsuit was settled, Chavez's attorney Steven E. Kurtz clarified that Madonna's additional writing credit was not questioned in the lawsuit.[3] The song was released on November 6, 1990, three days before the release of the compilation.

Producer Kravitz used the intro found on Public Enemy's instrumental, "Security of the First World",[4] without consent, which was in turn based on the end drum break of James Brown's "Funky Drummer",[5] and used it as the basis of the song. The song was unique in that Madonna's vocals are primarily spoken and whispered, but almost never sung. This style served as a prelude to her next album Erotica, in which she spoke the lyrics on some of the songs rather than singing them. Kravitz provided background vocals.

Composition[edit]

Composed as a midtempo song, "Justify My Love" is a trip-hop inspired song. According to the sheet music published at Musicnotes.com by Alfred Publishing, the song is set in common time, with a moderately dance-oriented tempo of 116 beats per minute. It is composed in the key of B major with Madonna's voice ranging from the tonal nodes of A4 to D5.[6] According to Jim Farber from Entertainment Weekly, he described the song's musical beat and Madonna's vocals as "vague, tuneless phrases chanted in Madonna's most breathless voice over a minimal house groove — serves mainly to justify the visuals."[7] In a review for The Immaculate Collection, David Browne said that she introduced an "adult" pop. The song features "heavy breathing with a backbeat."[8] Robert Christgau had compared the song composition to the Erotica music and lyrics.[9] Bill Lamb from About.com said the song is "quite powerful and enthralling in its dreamy, beat heavy celebration of carnal coupling."[10]

Critical reception[edit]

"Justify My Love" received critical acclaim from many music critics. In a separate review from Allmusic, they gave the song four-and-a-half stars out of five, stating "[Justify My Love] stands as one of the best of Madonna's long history of well-packaged maxi-singles, and further helped set a precedent for the maxi-single market."[11] In a review from Entertainment Weekly, reviewed by David Browne, he gave it a positive remark saying that people who have a "hoo-haa" surrounding the banning of the single "underestimate her". Rolling Stone had said along with "Rescue Me" are "worthy sensual newies".[12] While reviewing Celebration, Bill Lamb from About.com said "Songs such as "Justify My Love" that sounded a little over-indulgent when first released have worn very well over time."[13] Alexandra Capotorto from PopCrush.com said "'Justify My Love' is perfectly constructed lovemaking music. While this track might be oozing sex, it's the NSFW music video that caused the most drama [...]"[14]

Chart performance[edit]

In the United States, "Justify My Love" peaked at number one for two weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. It also topped the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play charts and peaked at number 42 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. The RIAA certified it platinum on February 22, 1991 for sales of over a million units. On 1991's Billboard Hot 100 year-end chart "Justify My Love" was allocated the number 21 spot.

The song received massive success in Europe as well. In the United Kingdom the single reached number two and was certified silver by the BPI on December 1, 1990. According to The Official Charts Company, the song has sold 235,000 copies in the UK.[15] The song debuted at number 16 on the Swedish Singles Chart, eventually peaking at number eight for one week. In Norway, the song entered the chart at number seven and peaked at number three for one week, staying on the chart for nine weeks. The song entered at number 79 on the Dutch Top 40, peaking at number five. The song entered the French Singles Chart at number 42, and peaked at number 17, staying on the chart for 11 weeks. The song also peaked at number nine in Austria and number three in Switzerland.

The song was also successful in the Oceanic region. It debuted at number 14 in the Australian Singles Chart, peaking at number four. It was present on the chart for 14 weeks and was certified Gold by the ARIA.[16] It debuted at number 22 on the New Zealand Singles Chart, peaking at number five for two consecutive weeks. It was present on the New Zealand chart for a total of 16 weeks.

Music video[edit]

Background[edit]

The music video for "Justify My Love" was directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino in Paris on November 9, 1990, who worked with Madonna in her video for "Open Your Heart".[17] It features Madonna's then-boyfriend, model and actor Tony Ward. Some of the dancers featured in the video were also dancers from her Blond Ambition World Tour. It is a tribute to Jeanne Moreau of La Baie des Anges.[18] In 2013, she declared it as her favorite music video.[19]

Synopsis[edit]

Madonna in the now-infamous music video for "Justify My Love".

The video was filmed in grainy black and white in the style of a 1960s European art film. There are also several shadowy film-noir elements such as characters seen only in silhouette. The action takes place in an elegant hotel that apparently caters to alternate lifestyle couples. Madonna (or the character she's playing) enters looking tired and distressed as she walks down the hallway toward her room. There she has a romantic fling with a mysterious man (played by Tony Ward). Some of the doors to the other rooms are ajar and we catch glimpses of various couples cavorting in BDSM fetish outfits (leather, PVC t-shirts, latex underwear, and corsets).

In a dream-like sequence, Madonna rolls around in bed wearing skimpy lace underwear and a garter belt and stockings while various figures come and go. The entire nudity (which led to the video being banned) occurs when a topless dominatrix-type woman, played by model, Wallis Franken—suspenders partly covering her breasts—appears and roughly grabs a bound man (the same man who is with Madonna) by the hair. Her outfit, which includes a peaked leather hat and black gloves, copies the ensemble worn by Charlotte Rampling in the controversial film The Night Porter. (Both the film and the video share elements of sadomasochism.) The theme of androgyny is also briefly alluded to when a woman who closely resembles Madonna's lover is seen in men's clothing with a drawn-on pencil mustache. The overall presentation is surreal and deliberately ambiguous. The retinue of strange characters may be real or simply fantasies from Madonna's imagination. In the end, a rejuvenated Madonna rushes out of the hotel room smiling and laughing.

Controversy and ban[edit]

The video was deemed too sexually explicit for MTV and was banned from the network.[20] Madonna responded to the banning: "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?"[21] On December 3, 1990, ABC's Nightline played the video in its entirety, then interviewed Madonna live about the video's sexual content and censorship. When asked whether she stood to make more money selling the video than airing it on MTV, she appeared impatient and answered, "Yeah, so? Lucky me." She also expressed during the interview that she does not understand why the video was banned, while videos containing violence and degradation to women continued to receive regular airplay.[22] The video was then released in VHS, and became a bestselling "video single".[23]

The video for "Justify My Love" was banned also from regular rotation on MuchMusic in Canada, although the controversy (as well as the subsequent banning of a video by Mitsou) led MuchMusic to launch a new series, Too Much 4 Much, which played controversial music videos accompanied by panel discussions on their artistic and cultural context.

In mid-2002, this video was aired in its entirety on MTV2 as part of a special countdown showing the most controversial videos ever to air on MTV. This countdown was shown only late at night because of the graphic imagery of "Justify My Love" and several other videos on the countdown.

As of early May 2007, the video had been receiving strong airplay on the late night edition of MuchMusic's request show "Punch Much"; however, the video is still banned from TV in many areas of Canada, where the show is broadcast from. The video has had light to moderate airplay on MuchMoreMusic during its late night music video block. theCoolTV also airs the video in certain markets.

SNL Parody[edit]

On the May 11, 1991 episode of the sketch-comedy series Saturday Night Live, Madonna made a guest appearance in a pre-filmed segment which spoofed her controversial music video as well as her just-released Truth or Dare film.

During a Wayne's World sketch, Wayne (Mike Myers) and Garth (Dana Carvey) encounter a seductive Madonna lying on a bed in a hotel room during a fantasy dream sequence (also filmed in black and white). After some back-and-forth banter, Wayne and Madonna play Truth or Dare. Wayne begins by saying "Truth." Madonna then asks "Have you ever made love with two women at the same time?" Wayne answers "Uh...yes!" to which Madonna says "Okay, I believe you....not!" Wayne then dares Madonna to make out with him. As they kiss, the music for "Justify My Love" begins to play. Garth is then seen dancing in a parody of the video before being abducted by two women in fetish-wear outfits.

The Beast Within remix[edit]

Madonna and Lenny Kravitz remixed the song and named it "The Beast Within Mix". It was included on the 12" vinyl and CD maxi-single release in North America. The remix uses only the chorus and certain lines of the original song, with the verses being replaced by passages from the Book of Revelation from the Bible. Subsequent live concert performances have simply billed the song as "The Beast Within", a song in its own right, it is now no longer referred to as a remix.[24] The song first garnered media attention early in 1991 when the Simon Wiesenthal Center accused the song of containing anti-semitic lyrics; specifically the lyric "those who say that they are Jews, but they are not. They are a Synagogue of Satan".[25]

Live performances[edit]

"Justify My Love" interlude during the MDNA Tour in 2012.

Madonna performed the song twice during The Girlie Show World Tour in 1993, the original version and also the "Beast Within remix". The latter was used as a dancers interlude during the show. The "remix" was again used as the video introduction to the 2004 Re-Invention World Tour, including imagery of Madonna from the exhibition X-STaTIC Pro=CeSS, prior to her appearing on stage. It was subsequently included on the 2006 live album, I'm Going to Tell You a Secret. This new version omits the controversial lyrics which caused the 1991 accusations.[24]

The song was remixed again by William Orbit and used on The MDNA Tour as an video interlude. The black-and-white backdrop video, directed by Tom Munro, features Madonna being chased by people in carnival masks and locks herself in a room to indulge into her fantasies, while the masked followers search for her. The video is said to be a metaphor for everybody trying to take advantage of her, judge her or exploit her private life, and the interlude is her expression of escaping the judgement.[26]

Legacy[edit]

"Justify My Love" has remained one of Madonna's most controversial singles to date. As a result of all the controversy, the single was released as a video-single and went on to become the highest selling video single of all time,[27] eventually becoming certified four-times platinum by the RIAA.[28] In 2003, Madonna fans were asked to vote for their Top 20 Madonna singles of all time by Q magazine. "Justify My Love" was allocated the number 12 spot.

Bill Lamb from About.com had listed the song at number 21 on his "The Biggest Madonna Songs".[29] He also made a list entitled "Top 10 Madonna Music Videos", where it ended up at number four.[30] PopCrush.com had listed the song at number one on their "Top 10 Sex Songs".[14] Billboard.com had listed the song at number five on their Madonna's 40 Biggest Billboard Hits.[31]

Cover versions and samples[edit]

Track listings[edit]

US / UK Cassette single, 7" single / Japanese CD 3" single (5439-19485-4)
  1. "Justify My Love" (Album Version) – 4:58
  2. "Express Yourself" (1990) (Shep's 'Spressin' Himself Re-Remix) – 4:02[A]
US CD Maxi-single
  1. "Justify My Love" (Q-Sound Mix) – 4:54
  2. "Justify My Love" (Orbit 12" Mix) – 7:16
  3. "Justify My Love" (Hip Hop Mix) – 6:30
  4. "Express Yourself" (1990) (Shep's 'Spressin' Himself Re-Remix) – 9:30
  5. "Justify My Love" (The Beast Within Mix) – 6:10
Canadian / Australian 12" vinyl (7599-21820-0)
  1. "Justify My Love" (Orbit 12" Mix) – 7:16
  2. "Justify My Love" (Hip Hop Mix) – 6:30
  3. "Justify My Love" (The Beast Within Mix) – 6:10
  4. "Express Yourself" (1990) (Shep's 'Spressin' Himself Re-Remix) – 9:30
European 12" vinyl, CD Maxi-single (7599-21851-0)
  1. "Justify My Love" (Hip Hop Mix) – 6:30
  2. "Justify My Love" (Q-Sound Mix) – 4:54
  3. "Justify My Love" (The Beast Within Mix) – 6:10
UK / European CD single / UK Limited Edition 12" Picture Disc (W9000TP, 7599-21838-0)
  1. "Justify My Love" (William Orbit Remix) – 7:07
  2. "Justify My Love" (Album Version) – 4:58
  3. "Express Yourself" (1990) (Shep's 'Spressin' Himself Re-Remix) – 4:02[A]
Additional Notes
  • A ^ This is the album remix version included on The Immaculate Collection and not the 9:30 version, although both remixes have the same title.

Charts[edit]

Chart procession and succession[edit]

Preceded by
"Because I Love You (The Postman Song)" by Stevie B
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 number one single
January 5–12, 1991
Succeeded by
"Love Will Never Do (Without You)" by Janet Jackson
Preceded by
"Power of Love" / "Build the Bridge" by Deee-Lite
Billboard Hot Dance Club Play number-one single
January 19–26, 1991
Succeeded by
"I Don't Know Anybody Else" by Black Box

See also[edit]

  • Sex, a 1992 nude photography volume by Madonna

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hernandez, Jorge (June 21, 2013). "Exclusive: Prince Collaborator Ingrid Chavez 'Deep' EP Debut". Vibe. Retrieved April 12, 2014. 
  2. ^ Ressner, Jeffrey (August 16, 1991). "Justify My Claim". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 12, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Settlement Reached in Lawsuit over 'Justify My Love' Credit". Associated Press. January 29, 1992. Retrieved April 12, 2014. 
  4. ^ Thomas, Lindsey. (March 8, 2006) "She Bop". City Pages.
  5. ^ Ressner, Jeffrey (1991-08-16). "Justify My Claim". Entertainment Weekly. 
  6. ^ "Digital Sheet Music – Madonna – Justify My Love". Musicnotes.com. Alfred Publishing.
  7. ^ By Jim Farber | Dec 14, 1990 It's Bad. But Is It Good? www.ew.com.
  8. ^ "Music Review: The Immaculate Collection, by Madonna". Entertainment Weekly. December 14, 1990. 
  9. ^ Robert Christgau: Album: Madonna: The Immaculate Collection
  10. ^ http://top40.about.com/od/top10lists/tp/Top-50-Sexy-Pop-Songs.02.htm
  11. ^ Justify My Love | Allmusic
  12. ^ Rolling Stone | Madonna: Album Guide
  13. ^ http://top40.about.com/od/albums/fr/madonnacelebrationalbum.htm
  14. ^ a b http://popcrush.com/sex-songs/
  15. ^ "Madonna: The Official Top 40". MTV. MTV Networks. Retrieved 2010-12-20. 
  16. ^ a b Christopher Dean (2011-04-07). "Australian Fun Countdowns: Accreditation Awards". Australianfuncountdowns.blogspot.com.au. Retrieved 2012-03-21. 
  17. ^ Holden, Stephen (November 28, 1990). "Madonna Video Goes Too Far for MTV". The New York Times. 
  18. ^ Madonna as post-modern myth, Georges-Claude Guilbert
  19. ^ Madonna Reveals Favorite Songs
  20. ^ Rich, Joshua (November 20, 1998). "Madonna Banned". Entertainment Weekly (Time Inc.). Retrieved May 27, 2008. 
  21. ^ Bronson 2002, p. 775
  22. ^ Interviewer: Forrest Sawyer (1990-12-03). "Nightline". ABC. Video on YouTube. Retrieved on 2008-12-26.
  23. ^ http://www.vh1.com/music/tuner/2012-03-30/madonna-top-controversies/
  24. ^ a b I'm Going to Tell You a Secret (Media notes). Madonna. Warner Bros. Records. 2006. 9362-49990-2. 
  25. ^ Philips, Chuck (January 4, 1991). "Anger Over Madonna Single". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 4, 1991. 
  26. ^ "All the juicy details on the MDNA Tour". Madonnarama. 2012-08-16. Retrieved August 16, 2012. 
  27. ^ http://www.rollingstone.com/music/pictures/the-15-most-nsfw-music-videos-of-all-time-20110713/madonna-justify-my-love-1990-0480243
  28. ^ discography – justify my love, 1990. madonna-online.ch (1990-12-10). Retrieved on 2012-01-07.
  29. ^ http://top40.about.com/od/madonna/tp/madonnatop10.02.htm
  30. ^ http://top40.about.com/od/popmusicvideogalleries/tp/Top-10-Madonna-Videos.htm
  31. ^ http://www.billboard.com/articles/list/499398/madonnas-40-biggest-billboard-hits
  32. ^ Virgin Voices: A Tribute To Madonna: Volume 1. In Music We Trust. Retrieved on 2012-01-07.
  33. ^ Jeffries, David. "Review of Hell's Pit". Allmusic. Retrieved 2008-06-30. 
  34. ^ http://virgula.uol.com.br/madonna-2012/gretchen-homenageia-madonna-com-versao-para-justify-my-love-assista-ao-video
  35. ^ a b c d e f g h Lescharts.com. Lescharts.com. Retrieved on 2012-01-07.
  36. ^ Top Singles – Volume 53, No. 9, February 02 1991. Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved on 2012-01-07.
  37. ^ Nyman, Jake (2005). Suomi soi 4: Suuri suomalainen listakirja (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Tammi. ISBN 951-31-2503-3. 
  38. ^ "Madonna: Discografia Italiana" (in Italian). Federation of the Italian Music Industry. 1984–1999. Retrieved 2010-01-08. 
  39. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2. 
  40. ^ a b c Allmusic. Allmusic (1990-11-13). Retrieved on 2012-01-07.
  41. ^ "Top Annuali Singles: 1990" (in Italian). Federation of the Italian Music Industry. Retrieved 2012-06-06. 
  42. ^ "End Of Year Chart - Top 50 Singles of 1990". Retrieved 2012-11-28. 
  43. ^ "Billboard Top 100 – 1991". Retrieved 2009-09-15. 
  44. ^ "Music Canada Certified Singles Search-Madonna-Justify My Love". 
  45. ^ "BPI Searchable Database". British Phonographic Industry. 
  46. ^ "Madonna-Justify My Love-Single Certification". Recording Industry Association of America. 

External links[edit]