Bad Girl (Madonna song)
|Single by Madonna|
|from the album Erotica|
|Released||February 2, 1993|
(Manhattan, New York)
Sound Works Studio
(Astoria, New York)
|Madonna singles chronology|
"Bad Girl" is a song by American singer and songwriter Madonna, recorded for her fifth studio album, Erotica (1992). The song was written by Madonna, Shep Pettibone and Anthony Shimkin, and produced by Madonna and Pettibone. The song was released as the third single from the album on February 2, 1993 by Maverick Records. Lyrically, the song describes a woman that is unhappy with her life because she believes she is behaving badly, due to the sadness that has overwhelmed her since the end of a romantic relationship.
"Bad Girl" received positive reviews from music critics, who described it as riveting and tragic, while also applauding the sophistication and overall message of the song. The song was a modest success on the charts, reaching number 36 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number ten on the UK Singles Chart, falling off the chart shortly after. The music video to accompany the single was directed by David Fincher, who had previously collaborated on Madonna's "Express Yourself", "Oh Father" and "Vogue" videos. The clip features Madonna playing a high-powered Manhattan executive who has many one-night stands with a variety of men—ultimately being murdered by one of these men at the end of the video. The video features the American actor Christopher Walken, who plays "a guardian angel" to Madonna's character.
Madonna has performed the song live only once, during an appearance on Saturday Night Live in January 1993. At the end of the performance, she referenced Sinéad O'Connor's actions of ripping a photograph of Pope John Paul II and yelling "Fight the real enemy" during O'Connor's Saturday Night Live performance in October 1992. The photograph Madonna ripped was of Joey Buttafuoco.
In late 1991, Madonna started meeting with Shep Pettibone in his apartment studio to begin working on her forthcoming album Erotica. "Bad Girl," along with the songs "Erotica," "Deeper and Deeper," "Rain," and "Thief of Hearts" made up the first batch of songs that they worked on together - Madonna writing the lyrics to the songs as Pettibone worked on the music. The mindset of the sessions was one of "low-tech standards." For example, the vocals to "Bad Girl" were recorded using an older style SM57 microphone because Pettibone felt that "sometimes, older is better." According to Pettibone, the writing of "Bad Girl" (along with the album track "In This Life") was evidence that the Erotica album was taking a more melancholy turn, instead of just being "up-and-happy music." Pettibone went on to say that at that point Madonna's stories were getting a lot more "serious and intense" and she was definitely driving the creative direction of the songs into "deeply personal territory." Bad Girl was released as the third single off of Erotica in February 1993.
A 20 second sample of "Bad Girl"
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"Bad Girl" is a pop ballad. It was written by Madonna, Shep Pettibone, and Anthony Shimkin and was produced by Madonna and Pettibone. Lyrically, the song is about a woman that is experiencing extreme sadness due to a failed relationship. As she lives her day-to-day life, she masks her pain through debauchery, engaging in self-destructive behaviors such as getting drunk, smoking, and engaging in one-night stands with random men. Throughout the song she expresses remorse for such "bad" behavior. According to the book The Madonna Companion: Two Decades of Commentary, the song highlights the main theme explored throughout the Erotica album, which is "the pain and torment of the heart and the perils of romance." When it was released, the song was a departure from Madonna's highly sexualized image that she had at the time - which was bolstered by the extremely sexual nature of such songs as Justify My Love and Erotica - because instead of celebrating sex, it instead explored the complex emotional intersections of sex, power, and self-confidence. The tone of the song is melancholy and sobering, with Madonna delivering lines such as "Bad girl, drunk by six, kissing some kind stranger's lips. Smoked too many cigarettes today, I’m not happy when I act this way." In his book Madonna as Post-Modern Myth, author Georges-Claude Guilbert points out that the song, along with its music video, conveys a traditional moral message, adding that the song actually depicts a "good" girl, who is capable of feeling contrition for her immoral actions.
The maxi-single for "Bad Girl" doesn't include any remixes of the song, only an edit and an extended mix - both of which are almost identical to the original album version. However, the single does include four remixes of its B-side, Madonna's cover of Little Willie John's 1956 song "Fever." The video remix of "Fever" is not one of the four remixes included. Jose F. Promis of AllMusic stated that the single could have been better, adding that although the remixes of "Fever" are "good, sweaty, stripped down, bare-bones deep house versions of the song," the single as a whole could have benefited from including the video remix.
—J.D. Considine from The Baltimore Sun discussing "Bad Girl"
"Bad Girl" received positive reviews from music critics. Rolling Stone magazine called the song a "riveting" ballad which describes "the mind of a girl who'd rather mess herself up than end a relationship she's too neurotic to handle, [and] the characters remain faceless. It's as if Madonna recognizes the discomfort we feel when sensing the human character of a woman whose function is purely sexual. A sex symbol herself, she coolly removes the threat of her own personality." Entertainment Weekly reviewed it as a "lonely-at-the-top, lovesick-victim song." Alfred Soto of Stylus Magazine praised the "sophistication" of the song, stating that it "puts the lie to those fools who (still) think Madonna has no input on her records." Soto goes on to say that the track is Madonna's most "cogent response to the wages of fame," adding that when Madonna "insists that she doesn’t want to cause you any pain, you believe it."
J.D. Considine of The Baltimore Sun gave the song a positive review, writing that it "shows the other side of the stereotypical good-time girl." Considine goes on to say that the song's chorus is "as sobering as it is sad," adding that "hearing the quaver in Madonna's voice as she insists 'You'll always be my baby' is enough to break any listener's heart." Scott Kearnan of Boston.com included the track at number twenty-nine on his list of "30 Best Madonna Songs," commenting that many people overlooked the song when it was released, due to the "backlash to her most overtly sexual period" that was occurring at that time. Larry Flick of Billboard gave the song a positive review, calling it "Lyrically daring." Louis Virtel of The Backlot described the song as a "parable about a woman who's sick of walking on the wild side," adding that it's a "classy ballad with a great message." Jose F. Promis of AllMusic stated that the lukewarm commercial reception of the song is not a reflection on its "artistic achievement," speculating that when it was released, the public may have been just growing tired of Madonna's "bad girl" image.
In the United States, "Bad Girl" debuted at Billboard Hot 100 at number 75 in the issue dated February 20, 1993. In its sixth week of charting, the song peaked at number 36, becoming Madonna's first single to miss the top 20 and breaking her streak of 27 consecutive top 20 hits that had begun with "Holiday", in 1983. The single remained on the chart for 11 weeks. "Bad Girl" performed moderately well on the Hot 100 Singles Sales and Hot 100 Airplay charts, peaking at numbers 36 and 44 respectively. However, it reached the top spot on the Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales chart, thanks to the remixes of "Fever", which were included on the maxi single.
The song fared better in the other countries. In the United Kingdom, "Bad Girl" debuted at number 11 on the UK Singles Chart and reached its peak one week later, peaking at number ten on March 13, 1993. It remained on the chart for a total of seven weeks. The song also entered the top 10 in Italy and Iceland, and the top 20 in Canada, where it peaked at numbers 3 and 20 respectively. The song also peaked at number 20 In Ireland, spending a total of five weeks on the IRMA singles chart. In Australia, the song reached the top 40, peaking at number 32 on the ARIA singles chart the week of April 11, 1993. It spent a total of seven weeks on the chart. It also achieved top 40 success on the Swiss Singles Chart, New Zealand's RIANZ Singles Chart, and the Netherlands' Dutch Top 40 chart, peaking at numbers 25, 35, and 34 respectively. The song achieved modest success on the German Singles Chart, charting for nine weeks and peaking at number 47. On the French Singles Chart it peaked at number 44, charting for a total of four weeks.
After directors Ellen von Unwerth and Tim Burton both rejected offers to direct the music video, it was eventually directed by David Fincher, who worked with Madonna on her videos for "Express Yourself", "Oh Father" and "Vogue." it was filmed on location in New York City on January 12–18, 1993. Besides Walken, the video also features appearances by actors Mark Margolis, Tomas Arana, Rob Campbell, James Rebhorn, and an uncredited cameo appearance from Matt Dillon, who plays a crime scene detective.
The video clip was the first time that Madonna was shown wearing penciled-on eyebrows, after shaving them prior to the filming of the video for her previous single "Deeper and Deeper". Madonna said her idea for the video was influenced by the 1977 American film Looking for Mr. Goodbar – a film in which the main female character lives a rather self-destructive life and is stabbed to death by a one-night stand. It also took inspiration from the 1987 Franco-German romantic fantasy film Wings of Desire – a film which includes invisible, immortal angels populate Berlin and listen to the thoughts of the human inhabitants and comfort those who are in distress.
The music video for "Bad Girl" features Madonna playing the character "Louise Oriole" (Madonna's middle name is Louise and Oriole is a street she once lived on), a high-powered and successful but ultimately lonely and depressed Manhattan female executive who is a chain smoking alcoholic with a penchant for one-night stands with many different men (from affluent yuppies to shady low-lifes). She behaves this way in order to try and deal with her depression and sadness over a relationship with someone she loves deeply, but ultimately has no future. Through her days, Louise gets distracted by cigarettes, cocktails, and random hook-ups, as lamented in the song's lyrics.
Christopher Walken plays her guardian angel, who watches over her self-destructive activities. In one scene Louise wakes up alone in her bed after a one-night stand and discovers a hand-written note laying on the pillow beside her. She is clearly upset after reading the note and she crumples it and throws it to the ground. Another scene shows her passed out on an easy chair after drinking an entire bottle of wine in one sitting. The next scene shows her guardian angel reading the note which simply reads "thank you whoever you are." In a later scene her guardian angel delivers Louise with a "kiss of death" before her final encounter with a man (James Rebhorn), during which it is suggested she was strangled with her stocking. After her death, she reappears as a spirit alongside with her guardian angel overseeing the police taking her body away to the morgue.
Analysis and reception
Author Carol Vernallis, in her book Experiencing Music Video: Aesthetics and Cultural Context, points out that there are several examples of "iconic imagery" throughout the music video which helps the viewer predict the final outcome of Madonna's character. According to Vernallis, Madonna's black dress, encased in dry cleaner's plastic symbolizes the body-bag she will eventually be carried out in; her cat hissing at her suggests that she is a ghost or a figure that bears a curse; and a doorway that she passes through during the music video looks like the entrance to Hades.
When Scott Kearnan of Boston.com included "Bad Girl" on his list of "30 Best Madonna Songs," he commented that the cinematic music video for the song reinforces the fact that "while Madonna is indisputably sex-positive, her outlook on the complex emotional intersections of sex, power, and self-confidence is not without nuance." In his book Madonna as Postmodern Myth, author Georges-Claude Guilbert describes the video as "a masterpiece of the [music video] genre" which coveys a "conventional moral message" of the possible dangers of a one-night stand. In a 2012 Billboard Magazine reader's poll which ranked Madonna's best music videos, "Bad Girl" was voted in at number nine.
Madonna has only performed the song live once, during an appearance on Saturday Night Live in January 1993. At the end of the performance, she yelled "Fight the real enemy!" as she ripped up an 8–by–10 photograph of Joey Buttafuoco – the alleged lover of Amy Fisher, the Long Island teenager who shot Buttafuoco's wife in the face. This action was a spoof of the actions taken by Sinéad O'Connor when she was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live in October 1992, in which she ripped apart a photograph of Pope John Paul II and yelled "Fight the real enemy!," as a protest against sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. According to the Deseret News, after O'Connor's Pope-incident originally occurred, Madonna stated that she believed that O'Connor's irreverence had gone too far. However, Madonna's spoof of the incident appeared to be intended in fun. The Huffington Post included the Saturday Night Live performance of "Bad Girl" on their list of Madonna's most "legendary performances", stating that it was the "highlight" of her Saturday Night Live appearance.
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