Justify My Love (video)

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Justify My Love
Video by Madonna
Released December 18, 1990 (US)
January 21, 1991 (Europe)[1]
Recorded November 15, 1990
Length 5 mins (US)
10 mins (Europe)
Director Jean-Baptiste Mondino
Producer Philippe Dupuis-Mendel
Madonna video chronology
The Immaculate Collection
Justify My Love
Madonna: Truth or Dare

Justify My Love was the first VHS video single to be released by American singer Madonna. This was the first time an artist had released a single in this format. It was released by Warner Music Vision, Warner Reprise Video and Sire to capitalize on the controversy surrounding the music video to "Justify My Love", which was subsequently banned by MTV. It contained the highly controversial and sexually charged video.

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 shrugged and answered, "Yeah, so? Lucky me." She also mentioned that the banning was hypocritical as male artists were able to show music videos on the channel that contained sexist and violent imagery. She also mentioned that in her "Vogue" music video, she had worn a see-through lace top that exposed her breasts, but this was passed by the channel.[2]

The video contained imagery of sadomasochism, voyeurism, and bisexuality. Madonna biographer Mark Bego commented that "Throwing a scandal Madonna's way is like throwing gasoline on a fire." The controversy turned out to be a publicity and financial coup, with the single spending two consecutive weeks at #1 on Billboard's Hot 100 in early 1991.[2]

The video single was released exclusively in the United States and Europe, and was never released anywhere else in the world.


Released on VHS only, the packaging in North America was a plain black slip cover with a sticker around it, so that it resembled a "seedy video". In Europe, it was given the full cover artwork treatment, and they also included a bonus video of Madonna's performance of "Vogue" at the 1990 MTV Music Video Awards, which was ironic as MTV had banned the title track. In the UK, the video was given an "18" certificate by the BBFC, meaning no one under that age could legally buy or see the release.[3]

The video was filmed primarily in grainy black and white in the style of a 1960s European art film. The action takes place in an elegant hotel that apparently caters to alternate-lifestyle couples. Madonna (or her character) 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, latex bodysuits, and corsets).

In a dream-like sequence, Madonna rolls around in bed wearing skimpy-lace underwear while various figures come and go. The only nudity (which led to the video being banned) occurs when a topless dominatrix-type woman (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 iconic ensemble worn by Charlotte Rampling in the controversial film The Night Porter. (Both the film and the video share elements of sadomasochism.)

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. The video then fades to a black screening with a written phrase shown in white on the top left-hand corner, "poor is the man whose pleasures depend on the permission of another," which later fades out.

At the time of its release, the video peaked at #2 on the Billboard's Top Music Videos Chart for two weeks and spent 39 weeks in the chart overall.[4] The music video was released on DVD for the first time on the greatest hits package Celebration: The Video Collection in 2009. This version of the video was censored with black bars in a scene that contains female nudity.

Track listing[edit]

US VHS version
  1. "Justify My Love" – 4:54
UK / European VHS version
  1. "Justify My Love" – 4:54
  2. "Vogue" (from 1990 MTV Video Music Awards) – 6:25


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United States (RIAA)[5] 4× Platinum 400,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

Production credits[edit]

  • Director: Jean-Baptiste Mondino
  • Producer: Philippe Dupuis-Mendel
  • Director of Photography: Pascal Lebegue
  • Editor: Olivier Gajan
  • Production Company: Bandits (a co-production with Propaganda Films)


  1. ^ "How to justify Madonna' New Video? - Baltimore Sun". The Baltimore Sun. 1990-12-09. Retrieved 2014-01-22. 
  2. ^ a b Rich, Joshua (1998-11-20). "Madonna Banned". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2010-08-31. 
  3. ^ BBFC.co.uk Madonna Justify My Love
  4. ^ Caulfield, Keith (2003-06-04). "Ask Billboard". Billboard. Retrieved 2014-10-26. 
  5. ^ "American video certifications – Madonna – Justify My Love". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved April 2, 2015.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Video Longform, then click SEARCH

External links[edit]