Today in Madonna History: May 3, 1991

On May 3 1991, Madonna appeared on the cover of The New York Post with the headline, “What A Tramp!” The article focused on Madonna’s Truth Or Dare documentary. In the article, Ray Kerrison called Madonna, “vulgar” and the “degenerate queen of sleaze.”

Jay’s Note: I bet Ray Kerrison had no idea that this particular cover of The New York Post would become one of the most sought after and iconic covers of all-time. You could write just about anything alongside this image from the Justify My Love single cover and it would still be beautiful. 

Today in Madonna History: March 24, 2012

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On March 24th 2012, The New York Post’s Page Six reported that Madonna’s video for Girl Gone Wild had been deemed too wild for general viewing on YouTube. It would be restricted to registered users over the age of eighteen in its uncensored form:

“Madonna’s steamy new video for Girl Gone Wild has been banned from open view on YouTube for being too raunchy, with scenes including nudity and a close-up of a man’s PVC-clad crotch. YouTube chiefs have restricted the video for those 18 years or above, and sources tell us they’ve told the superstar’s management that if they want it to be available for viewing by all, they must edit out shots of bare bottoms, a man rubbing his crotch and an implied masturbation scene where a man gyrates before a mirror. Madonna’s team was working yesterday on an edited version of the video for YouTube because, for the first time, it’s based its marketing strategy for her new album, MDNA, on social media, including a live Facebook interview with Jimmy Fallon today. A source told us, ‘YouTube has decided the video is too raunchy and should only be viewed by those 18 or over, and actually, the video is hard to find on the site. YouTube has sent Madonna’s team a list of shots that should be cut to make it appropriate for everyone.’ Fashion photographers Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott directed Girl Gone Wild, using much of the singer’s trademark erotic imagery, including topless men dancing in black tights (mantyhose) and platform heels. YouTube also took exception to an S&M-inspired scene of a silhouette in chains. The video was deemed ‘inappropriate for some users’ by YouTube, and viewers must verify they’re 18 or older and log in to watch it. Madonna’s rep, Liz Rosenberg, told us, ‘Some things never change. This is a throwback to [1990] when MTV refused to show Justify My Love.'”

A re-edited version of the Girl Gone Wild video was provided to YouTube several days later and was approved for general viewing.

Today in Madonna History: January 4, 1991

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On January 4 1991, Madonna responded to a Rabbi’s accusation of anti-semitism for the song lyrics in the remix of Justify My Love, called The Beast Within.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, accused Madonna of insulting Jews by using this Bible reference:

“I know your tribulation and your poverty and the slander of those who say that they are Jews, but they are not, they are a synagogue of Satan.”

In a letter sent to Madonna’s manager, Freddy DeMann, Rabbi Cooper said the Wiesenthal Center was outraged and wanted the quotation withdrawn. “The imagery of ‘Jew as Devil’ has led to untold violence against the Jewish people and slander against Judaism over the course of the last 2,000 years,” the rabbi wrote.

He charged that the phrase could “contribute to those who seek to promote anti-Semitism” and said that neo-Nazi groups had used such imagery to promote racist ideology among youth.

Madonna responded with this statement:

“I certainly did not have any anti-Semitic intent when I included a passage from the Bible on my record. It was a commentary on evil in general. My message, if any, is pro-tolerance and anti-hate. The song is, after all, about love.”

Rabbi Cooper said he took Madonna at her word.

“She was direct to the issue, she responded quickly and we’re relieved that she did so,” the rabbi said.

How did you feel about The Beast Within the first time you heard it? 

Today in Madonna History: December 11, 1990

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On December 11 1990, Madonna’s The Royal Box, a box-set which included The Immaculate Collection CD or cassette, VHS video, postcards and a folded poster of Madonna performing Vogue at the MTV Video Music Awards, was released.

Box sets seem to be a thing of the past.  Do you think Madonna will ever release another box set as great or greater than The Royal Box?

Do you wish Madonna had released more box sets when they were actually popular and sold well? 

Today in Madonna History: December 3, 1990

On December 3 1990, ABC’s Nightline played the banned music video for Justify My Love video in its entirety followed by a live interview with Madonna by Forrest Sawyer regarding 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 half-jokingly answered, “Yeah, so lucky me!”

She also expressed that she did not understand why the video was banned when videos containing violence and degradation to women continued to receive regular airplay.

Today in Madonna History: November 26, 1992

On November 26 1992, Rolling Stone magazine published their review of Madonna’s Erotica album, written by Arion Berger:

It took Madonna ten years, but she finally made the record everyone has accused her of making all along. Chilly, deliberate, relentlessly posturing. Erotica is a post-AIDS album about romance — it doesn’t so much evoke sex as provide a fetishistic abstraction of it. She may have intended to rattle America with hot talk about oral gratification and role switching, but sensuality is the last thing on the album’s mind. Moving claustrophobically within the schematic confines of dominance and submission, Erotica plays out its fantasies with astringent aloofness, unhumid and uninviting. The production choices suggest not a celebration of the physical but a critique of commercial representations of sex — whether Paul Verhoeven’s, Bruce Weber’s or Madonna’s — that by definition should not be mistaken for the real thing. It succeeds in a way the innocent post-punk diva of Madonna and the thoughtful songwriter of Like a Prayer could not have imagined. Its cold, remote sound systematically undoes every one of the singer’s intimate promises.

Clinical enough on its own terms when compared with the lushness and romanticism of Madonna’s past grooves, Erotica is stunningly reined in; even when it achieves disco greatness, it’s never heady. Madonna, along with co-producers Andre Betts and Shep Pettibone, tamps down every opportunity to let loose — moments ripe for a crescendo, a soaring instrumental break, a chance for the listener to dance along, are over the instant they are heard. Erotica is Madonna’s show (the music leaves no room for audience participation), and her production teases and then denies with the grim control of a dominatrix.

Against maraca beats and a shimmying horn riff, Erotica introduces Madonna as “Mistress Dita,” whose husky invocations of “do as I say” promise a smorgasbord of sexual experimentation, like the one portrayed in the video for Justify My Love. But the sensibility of Erotica is miles removed from the warm come-ons of Justify My Love, which got its heat from privacy and romance — the singer’s exhortations to “tell me your dreams.” The Madonna of Erotica is in no way interested in your dreams; she’s after compliance, and not merely physical compliance either. The song demands the passivity of a listener, not a sexual partner. It’s insistently self-absorbed — Vogue with a dirty mouth, where all the real action’s on the dance floor.

Look (or listen) but don’t touch sexuality isn’t the only peep-show aspect of this album; Erotica strives for anonymity the way True Blue strove for intimacy. With the exception of the riveting Bad Girl, in which the singer teases out shades of ambiguity in the mind of a girl who’d rather mess herself up than end a relationship she’s too neurotic to handle, 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.

Pure disco moments like the whirligig Deeper and Deeper don’t need emotional resonance to make them race. But the record sustains its icy tone throughout the yearning ballads (Rain, Waiting) and confessional moods (Secret Garden). Relieved of Madonna’s celebrity baggage, they’re abstract nearly to the point of nonexistence — ideas of love songs posing as the real thing. Even when Madonna draws from her own life, she’s all reaction, no feeling: The snippy Thief of Hearts takes swipes at a man stealer but not out of love or loyalty toward the purloined boyfriend, who isn’t even mentioned.

By depersonalizing herself to a mocking extreme, the Madonna of Erotica is sexy in only the most objectified terms, just as the album is only in the most literal sense what it claims to be. Like erotica, Erotica is a tool rather than an experience. Its stridency at once refutes and justifies what her detractors have always said: Every persona is a fake, the self-actualized amazon of Express Yourself no less than the breathless baby doll of Material Girl. Erotica continually subverts this posing to expose its function as pop playacting. The narrator of Bye Bye Baby ostensibly dumps the creep who’s been mistreating her, but Madonna’s infantile vocal and flat delivery are anything but assertive — she could be a drag queen toying with a pop hit of the past. Erotica is everything Madonna has been denounced for being — meticulous, calculated, domineering and artificial. It accepts those charges and answers with a brilliant record to prove them.

Today in Madonna History: February 22, 1991

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On February 22 1991, Madonna’s controversial Justify My Love music video single was certified 8x platinum for shipment of 400,000 units in the USA.

Despite MTV and other similar video channels around the world banning the Justify My Love music video, the financial advantages of the ban were not lost on Madonna:

“It may seem like it was a publicity stunt, and I was very lucky, I must say. But I did not plan on selling this video. The controversy just happened. It wasn’t planned. So lucky me.”

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