On December 7 1990, Madonna’s Justify My Love was released as the first-ever video single, priced at $9.98.
The music video was considered too sexually explicit for MTV and was banned from the network. 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?”
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 did not understand why the video was banned, while videos containing violence and degradation to women continued to receive regular airplay. The video was then released on VHS, and became a bestselling “video single” of all time.
The Justify My Love maxi-single was an especially memorable one, featuring remixes by future songwriting collaborators William Orbit and Andre Betts, a Q-Sound mix, a remix by Madonna & Lenny Kravitz titled The Beast Within which featured Madonna reciting passages from the Book of Revelations, and a new Shep Pettibone remix of Express Yourself.
A second Justify My Love remix by Andre Betts, titled The English Mix, was sadly shelved but eventually surfaced on bootlegs and the internet, in varying degrees of quality.
On November 27 1990, the MTV network announced it had banned Madonna’s Justify My Love video due to extremely strong displays of sexuality.
“We respect her work as an artist and think she makes great videos,” said MTV executives in a statement about the clip. “This one is not for us.”
“When I did my Vogue video…I’m wearing a see-through dress and you can clearly see my breasts,” Madonna told ABC’s Nightline in 1990. “MTV told me that they wanted me to take that out, but I said I wouldn’t and they played it anyways. So I thought that once again I was going to be able to bend the rules a little bit.”
On November 6 1990, Madonna’s Justify My Love single was released as the first single from The Immaculate Collection, Madonna’s first greatest hits collection.
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 Top 40 Tracks and Billboard Hot Dance Club Play charts.
On October 14 1993, Rolling Stone magazine featured Madonna (several times) in an article featuring The 100 Top Music Videos.
Rolling Stone included the following Madonna music videos: Express Yourself at #10, Like A Prayer at #20, Borderline at #24, Vogue at #28, Justify My Love at #43 and Oh Father at #66 – Madonna had more videos on the list than any other artist or group.
On May 11 1991, the Wayne’s World Madonna Fantasy on Saturday Night Live aired. The sketch ranked #4 among the Top 50 Greatest ‘Saturday Night Live’ Sketches of All Time!
From Rollingstone: “It was terrifying,” Mike Myers has said of kissing Madonna. And no wonder: In 1991, there was no more intimidating star than the just-banned-from-MTV Material Girl. Her fantasy rendezvous with Wayne and Garth was probably SNL‘s most perfect pop culture convergence ever: One of the most famous people on earth, writhing in the black-and-white world of Justify My Love, the most controversial video of all time, speaking in the dopey slang (“No way!” “Way!”) of the most popular recurring characters since the Blues Brothers. And we were only approaching Waynemania, which would peak in 1992 with their feature film. During shooting, Myers and Dana Carvey had a personal falling-out, and were never quite able to re-capture the magic – though that didn’t stop Lorne Michaels from producing a sequel or doing the sketch seven more times.