30 Years Ago: "Justify My Love"
Today in 1990, Madonna released her most controversial song
It seems quaint now, to remember how controversial a pop song could be.
When Madonna released “Justify My Love” 30 years ago today, religious conservatives screamed bloody murder. The music video, which dared to show people in leather awkwardly leering at other people in leather, was banned from MTV. Today it would barely warrant an NSFW label.
Madonna, of course, had a knack for finding opportunity in outrage. After she appeared on Nightline to defend the song, “Justify” became a textbook case of the Streisand effect by immediately catapulting to the top of the Billboard charts.
The controversy overshadowed the song itself, which is unfortunate, because it was a clever bit of composition. Written by Lenny Kravitz, and containing his background vocals, “Justify” was essentially the first trip-hop crossover hit. (A great remix recently posted to YouTube turns off Madonna’s vocals and cranks Kravitz’s panting.) The main sample is James Brown’s legendary “Funky Drummer,” but Kravitz apparently did not know that, because he lifted it from a Public Enemy song.
5 Years Ago Today: Master of None, created by Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang, debuted on Netflix.
50 Years Ago Today: Ethan Hawke was born.
160 Years Ago Today: Abraham Lincoln beat three competitors in the 1860 election to become the 16th president of the United States. Voter turnout was 81.2%.