Madonna’s no stranger to controversy – she practically invented the word – and controversies don’t come much bigger than Justify My Love, which turns a whopping 25 years-old today.
The song first appeared on The Immaculate Collection compilation, and marked a transitioning period for the Material Girl, as she left the camp upbeat sounds of Vogue and Hanky Panky behind and became a bonafide sex pioneer.
Written with the help of Lenny Kravitz and Ingrid Chavez, the track is recognised for its uniquely seductive spoken lyrics, while the accompanying black and white music video was banned by MTV for its explicit portrayal of sex, sadomasochism, and bisexuality.
In a typically unapologetic style, Madonna responded to the ban saying: “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?”
The song was then released as a “video single” on VHS tape for $10 – this was a time before YouTube, remember – and consequently sold over a million copies.
In what appeared to be an effort to get even more mouths agape at her infamous lack of boundaries, the artist released The Beast Within remix – a version of the track that replaces the sexual lyrics with passages from the Bible.
Two years later, the sensual trip hop beats of Justify My Love would blossom into arguably her most explicit and divisive album ever, Erotica, as well as its printed companion, the SEX book.