“Bad Girl” by Madonna (1992)

There are a lot of people who enjoy Madonna’s Erotica album. I am not one of those people.

I think the sound is tinny, and I think Madge got so caught up in trying to be on the edge of club culture, she forgot to write songs. It was, like “’Justify My Love’ worked for a song. It didn’t work for an entire album.

“Bad Girl” is one of two songs from Erotica that stand up to repeated listen (OK, maybe there are three…I run hot and cold on “Deeper & Deeper”.

It was also Madonna’s lowest-charting single up to that point. When released in early ‘93, it stumbled to a shocking #36. Every Madonna song between 1983′s “Holiday” and “Deeper and Deeper” nine years later hit the top 20, with only “Holiday” and 1989′s “Oh Father” missing the top ten. That’s legendary stats right there. But I guess the American public was sick of her and her exploits. Keep in mind, Erotica’s release was virtually in tandem with the Sex book and Body Of Evidence, which I’ve seen and is laughably bad. H.W. Bush’s America was not ready for so much pussy talk.

Of course, chart positions don’t usually tell the true tale with respect to how good a song is. And “Bad Girl” was Madonna’s best single since “Vogue”.

This spare beat ballad gave Madonna a chance to actually emote. The strain as she struggles to reach a note on the word “baby” during the pre-chorus gives “Bad Girl” an even more solitary, desperate vibe than it already has. It’s an example of the Mary J. Blige effect–when an artist tries to hit a note that might be just out of their range, but that “bad note” actually gives the performance more emotional resonance).

Topically, it’s one of Madonna’s sadder songs (a fact made even clearer by the video, which co-stars Christopher Walken and features Madge’s character getting offed at the end and the two of them ascending to heaven together). She doesn’t always do “sad” well, but when she nails it, she nails it. And “Bad Girl” nailed it.

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