Should Have Been Bigger: Madonna’s “Living For Love”
In this franchise, we look back on songs that deserved a little more love and attention.
The Gods were not on Madonna’s side as she prepared to release her 13th LP, Rebel Heart. A series of leaks sprang in the final quarter of 2014, spewing out more than a dozen demos meant for the album. Although the pop legend had planned to unveil the project gradually in 2015, she was forced to recalibrate her plans and rush release half of the album before Christmas with the second half following in March, after yet another leak or course. It seems as though the 58-year-old was doomed from the very beginning. However, the album contains some of the best music she has recorded in the last decade including the project’s anthemic lead single, “Living For Love.”
The triumphant house cut was a return to form, recapturing the glimmer of her earliest releases. With production from Diplo and Ariel Rechtshaid, a piano line from Alicia Keys, and writing from a bevy of the industry’s most talented, the track seemed like a surefire hit to launch an album campaign. On it, the “Material Girl” faced the heartbreak of a failed relationship but refused to give up her faith in love. She told Rolling Stone that although she was emotionally shattered she didn’t want to share a song in which she felt like a victim. “This scenario devastated me, but it just made me stronger,” she told them. Ironically, the sentiment drew parallels to her stance following the leaks as she put on a brave face and soldiered on.
Opening with a stuttering synth and distorted vocals, the beat falls out before coming back in underneath a confident vocal performance from Madonna. “Took me to heaven, let me fall down. Now that it’s over, I’m gonna carry on,” she boldly proclaims as the production builds up to an whirling battle cry on the chorus with the world-weary hitmaker finding strength in healing. “Love’s gonna lift me up,” she belts over a choir. Diplo and Ariel’s production was a throwback to house music of the 90’s, and, coupled with Alicia’s piano and the determined lyrics, it was a standout release regardless of its messy unveiling.
Ever the groundbreaking artist, Madonna continued to change the pop game when it was time to release a video by signing a contract that made her the first artist to host a video on SnapChat. With direction from Julien Choquart and Camille Hirigoyen (known collectively as J.A.C.K.), the visual featured a variety of high fashion looks and saw the songstress face off against a team of dancers while dressed as a matador. She valiantly fought off the advances of the dancers, eventually standing victoriously above her vanquished assailants as rose petals rained down around her.
“Living For Love” also received a handful of performances that replicated the set-up of the music video. Her rendition at the 2015 Grammys was one of the most watched of the evening, and a performance at the BRIT Awards made headlines after a dramatic wardrobe malfunction resulted in the singer taking a tumble mid-song. She also performed it on The Ellen DeGeneres Show with a comedic cameo from the host. Unfortunately, the heavy promo push didn’t do much for the promising single.
Despite being one of Madonna’s best singles in years, the track failed to dent the Billboard Hot 100 and made little impact outside of the United States. It did manage to net the hitmaker her 44th Billboard’s Dance Club Songs charttopper, tying a record set by country crooner George Strait for the most top placements on one chart. Ultimately, “Living For Love” kicked off an era that glimmers with hope regardless of the adversity that it faced. Through it all, the Queen of Pop retained her style and refused to be silenced, eventually emerging as the “Unapologetic Bitch” that she is. After all, bitch, she is Madonna. Revisit the epic house anthem below