Should Have Been Bigger: Madonna’s Anthemic “Girl Gone Wild”
In this franchise, we look back on songs that deserved a little more love and attention.
“Girl Gone Wild” is far and away Madonna’s best club banger from the 2010s. (The only other song that comes close is “Bitch I’m Madonna”). It might even be the Queen of Pop’s best single in the last 10 years, but “Crave” and “Ghosttown” would definitely be in the mix too. Given that the song was in non-stop rotation in gay bars for what felt like an eternity, it might comes as something of a surprise to learn that it was a major commercial disappointment. The pop icon doesn’t give a fuck about charting in the age of streaming, but, in 2012, she still did.
That was a huge year for Madonna. The 61-year-old sex symbol performed at Super Bowl XLVI and promptly landed her 38th top 10 hit — still a record — with “Give Me All Your Luvin'” featuring M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj. Despite the flurry of controversy that seemingly accompanies every release, MDNA debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. She seemed destined for a Confessions-like resurgence, particularly given the strength of the album’s second single. After all, “Girl Gone Wild” was the club banger fans had been hungering for.
After beginning with a prayer, the song veers straight to the dance floor. “I got that burnin’ hot desire and no one can put out my fire, it’s coming right down through the wire,” Madonna sings over Benny Benassi’s thunderous beats. “Here it comes, when I hear them 808 drums — it’s got me singing hey-ey-ey-ey-ey-ey, like a girl gone wild.” This defiant dose of club-pop perfection felt like classic Madonna, lyrically as well as sonically. It even had an iconic, vastly ahead-of-its-time visual featuring her signature wall choreography (see the “Me Against The Music” video) and viral Ukrainian dance troupe Kazaky.
What went wrong? Well, there was the threat of a lawsuit for Girls Gone Wild porn mogul Joe Francis and the fact that radio refused to play the song. It certainly went a lot harder than most EDM fare on top 40 stations, but the truth is that programmers had already turned their back on the Queen of Pop. A fact that would be confirmed again and again with each subsequent release. Happily, in the age of YouTube, internet memes and Stan Twitter, “Girl Gone Wild” lives on as a cult classic and fan favorite. Revisit Madonna’s sorely underrated bop below.