A Pop Music Feature
Immaculately forging Madonna’s future, the hit single “JUSTIFY MY LOVE” released 30 years ago was as controversial as the artist that originally recorded it. Prince protege, INGRID CHAVEZ revisited the track that might have defined her career.
While we are all in the midst of a celebration, four decades of career-defining music that elevated Madonna to her stature as the unbridled Queen of Pop, exiting out of her first decade, the occasion was marked with the release of her inaugural greatest hits package. The Immaculate Collection featured 17 tracks, a robust assembling of Madonna’s early chart toppers that included “Holiday”, “Lucky Star” and “Into the Groove” all helped to introduce the world to the emerging Material Girl. Inevitably the setlist landed on “Vogue” which would become an international hit solidifying the artist’s status as an icon.
The Immaculate Collection is also special in that it features 2 all-new tracks, both glimpses into Madonna’s future and the phenomenon to come. At the time of the compilation’s release, Madonna was at the top of her game, having a critically acclaimed album Like a Prayer to her name, a record-breaking world tour Blond Ambition, and a revealing cinematic documentary Truth or Dare that provided an “all-access” look into Madonna’s world captured while on the road. The late-fall release of “Justify My Love” the first of the two new tracks on the compilation felt like a seismic shift across all media, and immediately got everyone’s attention.
This ability to “shock ’n’ awe” was a practice long associated with Madonna, who was a masterful marketeer. The track was unlike any song in her earlier catalog of music (immediately suggesting that the artist was onto something new), and the stylishly provocative video directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino (inspired by the Italian film The Night Porter) had ignited a firestorm! The video was so racy, that it was pulled from the air and banned by MTV, so Madonna immediately profited from its commercial sale as the first VHS single. The media claimed Madonna had finally pushed too many buttons, but behind the scenes of the track, there was even more drama brewing.
The track was brought to Madonna by fellow pop provocateur Lenny Kravitz, who had been working on the track with producer Andre Betts, known for his darkly intense and eerie rhythms often coupled with organic instrumentation. When Kravitz played the song down for Madonna, the lyrical sections, mostly all spoken word, were sensuously evoked and written by Ingrid Chavez. The then-emerging singer/songwriter was a protégé of Prince (who had collaborated with Madonna on her 1989 release Like a Prayer, on the track “Love Song”), and was scandalously engaged in an affair with Kravitz, who was then married to actress Lisa Bonet.
Undoubtedly, “Justify My Love” immediately spoke to Madonna’s sensibilities — thematically it was right in sync with the “next steps” she was exploring, and as the legend goes, Kravitz played it only twice for her before they decided to go into the studio the next day to record it. Madonna has stated she reworked several of the lyric sections, enhancing Chavez’s original interpretation, even though the Chavez demo that began circulating sounds very close to the final release. Madonna certainly brought a lot of her personality to the performance, but it’s hardly a stretch from where the track started. The version Kravitz and Betts also laid down, incorporated several uncredited song samplings that eventually led to litigation, with Madonna and Kravitz prevailing in the end.
It’s unfortunate that in the end, it’s hard not to see how Chavez was taken advantage of. Kravitz and Madonna, the two bigger stars in this transaction appeared to have taken over and ran with the song, making it one of Madonna’s biggest hits. The track spurned much controversy with its release and accompanying video, putting Madonna on the hot seat and defending her art. For her contribution, Chavez was initially uncredited when the single was released, and would have to wait until the second pressing of the compilation to elicit her just desserts.
When the 30th Anniversary of the song “Justify My Love” rolled around, Chavez reclaimed the track and released her version. Though very thinly produced, and made more contemporary to suit today’s taste, her take is quite palpable. The oomph that wildly grips the original isn’t there, by Chavez’s performance is far from undesirable. In 2023, she released a 10-track remix package called Justified with versions by Miguel Migs, Kelix Williams, and Thomasz Guiddo among others. Most are quite appetizing and would settle in very nicely with an after-hours lounge club scene, although you can’t help but imagine how exciting it might be to throw down an alt mix with both of these female artists’ voices — perhaps an effort to justify our love.
Here is your #FanzEyeView of Ingrid Chavez performing “Justify My Love” LIVE!
JUSTIFIED | by INGRID CHAVEZ | is available on most Digital Download stores including iTunes. Download from iTunes here.