The Queen of Pop’s catalog of singles and remixes is generating much love on the digital spectrum and the latest to hit the scene is one of Madonna’s most interesting tracks from her hit album Music and has us all asking again “What It Feels Like For A Girl”.
Silky smooth. The opening lyrics to the song are enough to immediately grab your attention if the opening spoken dialogue didn’t already pique your interest. Madonna’s follow-up to her groundbreaking, award-winning ode to electronica Ray of Light was regarded as the artist’s most interesting work since 1989’s Like a Prayer which is her most introspective; when Music emerged it was an apparent amalgamation of the “Material Girl” as a dance artist and innovator or technological sounds evolving into the new millennium’s most innovative pop star — a “Mercurial Girl” if you’d so have it.
The wildly critical success of Ray of Light put an inscrutable hot spotlight on Madonna — one that had hardly ever dimmed in the entirety of her trailblazing career as one of the popular culture’s most provocative personalities. Even in a decade that had started moving into a youth explosion that manufactured mechanized boy bands and gave us Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, Madonna continued to make waves. She continued to carve her own path and became far more exploratory in her musical choices and sonic expressions; she took risks and experimented.
Her determination at proving that electronica was a far from soulless musical expression garnered her significant recognition among her peers, but Madonna has never been one to just settle. As the world hurtled toward the new millennium and fears of Y2K worked themselves through the consciousness, Madonna who had planned to go on tour in the final months of 1999, decided to instead pull the reigns in. Other work including films and soundtrack singles, a new husband, and a new baby, distracted her into producing her eighth studio album.
The album project, a collaboration including French musician Mirwais Ahmadzaï and Guy Sigsworth would be pitched as a dance and disco-infused pop confection with to most epitomes title: Music. Among one of the demos that Madonna had started to construct for the setlist was “What It Feels Like For a Girl”. Reportedly, the song was written halfway through her pregnancy with some Rocco, and as she attempted to keep the secret from the press. Madonna was attracted to Guy Sigsworth’s work with ambient rhythms and shared the track with him.
When the demo was returned to Madonna, Sigworth had inserted into the backing track a spoken intro: a recitation lifted from the film 1993 British film The Cement Garden gently spoken by the actress Charlotte Gainsbourg. The lines illustrated the double standards that exist between boys and girls, wherein: “girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short — ‘cause it’s OK to be a boy! But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading. ‘Cause, you think that being a girl is degrading. But secretly you’d love to know what it’s like…wouldn’t you — what it feels like for a girl.”
It’s easy to imagine how inspired Madonna was to proceed with the rest of the song.
The single was critically received as a stand-out among the album’s setlist and was given a prominent position among the tracks performed when Madonna took to the road to promote the album on her Drowned World Tour of 2001. The song was translated into Spanish and performed as a mixed slow/up-tempo track with Madonna beautifully executing choreographed maneuvers alongside her female dancers in androgynous attire as a statement to the ambiguity between the sexes. The portion of the show stood out as the most celebratory in a largely dark, violently haunting thematic.
Interestingly for a track that was released on April 16, 2001, and was the final single from Music its relevance today couldn’t be more powerful as our society wrestles politically with issues of prejudice against LGBTQ+ and especially in our transgender community, putting the health and lives of young people at risk. Just one of the many injustices of the Trump Era, the administration introduced legislation attacking the LGBTQ+ community, and most notably attacked transgender individuals.
Even trans individuals serving in our armed forces found themselves in a great predicament with their civil liberties under attack, with access to treatments and medications in jeopardy and even their lives threatened. Fortunately, in an extreme reversal, the new Biden/Harris administration has immediately stepped up in defense of all LGBTQ+ lives, and especially our trans community, promising: “Your president has got your back.” Madonna has made it a calling to champion the rights and equality of the LGBTQ+ community and has served as an advocate her entire career.
“What It Feels Like For a Girl” is as much an anthem for the perseverance and acceptance of gender equality and living authentically, as it is a call to action to the understanding that between the sexes we are more alike than unlike, and compassion, acceptance, and understanding go a long way.
Check out the video to Madonna’s “What It Feels Like For a Girl” directed by Guy Ritchie and presented now in HD here:
“What It Feel Like For a Girl” | Madonna | is available to download here on iTunes and additional music store outlets and is released on Warner Records. The Digital Single includes the full-length DJ remixes from Paul Oakenfold, Richard Vission, Tracy Young, and more, and radio edits.