“Bad girl, drunk by six
Kissing someone else’s lips
Smoked too many cigarettes today
I’m not happy when I act this way”
Taken from the album Erotica
UK #10, AUS #32, US #36
Loneliness isn’t really one of Madonna’s favourite themes. She’s always about POWER and YEAH and EXPRESS YOURSELF and VOGUE VOGUE VOGUE that her downtempo, isolated moments can get lost. ‘Bad Girl’, without a doubt the best song from Erotica, is a lush atmospheric ballad that doubles as one of her saddest, most desperate singles. It is hopeless not in the sense that it’s a bad song, I mean it has no hope in it, it takes heavy emotions and paints them as an inescapable situation.
In ‘Bad Girl’ Madonna tells the possibly autobiographical story of a promiscuous woman who indulges in all the bad stuff: cigarettes, alcohol, and a lot of sex. “I’m not happy when I act this way” she sings, and pleads to the listener that she doesn’t want to cause any pain. Whether she’s talking to herself or not is never made explicit. The song is driven along by an amazing melody, and Madonna’s vocal is one of her most emotional, and not coincidentally completely stunning.
The most striking thing about this song was it’s video, which starred Madonna as the bad girl and Christopher Walken as the Angel of Death. He watches over her, and all of the mess she makes for herself, before she is killed at the end. The video is brilliant, captivating and visually perfect, and Madonna looked more beautiful than ever. It was the first video on Madonna’s 93/99 video compilation, and I was always completely enthralled by it. Hideously underrated, only ever performed live once and never included on a hits compilation, I have faith that one day ‘Bad Girl’ will get the attention it deserves.
Saturday Night Live performance: