Madonna - "Living For Love"

Madonna - Living For Love
Madonna - "Living For Love". Courtesy Interscope

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Written by Madonna, Thomas Wesley Pentz, Maureen McDonald, Toby Gad, Ariel Rechtshaid, and U. Emenike

Produced by Madonna and Diplo

Released December 2014 by Interscope

Pros

  • Piano chords and house beats that draw connections to the past

  • Tasteful gospel-tinged backing vocals

  • Confident, empowering lyrics that look to the future

Cons

  • No significant negatives here

The release of "Living For Love" is a cause for celebration for Madonna fans.

After seeming to get mired in self-pity and gimmicks on the project, this kickoff to the album Rebel Heart is Madonna back in the form most of her fans love best. The sound of "Living For Love" hearkens back to her big dance hits of the past like "Express Yourself," "Like a Prayer," and "Vogue" while the lyrics give us a confident artist prepared to face any difficulties in the future. This is a very welcome return.

"Living For Love" was originally conceived as a breakup song and presumably related to Madonna's 2008 divorce from second husband Guy Ritchie. However, along the way she decided to shift the focus to feelings of empowerment following the end of a relationship. This puts "Living For Love" in a similar category to Katy Perry's empowerment anthems like "Roar" and "Part Of Me." The song avoids being a downer and instead sounds triumphant.

A brief electronic introduction gives way to Madonna's opening vocals underlined by piano chords.

R&B superstar Alicia Keys played piano tracks for the song. It's not long before a thumping house beat kicks in and then gospel-tinged backup vocals are added. By the time we hit the chorus, we're in familiar Madonna dance pop anthem territory. The backing voices that weave in and out through the bridge were delivered by members of the London Community Gospel Choir.

 

Madonna utilized a large team to put together the record. Grammy Award winning DJ and producer Diplo co-produced the record with Madonna. The songwriting team is a bundle of hot talent. In addition to Madonna and Diplo, veteran Toby Gad, co-writer of "Wrecking Ball" MoZella, Vampire Weekend producer Ariel Rechtshaid, and rising British dance music writer and producer MNEK all received credits. The result is a record that gives many echoes of Madonna's past but still manages to sound contemporary and forward looking. 

A music video directed by the French duo J.A.C.K. fits the spirit of "Living For Love" well. "Take a Bow's" bullfighting theme and choreography that would have fit well with "Express Yourself" connect the new clip to Madonna's storied past. However, partnering with SnapChat for the music video's release instantly connects the artist to younger artists and the technological present.

"Living For Love" was originally released just before Christmas 2014 after demo recordings from Madonna's Rebel Heart were leaked onto the Internet. It was part of what Madonna called a six song "early Christmas gift" for her fans. The song took off at dance clubs and soon became her record-breaking 44th #1 dance club chart hit.

However, it wasn't until after a well-received live performance of "Living For Love" at this year's Grammy Awards that the song began to make a significant impact on mainstream pop charts. As it enters the mainstream radio top 40, "Living For Love" is Madonna's first mainstream pop radio hit since 2012 when both "Give Me All Your Luvin'" and "Girl Gone Wild" reached the top 40. This time it is a very welcome return as Madonna is clearly back in form with a song that draws a firm connection between the past and the musical present.