Madonna has taken a visually graphic stance against gun violence in her new music video.
The just-released, Jonas Åkerlund-directed video for “God Control,” a gospel-infused dance-pop song that contains a lengthy disco breakdown and firearm blasts peppered throughout its complex production, sees the legendary performer donning 1970s-inspired outfits as she makes her way out to a nightclub with a group of friends (including RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars 4 champion Monét X Change). The evening ends in tragedy, however, as a gunman opens fire on the dance floor, leaving multiple victims — including Madonna — bloody and wounded in the aftermath.
“If you’re sitting alone in your apartment all day and you’re writing about the downfall of humanity, it tends to get you down. After a while, you need to have fun. So, where does a girl go? She goes to a disco!” Madonna said of the video’s concept in a pre-release teaser. “I tried to bring the world of disco and freedom, and having that joy silenced by a small thing made of metal that can end someone’s life. Guns need to be made illegal.”
The video also features footage of real gun control protests, and ends with a quote from Angela Davis that reads, “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”
“The idea of the song is that I’m speaking about something very serious, but the music is disco. It’s ironic because we used to be able to go places like discos to have fun, to forget, to be free, and now even those places aren’t safe,” she added in another teaser. “Let’s get some gun control, people!”
“God Control” — produced by Mike Dean and longtime Madonna collaborator, Mirwais Ahmadzaï, for the singer’s 14th studio album, Madame X — also contains lyrics urging Americans to “wake up” to the perils of gun violence that spills the “blood of innocents” in the country.
“Our nation lied, we lost respect / When we wake up, what can we do? Get the kids ready, take them to school / Everybody knows they don’t have a chance / To get a decent job, to have a normal life,” Madonna coos at the start of the track, which evolves from a chorus-backed chant into a full-fledged dance party across its six-minute runtime. “When they talk reforms, it makes me laugh / They pretend to help, it makes me laugh.”
Madonna further references the effects of gun violence elsewhere on Madame X, with the album’s closing track “I Rise” incorporating portions of an impassioned speech given by Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor and gun control activist Emma González.
The 60-year-old previously raised eyebrows during the Madame X album cycle as she performed the promotional single “Future” with rapper Quavo at the 2019 Eurovision song contest in Tel Aviv, Israel — a set that saw Madonna’s dancers wearing the Palestinian and Israeli flags on their backs as they embraced, which was widely seen as a political statement on the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The performance concluded as the words “wake up” — which also feature prominently in “God Control — flashed on a giant screen behind the duo.
In the wake of the stir, a representative for Madonna told EW that “a message of peace is not political.”
Madonna has noted that “God Control”‘s parent album, Madame X, was crafted around the titular persona, described as “a secret agent traveling around the world, changing identity, fighting for freedom, and bringing light to dark places.”
Over the years, various entries in the artist’s robust videography have also courted controversy — namely the music video for the Mirwais-produced “American Life,” which included images of real-life war violence and ended as Madonna tossed a hand grenade to a George W. Bush lookalike.
Madame X is out now, and will be supported by an intimate, worldwide theater tour throughout 2020. Ahead of Madonna’s headlining performance Sunday at New York City’s WorldPride event, watch the “God Control” music video above.
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