Oct 09

MADONNA – “Into The Groove”

FT + Popular64 comments • 6,041 views

#554, 3rd August 1985

Madonna enters this story already a superstar – eight-figure sales of her last album, this her third top-three hit of the year in Britain. “Into The Groove” is no kind of introduction, more a victory parade, and it’s become one of her calling-card singles. Perhaps because it’s a manifesto of sorts: not lyrically, but in the way that everything great about Madonna and her pop – movement, power, willpower, sex, hunger, vulnerability – is in here somewhere.

Actually, most of it’s in one place – the series of repeated “now I know you’re mine”s that serve as the bridge into the final chorus. At first she sings the line at the lower end of her range, with the husky strength that’s made her ballads so compelling, beckoning her dancer-lover closer. And then suddenly she can’t keep it in any more, and “now I know you’re mine!” rings out in her other voice, the sparky, raw, New York clubland hustler voice you get on “Burning Up”, “Holiday”, “Angel”. It’s pure triumph: the moment when a girl singing “you’re mine” to a guy in pop finally, irreversibly flips from domestication to predation.

But most of “Into The Groove” isn’t like that: unlike several of her previous singles which really were all about her and her teasing and shocking and winning the crowd, this is highly functional. A little bit freestyle, a little bit pop, it’s a good, modish dance record. You could imagine this as being by one of the post-disco club scene’s many two- or three-single acts, a Carol Jiani or a Stacey Q but with thinner vocals. Well, you could if Madonna’s presence wasn’t so unmistakable: anonymity’s the only flirtation she could never have pulled off.

Madonna is one of pop’s foundational figures – perhaps the last of them: one of the people without whom modern music just doesn’t decode properly. She’s the closest thing to an Elvis in my lifetime – someone who emerged out of populist, underappreciated musics and whose sheer charisma changed the culture – how pop singers (and their fans) dressed, danced, behaved, thought about themselves. That doesn’t mean all her records are good – though a remarkable number are, this included. “Only when I’m dancing can I feel this free”: this is the dancing queen all grown up, and determined to hold the spotlight on her own terms.



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  1. 51
    loomer on 6 Oct 2009 #

    I thought this would get a 10. The best ever Madonna record and hence one of the best pop songs ever, easily up there with the likes of “Dancing Queen” as magical pop songs go.

    It captured her at the perfect time, before she started to take herself too seriously and was less fun – though much bigger leaps would be made with her music to come. Joyous perfection.

    And didn’t the bassline of this inspire The Pet Shop Boys? Not to mention the US dance #1 “Baby Talk” by Alisha, which was remixed by one Shep Pettibone – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SEOfwfRvAc

    You might like this ultra in depth Madonna blog – http://madonnascrapbook.blogspot.com/

  2. 52
    admin on 6 Oct 2009 #

    URL disaster!

  3. 53
    Promethea on 6 Oct 2009 #

    Madonna’s bestest!
    Random memory: around this time Tracey Thorn of Everything But The Girl was asked in either Smash Hits or NME a series of questions which included “What is your favourite Madonna song?” Her response was along the lines of “God, they’re all so vile. I suppose Holiday is the least offensive.” As a result I have had an unreasoning hatred of Tracey ever since and cannot bear the sound of her voice. It’s not even as if I was, or am, that much of a Madonna fan, I was just outraged at the time that someone could be so dismissive of excellent pop. Strange the things you remember.

  4. 54
    Steve Mannion on 6 Oct 2009 #

    #52 ha ha yes i’d be afraid that blog was nsfw and devoted to page by page reviews of “SEX”

  5. 55
    logged out Tracer Hand on 7 Oct 2009 #

    Madonna sang this song in the background during a club scene in Desperately Seeking Susan; it was to have been dubbed over with something else. But between the time of filming and the movie’s release Madonna just happened to become one of the biggest stars in the entire world so the producers left it in. She’s anonymous in that scene, virtually ignored, and while the song is great, I agree with The Lex that its greatness is in its lack of ambition – it knows its place and executes.

    Madonna sounds a little weary, like she’s been singing this song for hours, and she sings the entire thing through her nose, which lends the whole deal an authentic bored Jersey girl vibe. A fluke of a hit, a genuinely fun song, but no better than hundreds of similar tracks from that time that have vanished forever. This song’s remarkable only in retrospect, which gives it a special place in my heart.

  6. 56
    swanstep on 7 Oct 2009 #

    @53 Promethea. Good anecdote about Thorn (I too find that I’ve committed odd NME reviews/interviews from back to memory – strange whhat sticks with you). I wonder when that interview was: my experience was that people in other bands were *very* cutting about Madonna until after ITG. Hell, I was in a (no name) band at the time and we picked each early Mad. single that came out to death (while not-so-secretly enjoying dancing to it a lot). So, e.g., Holiday stole the baseline and chords from ABC’s ‘look of love” and ‘like A virgin’ just ever-so-slightly changed the bass-line to ‘billie jean’, and so on. Bitch bitch bitch. It was only after ITG and 1985 more generally (when Mad. had those three, excellent movie-soundtrack songs as well as appearing in Susan) that in some sense it became clear that Mad. was really going to be a cultural force to be reckoned with so that minor musical criticisms were always going to be beside the point.

    As for Thorn. She’s quite the master musician, and has all the melodic chops/interests of the pre-rock era. At least until clever cloggs like the trip-hop crowd came along, she probably wasn’t herself much inclined to see the good in dance or simple pop music. And as a Marine Girl from way back, she probably found the boy-toy girly side of early Madonna hard to swallow, as it were, politically.

  7. 57
    loomer on 7 Oct 2009 #

    #54 There’s only a couple of nsfw pics there, honest!

    Another factoid about “Into the Groove” was that Madonna had originally written it for the singer Cheyne, who was devastated that the song was pulled from her at the last minute and she wouldn’t get the chance to be the black Madonna after she had recorded her Mark Kamins produced version.

    Here’s Cheyne’s US dance #1 “Call Me Mr Telephone”, a cover of an Italo disco song as was often the case back then – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZMsE8iaeDk

  8. 58
    Paris Wilkens on 1 Nov 2009 #

    Thank-you! I am getting into it more and more! Some days it is hard to find the time though!

  9. 59
    DV on 28 Dec 2009 #

    It is only the slightly duff intro that stops this from being the perfect pop record.

  10. 60
    Brooksie on 15 Mar 2010 #

    The ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’ movie and this song were the definers of Madonna’s image at that point in time, even moreso than ‘Like A Virgin’ or ‘Material Girl’. It’s also the enduring image of ‘pop star’ Madonna, which was then superceded by her spiky hair megastar image from ‘True Blue’.

    The fact that this song was never released in the US seems almost insane! It was the B-side on the ‘Angel’ single, because the record company didn’t want Madonna competing with herself as earlier in the year with Material Girl and Crazy For You. Really? Angel from Like A Virgin (which was a year old at the time) was a better choice for a single than this?! If they couldn’t hear the difference between a # 1 single and a # 5 single (which they ended up with) then they must have been deaf.

    Very popular joke at the time: What’s Madonna got in common with toilet paper? They both get into the groove.

    It’s hard for me to be objective about this song because it’s so burned into my pop memory, and as it’s still played a lot it doesn’t feel like it’s ever gone away. At the time Madonna was a fast-exploding pop star, but there was no collective “She’s been around for ever”. It’s very hard to remember when she was ‘fresh’. I still love it, but it’s very rooted in it’s era for me. When I hear it I’m back in ’85. This was the point at which pop’s new Princess became a Queen. 9 for me.

  11. 61
    punctum on 8 Jul 2014 #

    TPL finally reaches Madonna. I’ve changed my mind about “Into The Groove” in the intervening five years or so.

  12. 62
    Larry on 16 Dec 2014 #

    Love this record now, though I ignored it then as more disposable pop. “Desperately Seeking Susan” was a fairly faithful (if one allows for a bit of Hollywoodization) depiction of what downtown Manhattan was like in 1985.

  13. 63
    hectorthebat on 31 Dec 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1-1001
    Arizona Republic (USA) – Madonna’s 30 Best Singles of All Time (2013) 4
    Blender (USA) – Standout Tracks from the 500 CDs You Must Own (2003)
    Blender (USA) – Top 500 Songs of the 80s-00s (2005) 87
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Michaelangelo Matos (USA) – Top 100 Singles of the 1980s (2001) 64
    OUT (USA) – The 25 Gayest Songs of the 1980s (2011)
    PopMatters (USA) – The 100 Best Songs Since Johnny Rotten Roared (2003) 71
    Slant (USA) – The 100 Best Singles of the 1980s (2012) 26
    Swellsville, Chuck Eddy (USA) – The 100 Best Singles of the 80s (1990) 6
    Treble (USA) – The Top 200 Songs of the 80s (2011) 58
    BBC (UK) – Pop on Trial, Top 50 Songs from the 1980s (2008)
    Freaky Trigger (UK) – Top 100 Songs of All Time (2005) 25
    HarperCollins GEM (UK) – Single of the Year 1949-99 (1999)
    Mojo (UK) – 80 from the 80s: Our Fave 45s for Each Year, 1980-1989 (2007) 1
    New Musical Express (UK) – The Top 100 Singles of All Time (2002) 64
    Q (UK) – The 1001 Best Songs Ever (2003) 153
    Q (UK) – The 80 Best Records of the 80s (2006) 9
    Q (UK) – The Ultimate Music Collection (2005)
    Q (UK) – Top 20 Singles from 1980-2004 (2004) 20
    Sunday Times (UK) – Top 10 Madonna Songs (2007) 5
    Vox (UK) – 100 Records That Shook the World (1991)
    Wire (UK) – The 100 Most Important Records Ever Made (1992)
    Spex (Germany) – The Best Singles of the Century (1999)
    Rock de Lux (Spain) – The Top 100 Songs from 1984-1993 (1993) 16
    Rock de Lux (Spain) – The Top 150 Songs from the 20th Century (1998) 52
    Toby Creswell (Australia) – 1001 Songs (2005)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)
    Village Voice (USA) – Singles of the Year 11
    Face (UK) – Singles of the Year 10
    New Musical Express (UK) – Singles of the Year 18
    Spex (Germany) – Singles of the Year 10
    Best (France) – Singles of the Year 5

  14. 64
    Lazarus on 28 Feb 2015 #

    Leaving aside all the acres of talk about That Fall, I’m a bit confused as to what Madge was doing at the Brits the other night. Nothing wrong with wanting to top and tail the show with performances from big US acts – Taylor Swift opened the proceedings of course – but in the past, wasn’t the closing number performed by the winner of the Lifetime Achievement award? (or whatever they call it there) I don’t think Madonna was the recipient – I’ve never known it go to a non-British act. Or did nobody get one this year?

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