They don't call her the Material Girl for nothing.
Just hours after learning that MTV had refused to air her new "Justify My Love" video, Madonna and her record label, Warner Bros. Records, were following the classic marketing maxim: If you have a lemon, make lemonade.
Rather than submit the steamy clip to other TV outlets, the Madonna/Warners team has decided to take advantage of the budding controversy by selling the video. Warners/Reprise Video will release the "Justify My Love" clip Dec. 18, making it the first video single ever marketed as a home video. A Warners spokesman said that the label will probably price it at $9.98.
Industry cynics, who have seen Madonna cleverly court controversy in the past, wonder if the shrewd pop seductress had planned to sell her clip all along, hoping that sales would be fueled by media coverage of the MTV ban.
Not so, says Warners publicity chief Bob Merlis."The plan to sell the clip only came about after we learned MTV wouldn't program the video." Speaking through a Warners spokeswoman, Madonna would only say: "This is my interpretation of my song. I think it's a very romantic video and I felt I was exercising my freedom of speech and expression."
The flap came at a particularly awkward time for MTV, which had planned to debut the new clip during its much-ballyhooed Madonna-thon this weekend. Officially, all MTV would say was: "We respect Madonna's work and think she makes great videos. But this one is not for us."
MTV execs said that the clip was rejected by its standards committee, which previews all new videos--and customarily requests artists to edit or trim objectionable scenes. However the committee apparently found the Madonna clip so provocative that no amount of editing would make it acceptable. "This decision went all the way to the top," said one staffer. "There was no way we could even edit this. I can't believe Madonna ever thought we could air it."
What are we missing? Since Warners wouldn't send us the clip, Pop Eye talked to several insiders who had seen the video, which was directed by video wiz Jean-Baptiste Mondino (who did Madonna's "Open Your Heart" clip) and co-stars Tony Ward, Madonna's current paramour.
The clip begins with a trench-coated Madonna entering a hotel hallway, carrying a suitcase. As she begins to writhe along with the song's rhythms, she is joined by her boyfriend, who begins smooching with her. They quickly retire to a nearby bedroom, where they make love (he's shirtless, she's clad only in a bra and panties) amid a series of racy fantasy scenes. After considerable footage featuring various erotic poses and apparent sex, the clip ends with Madonna, giggling with pleasure, fleeing the hotel, suitcase in hand.
"It's a very sexually ambiguous video," one observer said. "You see women you think are men, women with painted-on mustaches. You see Madonna making love with her boyfriend and then kissing another woman, while he watches them. There are orgy-type fantasy scenes, where you see people in S&M-style; clothing and a woman in suspenders with her breasts exposed. Some people will probably say it's really wild. I just got the feeling Madonna had been watching too many Zalman King movies."
Will the video sell? "Madonna fans tend to want everything--they'll definitely pay $10 for the new video, especially if it's controversial," said Tower Video store manager Jay Smith. "Right now she's very hot. We had about 200 copies of her video collection and went right through the whole initial shipment."