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The Madonna Timeline: Song #85 – ‘Gang Bang’ – Spring 2012

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{Note: The Madonna Timeline is an ongoing feature, where I put the iPod on shuffle, and write a little anecdote on whatever was going on in my life when that Madonna song was released and/or came to prominence in my mind.}

Like a bitch out of order,
Like a bat out of hell
Like a fish out of water
I’m scared, can’t you tell?
Bang bang.
Bang bang.

Some songs make you want to do bad things. Very bad things. A sinister bass line, a blast of guitar, a vicious whisper – all add up to the daring drama of ‘Gang Bang’ – the next selection for the Madonna Timeline. From her latest (and sorely under-rated) ‘MDNA’ album, this is Madonna’s return to controversial form. Many fans have likened the song to a throwback from her dark ‘Erotica’ opus, but this goes a bit further, and finds our maiden/mistress at her angriest. ‘Gang Bang’ is fully loaded, and aimed squarely at the heart of the one who has done her wrong. (In this instance, coming in the aftermath of her divorce from Guy Ritchie, it’s hard to read anything other than a savage revenge play made against her ex-husband.)

I thought you were good,
But you painted me bad.
Compared to the others,
You’re the best thing I had.
Bang Bang, shot you dead.
Bang Bang, shot you dead.

The thing that has always struck me about Madonna, and a fact that many of her detractors have a hard time believing, is that most of her anger and acting out is a rather transparent display of hidden hurt and buried heartache. It’s hard to get truly mad at someone who comes from a place of sadness and loss, even if they do their best to turn it into something bitter and defiant.

I thought it was you,
And I loved you the most.
But I was just keeping
My enemies close.
I made a decision,
I would never look back.
So how did you end up
With all my jack?
Bang Bang, shot you dead.
Bang Bang, shot you dead
in the head.

Her performance of this song on the MDNA Tour was filled with guns and violence, and even in a pre-Sandy Hook world this was tough to watch. I’m not going to get into a gun-control debate here, though. It’s a Madonna song. You read into it what you want, and I’m not going to argue about it.

Bang Bang, shot you dead, shot my lover in the head
Bang Bang, shot you dead and I have no regrets
Bang Bang, shot you dead in the head
Bang Bang, shot you dead, shot my lover in the head.

All I can do is remember what it made me feel. This is one of those driving songs, the soundtrack to those times when you simply get in the car and drive with no destination in mind – you just want to get out of the house, away from your husband, and away from a life that sometimes seems at odds with everything you once dreamed. It’s the ultimate lashing out of anger, the purging of pent-up emotions, and, if you’re careful, a safe release of the madness that lurks somewhere in the midst of the happiest marriage.

And then I discovered
It couldn’t get worse
You were building my coffin
You were driving my hearse
Bang Bang, shot you dead
Bang Bang, in the head.

A confessional piece of pop art like this song can sometimes afford an easy reconciliation. Listening to it may quell the stupid fights, the ones over the small things. It’s no substitute for communication and figuring the big issues out, but I’m the first to admit that most of our fights (and not just between Andy and myself, but most of us) are over the small stuff.

I thought it was you
And I loved you the most
But I was just keeping
My enemies close
I made a decision,
I would never look back
So how did you end up
With all of my jack?
Bang Bang, shot you dead, in the head.

Every once in a while, though, I’ll get in the car, and there is no relief. There’s nothing left to be reconciled, there’s nothing left to alleviate, and there’s nothing left in me to forgive, and that’s when the song turns just the slightest bit dangerous. We all have our breaking points. We all have the capacity to hurt, and to get hurt. And in the end, we all bleed.

Bang Bang, shot you dead, shot my lover in the head
Bang Bang, shot you dead and I have no regrets
Bang Bang, shot you dead, in the head
Bang Bang, shot you dead, shot my lover in the head
You had to die for me baby…
How could I move on with my life
If you didn’t die for me baby?
If you didn’t die for me baby?
I need you to die for me baby…

How far removed are we from the murderers and killers? How far apart are we from the person who, for that one moment, snaps and cracks and pops one in the head of the one who hurt them? We all like to think it’s so unfathomable, so far from who we think we are, from what we think we could do. But until you’re there, until you’re the one getting that shit heaped upon you, you’ll never know.

Bang Bang, shot you dead, shot my lover in the head
Bang Bang, shot you dead, shot my lover in the head
Bang Bang, shot you dead, shot my lover in the head
Now my lover is dead, and I have no regrets.
He deserved it.
And I’m going straight to hell
And I’ve got a lot of friends there
And if I see that bitch in hell
I’m gonna shoot him in the head again
Cause I wanna see him die
Over and over
And over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over…

To be honest, it’s not my favorite song from the album, despite how much many other fans seem to love it. (It was instantly heralded as one of her best, and the end result didn’t live up to the hype in my head.) I do think it would have made a killer video, and Madonna did put out feelers for Quentin Tarantino to direct it (oh how I wish that had come to fruition), but as of this writing it hasn’t panned out. For now, it’s a nifty vessel for channeling the rage we usually feel at one point or another, and every once in a while I’ll turn it up, back the car out, and drive.

Now drive bitch!
I said drive bitch!
And while you’re at it, die bitch!
That’s right drive bitch.
Now if you’re gonna act like a bitch,
Then you’re gonna die like a bitch.

Song #85 – ‘Gang Bang’ – Spring 2012

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