Any thoughts that Madonna’s provocative streak might be taking a time-out in 2019 were put to a halt with her release Wednesday of a new music video for her song “God Control,” which portrays a bloody massacre in a nightclub and is peppered with slogans advocating for gun control.
Filmed by director Jonas Åkerlund largely in downtown L.A. at the Globe Theater, the clip clearly means to reference the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting of 2016, when 49 people were killed and 53 others wounded by a lone gunman.
“The story you are about to see is very disturbing. It shows graphic scnes of gun violence,” reads a crawl at the beginning of the video. “But it’s happening everyday. And it has to stop.”
The eight-minute video is filled with initially confusing time-shifts and time stamps, getting to the on-screen massacre fairly early in the clip, with blood-streaked and lifeless (but sometimes still visibly breathing) bodies strewn across a disco’s dance floor and bar. Squibs are used as a bespectacled, long-haired gunman shoots down everyone in his path. Eventually, the video concentrates on the hours leading up to the bloodbath, although even there, no one is safe in Madonna’s vision, as she’s shown being robbed at gunpoint on the street outside the club.
Other shots include a children’s choir accompanying a funeral with multiple coffins, and what appears to be real footage of anti-NRA protests and tearful student vigils. Madonna appears in the less violent scenes — set to a rap that on record reminded many music critics of “Vogue” (“People think that I’m insane / The only gun is in my brain”) — as a blonde dancer, while in the framing sequences she’s a brunette writer tapping away at a typewriter in lace gloves, tapping out the song’s lyrics and eventually shedding a tear of her own.
Although the video ends with the on-screen words “Gun Control Now,” in a pre-release teaser, she went further and explained just what level of control she’s advocating, flatly declared: “Guns need to be made illegal.”
“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,” Madonna said in the earlier teaser. “After a while, you need to have fun. So, where does a girl go? She goes to a disco! … 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.”