Fans longing for any form of musical output from the Queen of Pop have been slightly rewarded.
During the premiere of Madonna's widely-hyped #secretproject short film, she gave a raw and emotional performance of an Elliott Smith song Between The Bars. This cover translates as one of her personal accomplishments. It can be remembered that in a 2006 magazine interview, she stated that if there was any song she wished she had written herself, it would be Between The Bars. Featured on the soundtrack of Good Will Hunting in 1997, the track tells about alcoholism and the empty promises of the bottle to the alcoholic. While it was never released as a single, it remains as one of the stronger cuts from Smith's junior album Either/Or.
For her version, Madonna employed a simple piano accompaniment reminiscent of the cabaret-style Like A Virgin number she did on her 2012 MDNA Tour concert series. She begun the night's performance with a skit and being dragged in by a couple of her dancers while her hands were handcuffed at the back. A microphone was then coerceively thrust on her hands for her to sing as if her life depended on it. In full character, she melancholically sang side-ways twisting her neck to reach the microphone she held on her back! As a result, her vocals had a rough start but she held on to deliver more during the chorus part and succeeding stanza. Her voice was specially remarkable when she sang the lines " People you've been before, that you don't want around anymore. That push and shove and won't bend to your will. I'll keep them still..." Madonna made the song her own in the same way she owned her unreleased cover of If You Go Away. Not bad for a woman singing side-ways on her knees while handcuffed! The dramatic musical act finished with a dancing Balaclava-masked Rocco Ritchie freeing his mother from her shackles.
As a possible theme song for the dark and gritty short film, Between The Bars had many fans confused about it's relevance to what Madonna is campaigning for. Alcoholism is rather distant from #ArtForFreedom initiative. It makes one ponder for that link that could relate one to the other. In a recent Redditt AMAA, she expressly stated "because i dont explain everything nor do i feel the need to." It is now left to the audience to "look it up" and decipher how the song makes sense to the film. The answer lies on the imprisonment idea. Alcoholics are prisoners of their own addiction. Madonna was also imprisoned on the film. While the song offers no solution to free oneself from alcoholism, Madonna released her fascist demons by embracing art through the Revolution of Love. For me, that's how it made sense though other interpretations could offer a better explanation. Or for all it's worth, Madonna just sang the song as a tribute and may not altogether be the theme that we all want it to be. At best, BTB would just be a mere live performance and getting a studio version is a longshot possibility.
Watch the performance of Madonna - Between The Bars :