Sam Smith and Madonna Drop Fiery New Single, ‘Vulgar’



Although it was rumored and teased for weeks before it was officially confirmed, it’s really not a surprise to see Madonna collaborating with Sam Smith: “Unholy,” the British singer’s hit with Kim Petras, was not only the most provocative song to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 since Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP,” it was exactly the kind of song that Madonna has released more than once in her career: intentionally controversial and boundary-pushing, both musically and thematically (“Unholy” is essentially about a family man having unsafe sex).

Thus, she was a perfect person to introduce Smith and Petras before they performed the song at the Grammys: “Are you ready for some controversy?” she began, before continuing, “If they call you shocking, scandalous, troublesome, problematic, provocative or dangerous, you are definitely onto something.”

The following day, the pair recorded “Vulgar” with much of the same team that made “Unholy”: producers by Ilya, Cirkut, Omer Fedi, Ryan Tedder, Jimmy Napes, Smith and Lauren D’elia, Madonna’s vocal producer and engineer.

While the song essentially continues the theme of her speech — one of Smith’s lyrics says, “You know you’re beautiful when they call you vulgar” — and has a Middle Eastern melody reminiscent of “Unholy,” otherwise it’s new terrain for both: They’re rapping the verses over a lurching rhythm reminiscent of Beyonce’s “Cozy,” and Madonna’s self-referential lines are hilarious:

“Boy, get down on your knees because I am Madonna
If you fuck with Sam tonight, you’re fucking with me
So watch what you say or I’ll split your banana.”

The song is Smith’s first since the release earlier this year of “Gloria,” their third album, which breaks the smooth-R&B mold of previous releases for something more adventurous and, for many, more satisfying. The North American leg of “Gloria the Tour” begins next month.

Last August, Madonna released a sprawling 50-track retrospective set titled “Finally Enough Love: 50 Number Ones” in advance of her global, hits-themed “Celebration” world tour, which launches in Vancouver next month. “Vulgar” is one of several guest appearances she’s made in recent weeks, including tracks with the Weeknd and Christine and the Queens.


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