The ‘Hot’ Hit Song Madonna Wrote With Lenny Kravitz

Madonna has duetted with superstars such as Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears but some fans don’t know one of her biggest hits was co-written by rock idol Lenny Kravitz. Kravitz wrote a “hot” song he thought was suitable for Madonna. Interestingly, the song became a huge pop smash even though it isn’t really a pop song.

Madonna with flowers
Madonna | Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images

The song Lenny Kravitz thought would be a No. 1 hit for Madonna

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Kravitz recalled crafting “Justify My Love.” He felt it didn’t suit him but he liked it because it was “hot.” In addition, he felt “Justify My Love” might work for Madonna, who he’d previously met in the club scene. 

He called Madonna and told her he had a No. 1 hit for her. Madonna was skeptical. Kravitz insisted “Justify My Love” would be a huge success if she recorded it. The Queen of Pop said she was willing to hear it.

Lenny Kravitz wearing a scarf
Lenny Kravitz | Frank Micelotta Archive / Contributor

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How people reacted to the ‘very progressive’ song

“So I went to the studio,” Kravitz told Rolling Stone, “popped in my cassette, blasted the track and played it again and again and she’s like, ‘Let’s do it.’ Everyone in the room was like, ‘Oh, sh*t.’ It was so different.” According to AllMusic, Madonna and Kravitz co-wrote the final version of “Justify My Love.”

Rolling Stone reports Jean-Baptiste Mondino, the director of the “Justify My Love” video, was taken with the song, calling it “very, very progressive, very unusual. It was Lenny Kravitz who wrote it, he was singing, but he was almost talking, and he had that strange beat. You couldn’t really dance to it. It was all whispering — it sounds more like an experience. Nobody would pick up a song like this and try to make a hit out of it, don’t you think so?”

“Justify My Love”

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How ‘Justify My Love’ performed with the public

Although Mondino didn’t think someone would try to make “Justify My Love” a hit, Madonna did. Not only did Madonna release it, but she also released it as the first single from her initial greatest hits album, The Immaculate Collection. That was arguably a gamble given that “Justify My Love” is pretty avant-garde for a pop song. After that, the risk paid off, as the track became of one Madonna’s biggest hits of all time, the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s interesting how Madonna’s change in musical style from her early dance-pop hits to the minimalist trip-hop of “Justify My Love” didn’t alienate the public. 

Although Kravitz later had hits of his own, he told Rolling Stone he considers “Justify My Love” his first No. 1 single. In addition, Kravitz cited the track as one of the songs which defined his life alongside his own hits like “Fly Away” and “American Woman.” It’s certainly one of Kravitz’s many iconic songs.