Meaning of “VULGAR” by Sam Smith & Madonna
Sam Smith teaming up with music icon Madonna on “Vulgar” can be counted as one of the biggest collaborations of the year. This was made evident by the number of mainstream outlets who began reporting on this song even before its official release on 9 June 2023.
Smith dropped his fourth-studio album, “Gloria”, earlier in 2023, a project that topped the UK Albums Chart, as to be expected given his popularity, though has yet to earn any certifications. And it’s been a minute since Madonna’s most recent studio LP, “Madame X”, came out in 2019.
But even then, being in her early 60s, the project topped the Billboard 200 and reached second place on the UK Albums Chart. And whereas the two have never officially collaborated before, the Queen of Pop did generate headlines when introducing Sam (and Kim Petras) at the 65th Annual Grammy Awards earlier this year.
The single’s cover art highlights the vocalists’ respective first initials, which conveniently, when combined, spell out “S&M”, which is more commonly used as an abbreviation of the word sad*mas*chism.
The Lyrics of “Vulgar”
As alluded to prior, Sam Smith enjoys A list artist recognition, even though his projects don’t sell particularly well these days. This is in large part due to his stage presence, how he is able to push the envelope on some of the world’s biggest stages. For example, his aforenoted performance with Kim Petras went viral on the internet, due in large part to even average viewers being able to interpret its satanic elements.
Meanwhile, as far as Madonna’s aforenoted introduction goes, she basically used the opportunity to defend Sam and Kim’s performance even before it started. Smith, it should also be noted, is gay, even if they do have a romantic history with women also.
As of this writing, Sam may also be considered the trendiest gay musician.That popularity is in large part due to their willingness to get raunchy. And of course, when it comes to using raunch or controversy to further one’s career, few have been able to do so as effectively as Madonna.
And so it is, in large part, with the nature of this song. Sam uses the first verse to depict themselves as sort of this genderless, sadomasochistic type – one who’s very much living the good life at that.
And Madonna’s contribution, as far as the second verse goes, basically serves the role of defending Smith. That is seemingly because, like herself, Sam is someone who possesses a strong sense of personal freedom. Or as the songstress puts it, she and Sam ‘do what they want to’ and ‘say what they go to’, a modus operandi which empowers them to feel “sexy and free”.
As for the title of this track, according to Oxford (via Google) as of this writing, the term vulgar is defined as “lacking sophistication or good taste”.
So going back to the vocalists’ idealized lifestyle as presented in the verses, doing and saying what they will obviously involves engaging in some vulgarity, i.e. practices which are sure to offend many other people, such as for instance a man dressed in “all black in stripper heels”.
Or as Sam and Madonna put it in the bridge, “vulgar is beautiful, filthy and gorgeous” and furthermore “will make you dance”. And once again going back to the latter’s speech at the Grammys, what that implies, more generally put, is the artists being able to recognize that in the music industry for instance, what may be shocking today can be trending tomorrow.
And to reiterate, Madonna can be counted as one of the more experienced musicians when it comes to dealing with considerable criticism due specifically to the nature of her artistry.
So let’s conclude by saying that for the likes of the artists at hand, being “vulgar” has actually proven profitable. Therefore, they would be empowered to take on a moniker such as “bitch” more confidently than the average outcast, if you will. But that said, using themselves as examples, they are still encouraging likeminded individuals to retain their individuality, as ‘vulgarity’ to them is a form of art and freedom.
The Team behind “Vulgar”
Sam Smith produced Vulgar with the following:
- Ryan Tedder
- Omer Fedi
In putting the track together they interpolated “Unholy“, Sam’s previously-referenced collaboration with Kim Petras, which proved to be one of the more notable hits of 2022.
The five producers also get writing credit for this song, as does Madonna and Jimmy Napes. And as of its release, “Vulgar” is not associated with any album.