"And you can dance/ For inspiration"
Madonna was inspired to write "Into the Groove" by a combination of her love for the dance floor and an infatuation with a Latin boy from around her Lower East Side apartment. "When I was writing it, I was sitting in a fourth-floor walk-up in Avenue B," she recalled to Details in 1994, "and there was this gorgeous Puerto Rican boy sitting across from me that I wanted to go out on a date with, and I just wanted to get it over with." In that same interview, she reveals (much to the reporter's horror) that "Into the Groove" is a song she'd rather never perform again, calling it "dorky." "You’ve never really understood how good that song was, have you?" the interviewer asks, aware that even if the artist has tired of the song over the years, no one else has. Madonna shrugs.
"Only when I'm dancing can I feel this free/ At night, I lock the door where no one else can see"
She's not wrong about "Into the Groove" being dorky. Despite having already set new standards for boldness in pop music by the time of its release via her 1985 big-screen debut Desperately Seeking Susan, the song's greatest lyric is conspicuously shy, with Madonna slinking back to her place to literally dance like nobody's watching. But that timid couplet -- half of the greatest pre-chorus ever written -- ends up being as empowering as anything Madonna ever wrote. It's a love letter to her millions of fans who'll never be stars anywhere outside of their bedroom mirrors, a revelation that even the Queen of Pop still finds dancing on her own to be life's greatest, truest thrill. And anyway, she's not planning on swaying solo forever, going onto proclaim "I'm tired of dancing here all by myself/ Tonight, I'm gonna dance with someone else." By the time of the bridge, it's mission accomplished: "Touch my body, move in time/ Now I know you're mine."
"Music can be such a revelation/ Dancing around you feel the sweet sensation"
Madonna's desire to be rid of "Groove" belies the fact that it wasn't supposed to be hers to begin with -- the song was originally written and recorded as a demo for Cheyne, a protege of her ex Mark Kamins, before Madonna reclaimed it as her own. Apologies to Cheyne, for whom the single could've been a career-maker, but "Groove" always had to be a Madonna song: No other artist in pop history has understood as well that the lines that separate music, dancing, sex and love into discrete entities are tenuous at best, and in "Into the Groove," all four elements are continuously smashing into each other, becoming virtually interchangeable over the song's timeless synth shimmer and jack-hammering bass. Over the years, she may have lost the love for "Groove," but not for what it stands for, not for what a revelation music and dance and sex and love can still be after 60 years. That's Madonna. And you better come on, 'coz she's still waiting. -- A.U.