Album: Madonna (1983)
Charted: 2 10
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  • A track from Madonna's debut album, this was written by her producer Reggie Lucas, who also wrote her song "Physical Attraction" (Madonna wrote or co-wrote all the other tracks except "Holiday"). The song is a great example of a writer tailoring a song for a specific artist - few would guess that this was written by a man.

    Lucas got a sense for what Madonna was all about by listening to her demo tapes and watching her perform. He then wrote "Borderline" specifically for her, playing up her sensual side. Lucas hasn't discussed the specific inspiration for the song, but many fans speculated that the lyrics are about having an orgasm. At this point, Madonna was still quite subtle about her sexuality, but as her career matured, she made sex an open topic, releasing overtly sexual songs like "Erotica" and "Justify My Love," and even releasing a book on the subject, simply titled Sex.

    As for Reggie Lucas, he also wrote the Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway hit "The Closer I Get To You" (#2, 1978), and the Stephanie Mills song "Never Knew Love Like This Before" (#6, 1980).
  • Madonna's vocals were pitched up, which was fairly common practice with dance tracks. This made her sound younger - she was 24 at the time.
  • In 1983, when this was first released in the UK, it went to #56. It was re-released in 1986 after Madonna became an international star, which is when it went to #2 on the charts.
  • In America, this was the fourth of five singles released from Madonna's first album. It was her first Top 10 hit, kicking off a remarkable run, with her next 16 singles also reaching the Top 10 in the US. There wasn't much separating her from other Dance divas at the time, but Madonna managed to reinvent herself time and again, achieving astounding success in the process.
  • Unlike "Holiday," Madonna stopped playing this song after her 1985 Virgin Tour. She didn't revive it until her 2008 Sticky & Sweet Tour, where she would play guitar on a rock version of the song. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Marek - Odense, Denmark
  • The music video was directed by Mary Lambert, who would later direct Madonna's videos for "Like A Prayer," "Like A Virgin" and "Material Girl." Lambert's experience to that point was directing commercials, but she made a video for a Tom Tom Club song called "As Above, So Below" that got the attention of Jeff Ayeroff at Madonna's label Warner Bros., and he gave her the "Borderline" gig.

    The video was shot in Los Angeles. "She was really into Hispanic boys, and she wanted the video to be about having an affair with a cute Hispanic boy who was part of the street scene," said Lambert of Madonna in the book I Want My MTV. Lambert adds that she combined color with black and white footage in the clip, not for artistic effect, but because she wasn't experienced enough to know that you aren't supposed to do that.
  • The Glee Cast performed a medley of this song and "Open Your Heart" for the 2010 episode "The Power of Madonna." This version was released as a single and made #78 in the US.

Comments: 26

  • Paul Osman from Liverpool, EnglandI am surprised no one has noticed the influence of Eltion John in the tune structure as if EJ had
    written the song for Madonna.
  • T from LaLove your interpretation @Roninmd from Dallas!! You hit the nail on the head. Madonna was not stupid, and anyone's opinion of her does not matter as that holds true for anyone's opinion of any one else in the world. The old adage: We see things as we are not as they are. That being said, Madonna had to be smart in her own way to become the icon that she is. It is never an easy path, but i believe she was referencing borderline personality disorder (BPD) as well. The words used were not just an accident, and she may also have been attempting to get a double meaning from the lyrics to appeal to her audience. It was not a mistake that the crux of the words in the song related to BPD. With pain comes knowledge, and with people with BPD, they experience a lot of pain and gain knowledge through the pain, no matter which self it is, the real or the not real.. If others choose to interpret another way, more power to them. Another axiom: most people don't even know that they don't know. Love the song, and the BPD references make it that much more meaningful, deeper and better which buttresses the depth and respect for Madonna. I am grateful the song was made....
  • AnonymousI just want to know what Madonna meant by, in the song Borderline, "my love is coming down" What does that mean?
  • Scott P from Manchester UkSorry WHAT ?? Borderline is not about orgasm or any relation to sex whatsoever !!!!! Madonna’s primary target back then to plug her music was at teenagers and it was a straight forward pop song and her sexuality at that point was not even at the forefront and wasn’t until ‘Like A Virgin’ came out that kicked off her sexual ambiguity.
    It was written by Reggie Lucas it wasn’t written specifically for Madonna Reggie had written and composed the song the same time as Stephanie Mills ‘Never Knew Love Like This Before’ even the arrangements are literally identical with the Rhodes intro and the chugging guitar sweeps even the backing vocalists all emit from the same formula.
    It is a song basically about yearning to be loved and wanted but is very one sided to the point the recipient has had enough being pushed to the brink of ending it hence the meaning of Borderline.
    There was nothing suggestive about this song it was innocent teen pop fodder as for Madonna “hating” it no she didn’t she was just unhappy over the instrument arrangement by Lucas and wanted it more pop than it’s soulful feel when first recorded.
    If you think of this track that synth bass is the striking rhythm that gives the song it’s hook which the Lucas version didn’t have so the original bass line was removed and the synth one put in its place.
    John ‘Jellybean’ Benitez replaced the instrument arrangement Lucas originally provided and spliced the original with a new mix which had a far more beat driven pop song feel to it more percussion more synth layers added thus keeping the Rhodes piano parts in tact.
  • Roninmd from DallasCite references when supporting your interpretation of a song by Madonna? WTF? You don't need published references to tell people how you interpret a song!!! What kind of self-important idiot does that?

    I live with a person with whom I suspect has borderline personality and yeah every line in this Madonna song is what I hear everyday from this person. I don't abuse her but she is very needy, provocative, and sexually aggressive. Being with a borderline personality truly is an exercise in patience.

    Borderlines tend to wear out their partners so Guy Ritchie and Sean Penn must have their hands full when they were with Madonna in her early years.
  • Robert Paulson from Philadelphia, PaI like many of the guesses here, but there isn't a shred to support what many of the comments are about. It has nothing to do with orgasms, Sean Penn, guy Ritchie, or borderline personality as some have mentioned.

    Here are some facts- It was written before Madonna even met Sean Penn/ Guy Ritchie.

    In fact the song was written by Madonna's producer Reggie Lucas, not Madonna

    "Its lyrics dealt with the subject of a love that is never fulfilled and was written as a rebellion against male chauvinism." wikipedia

    Being that it was written by a male, I think it takes more the general aspect of being emotionally abused. The male chauvinism aspect (which is emotionally abusive) only comes into play because it was song by Madonna - not because of the lyrics itself.

    When a partner with holds love as punishment, it's emotional abuse and its demeaning with such examples as stonewalling, emotional abondonment, and other behaviors can be cold; followed by strong affection which plays head games with the victim.

    The bar is set to high and ones best is never good enough- They are at the mercy of trying to please the abuser giving them all they can destroying themselves in the process. The abusive partners holds the victim prisoner by overwhelming them one moment giving them hope and crushing them in the next moment by abondonment.

    "When you hold me in your arms, you love me 'til I just can't see, But then you let me down, when I look around. Baby, you just can't be found"

    The cycle of emotional abuse is dehumanizing, destroying self confidence, and feeling trapped. Because they love their abuser they can't let it go, and they are pleading to be set free. The last few lines mention at how much the abuse has taken it's toll.

    "Look what your love has done to me
    Come on baby, set me free
    You just keep on pushing my love over the borderline
    You cause me so much pain, I think I'm going insane
    What does it take to make you see
    You just keep on pushing my love over the borderline"

    "Look at what your love has done to me" is really "look at what your (emotional abuse) has done to me." but it's common for a victim in this type of relationship is manipulated by such head games confusing love and abuse as the same word as describing the relationship.

    She is losing her mind knowing that this relationship is destroying her and wants out before she goes insane out of her mind.

    Borderline the song and video has been observed in academia for it's symbolism as well. It's actually rather sophisticated and worthy of a lot discussion that's hidden in just a few lines of what just appears to be another upbeat top 40 pop song.

    It's one of the most artistic thing Madonna has done in her career.
  • Alan from Brooklyn, NySaying this song is about an orgasm or lack thereof is reading too much into it. If she ISN'T actually having an orgasm, then why is he pushing her love OVER the borderline? Wouldn't he just be pushing it near the borderline, then quitting?

    It's much more obviously about a frustrating relationship with a flaky person whose manipulations only make her want him more.
  • Leo from Westminster 1, MdHey Brian! I never knew that! Again with Madonna, her lyrics have multiple meanings and open to interpretation-Borderline could be about her mother's early death or the fights Madonna had with Sean and Guy. Of Course Borderline was written way back in 82 when The First Album was written and recorded-it was written by her first collaborator-Reggie Lucas whom Madonna absolutely hated and despised. The young Madge kept saying to Reggie-"I Wish I could have gotten more variety there...Maybe I should work with a British producer!-I Want a Sound That's Mine!-I'd rather start my own category!" Unfortunately, Lucas had absolutely zero experience working in Pop/Rock because he was schooled in R&B/Funk/Disco. Needless to say, Maddy never saw Lucas again-she'd already sought the likes of Patrick Leonard, Billy Orbit, Mirwais Ahmadzhai, Joe Henry and Stuart Price among others to hone her vision and sound. When Madonna finally revived Borderline in 2008-09 during the Sticky and Sweet Tour with guitar rocking in her hands, she recast her first Top Tenner as an angry Metal Rocker. Sweet revenge and vindication for a Michigan Girl that some doubters thought would amount to nothing. Yet Here Madonna is 30 years later with her Rock Queen Crown still unchallenged. Who's laughing now at the Evita/W.E. Girl? Absolutely no one! You go, Madge Simpson Evita Ciccone!
  • Brian from Chicago, IlThis song could be written about her mother's early death. " something in your eyes... there's something I just got to say." That verse could be talking about how much she misses her mother. Madonna later wrote that whenever she asked her mother what was wrong, her mother would cry and hug her.
  • Theresa from Murfreesboro, TnI heard Madonna hated this song, but she did finally perform it on her Sticky and Sweet Tour.
  • Lolo Brown from Gertrude, Bahamasthis song is really about sex? hmm. never noticed.
  • Eugene from Minneapolis, MnThe intro of this record sounds like "Never Knew Love Like This Before" by Stepahnie Mills.
  • Michael from San Diego, CaGood "early MTV" video, of a terrific tune! Madonna was real cute back then, before she got real slutty.
  • Michaela from Brooklyn, NyThis doesn't sound like it's about an orgasm,but the Songfacts don't lie...
  • Inge Berge from Rockport, MaThis song refers pretty obviously to being in a relationship with someone with what's known as "Borderline Personality Disorder" or BPD. It summarizes, in a poppy way, the crazy push-and-pull, emotional inequity of such a relationship, the feeling of being emotionally "trapped" by someone who seems unwilling or unable to return reliable affection as yearned for.

    The lyrics more than hint at an undertone of mental illness: "Lose my mind", "Drive me crazy", "Borderline."

    Along with the mention of the feelings of being a "prisoner of love", love followed by emotional letdown, "playing with my heart", "pushing my love" and sudden emotional unavailability following being "held in your arms" - all the sentiments point towards a commentary on this disorder.

    Of course, it can also serve as metaphor for unsatisfactory sexual relations, but that is one step removed from the more immediate meaning, I think.


  • John from Manchester, EnglandThis song reminds me of an ex that i miss so much. After we had got back together (once again!) she played me this song and told me that i pushed her over the boarderline. Thats just one reason i will always enjoy listening to this song. Brings back memorys and is a reminder of what i lost.Besides that,its a really good catchy tune.
  • Tom from Seattle, WaHearing this song again reminds me of what a cool time that was. Everything was music back then. The eighties was a decade hugely influenced by music. It had to do with everything. It was so fun, and this was a great song. The sound dictates the mood then perfectly.
  • Greg from Rye, NyThis about borderline personality disorder!

    greg rye, NY
  • Carrie from Roanoke, VaThis is definitely about almost having an orgasm. Neverteless, I think there's more than physical attraction at work in the relationship, at least on her part. After all, she says, "Stop playing with my heart" which seems to imply that he's manipulating her emotions. Also, she looks for him when he's not around and asks him to stop driving her away. She wants to experience the closeness of a deep emotional relationship and mutual orgasm, but he doesn't seem willing.

    Meanings aside, I really love this song. The opening notes remind me of a music box, which gives it an innocent, plaintive sound. When I first heard it sung, I thought that Tiffany or Debbie Gibson was the artist because of how high the notes were. The "la da da da da" at the end is so beautiful, and it makes me wish the song wasn't ending (just like the singer wishes that the lovemaking wasn't finishing up so soon).
  • Sum Sum from New Delhii like the last part of the la la la la la la la la la la la...great song. It says not to cross the border or limits when u r in love with someone...actually theres no love..its only physical attraction..thats what the song speaks I beleive.
  • Sam from Chicago, IlOne of my all time favorite songs! Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.
  • Ekristheh from Halath, United StatesOwing to the fact that Madonna says it is about having an orgasm, I would assume she is correct.
  • Jamie from Bethesda, MdYou see...I dont think its about an Orgasm..... Well its obviously about an orgasm...but the Orgams is in fact the Metaphor about the entire relationship in itself....
  • Randy from Cabimas, South America"When you hold me in your arms you love me till I just can't see
    But then you let me down, when I look around, baby you just can't be found"

    unfinished sex, definetely.
  • Randy from Cabimas, South AmericaIts about unfinished sex. his orgasm came before hers.
  • Kristy from Saco, Methis song is NOT about having an orgasm
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