“Borderline” is a song by American singer Madonna from her eponymous debut studio album Madonna (1983). It was released on February 15, 1984 by Sire Records as the album’s fifth single. Written and composed by producer Reggie Lucas, the song was remixed by Madonna’s then-boyfriend John “Jellybean” Benitez. She used a refined and expressive voice for the song. Its lyrics dealt with the subject of a love that is never fulfilled.
Contemporary critics and authors applauded the song, calling it harmonically the most complex song from the Madonna album and complimenting the dance-pop nature of the song. “Borderline” became Madonna’s first top ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number ten. In the United Kingdom it reached number two after it was re-released as a single in 1986. Elsewhere, the song reached the top 10 or top 20 of a number of European nations while peaking the singles chart of Ireland. The song was placed at 84 on Blender magazine’s “The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born”, while Time included it on the critic list “All-Time 100 Songs”.
The accompanying music video portrayed Madonna with a Latin-American man as her boyfriend. She was enticed by a British photographer to pose and model for him, but later returned to her original boyfriend. The video generated interest amongst academics, who noted the use of power as symbolism in it. With the video, Madonna was credited for breaking the taboo of interracial relationships and was considered one of her career-making moments. The release of the video on MTV increased Madonna’s popularity further. Madonna has performed the song on her Virgin Tour (1985) and the Sticky & Sweet Tour (2008), where a punk-rock version of the song was performed. “Borderline” has been covered by a number of artists, including Duffy, Jody Watley, Counting Crows, and The Flaming Lips.
“Borderline” was recorded in February 1983 and ushered a change from the normal vocal tone expressed by Madonna in her songs. A sentimental track, the song talks about a love that is never quite fulfilled. According to author Santiago Fouz-Hernández in his book Madonna’s drowned worlds, the lyrics of the song like “Something in way you love me won’t let me be/I don’t want to be your prisoner so baby won’t you set me free” depicted a rebellion against male chauvinism. Madonna used a refined and expressive voice to sing the song, backed by Lucas’s instrumentations. Considered as the best example of the working relationship between Lucas and Madonna, he pushed her to find emotional depth in the song. Although sounding icy, the chorus is contemporary in style and the vocal range for this song, was later used by Madonna as her own personal range through her whole music career. It opens with a keyboard rich intro played on a Fender-Rhodes Electric Piano and a catchy synth melody provided by Fred Zarr. Bass player Anthony Jackson doubled Dean Gant’s synth bass to provide a solid and more complex texture.