The Depiction of Nostalgia in Madonna’s “This Used To Be My Playground”

In 1992, it was difficult to imagine Madonna without her clothes off, yet she put them back on quite seamlessly to create the song and video for the nostalgia-tinged slow jam “This Used to Be My Playground.” Included on both the Barcelona Gold album (an Olympics-themed collection) and the A League of Their Own Soundtrack, Madonna was beginning her gradual transition into what would become the Something To Remember/Evita era, during which she consciously subdued the overt sexual image that Erotica made her notorious for.

Single cover for "This Used to Be My Playground"
Single cover for “This Used to Be My Playground”

The song’s mid-tempo orchestral arrangement leads into Madonna’s mellifluous voice (then rare for people to hear) lamenting, “This used to be my playground/This used to be my childhood dream.” The theme of the track perfectly complements the sentimental nature of the World War II-era film and the longing of the female baseball players who return to their sports star days by way of a commemorative women’s baseball museum that showcases each player’s formidable accomplishments while playing for the Rockford Peaches.

Madonna: awash with nostalgia
Madonna: awash with nostalgia

The two main characters, sisters Dottie (Geena Davis) and Kit Keller (Lori Petty), are what make the song especially bittersweet, as both harbored animosity toward one another (Kit in particular) while playing for the Peaches. Because of Kit’s envy of Dottie’s superiority as a baseball player, the two find themselves at each other’s throats as Game 7 approaches, prompting their coach, Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks), to trade Kit to the Racine Belles. This leads the sisters to a head to head competition that splits them apart in the emotional manner so succinctly encapsulated in “This Used to Be My Playground.”

Madonna as All the Way Mae in A League of Their Own
Madonna as All the Way Mae in A League of Their Own

Perhaps the siblings holding on to feelings of resentment toward one another is what inspired Madonna to rue, “Don’t hold on to the past/Well, that’s too much to ask.” Her yearning to remake and repair the past is also evident in the urgency of the lyrics, “Well the years they flew/And we never knew/We were foolish then/We would never tire/And that little fire is still alive in me/It will never go away/Can’t say goodbye to yesterday.”

Perhaps the siblings holding on to feelings of resentment toward one another is in part what inspired Madonna to rue, “Don’t hold on to the past/Well, that’s too much to ask.” Her yearning to remake and repair the past is also evident in the urgency of the lyrics, “Well the years they flew/And we never knew/We were foolish then/We would never tire/And that little fire is still alive in me/It will never go away/Can’t say goodbye to yesterday.”

Original photo used for single cover art
Original photo used for single cover art

With such profound resonance, it’s no wonder the single became a number one hit on August 8, 1992, making it Madonna’s then tenth single to do so. The video, which features Madonna in a photo album of different scenes as the pages turn (a concept Boy George was all too eager to point out mirrored the video for his 1987 single “To Be Reborn”), drives home the twinge of nostalgia one feels every time this song is on.

One Comment

  1. Pingback: The Lady Eve & Men’s Fear of SlutsCulled Culture | Culled Culture

Comments are closed.