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Dec 10

MADONNA – “Vogue”

FT + Popular86 comments • 7,042 views

#644, 14th April 1990

After a crucifixion, an ascension: as discussed on the Lollards Of Pop, “Vogue” is Madonna’s attempt to join a pantheon of pop culture icons – “Grace Kelly, Harlow Jean….” and so on. No, not her attempt: her assertion that she is already part of this company by right. She’s the first modern pop star to join it, to rise above the colourised grit and mess of the rock era and act like she belongs in black-and-white.

To do this is an act of serious willpower on her part, since her previous outing was all about personal debris. Like A Prayer positioned herself as serious and soul-bearing and was rapturously received. “Vogue” closes that off – from that initial wash of synth this is nothing but pristine: high-hats gliding and bustling like wine-waiters in the background, clipped stabs of string and brass, Madonna herself alternately tender and imperious, offering divine advice. In one sense it’s a return to the dancefloor, but Madonna’s early club music was hungrier than this. This is the work of a star who knows she’s a star in perpetuity – from now on her songs, even the most personal, have something of the official statement about them: her interest in new producers and styles has an element of patronage.

This is the thrust of the arguments against Madonna we talked about briefly on the radio – that her interest in the Harlem vogueing subculture and its rich tradition is appropriation and neutering. It seems to me, though – as an obvious outsider, I grant you – that vogueing is in a wider tradition of aspiration as mockery. In this case it’s multiracial queers pastiching the rituals of white high society, to a degree that the pastiche becomes its own, more vibrant and intense reality. This isn’t a risk-free process: Elijah Wald’s How The Beatles Destroyed Rock’n’Roll traces how the cakewalk, originated by plantation slaves as a parody of slaveowners’ social events, took on its own life after the Civil War and morphed into a minstrel show standby.

So a song about aspiration with these roots can’t help but contain a second edge, and it’s worth asking not just what “Vogue” does to voguing, but what Madonna’s own casual assumption of her icon status does to the pantheon she’s claiming membership in. Ends it, perhaps: at the end of the video the stiffness, skill and remove of the vogueing dance breaks down and the crowd begin to move more freely. “Vogue”, with its tension between the pose and the release, is a song which fits a particular moment in dance music history – as the wave of democratisation house music unleashed started to break against entrenched club mores.

OK, “be your own icon” isn’t necessarily the most profound of messages, but luckily what makes “Vogue” a great record is primarily its music – that house piano cutting across the synths and dominating the record’s endgame, and of course Madonna’s brilliant rap, emphases coming down regular like heels on marble so the triple-stresses (“we love you”, “dance on air”, “gave good face”) jump out even more. That section is one of the great pop moments of the 90s, where Madonna proves she fits just fine into whatever company she’s choosing to keep, and encourages you to believe the same.

9

Comments

  1. 1
    logged-out Tracer Hand on 9 Dec 2010 #

    Hurrah!

  2. 2
    JLucas on 9 Dec 2010 #

    This is Madonna at her most imperial (and imperious) for me. It feels strange tagged onto the end of ‘I’m Breathless’ but as a standalone Greatest Hits single it’s perfection. I kind of see it as the “End of part one” single in Madonna’s canon. Sums up everything she’d achieved up to that point and put a neat cap on it. From here on in she was going to get a lot stranger, and unfortunately a lot less consistent.

    I do sometimes wish Hanky Panky had gone the distance as well though, what a bizarre chart-topper that would have been.

  3. 3
    richard thompson on 9 Dec 2010 #

    Greta Garbo died when this was number one

  4. 4
    lonepilgrim on 9 Dec 2010 #

    The ‘Like a prayer’ video finishes with a curtain call that emphasises the theatricality of the preceding drama – this picks up that performative quality and lets it infuse the whole song, harping back to an age where stars did not bare their hearts but where art was a lie that told the truth.
    When Madonna had performed at the 1985 Live Aid concert she declared “I’m not taking shit off today!” in reference to recently published nude photos. She has continued that process of concealment behind a variety of styles and poses to this day
    It’s interesting that this should coincide with ‘Pushing against the Dame’ hitting Bowie’s cover of ‘Wild is the wind’ (a song from a later era than Vogue’s movie stars), where he gives one of his more emotive performances with a song that (lyrically at least) reveals nothing about him.
    http://bowiesongs.wordpress.com/2010/12/09/wild-is-the-wind/

  5. 5
    lonepilgrim on 9 Dec 2010 #

    …and great to see Madge replace Kylie and JB

  6. 6
    Richaod on 9 Dec 2010 #

    Great to have you back – blogging hiatuses are something I know a lot about… Excellent review of course! There’s so much more to the song than meets the eye…

    I’ve probably written enough about Vogue: http://iconography.tumblr.com/post/311645733/vogue

    But the one thing I’ll add is, significantly, Vogue does not contain one instance of the word “I”. That Madonna manages to not so much argue as declare herself part of that pantheon, yet does so whilst seeming to totally remove any sense of ego from the equation is utterly brilliant. That’s one lesson I wish today’s popstars understood – self-aggrandisement without the reek of sheer effort, or Christina Aguilera-style narcissism.

  7. 7
    Clio on 9 Dec 2010 #

    On the rap bit and the triple stresses: This might jump out at me more because I’m an Amurrican, but most of the time when Madonna is rapping she’s not exactly trying to sound like a rapper. She’s almost cheering–and she was a cheerleader in high school. You can hear that specific sort of cheer cadence in a lot of her talking-rhythmically-in-a-song moments; the one that sounds the most like a cheer is the bit in “Thief of Hearts.” I think that’s a big reason why she can sound so relaxed and authentic, because she’s not trying to sound like a b-girl; she’s just a suburban girl who made up a cheer for her squad to go in the middle of that song.

  8. 8
    Tom on 9 Dec 2010 #

    #7 great point, yeah!

    #6 also a great point – cf my review of Dancing Queen IIRC.

  9. 9
    thefatgit on 9 Dec 2010 #

    A fine return to form, Tom, after such a long layoff. And in her video, Madonna returns to the screen goddess territory she obviously craved after her Marylin pastiche. But those monochrome soft-focus face shots simply highlight her shortcomings in the wake of her less than illustrious movie outings. “Vogue”, however is a stunning piece of House/Pop. Those synth-horn stabs that punctuate the Housey piano phrasing are marvellous, even if in a ’90s context, they’re an ’80s cliche. They work here.

    I get the sense, that even if everything she’s doing is carefully calculated, she can still cut loose and have fun on lines like “get on the dancefloor/that’s what it’s for! C’MON VOGUE…”. It’s a little less brash and visceral than “Into The Groove”, but she’s maturing and about to confront her most ardent fans with just what it means to be feminine and desired.

  10. 10
    Billy Smart on 9 Dec 2010 #

    I’m listening to the Immaculate Collection ‘Vogue’ as I write – Somebody please tell me this another mistaken mix? It certainly goes on forever and is rather slower than I remember. Or does this just work better when halved in length and seen as a video on TV…

    The ‘rapping’ bit is miles better than the rest of it, and was what I enjoyed most about ‘Vogue’ at the time. Reaction to this bit was rather divisive – as a strange teenager who had voraciously read up books of old Hollywood I new who all of these icons were and didn’t really think that Madonna was worthy of joining their pantheon. Whereas for my peers who had sensibly spent their adolescences drinking, snogging and dancing rather than seeking out Busby Berkley films on Channel 4, only Marylin Monroe and James Dean from the Vogue list meant anything to them, the rest a list of cool names. Without this knowledge this section of the song – and the strike a pose philosophy of Vogueism – actually made more sense to them than it did to me.

    My other reaction was bewilderment that anyone of Madonna’s status would hitch a ride on the Vogueing non-bandwagon, something that I’d read about in Time Out and seen on ‘Out On Tuesday’ two years earlier and had manifestly failed to catch on in the interim, as Malcolm McLaren had learned to his cost. At least she didn’t go baggy, though!

  11. 11
    Billy Smart on 9 Dec 2010 #

    #2 Watch: Two weeks of Alannah Myles’ dreary smooth blues ‘Black Velvet’, then a week of Paula Abdul’s ‘Opposites Attract’

  12. 12
    Tom on 9 Dec 2010 #

    #10 The Immaculate Collection version is about half a minute longer and remixed, not as badly as LAP but still noticeably – FWIW I was using a mix just under 5 minutes from a torrent of all Madge singles I got last year and has proved usefully accurate re. radio and video mixes.

  13. 13
    Richaod on 9 Dec 2010 #

    #10 The Immaculate Collection mix is a barely noticeable 20 seconds longer… as much as the music is a 10 for me, I wouldn’t blame you for finding it more compelling as a music video (which, mind you, isn’t an edit, either).

  14. 14
    abaffledrepublic on 9 Dec 2010 #

    #5: I was also wondering when Madonna would get a turn at the top of the top of the FT page. This point is as good as any, as she reached number two no fewer than four times over the next year and a bit, although admittedly two of those were reissues. Any of them would have been more worthy number ones than some of the dreck that stood in their way.

  15. 15
    tonya on 9 Dec 2010 #

    My reasoning for a 9 would be 10 for the rest of the record minus 1 for the rap, so it’s interesting how much people love the rap. Is one of the definitions of imperial phase “ability to combine a faded dance trend and house-by-numbers into a record that everyone will immediately recognize as a classic”? Because I remember being amazed at how great this was when it kinda had no right to be.

    Her interesting move to me was taking vogueing away from fashion and saying it was about Hollywood. It bugged me at the time, like she didn’t understand, but I can see why people would think this was her way to say she was up there with the monuments. And I guess Madonna had better standing to steal black, gay culture than Malcolm McLaren ever did (speaking as a fan of both).

  16. 16
    Martin on 9 Dec 2010 #

    It hadn’t occurred to me until just now, but those triplets in the verse are a bit similar to another song that was hugely popular around the same time — Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Better, sure. But similar.

    If I were bolder I’d assert that two songs basically resorting to thumbnail descriptions of famous people and events would suggest a serious problem in pop music on the level of content during that period — but I’m not that bold.

  17. 17
    swanstep on 10 Dec 2010 #

    Rather impressive pop package this one… One important point about Vogue that no one else has made that I’m aware of goes as follows:

    On one level, as Tom says it’s ‘Madonna’s attempt to join a pantheon of pop culture icons – “Grace Kelly, Harlow Jean….” and so on. No, not her attempt: her assertion that she is already part of this company by right.’ On another level, though, that assertion’s been there all along, just not made *completely* explicit. I think that M’s deepest insight from the beginning was that there was massive unmet demand in culture by the ’80s for female glamour: there had been no big new female stars out of Hollywood since the ’60s (and whole woman-centered genres from melodramas to the rom-com almost completely died off for almost 25 years from 1965-1990). Could pop-dance-music and vids be an alternative source of incredible glamour? Yes, M. established it could.

    But, at the exact moment when M. was somewhat desperately trying to become a movie-star (understandable, but also somewhat betraying of her own best insight), and also making her original modus operandi very explicit in Vogue, things *finally* changed in Hollywood, altering the equation for M. in culture overall.

    In early 1990 Pretty Woman comes out and suddenly glamorous Hollywood is suddenly all on again (and modern celebrity/tabloid journalism/cable tv explode in response to that and to the diva ‘supermodel’ wave hit). The great run of teen films from Fast Times, Risky Business, John Hughes to Heathers ends, and suddenly more adult-centered (at least 20 somethings) rom-coms and lots of wedding-based comedies are literally everywhere. Julia Roberts was the biggest female movie star since Audrey Hepburn (and the first female movie star of any serious magnitude for at least a decade) and the shift she produced across the whole industry was decisive. By the time you get things like 4 Weddings and Muriel’s Wedding in 1994 it was clear we were smack in the middle of something: the rotating stack of types, plots, tones that constitute the Julia Roberts/Hugh Grant screwball, or whatever it is. Anyhow, M. not only would have to beat a somewhat grumpy, chastened retreat from her Hollywood career throughout the ’90s, the culture had generally moved on so that pop-music absolutely didn’t have the female glamour field almost to itself any more. Pop-music wouldn’t own the female glamour business again until the mid ’00s, when esp. as roberts and grant aged out of the rom-com age-zone, that era and its tropes ran out of gas, and there were no freakishly ultra-charming stars* to replace them. Suddenly High school-centered comedy showed some serious signs of life, and suddenly too a gap in the marketplace for female glamour opened up again, which all the Beyonces and Gagas have duly filled.
    Anyhow, Vogue and its vid. are definitely a high-water mark for M. and for the power of pop-dance music itself as a source of female glamour in the wider culture.

    *Rom-coms esp. are inherently manipulative and predictable and irritating…. In my view, they tend to work only when there are a bunch of actors around (at least one woman and one man) who have off-the-charts level of charm, who make the whole thing bearable and then through repetition and familiarity allow us to see all the micro-differences in plotting and characterization that we otherwise would be invisible amid all the cloddish high-manipulativeness and heart-string-tugging etc. What made the ’30s/’40s stuff great was the large pool of freakish charmers, hepburn/grant/stanwyck/stewart/colbert/fonda/tracy. In most decades since there’s just been at most one solid pair (not necessarily working together all the time) anchoring the genre.

  18. 18
    weej on 10 Dec 2010 #

    Welcome back! I’ve been suffering Popular withdrawal symptoms.
    I can recognise Vogue as a masterclass of pop production, to the extent of not being able to find a single fault with it, but at the same time it just doesn’t move me in any significant way. I can’t really connect to it on a personal level. Still a great song, but it’s never going to be a favourite of mine.

  19. 19
    Ciaran Gaynor on 10 Dec 2010 #

    Frankie Knuckles was interviewed on the BBC’s Dancing In The Streets documentary in the mid 90s, and he said of Vogue that for him it was the moment where house music became “legit”. He wasn’t saying that in a dismissive way, he meant it as a validation. That’s quite in keeping with Mr Fingers’ Can You Feel It and that records pronouncements about house music being EVERYBODY’S music “if you’re black or white, jew or gentile” etc. Something about the mass popularity of Vogue is fitting with that everyone-welcomed ethos of Chicago house.

  20. 20
    Billy on 10 Dec 2010 #

    Madonna for most of her career has always felt slightly overrated to me. I mean, yeah, she’s made good stuff during her 80s heyday and late 90s revival onwards…but just not quite as good as the songs they’re trying to match. There’s much, much better dance-pop around during both those times, mostly from the UK.

    The exception is circa 1989/1990 when everything she did was absolutely awesome. Including Like a Prayer, the far too underrated Express Yourself, and especially this epic. It continues a run of unbelievably awesome number 1s during this time – I’d considered 1990 a bit of a weak year before these recent entries, but bloody hell there’s some classics!!

    And I just *bet* that had internet forums existed back then, everyone would still be complaining that music isn’t as good as it was twenty years ago ;)

  21. 21
    punctum on 10 Dec 2010 #

    “What you lookin’ at?”

    I’m looking at the end of the video for “Prince Charming” where successive Adams are standing, nearly motionless, dressed up as heroes for a centrespread and I nod my head in wonder that New Pop could permeate so much, so late.

    “Strike the pose”

    Even if Madonna merely studied post-punk and New Pop, took what she needed from it – in other words, the poses – and used it to advertise herself, implying that there was something to be advertised, such that Ari Up’s “I’m not a material girl” becomes, or is made to become “I am a material girl,” then she was the keenest and most astute of students. Certainly she must have listened to Waltz Darling, the 1989 album by Malcolm McLaren and the Bootzilla Orchestra which beat her to celebrating vogueing by a year…but few people outside the circle bought or heard that, and Madonna can hardly be blamed for wanting to drag it (in drag? “Marlon Brando, Jimmy Dean/On the cover of a magazine”) into pop (im)proper.

    Opening on a flat plane of high string synth drones, Shep Pettibone’s aqueous electric piano and synthesiser land gracefully in the river of (dis)grace; as with the remixes he did for the Pet Shop Boys, there is an unhurried stateliness about his method of dance. The song revisits the “Into The Groove” territory of the dancefloor as escape (“You try everything you can to escape/The pain of life that you know”), but five years have passed and Madonna is no longer (was she ever?) ingenuous about her joy; there is a shadow looming over “Vogue” which cannot easily be displaced.

    “When all else fails and you long to be/Something better than you are today”

    The song appears over the end credits of Dick Tracy, a vogueing film if ever there were one; all primary colours, poses, living cartoons, queasy semi-reality. It fulfills the same function as the “Broadway Melody Ballet” does in Singin’ In The Rain; the hero wakes up from his dreams of a heroic past into an unforgiving modern world where doors are slammed in his face, mob henchmen toss coins threateningly at him, and yet he decides to continue surviving and thriving there (Cyd Charisse is there, and only there, precisely to “vogue”). Meanwhile, over the pleasingly ambiguous bassline, Madonna attempts to encourage a view of happiness, a guide to the thing if not the thing itself (“If the music’s pumping it will give you new life/You’re a superstar – YES! That’s what you are! You KNOW it!”) – but is she once again singing to her blackened but gradually brightening mirror? As the piano careers like a slalom of displaced chords through the chorus, like a labyrinth out of which she is trying to dance herself, there is a hint of desperation about her “come on”s and “hey, hey, hey”s; but then as the music rises in its bridge, via a nod to Bolan (“Not just where you bump and grind it”), Madonna rediscovers a soul, a purpose – the illuminated stairway to heaven which she ascends one step at a time (“musical,” “beautiful!,” “magical!!,” “LIFE’S A BALL!!!“) until she is at the summit, triumphant – “So GET UP ON THE DANCE FLOOR!!!!

    But then we descend again into the central spoken section – and there is a sudden blankness (“Beauty is where you find it” as if she hasn’t actually found it) to her cold, verging on frozen, incantation of idols of her past (“Picture of a beauty queen” – again, not the thing, or the human being, itself, or herself), with the odd wink (“Rita Hayworth gave good face”), a trace of earnestness (“Bette Davis…we love you”). “Ladies with an attitude, fellas that were in the mood” – the inference being that all of this illustrious history and art has led up to, culminated in, her…and was that all there is, as she rapidly descends the staircase with her death sentence:

    “Don’t just stand there.
    Let’s get to it.
    Strike a pose.
    There’s nothing to it.
    Vogue.”

    Madonna’s “There’s nothing to it” is one of the most terrifying chasms of emptiness in pop; she speaks it such that she means it literally. Look in the mirror, dance to the music – but glance behind that mirror, look below that dancefloor, and there is a ghastly void. The documentary In Bed With Madonna, which documented her Blonde Ambition tour, seems to exult in its own grumpy way that there is, indeed, nothing to what Madonna does, nothing to explain the presence of Warren Beatty or Kevin Costner – why are they there? Worse, why are we here, watching?

    Her closing “oooohhh”s are her lifeline out of the dredged river of nothing – but again there is that stern proclamation of (or order to) “Vogue” at the end, following which the track echoes away into limbo, like a briefly snatched dream, now too distant to grasp. As though she could ever be “near.” “Don’t you ever, don’t you ever…”

  22. 22
    vinylscot on 10 Dec 2010 #

    Welcome back Popular!

    Please don’t do that again. That “radio” programme was absolutely awful. Like a Rhod Gilbert stand-up set, it went on far too long. After five minutes we knew where it was going, after fifteen we had heard it all, and by the time it was half-way done I was praying for it to stop. Self-indulgent, supercilious, over-analytical, retro-fitted crap!

    Tom, your reviews and comments on this blog (which is the only source I know your writing from) shows that you are better than that. As you may have guessed, I was more than a little disappointed.

    I’m not saying I could have done any better, indeed I don’t really have very much to say about “Vogue”. Like one or two others, I don’t hear a rap in here, I hear a chant. A chant which gave rise to a number of silly drinking games involving inserting inappropriate alternative celebrity names – points off for repetition or hesitation, of course. “Hello”, by The Beloved, which had just left the charts as this arrived, was actually better for the game, as it already included some rather barmy “celeb” names, Vince Hilaire and Jean-Paul Sartre included.

  23. 23
    wichita lineman on 10 Dec 2010 #

    I’d never even thought of it as a rap, just a handy list of references – “check these cats out”. More like the chorus of Dance Stance than the hysterical twins We Didn’t Start The Fire/It’s The End Of The World As We Know It.

    Harlow Jean, though. Couldn’t she have spent another 30 seconds thinking about it and come up with “Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow” and “Grace Kelly, Norma Jean”? And the last couplet rhymes “to it” with “to it”.

    “Grace Kelly, Howard Jones”.

  24. 24
    Mark G on 10 Dec 2010 #

    Went out to Turkey with the dance troup. They’d asked us to have a routine based on the number 1 record in the UK at the time.

    So, we pre-rehearsed and practiced a routine around Snap’s “The Power”

    Unfortunately, the day we left the UK, this was deposed by “Vogue”, and we watched the video and said, ach, we haven’t go time to sort costumes and routines for *THAT* one out. So we told them “nooh, it’s still “The Power” at the moment.

    So, I would guess we were the first and only dance troupe ever to turn down the opportunity to do “Vogue”….

  25. 25
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 10 Dec 2010 #

    We didn’t know where it was going, vinylscott — they’re not scripted.

  26. 26
    vinylscot on 10 Dec 2010 #

    I wasn’t implying it was scripted, just mind-numbingly predictable.

  27. 27
    punctum on 10 Dec 2010 #

    #22: Who are “we”?

  28. 28
    punctum on 10 Dec 2010 #

    #23: I actually wondered whether that sequence might have been an inspiration for “Girl VII.”

  29. 29
    vinylscot on 10 Dec 2010 #

    punctum #27 – i did begin listening to it in company, but ended up alone!

  30. 30
    punctum on 10 Dec 2010 #

    haha my experience was exactly the reverse; I began listening alone and then Lena came home from work about halfway through the prog.

    We enjoyed the Terre Thaemlitz bit.

    Mark S should have his own TV cookery show, really.

  31. 31
    rosie on 10 Dec 2010 #

    And it’s during the reign of this single that Rosie won a seat on the council of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, and thus became Councillor Rosie for the first time.

    It was the year of shenanigans in local government elections, in which underhand tactics were tried in Tory marginal boroughs Westminster and Wandsworth (the same underhand tactics, involving registering empty properties with the connivance of estate agents, manipulating postal votes, and setting up spurious proxies, would be repeated more widely two years later in a general election). Reading John O’Farrell’s autobiography years later I was struck by how closely his life and mine had run in parallel up to this point, whereupon John lost a supposedly safe Labour seat in Wandsworth and I picked up a potentially iffy one in North Kensington with a big swing. John went on to be a successful writer while I had an unhappy time in politics and was eventually thoroughly shafted by the Blair enforcers. But that’s another story for later in the decade.

  32. 32
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 10 Dec 2010 #

    “Retro-fitted” = the programme seemed shaped to a pre-determined conclusion? That’s what I took you to mean, hence “scripted” — which it wasn’t, they never are. (D’you mean the mark out of ten?)

  33. 33
    Tracer Hand on 10 Dec 2010 #

    vinylscot: due to a podcasting error, you actually WERE hearing a Rhod Gilbert standup set. The feed has been fixed so please try redownloading.

  34. 34

    Apologies VS, it’s a bit invidious me quizzing on your take on our show in public like this — but as one of the production team of the series I am interested in intelligent negative feedback, not least because more Popular-based Lollards are likely. Any chance of you dropping me a line with a more detailed critique? (Don’t worry if you don’t feel like it — but projects like this often end up in a bubble of the the good will of those directly involved, which is a nice bubble to be in, but not a good long-term set-up)

    marksink3r at googlemail dot com

  35. 35
    Jimmy the Swede on 10 Dec 2010 #

    #31 – Without wishing to defend Shirley Porter in any way, in the interests of fairness it should be pointed out that evil-doing in local government (particularly concerning allegations of postal vote fixing) has not been confined to one party, as subsequent events in Tower Hamlets demonstrated.

    Vinylscot – You were rather reticent in your criticism of the radio show back there. Please clarify. Did you not care for it?

  36. 36
    jim5et on 10 Dec 2010 #

    I thoroughly enjoyed it and have listened to some other Lollards stuff because of it.

  37. 37
    thefatgit on 10 Dec 2010 #

    I have always regarded Lollards as a series of informal conversations/discussions that tend to take on a life of their own, and are not dictated by a rigid format where bullet points are ticked off as the discussions progress. I don’t always agree with what’s being said, but the podcasts have never been less than fascinating.

  38. 38
    vinylscot on 10 Dec 2010 #

    Mark – I’ve dropped you a short note – I think. Obviously the “at” and “dot” get substituted, but does the “3” stay as a “3” in your email? Daft question, as it probably does, but just checking.

  39. 39
    Tom on 10 Dec 2010 #

    Sorry you didn’t like the show VS – I suspect and hope we’ll be doing more Slug of Pop formats but probably *not* actually tackling the very next track up on Popular, as it contributed somewhat to my demotivation in doing the entry! I felt I’d “done” Vogue when of course I hadn’t really.

  40. 40
    pink champale on 10 Dec 2010 #

    never mind the lollards (i haven’t heard the popular one, but like those i have: clever people talking lightly about things they are interested in – what’s not to like?), I don’t like ‘vogue’!

    okay, “don’t like” is too strong, but i just don’t hear it as one of the very best madonna records in the way that everyone else seems to. it just seems a bit brittle and static to me, lacking the emotional urgency and dynamism of something like ‘like a prayer’ or ‘papa don’t preach’, let alone ‘into the groove’ (which gets the SAME mark? *mutter, mutter*).

    you are all very convincing though, so i’m working my way towards accepting that it’s just me. the rap is certainly excellent.

  41. 41
    Mark G on 10 Dec 2010 #

    #21: Certainly she must have listened to Waltz Darling, the 1989 album by Malcolm McLaren and the Bootzilla Orchestra

    as you say, which was the first to “Vogue”..

    Still, fairs fair, as The Clash had actually beat Malcolm McLaren to the scratching/hip-hop by a full year with “This is Radio Clash” .

  42. 42
    ciaran10 on 10 Dec 2010 #

    Okay Vogue. Sister absolutely loved this.In fact remember my ears shattering given how loud she sang this when it was played on the radio one day in the car a few years back. Serious devotion along with gloria estafan and lisa stansfield which lasted for about 2 weeks.

    Im very surprised this didnt go into double digits.If anything as you say tom it cememted her place among the greats.its almost like vogue and like a prayer are the angel and devil on the shoulder type records with the blasphemous and dangerous like a prayer with the pitchfork in one hand and vogue being the more accessible and universal record.Not equally good all told.Not a record I would listen to much but wouldnt be be annoyed if it came on the radio either.

    Does this now mean that given madonna has 3 (9) and 1 (10) record that she has the highest ranking overall of all the acts.

  43. 43
    lonepilgrim on 10 Dec 2010 #

    re 42

    I’d put LaP on the side of the angels and this on the other if forced to make that distinction.

    Your last point is a great spot – a reflection of how Madonna fits into Tom’s own pop history rather than ‘the canon’ I would suggest.

  44. 44
    anto on 10 Dec 2010 #

    I find myself in accordance with Billy Smart here. Any notion of Madonna ever matching up to Bette Davies was swept away by er..Swept Away. Coincidentally this entry appears as I find myself a third of the way through Shaun Considines fascinating The Divine Feud. One thing that strikes me about Joan Crawford is just how modern and Madonna-esque her approach to fame seems – frequent changes of image/emphasis, ambition that exceeds but crucially does not dwarf her actual talent, obsession with carnal knowledge ,even being seen very publicly to adopt children. Also if the story about 21-year old Marilyn paying a visit to the Crawford abode and staying for breakfast is true….well the material girl had to be merely content with copying one of her film sequences. Maybe we’ll be spared Madonna starring in a re-make of Mildred Pierce.
    As for Vogue it strikes me as a bit of a fluke. The singer grabbing at several trends at once and somehow binding them together convincingly enough.

    Re: radio programme – I agree about the video for Being Boring. I find it a total mis-match. The Geordie lads and lasses in the So Hard vid look much better fun to party with than Bruce Webbers monochrome narcissists.

  45. 45
    loomer on 10 Dec 2010 #

    Not only did “Vogue” rip off Malcolm McLaren’s “Deep In Vogue” from the previous year – she had actually watched McLaren perform this at a benefit concert she was involved at – but it’s actually kind of a mash-up composite of several songs and influences “Blue Monday”-style.

    The opening verse is from the chorus of Inner City’s “Ain’t Nobody Better”, they complained about her thievery at the time. Most obviously the horns were taken from Salsoul Orchestra’s “Chicago Bus Stop” which Pettibone remixed. And the basic beat of the song is taken from another remix of his, Janet Jackson’s “Miss You Much”. The bassline is also the same as her own “Causing A Commotion”.

  46. 46
    MikeMCSG on 12 Dec 2010 #

    Another name-dropping hit not previously mentioned – Transvision Vamp’s execrable “Born To Be Sold”.

    Looking forwards that “Get Up on the dance floor” bridge to the chorus was lifted wholesale for S Club 7’s “Don’t Stop Movin” which reminds me that its writer Cathy Dennis had a short-lived career recycling this song in the early 90s.

    For all its influence I find it cold and unengaging.

  47. 47
    swanstep on 12 Dec 2010 #

    @loomer, 45. Thanks for those references. Even the Inner City track is new to me, so I guess I was part of the great unwashed mass who got to hear Madonna as effectively originating a lot of stuff that was actually in the air at the time if you were connected to the right scene. I think you’re being a little harsh calling the final item just a mash-up, but your excavations definitely help clarify the exact level at which Madonna and her producers are working, i.e., to streamline things and to impose her lyrics and characteristic obsessions and personality on some existing sound possibilities.

    It’s interesting that after this M. *increasingly* looked to her producer du jour to very explicitly provide a lot of the underlying sound stuff and that they then get album co-writing credits for all. On that front at least Vogue feels transitional: Shep Pettibone is getting the co-writing credit but he isn’t really providing the sounds in the same way Willam Orbit or nellee Hooper or mirwais or stuart price/rhythmes digitales will later do. Rather all these other artists that Pettibone’s heard and/or remixed are providing the sounds, hence their prima facie pretty legit. gripes about thievery to the extent that, e.g., Inner city, aren’t given co-writing credits.

    I recall Public Enemy going pretty ape-shit about not getting payed/credited for the massive sample from them (from ‘Security of the first world’ IIRC) that’s most of Justify My love. But there wasn’t a law-suit about it as far as I know, perhaps because PE lived in a glass house on that front. A messy period for attributions until the mid ’90s was my sense of things. Certainly by the time Daft punk get on the scene, full writing credit for major samples and various sorts of reverse engineerings seemed to be much more widely practised.

  48. 48
    will on 13 Dec 2010 #

    Late on this one, and there’s nothing to add really except that this, for me, is Madonna’s greatest, most enduring Number One. The rap is simply delightful. I love the oh-so prissy way she enunciates the words ‘Jimmy Dean/ on the cover of a magazine.’

  49. 49
    Cumbrian on 13 Dec 2010 #

    re 47: Public Enemy going off on one about Justify My Love is pretty amusing – for one thing Security Of The First World is one of only two tracks on “It Take A Nation Of Millions…” to be devoid of a sample; I think the other is Mind Terrorist. As you point out – glass houses and all that.

    I love PE – both Millions and Fear of a Black Planet are high on my list of great rap albums (and I have a sneaking regard for Apocalypse ’91 too) but the main thing that is amusing about the hypocrisy of their stance on Justify is that quite a few of their lyrics are showing justified anger about the hypocrisy that surrounded them. I wonder if anyone pointed this out to Chuck and The Bomb Squad?

  50. 50
    Lex on 13 Dec 2010 #

    I’ve only just caught up to this, but this is a really strong entry Tom!

  51. 51
    Matthew H on 13 Dec 2010 #

    Speaking of the Pet Shop Boys, I noticed this morning that the intro to Take That’s ‘The Flood’ sounds as if it’s emerging from their ‘The End Of The World’.

    Back on message, that’s another terrific write-up which concisely sums up ‘Vogue”s status as Event Pop. One frivolous observation from me: at the time, this always made me feel “sexy” – a towering achievement with a floppy-fringed 17-year-old boy.

  52. 52
    Mark G on 14 Dec 2010 #

    The same sample used on “Justify My love” is present on a My Bloody Valentine track called “Untitled”, a freebie with “Isn’t Anything”.

  53. 53
    Rory on 15 Dec 2010 #

    My Madonna blind spot, temporarily suspended for “Like a Prayer”, returned with this; even today I’d only give it 6. Intellectually I can concede the fine points you all make, but my heart has never been in it.

  54. 54
    Rory on 15 Dec 2010 #

    Number one in Australia for 5 weeks, by the way, as a double A-side with “Keep It Together”.

  55. 55
    Kit on 17 Dec 2010 #

    does anyone actually have a citation of either Chuck or Hank being angry about the S1W loop? Hank seems more likely, if there’s any truth to it, but it all seems a bit playground chatter from here.

    (Though if it were true, I’d argue that there’s no hypocrisy; the Bomb Squad cut up, played backwards, sped up, slowed down, collaged and rebuilt hundreds of individual samples into their tracks, and did it at home and on cheap overnight rates in grotty studios. Kravitz took a big paycheck and a writing/publishing credit for pitching a single loop down to -7, at a time when the Boxleys were trying to get actual major-label earning work [eg the Sinead remix, Bell Biv Devoe production] and would have been happy for the opportunity to actually create & get paid for something themselves. That’s a reasonable enough cause for irritation.)

  56. 56
    swanstep on 17 Dec 2010 #

    @Kit. It was Hank who was angry. I’ll try to track down a ref. for you (but your google fu is probably at least as good as mine!) [update – here’s an EW piece and here’s a Christgau piece on some of the furore at the time]. IIRC, the pretty sweet payday Kravitz got for not doing very much was part of what irked Shocklee. In interviews too, Kravitz argued something like that it wasn’t a real sample loop because he’d just used some rough tape of ‘Security for the first world’ in the mix, not an ultra-cleaned-up, digitally separated file (and to Kravitz’s credit that lo-fi-ness of the sample, and hearing tape speed up at the beginning on Justify really does add something – but, jesus, it’s still a sample that’s most of the song!). Shocklee wasn’t amused by this at all.

  57. 57
    Kit on 19 Dec 2010 #

    Ha, thanks for the Xgau link – sounds like Shocklee and Stepney saw a great opportunity for publicity far more than there was genuine sustained outrage behind the kerfuffle. Nice to see I guessed right abt what would have kicked it off, though.

  58. 58
    George on 22 Dec 2010 #

    God knows why Joe DiMaggio is mentioned in the pantheon of glamour and style. From what I’ve read about him he was a fairly conservative guy who believed Monroe should dedicate herself to being an housewife first and making sure his linguine was on the table for when he got home from practice. Knowing next to bugger all about Baseball I’ll bow to superior knowledge on this one.

    Madonna was cruising in high gear here but the first real commercial decline of her career wasn’t too far away. She had got away with the furor over the video to ‘Justify My Love’ by releasing it as a VHS single which unsurprisingly sold by the truckload after some broadcasters banned it but the coffee table soft porn of ‘Sex’ plus the sight of Madge receiving cunnilingus from Willem Dafoe on a car bonnet in the dreadful ‘Body Of Evidence’ was too contrived by half. All that however, was a couple of years down the line.

  59. 59
    weej on 22 Dec 2010 #

    In the early 90s I thought for some reason that she sang “Rory Bremner” instead of “Marlon Brando”. No idea why.

  60. 60
    Mutley on 22 Dec 2010 #

    #58 I’m glad you raised the point about DiMaggio. I think this “pantheon” doesn’t hang too well together and raises a lot of questions, at least to an elderly pedant like me. DiMaggio was a great sportsman, but I don’t think he was glamorous. If one sportsman has to be included (and why?), why not pick Sugar Ray Robinson the ultimate glamorous sportsman of the very extended period covered (includes Jean Harlow died 1937, and Lauren Bacall born 1924 and still alive).

    By the way, why Lauren Bacall but not Humphrey Bogart?

    Brando and James Dean brought in a new style of acting that was the antithesis of glamour as shown in the video and represented by some of the other stars listed. It would make more sense to include George Clooney.

    OK, I’m being pedantic, the lyrics of pop songs don’t merit such close scrutiny, and by 1990 all these old stars could be condensed into to a single point in showbiz history that can be labelled glamorous or stylish.

  61. 61
    punctum on 22 Dec 2010 #

    #60: the answer, as with all such things, lies in what will scan and what won’t.

    Kids! What’s your favourite non-“Vogue” song with the words “Joe DiMaggio” in the lyrics? Choose from the following:

    A) “Mrs Robinson” by Simon and Garfunkel;
    B) “Smalltown Agonist” by Carla Bley and Paul Haines;
    C) “We Didn’t Start The Fire” by Billy Joel.

    It could be your chance to write for H&F News!

  62. 62
    Mutley on 22 Dec 2010 #

    #61 I’d vote for (C) because it has a punctilious attention to chronology unlike Vogue.

  63. 63
    Mutley on 22 Dec 2010 #

    #61/62 And (C) mentions Sugar Ray Robinson (which of A,B and C contain the word “Robinson”?)

  64. 64
    vinylscot on 22 Dec 2010 #

    Can we allow mentions of DiMaggio on it’s own so that Tom Waits can win with “A Sight For Sore Eyes”? (After all, that’s all that Madonna said)

  65. 65
    George on 22 Dec 2010 #

    C, which is a great ‘list’ song. Not an easy task to pull off either, but then I’ve never understood the deep contempt much of the UK music press had for Joel. There’s been far worst crimes in pop’s history than singing into a spanner on a music video.

  66. 66
    Steve Mannion on 22 Dec 2010 #

    My favourite bit in the video is when she nudges her potentially show-stealing co-dancer.

    Earlier in the year during round 10 of the Which Decade Is Top For Pops spectacular on FT I quoted DJ Sprinkles/Terre Thaemlitz’s anti-‘Vogue’ rant as featured on his (imo very good) ‘Midtown 120 Blues’ LP from 2009.
    http://freakytrigger.co.uk/which-decade-is-tops-for-pops/2010/06/which-decade-is-tops-for-pops-round-10-the-number-ones/

    Still interested in Mike A’s response to that if he wants to add it here. It’s severely at odds with what Ciaran described at #19 and tho I do recall Frankie Knuckles in that documentary talking about why it was okay to do a remix for the Pet Shop Boys but not Julio Iglesias I’m not sure how inclusive the House pioneers wanted things really.

  67. 67
    DietMondrian on 22 Dec 2010 #

    Another list song from around the same time was The Beloved’s “Hello”, where the list appears truly random. From Wikipedia:

    “In alphabetical order, the people listed in the song are: Jeffrey Archer (politician and novelist), Fred Astaire, Bobby Ball (comedian), Charlie Brown, Tommy Cannon (comedian), Billy Corkhill (soap opera character), Leslie Crowther (TV presenter), “Freddie” Flintstone, Paris Grey (singer), Brian Hayes (broadcaster), Vince Hilaire (footballer), Barry Humphries, The LSO, Kym Mazelle (singer), Mork and Mindy, Little Nell, Charlie Parker, Andre Previn, Little Richard, Salman Rushdie, Jean Paul Sartre, The Supremes (“Mary Wilson, Di and Flo”), William Tell, Sir Bufton Tufton, Desmond Tutu, Willy Wonka, Zippy and Bungle (TV characters). There are also references to “Peter” and “Paul”, presumably the Christian apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Kym Mazelle, who’s mentioned in the song, actually sings backing vocals on it.”

  68. 68
    Steve Mannion on 22 Dec 2010 #

    Let’s not forget the altogether (awesomely) grimmer Big Hard Excellent Fish’s ‘Imperfect List’ from this same year. I’m imagining an awry mash-up of all four now.

    “Hula hoops / Vince Hilaire / Ginger Rogers…focken bastad Thatcher”

  69. 69
    vinylscot on 23 Dec 2010 #

    …and also “Endless Art” by A House from 92, although the people listed were all dead.

  70. 70
    thefatgit on 23 Dec 2010 #

    Oooh! I love list songs!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uR_2wEnqzbU

  71. 71
    swanstep on 23 Dec 2010 #

    Not a list song, but a useful bit of name-dropping: Atari Teenage Riot’s (impossibly attractive when dancing) Hanin announces the millennium in 1992 and the end of marilyn, james dean and everything madonna hails in vogue, in the b-section of the first verse, of atari teenage riot. WHAT DID YOU SAY?

  72. 72
    Billy Smart on 27 Dec 2010 #

    MMWatch: April 7 1990. Bob Stanley was underwhelmed;

    “Another disappointment. Not *bad*, but ‘Vogue’ sounds like it would be the second or third single off a Madonna album (‘Express Yourself’, ‘Dress You Up’) rather than the deluxe, top of the range introductory model (‘Like A Prayer’ ‘Who’s That Girl’). A nod to techno on the rhythm track becomes wholesale robbery on the verse which casually nicks the entire chorus from Inner City’s ‘Ain’t Nobody Better’ and hopes we’re too dumb to notice. The cheek! Even a checklist of hep cats towards the end is tiresomely predictable – “Marylin and Jimmy Dean” etc. Why not Warren Beatty, Sean Penn, it would have been much cooler? Doubtless it’ll sound 10 times better in tandem with the video.”

    Stanley awarded single of the week to ‘The Play EP’ by Ride. Also reviewed that week;

    The Associates – Fever
    Professor Griff & The Last Asiatic Disciples – Pawns In The Game
    Marillion – Easter
    Snuff – Flibbidydibbidydob

  73. 73
    DanielW on 3 Feb 2011 #

    Good, but not her best by a long stretch. The spoken-word part is the highlight of this song for me and the verses are good too, but the chorus is bland and a little stilted in my opinion.

    #72 – Bob Stanley pretty much hit the nail on the head with that review, and I could kick myself for not noticing the similarities between “Vogue” and “Ain’t Nobody Better”

  74. 74
    Davyboyb on 22 Sep 2011 #

    #6 what about the “I” in “That’s why I feel so beautiful….”?

  75. 75
    Cumbrian on 6 Feb 2012 #

    Vogue kicked off Madonna’s Super Bowl half time show last night. Being a keen American football fan, I’ve seen pretty much all these shows going back to the early 90s and I would say that…she was pretty decent. The stage show itself was excellent, amazing on-field graphics augmenting the Vogue and Give Me All Your Luvin’ sections and a healthy amount of spectacle – which really is required for the Half Time show to really work (after all, you’re performing in the round, with most of the audience miles away from you and you also need to provide something for the audience at home too). Also, unlike recent hows from the heritage stars that have come in post the Timberlake/Janet Jackson incident, it did have a tinge of the contemporary in there which I thought made it work a bit better than some recent Half Time shows (Nicky Minaj and MIA being involved was a plus for this I think). It was certainly miles better than Black Eyed Peas last year.

    I think the one major criticism I would have is that Madonna’s choice of footwear was pretty poor – massive high heeled boots – and led to her movement around the stage being quite stilted. I can’t believe I am recommending sensible shoes – but it probably would have made a difference to the energy levels she was able to physically show.

    Quite a bit of the commentariat seem to be harping on her lip-syncing some of this performance. Not bothered by this – apart from anything, no one plays live at the Super Bowl (too many things can go wrong, so apparently acts record the backing track before the night and mime) and I reckon I’ve seen a few of the other acts lip-synching in previous years too – funnily enough when it was aging male rocks stars, this seemed to be tolerated (or at least not noticed). Also, minor controversy, MIA gave the camera a healthy up yours too, which will doubtless raise temperatures in parts of the USA.

    All in all though, pretty decent. In my view, not as good as Prince’s half time show but better than Springsteen’s (and I love Bruce) and a country mile better than Tom Petty’s, Paul McCartney’s and the Black Eyed Peas’ efforts.

    Of course, I’ve only seen it once – this morning whilst trying to catch up with the game before going to work; so I could be talking rubbish. Maybe I should watch it again.

  76. 76
    swanstep on 6 Feb 2012 #

    @Cumbrian. I thought M. did well, the best since Prince. The only really great half-time show before Prince that I’m aware of was U2’s post-9/11 Superbowl show, which had a special unrepeatable vibe. Go here if you haven’t seen it.

  77. 77
    Cumbrian on 6 Feb 2012 #

    Yeah, the U2 one was good. For once, Bono’s love of the grand gesture actually worked out well. Also, as people used to playing large stadia, they’ve got an inbuilt advantage I guess. Given that it was the post 9/11 Super Bowl as well, they judged the performance pretty finely.

    Not surprised to see more people judging that Madonna’s performance wasn’t all that good. A predictable reaction from the point at which she was chosen. I might well watch it again when I get home just to check – but my gut reaction was that it was pretty good.

  78. 78
    Cumbrian on 7 Feb 2012 #

    Minor update: hamstring injury was apparently the cause of Madonna’s awkward movement on Sunday night. Seemed pretty obvious that there was something wrong.

  79. 79
    thefatgit on 7 Feb 2012 #

    Hamstring injuries at sporting events? Whatever next?

  80. 80

    […] Cyrus’s performance at the VMA’s and her music videos are frequently being compared to Madonna’s Vogue video and Gwen Stefani’s use of “Harajuku girls”; essentially, that these white […]

  81. 81
    Patrick Mexico on 11 Nov 2013 #

    From reading certain blogs I had no idea that so many people hated Black Velvet by Alannah Myles. I’m not sure I’m any the wiser as to why, apart from “Black velvet with that little boy smile” isn’t really appropriate in the steamy context of the song. I hear it as “that ladyboy smile”.. can… worms.. opened.

  82. 82
    mrdiscopop on 16 Nov 2014 #

    Tom, I love your reading of the song as “Madonna’s attempt to join a pantheon of pop culture icons” but I wonder if you knew it was originally knocked off in an afternoon as the b-side for Keep It Together (and released in that format in the US, amongst other places). It was only released as a single when dance stations started playing it instead of Shep Pettibone’s rather joyless remix of the a side.

    Madonna was undoubtedly stating her case for inclusion on the pop culture wall of fame. But she was doing so with her role in Dick Tracy (not for the first time overestimating her screen presence). I suspect the role call of famous names in the middle section were the photos she had pinned on her wall in the Warner Bros dressing room. Quite noticeably, she’s not comparing herself to any musicians…

    Still, by fluke or coincidence, she writes her last truly great song of the early 1990s. The single edit and 12″ mix are head and shoulders above the versions on I’m Breathless and The Immaculate Collection, which spoil the song’s immediacy with a dreary extended intro. 9/10

  83. 83
    hectorthebat on 15 Mar 2015 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Arizona Republic (USA) – Madonna’s 30 Best Singles of All Time (2013) 18
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Pause & Play (USA) – Songs Inducted into a Time Capsule, One Track at Each Week
    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (USA)- The Songs That Shaped Rock (Additions 2011)
    Rolling Stone & MTV (USA) – The 100 Greatest Pop Songs Since the Beatles (2000) 19
    Slant (USA) – The 100 Best Singles of the 90s (2011) 10
    Washington Blade (USA) – Top 10 Madonna Songs (2004)
    BBC (UK) – Pop on Trial, Top 50 Songs from the 1990s (2008)
    NME (UK) – The 100 Best Songs of the 1990s (2012) 12
    Q (UK) – The Ultimate Music Collection (2005)
    Sunday Times (UK) – Top 10 Madonna Songs (2007) 4
    Spex (Germany) – The Best Singles of the Century (1999)
    Rock de Lux (Spain) – The 100 Best Songs from 1990 to 1998 (1999) 50
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)
    Porcys (Poland) – The Best Songs of the 1990s (2013) 9
    Village Voice (USA) – Singles of the Year 4
    Face (UK) – Singles of the Year 25
    New Musical Express (UK) – Singles of the Year 27
    Sounds (UK) – Singles of the Year 15
    Spex (Germany) – Singles of the Year 13
    Rock de Lux (Spain) – Songs of the Year 3

  84. 84
    Girl with Curious Hair on 25 Mar 2016 #

    Vogue has this awesome, almost fearful *precision*. The bassline and the house piano riff are merciless: they pound you into submission. Omit needless notes. The rap is delivered in stern Dominatrix tones. Even the video, appropriately monochrome, opens with the dancers straining to hold poses. Everything is as lean and clipped as those dancers’ cheekbones.

    It’s actually a pretty spare arrangement, once you get past the percussion. The bass and keyboard riffs that just keep on circling, tightening, coiling around the listener – they’re what, three notes each? The strings are high, unflinching drones, of the same technique that composers use to build tension in the movies. The stabs of synth are really just extensions of the beat. Is there a chord change in the entire song?

    It’s a leather pencil skirt of a song, really. Restrictive as hell, but the restriction is the whole point, and when it’s done right (which Vogue is), damn it’s sexy. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence that this was very roughly around the time when Madonna was going off into Erotica and the BDSM imagery of Human Nature. Clearly there was something in the water in the early 1990s…

  85. 85
    Adam Puke on 25 Mar 2016 #

    Sex turns militant as a backlash against the squeaky clean post-AIDS pop years? Never thought of it like that before, but as a product of the anything goes immediate pre-AIDS NY clubland era Madonna certainly (briefly) had pop territory to reclaim from the wholesome Kylies/Jasons/New Kids. The new minimalism of ‘restrictive as hell’ house beats (plus their attendant UK tabloid notoriety) arguably provided the perfect platform to reinvent herself, even if the voluminous fashions of the time were the polar opposite of the leather pencil skirt.

    Though Erotica seemed a bit tired to me two years on, and she’d well kicked the arse out of the whole concept (no pun intended) by the time of Human Nature. Haven’t revisited them since, mind.

  86. 86
    Girl with Curious Hair on 25 Mar 2016 #

    I just checked, and apparently there were 5 years between Vogue and Human Nature – I had no idea it was that long! I still think Human Nature is the culmination of something about power and control that Vogue started, in a way.

    Vogue isn’t about sex, textually, but in the context of Madonna’s early career, where sex and its consequences are never far away, I can hear it throbbing through every beat of the song. Madonna is a legitimately Powerful Woman at this point, and it’s her assertiveness (mirrored by the music) that pulls you in.

    Human Nature *is* about sex (or, perhaps more accurately, the puritanical reactions that Madonna encountered when asserting her sexuality) but in the preceding 5 years, M has become defensive, over-eager to provoke, and it harms both song and video. When you’re tying yourself to a chair as latex-clad dancer boys writhe around on the floor about you, well… seduction works better when it’s subtext, I find.

    So yeah, I think Vogue is part of a sex-and-power continuum in M’s work that goes from Like a Virgin through Material Girl and Like a Prayer all the way to the aforementioned Human Nature, which seems to be the end point. After this she discovered mysticism and William Orbit, and sex was out.

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