644. ‘Vogue’, by Madonna

What’re you looking at? snaps Madonna at the start of her seventh, and perhaps most iconic number one. You of course, Madge. You.

Vogue, by Madonna (her 7th of thirteen #1s)

4 weeks, from 8th April – 6th May 1990

At this point, Madonna was hitting at a rate of one #1 per year. 1989’s chart-topper, ‘Like a Prayer’, gave us Madonna the shocker, the church baiting provocateuse. 1990’s chart-topper was the other side of her coin: Madonna the trend-setter, the cultural chameleon (or bandwagon jumper, if you’re not a fan…) For she was off to the ballrooms of Harlem…

‘Vogueing’ as a dance movement had grown there during the 1980s, among black and Latino gay communities. The sudden, sharp movements were supposed to be an impersonation of Egyptian hieroglyphs, or of a star changing poses in a photoshoot for, yes, ‘Vogue’. Madonna had been introduced to it by her own dancers and choreographers. (*Insert complaints about Madonna milking the gay community for her own commercial advantage* Not that I’d at all agree: this was perhaps the start of ‘gay’ culture going mainstream, at the height of the AIDS epidemic, and Madge has always been open about her support of LGBTs.)

Like ‘The Power’, the record it replaced at the top, ‘Vogue’s slick house rhythm doesn’t sound instantly danceable. But it creeps up on you, until two minutes in you realise that you’re shimmying. The tinny drums that lead up to each verse and chorus are very Hi-NRG (dare we say, very SAW?) and the short sharp horn blasts keep you on your feet. By the time she yells the Get up on the dancefloor! line, you’re there. Meanwhile the lyrics are fairly generic dance: Let your body move to the music… You’re a superstar, That’s what you are… etc. etc.

Of course many people at the time, unfamiliar with gay ballroom culture, would have assumed that the title referred to the fashion magazine. Madonna nods to that too, in the spoken word section, as she lists various women with an attitude and fellas who were in the mood from Hollywood’s golden age, on the cover of a magazine. And, just in case this record wasn’t gay enough, it includes the line: They had style, They had grace, Rita Hayworth, Gave good face…

Unlike ‘Like a Prayer’, ‘Vogue’ isn’t from a classic album. It’s the final track, tacked on to ‘I’m Breathless’: the soundtrack to the prohibition-era movie ‘Dick Tracy’. The follow-up single was the ridiculous ‘Hanky Panky’ (nothing like a good spanky!) But ‘Vogue’ has long-outlasted both album and film, to rank alongside Madonna’s very best songs. Whereas I didn’t enjoy listening to ‘Like a Prayer’ as much as I thought I would; the past hour has brought me to realise just how good ‘Vogue’ really is.

Believe it or not, this is the last we’ll be hearing from Madonna for eight whole years. She only has two #1s in the 1990s (while she has as many in the ‘00s as she managed in the ‘80s). Not that she’s going anywhere: aside from those two #1s, the decade will bring her a staggering twenty-two Top 10 hits, including four #2s. And ‘Vogue’, a number one in thirty countries and to date her biggest-seller worldwide, kicked it all off.


12 thoughts on “644. ‘Vogue’, by Madonna

  1. I’m not a huge Madonna fan – some of her songs are really really great while others are really really bad – but this song is freaking great. A close-to-perfect pop song with a healthy dosage of disco.

  2. Vogue is iconic still and coming on the back of her best album to date at that time. Dick Tracy had some very nice 40s-styled songs on it like Sooner Or Later, but the film was poor and the godawful Hanky Panky was a huge mistake. I saw that tour, circa 1990 one of the best I’ve seen, she was on fire. Broadcast live on Radio 1 from Wembley. I fondly recall the Beeb giving her advice not to use the F word which of course was a reg flag to a bull as she knocked up the largest total of F bombs in broadcasting history.

    Madonna doesn’t take advice on how she should behave or look…thankfully 🙂

  3. “last we’ll be hearing from Madonna for eight whole years”…. hmmmm…. thats some good news!
    You know…I tried to like her…I really did…and I do like Borderline…but that is it…period.

  4. Her first album was interesting. Her second album was obnoxious except for Love Don’t Live Here Anymore, a song sung by Lisa Hartman on Knots Landing. Her 3rd album was decent. She shifted gears and changed her style. La Isla Bonita is a fave of mine. The 4th album lost me, again. She went into “obnoxious” territory, again. The 5th album, I know nothing about. Same with the 6th album. Her 7th album caught my attention. She was a mom by then and she shifted gears, again. Frozen is my fave Madonna song. Her 8th album wasn’t bad. I enjoyed “Music.” She moved into a country flair. The 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th & 14th albums…no clue. Her “Evita” music was good (she’d finally gotten some voice training) and many of her soundtrack pieces in movies are good (thinking of A League of Their Own & Desperately Seeking Susan).

    At this point, I want her to go away. She is a complete freak, now.

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