Monday, May 31, 2010
Madonna Music Video Monday: Vogue
On this last Monday and day of May, the music video selection is my second favourite Madonna song (and all-time favourite Madonna music video): "Vogue." It was the #1 song in America twenty years ago around this time. I was crazy about it when it first started getting radio airplay and I have never grown tired of this song in all the hundreds of times I've heard it. It has an intriguing melody / sound, with some interesting lyrics. If I were to wager a guess, I would bet that she was partially influenced by Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" because like that incredible song, Madonna utilizes a list of names in clever rhyming schemes. For example: "Greta Garbo and Monroe, Dietrich and DiMaggio / Marlon Brando, Jimmy Dean on the cover of a magazine..."
Back in May 1990, I remember that the radio station I listened to (Power 99 in Atlanta GA) introduced Madonna's "new single." It was called "Supernatural." * I only heard it once and I thought it was merely okay. Then, they started playing "Vogue", which was the first single off of her Dick Tracy companion album called I'm Breathless. I read that this single was supposed to be included on Madonna's year end release (her first greatest hits album), but they tacked it on to her album of torch songs and 30s-style standards. Its an odd inclusion. "Vogue" certainly does not have anything to do with the movie Dick Tracy, in which Madonna had a supporting role as Breathless Mahoney, the Mafia siren who tries to get interrogated by dectective Dick Tracy. Practically all of her lines have sexual innuendo.
When the album came out, I thought it was great at the time. It was quite unusual and different. She continued with the Betty Boop-ish mannerisms of her "Santa Baby" remake in 1987. However, this album has not aged well, and I now consider it to be her worst one. Its such a joke to listen to now. Only three songs appeared in the actual film, the rest was supposedly "inspired" by the film. I'll do a special Flashback Friday for the film itself later in June.
At the time "Vogue" came out, I remember thinking about Irene Cara's tribute song to another dance phenomenon: "Breakdancing." However, that song is practically forgotten, while "Vogue" still gets radio play on adult contemporary radio stations as well as featured in a hit movie (2006's The Devil Wears Prada). There is just something compelling about this song. I had never heard of "Vogue-ing" nor have I ever seen people actually do it. Probably because its a dance that originated in gay clubs. Madonna secured her place as a gay icon with this single. In the music video, it's interesting that the dancers you see are the ones you get to know if you've ever watched her Truth or Dare documentary. They aren't nice people.
After this single, it would be a couple years before Madonna returned with another awesome single. In the meantime, she took a strange detour into perverse sexual fantasy with provocative songs filled with dirty rhythms and explicit lyrics. Some of it was catchy, but nothing in the twenty years since comes close to the perfection of "Vogue." Its her true masterpiece.
* "Supernatural" later appeared as one of the songs on the 1992 charitable album, Red Hot and Dance, which also featured three singles by George Michael. To this day, I find "Supernatural" to be one of Madonna's silliest songs (up there with "Cry Baby" and "Hanky Panky"). Its a good thing that "Vogue" pre-empted "Supernatural" as the single to release and promote in May 1990.