Always in Vogue
IN THIS PHOTO: Madonna as ‘Madame X’ in 2019/PHOTO CREDIT: @Madonna
are negative or have some sort of bitter edge, it was a relief seeing the news that she has broken a music record! Madonna is no stranger to breaking records and, as the most-successful female recording artist ever, she has definitely achieved a hell of a lot. The video for her iconic 1990 hit, Vogue, passed one-hundred million views on YouTube recently and that set a new record: she is the only female artist who has passed one-hundred million views on YouTube for videos covering four decades. Her 1990s’ achievement was long-overdue because, to me, there are no finer Madonna videos than Vogue. Tone Deaf have reported the news:
“Madonna, the iconic pop star of almost every decade since she began music, has officially become the first female artist to reach 100 million views on music videos from 4 different decades.
In case you’re wondering what exactly those videos are, we will be breaking down all four videos, which reached pinnacles of success in their time.
The videos are:
80s: ‘La Isla Bonita’
00s: ‘Hung Up’
10s: ‘Bitch I’m Madonna’
It is hard to explain why these particular videos reached one-hundred million views whereas some of her other hits – including Material Girl and Frozen – have not garnered more.
It is true, Bitch I’m Madonna (from 2015’s Rebel Heart) is not one of her strongest songs but it is a fantastic video that shows Madonna in strong and defiant mood! Featuring Nicki Minaj, the track is lifted by an incredible video that is full of colour and strut. Vogue, which I shall get to in a bit, is her defining moment in terms of visuals; Hung Up (from 2005’s Confessions on a Dance Floor) is another brash and eye-catching video where the newly-revived Disco queen – Madonna suffered some critical loss and disappointment with her 2003 album, American Life – caught the imagination and drew people in. Not only do these huge videos like La Isla Bonito show Madonna has kept her fans and her videos prove popular to this day but she has also recruited new generations. A lot of modern artists have a very tight demographic or appeal to a certain core. Look at a lot of the biggest artists and you can appreciate one or two of their songs but you feel the music is marketed to a particular age group and taste. With Madonna, she never imposed limits. I am in my thirties but have followed her music from the start – well, I was born in 1983 but I discovered her debut album when I was in school. Her eponymous debut is a great Pop record that sounds completely effortless and absorbing today.
La Isla Bonita is from 1986’s True Blue and, to me, that album remains underrated. It preceded 1989’s Like a Prayer but, on True Blue, Madonna proved she was a fearless and pioneering artist who was pushing boundaries and making epic music to match! Papa Don’t Preach might be a more recognisable single from True Blue but there is something undeniably seductive and beautiful when one watches La Isla Bonita. It is clear a new generation are falling for videos like La Isla Bonita because, not only do the visuals capture the mind and compel repeated viewings, but the music is indelible, universal and instantly accessible. I asked whether there was a link between her four one-hundred-million-topping videos and whether all those views came from those of the same generation. Unlike, as I said, so many new stars, Madonna’s fans span the spectrum in terms of age and nationality. I think all four of the songs that have reached this milestone and very different and, perhaps, that is why they have proved popular. If the ‘newer’ videos, Bitch I’m Madonna and Hung Up, maybe speak to younger audiences, perhaps La Isla Bonita and Vogue are for people like me: those who have charted Madonna career for years and gravitate towards those classic videos. The evocativeness of La Isla Bonita and black-and-white brilliance of Vogue are very different when matched against the neon Bitch I’m Madonna and the dancefloor call of Hung Up.
A lot of Madonna’s videos have racked up millions of views and I think the reason her videos remain essential and span the generations is because of the imagery. Madonna does not restrict herself when it comes to plots, visuals and pace. Some of her videos have employed a lot of energy and colour whereas Vogue relies on something simpler and classic. I guess the changing and eclectic videos match the music: Madonna has never stood still and always offers a new side of her with every album. With her latest album, Madame X, out in the ether, who is to say one of the videos release from that album cannot reach one-hundred million views in years to come? I want to end with the video from the group of four which will break all records. Vogue is the video that seems to epitomise Madonna’s legacy and brilliance. Vogue was shot in black-and-white and remains one of the most memorable music videos ever. Rather than describe the video myself, here is the Wikipedia article on Vogue’s video:
“The black-and-white video, set in Art Deco-themed 1920s and 1930s surroundings, starts off showing different sculptures, works of art, as well as Madonna's dancers posing. Along with this are images of a maid and a butler cleaning up inside what seems to be a grand house. When the dance section of the song starts, Madonna turns around, and, similarly to the lyrics, strikes a pose. The video progresses, and images of men with fedoras, Madonna wearing the controversial sheer lace dress and other outfits, follow.
As the chorus begins, Madonna and her dancers start to perform a vogue dance routine, where she sings the chorus as her dancers mime the backing vocals. After this, other scenes of Madonna in different outfits and imitations of golden-era Hollywood stars progresses, after which there is a scene with Madonna's dancers voguing. Finally, after this scene, Madonna can be seen wearing her iconic "cone bra", after which she also performs a dance routine with a fellow dancer. As the rap section begins, different clips of Madonna posing in the style of famous photographs or portraits of Hollywood stars, begins, ultimately followed by a choreographed scene with her dancers and backup singers.
MTV placed the video at second on their list of "100 Greatest Music Videos Ever Made" in 1999. In 1993, Rolling Stone magazine listed the video as the twenty-eighth best music video of all-time. Also, the same magazine listed "Vogue" as the #2 music video of all time in 1999 second only to Michael Jackson's Thriller. It was also ranked at number five on "The Top 100 Videos That Broke The Rules", issued by MTV on the channel's 25th anniversary in August 2006. It was the third time Fincher and Madonna collaborated on a video (the first being 1989's "Express Yourself" and the second being 1989's "Oh Father"). About.com listed as the best Madonna video.
With the release of the song, Madonna brought the underground "vogueing" into mainstream culture. Before Madonna popularized the dance, vogue was performed mostly in bars and disco of New York City on the underground gay scene. Steven Canals, the co-creator of TV series Pose stated "If we're looking at the history of ballroom and specifically that moment in time, what Madonna did was bring ballroom to the mainstream.
She introduced the world to this community who, up until that point in time, had been a subculture." Vogueing has since become a prominent dance form practised worldwide, and many performers have followed Madonna's footsteps, with Beyoncé, Rihanna, Ariana Grande and Azealia Banks all adopting the dance style and incorporating it into their music videos and performances.
However, some critique stems from the possible exploitation of an underground Queer Culture for commercial gain, as feminist writer Nicole Akoukou Thompson notes for the Latin Post, Madonna had "taken a very specifically queer, transgender, Latino and African-American phenomenon and totally erased that context with her lyrics." 
The song is also noted for bringing house music into mainstream popular music, as well as for reviving disco music after a decade of its commercial death. Erick Henderson of Slant Magazine explained that the song "was instrumental in allowing disco revivalism to emerge, allowing the denigrated gay genre to soar once again within the context of house music, the genre disco became in its second life." Sal Cinquemani of the same publication wrote that the song was "making its impact all the more impressive (it would go on to inspire a glut of pop-house copycats) and begging the question: If disco died a decade earlier, what the fuck was this big, gay, fuscia drag-queen boa of a dance song sitting on top of the charts for a month for?"”.
Vogue was the last of the four videos to top one-hundred millions views and, whilst I am surprised it was the fourth one to reach this milestone, it shows that Madonna’s iconic videos and generation-spanning work never go out of fashion. The indefatigable and iconic Queen of Pop can move, strike a pose and create truly incredible videos…
IN THIS PHOTO: Madonna in her Vogue video (which was directed by David Fincher)
LIKE no-one else.