Zeroing in on this phase of the queen of reinvention
Very few hits can claim the space that Vogue by Madonna has. Vogue (the song), an homage to vogue (the dance style), has cemented its place in history with an impact that cuts through generations and pop culture itself.
Now meaning different things to different people––a night in the club, Paris Is Burning, the whole of Pose season two, Andy Sachs’ outfit montage in The Devil Wears Prada––Vogue, no doubt, will continue to endure and reemerge as it has…30 years and counting.
But what makes Vogue so incredibly iconic? It cannot only be chalked up to Madonna’s steamy momentum in the late ‘80s following the success of her Like a Prayer era. This is where she, as a mainstream figure, used music to be forthcoming about things like sex, power and religion. The birth of Vogue is an account of being in the right place at the right time for the queen of pop. Moreover, it’s a prime example of a subculture flawlessly moving into the mainstream, garnering widespread acceptance.
“The song Vogue was inspired by walking into a nightclub––it may have been the Paradise Garage; I’m not sure––and seeing the Xtravaganza crew basically voguing,” Madonna shared in an iHeartRadio interview in 2019, giving credit to the golden age of New York’s underground ballroom scene. “And I was like, ‘Whoa, what the hell is that?’ And it was just the most amazing thing.”
This night out in New York would spawn the best-selling single of the 1990s, Madonna’s close-knit relationship with vogue dancers Jose Gutierez and Luis Camacho of the House of Xtravaganza and a love for and dedication to the LGBTQ+ community that would span her entire career. Debate about the track’s hits and misses aside, Vogue, as co-writer and co-producer Shep Pettibone put it, is “the song that never ends. You’re forever hearing it.”
As Vogue by Madonna turns 30 this March, here's a look through the many changing phases of the queen of reinvention and her smash-hit through the years.
The Official Music Video
In a black-and-white music video directed by David Fincher (the same man behind Fight Club, Seven, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl), Madonna is seen posing and voguing on a 1920’s art deco set, namely with Jose Gutierez Xtravaganza and Luis Xtravaganza from the Harlem ballroom community. The two members of the House of Xtravaganza are called on to choreograph the dance for the official music video and later go on to join Madonna on the Blond Ambition Tour.
The music video world-premiered on MTV on March 29, 1990 and eventually made a sweep in the decade that followed, placing second in MTV’s “100 Greatest Music Videos Ever Made.” Flash forward to 2019, Vogue became Madonna’s fourth ever music video to surpass 100 million views across four separate decades.
The Blond Ambition Tour
This era is largely defined by what can only be described as an artist-designer match made in heaven. The Blond Ambition Tour is the peak of the Madonna-Jean Paul Gaultier collaboration and the rise to prominence of the famous Jean Paul Gaultier conical bra.
A long way from their first team-up at the 1985 American Music Awards, the 1990’s look is all about the Jean Paul Gaultier corset top with the cone bra paired with a striking red lip, Madonna’s thin power brow and either tight blonde curls or a tight braided high ponytail.
The 1990 MTV Awards
Jumping six months ahead (by this time, Vogue has spent 24 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #1 in May 1990), Madonna appears on the stage of the Video Music Awards with a full-blown ballroom production a la 18th century France.
Apart from this now-famous performance, Madonna dominates the awards show itself, bagging Best Direction in a Video, Best Editing in a Video and Best Cinematography in a Video for Vogue.
The Sticky & Sweet Tour in 2008
The early aughts of Madonna’s Hard Candy era (Madge’s revival of the leotard-and-high-boot combo while revealing her affinity for the cowboy hat) is introduced by her eighth concert tour, The Sticky & Sweet Tour. This is noted as the highest-grossing tour by a female artist and the tenth highest-grossing tour ever.
This would be the first time since the Re-Invention World Tour in 2004 that Vogue is performed in concert as a mash-up with her 2008 hit and collaboration with Timbaland and Justin Timberlake 4 Minutes.
The 2012 Super Bowl
One hundred and fourteen million viewers tuned in on February 5, 2012 to catch Madonna’s live performance at the Super Bowl XLVI: a five-track culmination of the icon’s body of work that kicks off with Vogue and an army of gladiators.
Here, the 53-year-old dons a headdress by Phillip Treacy and jewelry by Bulgari and once again recruits Givenchy’s creative director Riccardo Tisci (who had worked with the pop icon on her Sticky & Sweet tour costume) for the elaborate half time looks.
Madonna at 61, Vogue at 30 and still a lot more to come. Until then, another tribute to another industry great: Tap to see why this writer has named Taylor Swift her woman of the decade.
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver