Single Review: Madonna “Vogue”

Album: I’m Breathless
Year: 1990

According to Queer, Marlon Riggs began “vogue” as a commentary on how black gay men were perceived and to celebrate the community which dance created. Vogue-ing was first featured in the 1989 art film, “Tongues Untied.” Riggs snaps his fingers and strikes exaggerated fashion runaway poses. Billie Holiday and Nina Simone provide the soundtrack as well as poets Essex Hemphill and Joseph Beam.

In the intelligent and foxy “Vogue,” Madonna glosses over the commentary and focuses on the movement.

At the start, Madonna notices some people giving her strange looks a she vogues. She scolds for them being judgemental. The strings dim the dancefloor, building anticipation and creating a theatrical tone. Fingers snap in the background as the drum is tapped softly. After several seconds, Madonna tells people to pose like a model. After a pause, she tells people to do another pose. She then whispers the dance craze. (“Strike a pose/Strike a pose/Vogue, vogue, vogue/Vogue, vogue, vogue.”)

In the first verse, she says people are disappointed in their lives and try to find a way to break free from their unhappiness and choices made. She recommends people go the nearest club. (“Look around everywhere you turn is heartache/It’s everywhere that you go (look around)/You try everything you can to escape/The pain of life that you know (life that you know)/When all else fails and you long to be/Something better than you are today/I know a place where you can get away/It’s called a dance floor, and here’s what it’s for, so.”)

In the chorus, she sings that the dance floor was made for people to pretend that they are larger in life. She urges people not to be shy and to go with the rhythm. The dance is whatever people want it to be. (“Come on, vogue/Let your body move to the music (move to the music)/Hey, hey, hey/Come on, vogue/Let your body go with the flow (go with the flow)/You know you can do it.”)

She tells people to be creative in the second verse. Mediocrity is unacceptable. People need to be outrageous and campy in their moves. If they have ever wished to grace the red carpet or be a on the cover of a fashion magazine is something they could use for inspiration. The dance is for everybody. It’s colorblind and genderless. It’s the music that matters. Madonna, like a fashion photographer, tells people they are the objects of attention now. (“All you need is your own imagination/So use it that’s what it’s for (that’s what it’s for)/Go inside, for your finest inspiration/Your dreams will open the door (open up the door)/It makes no difference if you’re black or white/If you’re a boy or a girl/If the music’s pumping it will give you new life/You’re a superstar, yes, that’s what you are, you know it.”)

She tells people to look beyond the superficial. She finds personality and originiality in the musicals. They make her feel sophiscated and like the toast of the town. She revels in glamour and attempts to get more people dancing. (“Beauty’s where you find it/Not just where you bump and grind it/Soul is in the musical/That’s where I feel so beautiful/Magical, life’s a ball/So get up on the dance floor.”)

After the chorus is the famous bridge. First, she repeats “vogue” and the phrase “beauty’s where you find it.” (“Vogue, (Vogue)/Beauty’s where you find it (move to the music)/Vogue, (Vogue)/Beauty’s where you find it (go with the flow.”) She says it can be found in the golden era of Hollywood. She lists legendary actors and actresses of the time period who exuded class, feistiness, mystery, and charm. (“Greta Garbo, and Monroe/Deitrich and DiMaggio/Marlon Brando, Jimmy Dean/On the cover of a magazine/Grace Kelly; Harlow, Jean/Picture of a beauty queen/Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire/Ginger Rodgers, dance on air/They had style, they had grace/Rita Hayworth gave good face/Lauren, Katherine, Lana too/Bette Davis, we love you/Ladies with an attitude/Fellows that were in the mood/Don’t just stand there, let’s get to it/Strike a pose, there’s nothing to it.”)

The splashy house keyboards take center stage as Madonna instructs everyone to vogue and to move on the dancefloor. (“Vogue, vogue/Oooh, you’ve got to/Let your body move to the music/Oooh, you’ve got to just/Let your body go with the flow.”)

As Madonna says, “you’ve got to just,” the keyboards throb for several aggressive seconds. Then, they are as quickly silenced when Madonna says “vogue.”

Listeners are given the gist of vogue-ing. Madonna, however, maintains the dance as community which was part of the original concept.


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