FUN

Updated: Feb 20

It went to Number One, apparently everywhere, it inspires one gay man in three (according to our so-called "research") to get up and wave their arms about like demented windmills (the other big gay offender being Evita, which induces the homosexual lifting and dropping of arms in repeated Eva Peron pleading and imploring) and it is fun.

Madonna.
Joyous, cool & desirable, prepare to vogue.

Some may find it a slightly embarrassing reminder of what the change from the 80s to the 90s was like (i.e. a bit of a deranged party) and thus is to be avoided, but for others, it remains a stunning and invigorating treat: Vogue is popular particularly with young children, drunken women and gay men, and so it should be: Vogue is a blast.


For those not in the know, Vogue was a 1990 hit for Madonna that floated off the back of the less than impressive I’mBreathless album. Madonna may well have been breathless (she certainly sounded it on the faux swing album, though that might have had something to do with having Warren Beatty’s hands down her bra when it was being recorded - probably), but the album was decidedly underwhelming.


And as for the movie it was draped over - Calling Dick Tracy?


No, nobody did.


So the song was, from the very start, something of a cuckoo in the soundtrack nest, and, with its Italiano piano and studio horns (not to mention that hysterical and hysterically programmed drum track), it was destined for the disco, the club, the teenage bedroom and the radio from the minute it entered our ears.

Originally a B-side to Keep It Together, Vogue was partly inspired by vogueing, the dance that for a brief moment found itself in the middle of the media spotlight. Vogueing was (mainly) performed by black gay men, essentially in New York night clubs, and brought together a series of complex hand gestures in imitation of favoured Hollywood movie stars, as well as the fashion models on the cover of Vogue magazine - the idea being to turn the arch and artfully arranged artifice of glamour and its lineage back to the golden age of Hollywood into the fluid present.


Or something like that. On-screen voguing looked great; dramatic, exciting and so masterfully arranged. In real life, it usually resulted in a jab in the eye. It was popular and everyone was doing it.


What vogueing also, of course, was gay men pouting, preening and being a little bit ridiculous, fawning over expertly produced photographs of women. Eternal values, valueless clichés and the fodder that Madonna has always fed off; it came, it was a giggle, it got tramped by hip hop and - whoosh - it was largely gone from the public consciousness.

What the craze left behind was Vogue, the song.


Never one to ignore an underground movement, Madonna brought vogueing into the mainstream and built her little disco smash around it. Chart success, finger movements and pointy bras followed, and hilarity duly ensued. Not so for the original voguers, perhaps, who watched their sometimes art go commercial and then burn out in the media glare that would follow.


But that’s showbusiness.


Aided by a single version and an extended remix (as well as a fondly remembered black and white video directed by David Fincher) the song went to Number One in every territory in which it was released. In the UK it stayed there for four weeks and in the US reached platinum status. In Australia, it was released as a double A-Side to Keep It Together, and yes, it went to Number One there as well.


One of the much-quoted novelties of the song is in its listing of Hollywood stars mid-way through; Greta Garbo, Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, Joe DiMaggio, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Grace Kelly, Jean Harlow, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Rita Hayworth, Lauren Bacall, Katharine Hepburn and Lana Turner, Bette Davis: What a lot of camp old nonsense.


The success of Vogue did, however, lift the sales of I'm Breathless (you see, it does work) and, combined with Madonna's Blond Ambition Tour, generated massive publicity for Dick Tracy.


As a song and a single, it remains a reminder of what happens when Madonna kicks off her slippers and starts throwing her arms around (i.e. it’s wonderful). You want to dance along with her when she gets going like this.


In fact, you feel you have no choice but to join in her dance, no matter how ridiculous it may actually make you feel (and vogueing has to be as ridiculous it gets).


As a moment it’s perhaps less than wonderful, in the round.


1990 was one of the (many) tipping points for Madonna; somewhere between the critical and commercial success of the still moving Like A Prayer album and the stultifying over-production of Erotica.


It was a chance for the woman to spin her heels at the end of the Cold War and before the Age of Terror.


Gulf War One was in gear (Gulf War Two was a nightmare yet to unfold).


There were better times to be dancing and prancing around.


And there would be worse.

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