“Vogue,” a groundbreaking house song by Madonna, set the stage for dance music trends in the 1990s while drawing inspiration from 1970s disco. The track features a spoken section, name-checking iconic Hollywood stars from the Golden Age, and underscores themes of escapism and self-expression.
This analysis delves into the song’s composition, inspiration, and cultural impact as it continues to resonate with audiences worldwide.
Before we delve into the story behind this song, let’s take a closer look at each verse of the lyrics.
“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”
In the opening verse, Madonna acknowledges the universal experience of heartache and the desire to escape life’s pain. She offers a solution through dance, specifically by finding solace on the dance floor. The lyrics suggest that dancing can be a form of therapy, allowing people to momentarily forget their troubles and feel empowered.
“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”
The chorus encourages listeners to let loose and “vogue” – a reference to the dance style popularized in the New York City underground ballroom scene, which involved striking poses inspired by high-fashion magazine covers. By “moving to the music” and “going with the flow,” the lyrics promote self-expression and the importance of losing oneself in the rhythm.
“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”
In the second verse, Madonna highlights the power of imagination and dreams as tools for self-discovery. She stresses that anyone, regardless of race or gender, can be a “superstar” when they embrace their creativity and connect with the music. This message of inclusivity and the transformative power of music serves as a call to action for listeners to believe in their potential.
“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”
The bridge emphasizes that beauty can be found in unexpected places and experiences, transcending superficial expectations. By asserting that “soul is in the musical,” Madonna conveys that true beauty and magic lie in the emotional connection with music and the sense of freedom it provides.
“Greta Garbo and Monroe
Dietrich and DiMaggio
Ladies with an attitude
Fellas that were in the mood
Don’t just stand there, let’s get to it
Strike a pose,
there’s nothing to it
In the outro, Madonna pays tribute to various cultural icons, including Greta Garbo, Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, and Joe DiMaggio. These figures embodied glamour, style, and grace, making them ideal inspirations for the art of voguing. The lyrics serve as a reminder of the power of self-expression and the impact that legendary artists and performers have on society.
The outro’s closing lines, “Don’t just stand there, let’s get to it / Strike a pose, there’s nothing to it,” act as a rallying cry for listeners to embrace their inner superstar and express themselves without hesitation or fear.
True Meaning Behind “Vogue”
Madonna credits the New York City nightlife scene, particularly the voguing dance style performed by the Xtravaganza crew, as the inspiration behind “Vogue.” This dance phenomenon originated in the city’s underground ballroom scene, where marginalized communities found a space to express themselves and celebrate their unique identities.
The song’s lyrics encourage people to enjoy themselves on the dance floor, regardless of their background or circumstances. This message of inclusivity and escapism resonated with audiences, propelling “Vogue” to become a defining anthem of the era.
While many within the ballroom community praised Madonna for shedding light on the voguing culture, others criticized her for profiting from an already marginalized community. The debate surrounding the song’s potential cultural appropriation is explored in the FX series “Pose,” which delves into the intricacies of ballroom culture and the challenges faced by its members.
Despite these controversies, “Vogue” remains a classic dance hit, appearing in remixed forms on three of Madonna’s greatest hits compilations: The Immaculate Collection (1990), Celebration (2009), and Finally Enough Love (2022).
Madonna’s iconic “Vogue” music video that was directed by the talented David Fincher. It was filmed in February 1990 in Burbank, California and features an amazing Art Deco-themed set. The video also showcases a tribute to Hollywood’s golden era stars with reenactments of famous photos, including Horst P. Horst’s works.
In the video, Madonna and her talented dancers perform an unforgettable vogue dance routine while also mimicking the iconic poses of Hollywood’s elite. Madonna, of course, wears some of the most memorable outfits of all time, such as the sheer lace dress and the infamous “cone bra.”
The video was a hit and garnered nine MTV Video Music Awards nominations, winning three, including Best Direction. It’s no surprise that it was also ranked as the second greatest music video ever made by MTV. With over 100 million views across four decades, it’s clear that this video is a timeless classic that never gets old.
Madonna’s “Vogue” song is an absolute gem that has stood the test of time. This iconic track has inspired countless dance moves and has become a beloved classic for celebrating the queer and minority communities. It’s no wonder that so many music critics have praised its influence on bringing “vogueing” into the mainstream and for spotlighting elements from the queer, Black, and Latino-led ballroom scene.
Not only has “Vogue” made a significant impact on music history, but it has also helped bring house and disco music back into popular culture. Decades after its release, “Vogue” remains a popular anthem, inspiring flash mobs, rhythmic gymnastics routines, and even newer songs. It’s remarkable how Madonna’s impact on the music industry and her unapologetic celebration of queer life continue to be remembered and celebrated.
“Vogue” is an absolute classic, and it continues to inspire people around the world. Madonna’s legacy is nothing short of legendary, and her contributions to the music industry will always be remembered.
Madonna’s “Vogue” transcended musical and cultural boundaries, ushering in a new era of dance music while paying homage to its disco roots. The song’s themes of escapism and self-expression, coupled with its infectious melody, continue to inspire generations of listeners and dancers alike. As the debate surrounding the song’s cultural impact persists, one thing remains clear: “Vogue” stands as an emblematic testament to the power of music to unite and empower diverse communities.