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New Discogs Spotlight page for Madonna: Strike a Pose!


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The Culture Behind Madonna’s ‘Vogue’
In the spring of 1990, Madonna’s career and creativity were on an upward trajectory. She had successfully made the transition from ’80s pop star to global megabrand. The singer’s style and music videos — where she questioned, pushed, and confronted societal norms — played a huge role in her rise to international fame. In her early years, she accomplished this through her overt sexuality — but Madonna was not simply eye candy.

Madonna’s Coat of Armor
While she became synonymous with the “underwear as outerwear” trend, Madonna transformed the daring look into a coat of armor. Madonna’s fashion and attitude were about showing strength and confidence and celebrating her authentic self. Madonna was all about questioning gender and expectations, whether by strutting around proudly in masculine attire or piling on yet another rosary.

By the start of the ’90s, the stage was set for Madonna to drop “Vogue,” and once again change mainstream dance floors. She was already a household name, still had a controversial edge, and was dating renowned ladies’ man Warren Beatty.

The two were making the movie Dick Tracy together, with Madonna supplying the accompanying soundtrack. Producer Shep Pettibone was brought in to work on a song for the album and had previously worked with the singer on several remixes and “Like A Prayer.” It was a quick job — Pettibone wrote the backing music in less than two weeks on a shoestring budget of $5,000.

B-Side Beginnings
Legend has it that Madonna had been clubbing at New York’s Sound Factory when she first saw young men on the dance floor striking poses. After receiving Pettibone’s track, Madonna quickly penned the lyrics inspired by the experience and recorded her vocals in a tiny, 24-track basement studio on West 56th Street.

Pettibone later said that the singer laid down all her parts quickly, in order, and often in a single take. The rap in the middle of the song — name-checking famous golden era celebrities — was conceived on the spot as Pettibone and Madonna made a list of their favorites before the singer put them to tape. By the time Pettibone had finished compiling the song, it had been just three from conception to completion.

“Vogue” was supposed to be the B-side for the next Like A Prayer single, “Keep It Together.” However, the plan was scrapped once Madonna’s record label heard the tracks disco soul. Though it had no clear relation to Dick Tracy, aside from the Ciccone connection, the single was added to the movie’s soundtrack. “Vogue” became a global No. 1 hit, reaching the top spot in over 30 countries. It was also the best-selling single of that year with more than two million copies sold.

The song was much more than fun chart fodder. Its significance went beyond any of Madonna’s previous endeavors and introduced gay culture to the masses. The dancing the singer had seen on a night out was much more than a bunch of men having fun; it was a snapshot of an entire scene in New York, mostly among the Black and Latino LGBTQ+ communities. The dance that was immortalized in Madonna’s song was just one small part of Ball culture.

For the unfamiliar, a ball consists of various categories people can enter and compete in. Each is based on being the epitome of stereotypes and classes, allowing participants to satirize the frameworks of gender and social mobility while providing an escape from their realities. Lip-synching, dancing, and modeling are also part of each contestant’s walk, with trophies and prizes awarded to the best and “most real” in each category. For those who may have been discarded or disowned by their birth families, Ballroom culture created a space of acceptance.

The Pop Song as an Anthem
Though “Vogue” was released in 1990, Ballroom culture has deep roots dating back to 1920s Harlem when it was unlawful to wear clothes that belonged to the opposite gender. Although early balls were integrated, segregation was still prevalent, and non-white performers were banned from being judges while category winners were almost exclusively white. Rejection from their communities encouraged minority groups to form their own events.

In the past several years, Madonna has faced criticism for co-opting gay culture. However, when “Vogue” dropped, the AIDS epidemic was in full swing. Gay people were feared and reproached in straight communities, framed by the media as spreaders of a devastating plague, and made to seem dangerous. When gay people were portrayed in media, they were often the punchline of the joke or demonized. “Vogue” changed some of that. The music video, starring unapologetically gay dancers played a small part in dampening the public health fear as one of the few pieces of mainstream media not to diminish the community.

Madonna’s magic at hiding her message and meaning in plain sight of heterosexual acceptability allowed her to create something that laid the groundwork for so much that came after. Similarly, the Ballroom scene not only laid the groundwork for “Vogue”, but for countless other pieces of media.





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11 hours ago, Blue Jean said:

His song was cool but it didn't have the same commercial appeal. Madonna was a superstar at that time and a crafty pop songwriter.

He goes on to thank Madonna for proving him right.
it's on YouTube somewhere
His record was released a year before Madge's.
And it's not like she's ever copied anything in her life.
So titter way Angelo.

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1990 was really a tough year for Madonna when it came about plagiarism accusations I must admit...

But much before McLaren and Chavez, The Slits came in the line... remember Like an Icon biography???

"I am nothing without the art of others." - guess who said that????

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