Vogue - Madonna
“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”
Where’s the meaning?
People tend to build their own spaces where they feel more comfortable within their own self expression. The song Vogue by Madonna, which was written in 1990, is about that kind of created space. This song was influenced by the underground gay club scene in New York that Madonna frequented as she became a household name and movie icon.
Professionally, this period in her life was marked by the filming of Dick Tracy and when she started working on new music that ultimately became the album “I’m Breathless”. Vogue was written based on an analogy that she developed and subscribed to in her personal life: the idea of open secrecy. This concept of open secrecy stems from feelings of being outside of the status quo and the resulting compulsion to gather with like minded people.
In crafting "Vogue", Madonna drew inspirations from the speakeasies that were established during Prohibition for people to gather underground to drink and dance despite laws banning such activity - much like the New York gay scene during the 1980s and 90s. While there might be new and different reasons for bringing people together, wanting to be yourself amongst people with similar values isn’t a new radical movement within itself. Madonna harkens back to Prohibition scenes as an analog suggesting that music and free expression can similarly bring people together in much the same was as the people who simply wanted to make and drink alcohol and listen to jazz without judgement.
Additional inspirations from this song are taken directly from gay culture as she has always been an advocate for this community. From these movements, Madonna found more than race and gender. They also breed spaces for people to openly search for acceptance together or to create something new entirely.
Much of "Vogue" is also based on the concept of beauty. Within American culture, beauty and talent are valued most, often influenced by old hollywood stars - which is why she lists those movie stars in the middle of the song itself. By listing movie stars she also draws a parallel callback to that same concept of beauty that she was made to mimic during the Dick Tracy film. Even if one isnt a rising movie star, Madonna wanted the masses to share that feeling of beauty so that they could dance and carry themselves with confidence, as if they were stars themselves. By building a space where all are fee to express themselves and feel that beauty freely, Madonna empowered her fans to reclaim and embody the concept of beauty. To directly quote her - “You're a superstar, yes, that's what you are, you know it”.
- What makes this song a part of many Pride celebrations?
- Madonna has been a constant ally for the LGBTQIA community as stated previously. Having a mainstream artist that supports those ideals is important for celebrating the victories of that community. This also points out the need for more artists to be out and talk about their perspectives musically. This way their experiences can be accurately depicted or expressed.
- How does this song affect the mainstream audience during this era of music?
- During this era, there were very few out artists and not a lot of music representing the LGTBQIA culture. Often time than not, it takes a heteronormative person to bring light to an important cause. Having someone of this celebrity status does help bring positive light to a misunderstood culture. In this song in particular, it brings an art form to the spotlight as well as how community welcomes others in.
- Does this song help or hurt gay culture in the mainstream media?
- On the other side of this song their can be seen with some controversy. Since this is written by a heterowoman it doesn’t necessary speak from this community perspective. She never helped to establish the culture where vogueing originated. This also brings up the question of stereotypes within the gay culture.
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