Madonna’s “Vogue” Lyrics Meaning

“Vogue” is clearly a dance song, i.e. one of those which encourages listeners to do a specific type of move. And that particular dance is known as vogueing, which is something Madonna picked up on via the New York City club scene.  Part of the routine requires participants to freeze like a mannequin, which is referred to as ‘posing’. Thus the Queen of Pop sets off the track by entreating the listener to “strike a pose”.

First Verse

The lyrics then take a different turn during the first verse. Here, the songstress gets a bit philosophical and acknowledges that at times people have to deal with both internal and external issues. But she presents the “dance floor” as a place where that can – indeed is specifically designed to – properly deal with such maladies.

Second and Third Verses

And in the second verse she gives advice on how to properly utilize this setting for that purpose. For instance, it requires dancers to be ‘imaginative’ and ‘inspired’. Moreover, unlike the world itself, it is not racist or sexist.  Rather “the music’s pumping” and in the process ‘giving new life’ to those who want to get down on the dance floor. And the terse third verse basically continues along with this same narrative.

Fourth Verse

That then brings us to the fourth verse, which is arguably the most-unique part of “Vogue”. Here, Madonna namedrops a bunch of Hollywood celebrities from days past. They are put forth as examples of people who had “grace”, i.e. who would be effective on the dance floor. But the real reason Madonna included this particular section was actually in keeping with her character, Breathless Mahoney, from the “Dick Tracy” film, whom she described as being “obsessed with speakeasies and movie stars”.

And again, this is done against the background of the singer telling others to “move to the music” and “go with the flow”. So more than anything, in this song she is espousing dancing as a form of stress alleviation and personal edification. But more specifically, the dance she would like the audience to do in particular is the titular “vogue”.

Lyrics of "Vogue"

Music Video

The music video, which had movie director David Fincher in charge, was a major hit. It was based on a dance theme, and the setting was reminiscent of the 1930s, i.e. the same era in which the movie “Dick Tracy” is set.

The video went on to win three MTV Awards, including in the category of Best Direction. Moreover it has been placed on a number of ‘greatest music video ever’ lists compiled by the listed of MTV, Rolling Stone and About.com.

Release Date of “Vogue”

Warner Bros. Records alongside Sire Records released this as the lead single from Madonna’s soundtrack album “I’m Breathless”. This was on the 20th of March 1990. Actually, it is featured on the soundtrack of the 1990 comedy film titled “Dick Tracy”. And FYI, Madonna co-starred in that film.

Did Madonna write “Vogue”?

“Vogue” was written and produced by Madonna alongside Shep Pettibone. More specifically, Shep is primarily responsible for the instrumental (music) and Madonna the lyrics.

Madonna and Shep Pettibone were actually sued for plagiarism in 2012, when it was alleged that “Vogue” illegally sampled a 1976 track entitled “Love Break” by a group of session musicians known as the Salsoul Orchestra.  However, the court ruled in favor of Madonna and Pettibone.

A Very Successful Song

Those familiar with Madonna’s catalog will recognize “Vogue” as one of her most-successful tunes. In fact it holds the record for being the best-selling single of 1990. It achieved this feat by selling two-million copies during that year and in excess of six-million to date.

Moreover this song topped offiicial music rankings in a vast number of countries, including topping both the United Kingdom and America.

In fact “Vogue” charted in about 20 countries in total. And in all of them, it made it onto the top 10 of their music charts.

Moreover the song managed to achieve double-Platinum status in both Australia and the United States.

Additionally the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included “Vogue” in its coveted list of the “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll”.

What Vogueing really is

Vogueing was a dance move that was especially popular amongst gay circles on the New York club scene. As such this song helped put Madonna on the map as a champion of gay rights, if you will.

Prominent Names in “Vogue”

As aforementioned, Madonna namedrops a bunch of old-school celebrities in the last verse. They are, in the following order:

  • Greta Garbo (1905-1990)
  • Marilyn Monroe (1926-1968)
  • Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992)
  • Joe DiMaggio (1914-1999)
  • Marlon Brando (1924-2004)
  • Jimmy Dean (1928-2010)
  • Grace Kelly (1929-1982)
  • Jean Harlowe (1911-1937)
  • Gene Kelly (1912-1996)
  • Fred Astaire (1899-1987)
  • Lauren Bacall (1924-2014)
  • Katherine Hepburn (1907-2003)
  • Lana Turner (1921-1995)
  • Bette Davis (1908-1989)

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