’90s No. 1s Revisited: “Vogue”

The ninth No. 1 song of the 1990s was “Vogue” by Madonna. By the time this song was released, the Material Girl had long-cemented her status as the world’s most popular, controversial and captivating female entertainer, an achievement that transcends any chart trivia. But, for trivia enthusiasts: Prior to “Vogue,” Madonna had racked up an unbelievable 18 U.S. Top 10 hits in the 1980s, including seven No. 1s, and since “Vogue” she has had 19 more U.S. Top 10s, including four No. 1s. With that context in mind, one could consider “Vogue” to be the commercial (and, we believe, artistic) apex of her career.

“Vogue” is a dance-pop track about abandoning inhibitions while pouting and swirling one’s limbs fiercely into effeminate poses. The dance was lifted from the “underground” and mostly black New York City club scene of the late ’80s, explored in devastating detail in the documentary Paris Is Burning. Madonna’s video for “Vogue” is legendary for its beautiful black-and-white imagery, lighting and an abundance of artistic references. And, of course, the dance itself. Its popularity preceded the mid-June release of Dick Tracy, whose soundtrack curiously featured “Vogue” among a track list that was otherwise swing- and jazz-inspired.

Let’s give “Vogue” a fresh listen:

This song is a one-of-a-kind masterpiece, start to finish, top to bottom. If you don’t like “Vogue,” you don’t like pop music. Over time, the track has become nearly synonymous with Madonna herself, conveying the style, artistic expression and feminine power central to her public persona. “Vogue” was, and is, arguably the dopest thing Madonna ever did, and Madonna is arguably the dopest artist/person of all time.

Does it hold up? It does. Madonna continues to perform this song to thunderous applause on her tours, as well as during her 2012 Super Bowl performance. The instrumental sounds “retro,” which is cool, not “dated,” which is bad. Madonna’s fan base over time has shifted from teenage girls to older gay men, but that certainly doesn’t undercut this track’s endurance as a superior piece of recorded music.

Dopeness: 5 out of 5 Birkenstocks


3 weeks at No. 1, starting May 19, 1990
Preceded by: “Nothing Compares 2 U,” Sinead O’Connor
Followed by: “Hold On,” Wilson Phillips

’90s No. 1s Revisited is a regular feature on “Was It Dope?” where we walk through every No. 1 song of the 1990s on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in order, give it another listen, and answer two critical questions: Was it dope? And does it hold up?

– John

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