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Madonna and Culture

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Vogue, Madonna 1990
 
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Just Music With Lyrics in Description- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_MgPK_9bcM
 
 
* I'm not providing too much cultural/moral opinion. This is just my analysis.
 
Vogue- the prevailing fashion or style at a particular time. (Dictionary)
 
     Madonna Ciccone, American musical artist, pop-queen, dancer, actress, and entrepenuer has been in the entertainment industry since the early 80s. She has won countless awards including Grammies, MTV Music Video Awards, and Golden Globes, being the highest grossing female music artist of time. Her cultural influence is far reaching, making her a great artist for study to understand the zeitgeist of the time. Vogue, released as apart of her I'm Breathless album in 1990, reached number 5 on the Hot 100 with the song's catchy tune being sang across America and played in every club as the 1991 American Music Award's Favorite Dance Single. Setting the stage for the 90's unique club style, the song combined elements from 70's disco, contemporary beats, and electronic house. Some even say Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" was copied from Vogue with its similar disco beat and electronic undertones (Gaga denies these claims). Viewing the song in 2018, Vogue reveals Madonna as a post-modern artists and contains common cultural themes that can be seen as effects of 50s America's cultural decomposition through the 60s, 70s, and 80s. It highlights the exponential changes in philosophical values and showed a country in awe at the unknown it was moving towards. 
 
       Vogue, a style of House dance, was popular in the black and latino homosexual community during the 70s, and 80s, featuring wide arm movements and energetic wrist twists, was used by club drag queens to throw "shade" at other queens. In the video, which has as much significance as the song, Madonna does include her largely hispanic, black, gay, dancers. In the late 20th century, the gay community, especially the colored ones, were some of the lowest on the social ladder, and considering the lack of straight white males, this choice to feature the cultural periphery was intended. The "low culture" was juxtaposed with the class and elegance that would be normally found in the early 1900s mid-atlantic, mainstream high-class, fancy, relatively conservative "high culture". To convey this, Madonna filmed her music video in black and white and had a lavish set design including a spotless mansion filled with various modern paintings and statues. This high-class 1930s/40s design was furthered by the glamorous clothing of the dancers  along with the dusting of shiny furniture by archetypical early 20th century maids. The combination of the gay, colored dancer's vogue moves and the appeal to the luxurious with its set and "fabulous" dance style, caused the elevation of the low to the high; soon all classes across the country were voguing. 
 
       Escapism was a common emotional theme of this song, and rightly so considering the adversity faced by the social outcasts of that time. She directly states this with "You try everything you can to escape/The pain of life that you know" and "If the music's pumping it will give you new life/You're a superstar, yes, that's what you are, you know it". The escapism does not contain any concrete values; opposed to a darwinian avoidance of pain and immersion in artistic spirituality contrasting that of "down to earth" traditional Christianity and Americanism. The conservative culture is again fought with the lyrics, "Beauty's where you find it/Not just where you bump and grind it", suggesting the subjectivity of beauty opposed to a culture considering beauty to be quite objective as seen by the feminine beauty standards of the 50s. Madonna then has a speaking part where she mentions the extravagance of golden era Hollywood stars including Jimmy Dean, Bette Davis, and Grace Kelly. This is again trying to indicate upperclass, cultured, traditional America as an unfounded class construct that everyone could be apart of, where anyone can be beautiful, and is not exclusive to conservative "white" America. This was an art showing how the dirty proletariat could transcend America's class constructs and be fabulous.
 
Many tenants of post-modern philosophy, or the lean toward subjective interpretations of reality and the burning down of traditional moral values, were embedded in the hit. Firstly, the music video being considered in the realm of serious artistic critique, signifies a transparency between what type of art is actually considered art by the cultural elite, as music videos were considered simple entertainment for the common-man. The imaginative elegance the song provokes, along with the feeling of "heightened importance" and escapism the electronic tones and disco beat (Listen to the song) release also add to this idea that there is not a true difference between a gay, black guy and white, blonde star in ability to be "vogue". The set design and dance style continue the juxtaposition and push the subjectivity of beauty and class. Culturally, this song occurred after the rebellious 60s where common western values were thrown in the fire, groups of differing cultural identity visibly emerged, and sexual behavior was liberalized. The 90s contained great deconstructionism of conservative values, and objective ideals of morality as seen by the popularity of the song which tried to hammer the exclusivity of high-culture through its inclusion and parade of the "dirt" in the culture. Madonna was definitely marked as a post-modern artist by the song, and speeding past the common cultural drift, she definitely continued to embrace more and more liberal subjectivism. No matter the cultural dispositions, anyone can get on the dance-floor to this hip beat, or maybe the song can be protested by conservatives now for its opposition to traditional values. 
 

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