OK, the song that started this journey nearly 20 years ago. I don’t remember the first time I heard the song or saw the video back in 1990 but I instantly loved this song. It was the first song that really made me go “WOW!” Music was just music to me before this song. Something to dance and sing to, for fun. But when I heard “Vogue,” a standard was set. A standard that I would judge every other piece of music by. A standard that has never been bettered.
I saw Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour Live in Barcelona on TV at Christmas and remember seeing the performance of “Vogue.” Now the live performance standard had been set. The dark and moody performance gave the song another life. The video gave me chills. The beautiful images and poses and mind blowing choreography. It was all so new to me, but instantly spoke to me.
I bought “The Immaculate Collection,” and would listen to “Vogue,” over and over again. Like most fans who are brave enough to admit it, I learnt the choreography from the video and all subsequent live performances and even attempted a step or to at a party which everyone still reminds me about.
For the past 19 years this song has been my life line. Whenever I feel low, whenever I’m sick of my day to day life I go back to “Vogue.” I’ve never tired of this song (and I listen to it a lot!) and probably never will. For me this is the ultimate Madonna song.
2. Express Yourself
Whether it’s the original soulful Stephen Bray version or Shep Pettibone’s House interpretation, this song gives me a kick. Once again, the video and concert choreography goes hand in hand with the song, a mix of feminine elegance and masculine strength showing the two can co-exist within us all. The powerful lyrics telling us to go after what we want and never settle for anything less is something I believe every Madonna fan holds close to their heart. A song with a message is nothing new but how you deliver it can make all the difference. The bold and commanding vocal makes us believe in the message. The funky music makes us want to dance and exert our power on the dance floor. This is the essence of Madonna: listen to my words but have fun whilst you’re doing it. And I do. Every time I press ‘play,’ on my stereo.
Another Shep Pettibone production that took M down a darker road. The gravelly vocal, and sensual sounds add up to a sexy song with a slightly dangerous edge. From the get-go you know who’s in control: Dita. And we submit to her for 5 minutes. She takes us in to a fantasy of sound and imagination. We’ll never be the same.
The thing is, I was 10 or 11 when “Erotica,” was released and I didn’t have a clue what she was talking about. I knew the video was a bit raunchy and people were up in arms about Madonna being photographed naked with Vanilla Ice but I didn’t know what the big deal was. Madonna had been controversial for years before this, so why the surprise. If you don’t like it, look away. Once I was old enough to understand what M was talking about, I knew where she was coming from.
Once again, her fans got her message as we had grown to be open minded with her. M's “so what,” attitude probably saved me from years of feeling inferior and hating myself. By doing something they everyone disapproved of she was making a point: BE YOURSELF. This was what I needed to hear at the time. If you’re different in any way, people can be cruel. I was different and people were cruel to me.
Had I not have been a fan of M, I might have changed myself to please other people or lived with a feeling that there was something wrong with me because I wasn’t “like everybody else.” Instead of this, I didn't care what people thought of me any more and became happy with who I was. This is how “Erotica,” saved me and I will forever be grateful for M for saying what she did in 1992.
4. La Isla Bonita
One of my favourite songs from the 80s. A more grown up Madonna took us far away on a musical journey of passion and longing. I remember seeing M in the red flamenco dress when I was young and being mesmerised by her. Skipping down the street at the end of the video as the latin beat fades. Her soft and almost sad vocal gives the song emotion, the music adds to the sense of yearning. The many live interpretations over the years have given the song new live. The recent lively “Sticky & Sweet” version gives way to loss and brings joy and hope. The “Drowned World Tour” version adds a sensuality, while “The Girlie Show” take brings the songs hidden passion to the fore. A classic that I go back to over and over again.
A recent addition to Madonna’s catalogue shows that she has no intention of sitting back and taking it easy. She’s daring us all to get up on the dance floor once again and enjoy the “party of life.” Whether it’s Paul Oakenfold’s version or Benny Benassi’s hard electro mix, the song never fails to get me up and dancing. Like “Vogue,” and “Into The Groove,” when Madonna says dance, you gotta dance!
What I’ve always loved about Madonna’s music is the fact that she offers songs that make us think and can change us along with songs that make us feel good about ourselves. “Celebration,” does this for me. I press ‘play’ and celebrate the gift of Madonna’s music over the past 27 years and how lucky I feel to have her wonderful music to guide me through my journey. Madonna is the soundtrack to my life.