Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Madonna in the 90's

In honor of Madonna's 58th birthday and the fact that we are celebrating the 90's here on John's Music World, here is a refurbished re-post of a piece I had written back in 2012. It's a great way o meld the two topics together, along with pictures, videos and remembrances. I hope you enjoy!

Many musical acts from the 80's really came into their own in the 90's. Artists like Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, and George Michael were artists who'd first made waves in the previous decade and crossed that line from star to superstar in the 1990's. But there's only one of these artists who's popularity and legacy have endured and remain strong today and that is the iconic Madonna.

Goodbye 80's, Hello 90's

Entering into the 1990's, Madonna was already at the top of her game following the highly successful Like a Prayer album, but that would be the last of 80's Madonna as the superstar would once again reinvent both her music and her image into something that would lose her some fans, yet gain her even more, pushing the envelope once again amidst seas of controversy.

Blond Ambition was Madonna's third world tour, performed in support of the Like a Prayer CD. It was this tour that would set a new standard for concert tours from then on, as the entire show was performed in a series of carefully choreographed vignettes that were highly entertaining and visually stunning. A critically acclaimed documentary film, Truth or Dare, accompanied the tour and showcased what would be one of Madge's all-time best tours...named the greatest concert tour of the 90's by Rolling Stone Magazine.

One of the most inventive, and controversial, scenes in Blond Ambition was Madonna's performance of her standard, Like a Virgin. Lying on a bed surrounded by two male dancers with cone-shaped breasts, the singer works her way through a slowed down, erotic version of the old pop tune, coming to a climax, literally, at the end. In the film, this particular performance almost got her into a heap of trouble in the "fascist state of Toronto," hehe. Check it out:

Strike a Pose

Madonna began the 90's with a brand new film and her second compilation album. She was cast as temptress Breathless Mahoney alongside then-boyfriend Warren Beatty in the film version of the cartoon detective Dick Tracy. Though she didn't win many accolades for her performance in the film, the soundtrack, I'm Breathless, included a song that would end up being one of the top songs of the decade.

Grouped together among all of the periodic and campy songs on that album was the song Vogue an homage to a dance craze that had become popular in the gay dance clubs of New York. Vogue was also included on the Immaculate Collection and quickly became one of Madge's all time greatest and most loved hits and of course, she still performs it.

A few months after the release of Dick Tracy came what we'd call her "sex" period. Starting with the release of her Immaculate Collection album, Madonna entered a new realm of electronic, bassy music, with many of the songs featuring risque themes. For the collection, the singer added two new songs, one of which became her unlikeliest of number ones, soaring to the top through a cloud of controversy.

Justify My Love is a bass-driven song full of sexual themes, and its video was considered too racy for MTV and thus banned. Ever the entrepreneur, Ms. M had the video packaged as a DVD single just in time for Christmas and voila! The video became the highest-selling such DVD in history and the song hit the top of the charts, but that was only the beginning...

In October of 1992, Madonna entered what would end up being one of the oddest periods in her career, a time when backlash against her would work to lose her a lot of respect and fans, although the music of the album, Erotica was among her best to date. Coupled with the new CD, whose title song featured explicit themes of homosexuality, bondage, water sports, you name it, came Sex, a coffee table book featuring explicit photos of the singer and others in all their glory. Sex was by far the singer's most controversial project to date, and it unfortunately cast a shadow over a wonderful album.

The backlash, as one could imagine, was huge. That was the point in time where fans of the singer in the 80's were lost for the most part, yet hardcore fans like me grew stronger in their appreciation for her artistic prowess. In all, Erotica spawned six singles, three of which hit the top twenty (the title cut, #3, Deeper and Deeper, #7, and Rain #14). The album is chock full of great stuff, from beautiful, tender ballads to hard-driving, sexually charged club songs and intelligently-written mid-tempo stuff.
To me, it's still one of her all time best!

The Girlie Show

In September of 1993, Madonna hit the road once again with The Girlie Show, a tour in support of Erotica. It's one of the few Madonna tours I missed, but that could be because she only played five dates here in the US (due to the low sales resulting from the backlash against Sex and the album!). I did watch the show on DVD, however, and it wasn't my favorite.

The Girlie Show was part circus act, part burlesque, and a little too much sex for my taste. The show did not include many of her earlier hits, except for a select few, but much of the fantastic Erotica album was covered. Check out a Girlie Show performance of Bye, Bye Baby, one of my favorites off Erotica:

This is not a love song...

I'm gonna tell you a story

Next up for Ms. M was the much overlooked Bedtime Stories album. Released in October of 1994, this one carried on where Erotica left off, only this one was less sexual in nature. The lead single was the smooth, rhythmic Secret, for which a beautifully shot black and white video was made. The song hit number three on the charts, followed by the tender Take a Bow hitting #1.

In March of 1995, Madge held a Pajama Party to introduce the video to the title track, Bedtime Stories, an expensive masterpiece unto itself. The party was broadcast live on MTV from Webster Hall in NYC, with superstar DJ Junior Vasquez on hand. During the show, Madonna told a bedtime story, Miss Spider's Tea Party, cajoled with the fans, and did an interview with then MTV correspondent Kurt Loder. Check out a clip from the show...

Evita, Evita

In late 1996, Madonna landed a role she'd been yearning to play, that of Argentine First Lady Eva Peron. Though she never won accolades from her acting before, this performance was by far her best, earning her a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress. The soundtrack was splendid and included an original song, You Must Love Me, which hit #18 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Here's a clip of one of my favorite tunes from Evita, the tender and sad Another Suitcase in Another Hall:

After an almost four-year absence between studio albums, Madonna came back with a vengeance in March of 1998 with her Ray of Light CD. Once again, the singer reinvented herself into a new kind of electronica, employing the talents of well-known DJ/producer William Orbit.

The first single was a dark masterpiece called Frozen, and its mystical video, in which Madonna portrays a witch-like creature, is equally wonderful. In all, the album spawned five singles, three of which would hit the top twenty: Frozen (#2), Ray of Light (#5) and Power of Goodbye (#11)), and one, Nothing Really Matters hit the #1 on the dance charts (along Frozen and Ray of Light!).

Here's my favorite track off of Ray of Light, one that inspires me and has been my driving theme to life and this blog. Check out the ethereal Sky Fits Heaven...

Traveling down, this road
Watching the signs as I go
I think I'll follow the sun
Isn't everyone just 
Traveling down, their own road
Watching the signs as they go 
I think I'll follow my heart
It's a very good place to start

Beautiful Stranger

The last thing Madonna would do in the 90's was a song for the soundtrack to Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. Beautiful Stranger is a fun song that remains as one of the singer's best. The singer looks great in the video and of course, with Mike Myers' Austin Powers, you can't hep but get a few chuckles in, too. Check it out...

So there you have it, Madonna in the 90's! It's hard to believe that the icon is currently in her 4th decade of creating and performing music and still going strong. If she came out on fire in the 80's, it was the 90's that cemented her status as a world-class superstar. Beyond that, well, there's been plenty more. I hope you've enjoyed this little trip down Madonna memory lane and look for profiles of the singer's activities in other decades, as well. In the meantime stay tuned for more 90's stuff. Oh, and Happy Birthday Madonna!

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