Madonna's Vogue: Here Are 30 Things You Didn't Know About The Smash Hit

The David Fincher-directed video is one of her most iconic, but Vogue was almost never even a single, let alone a number one hit.

With its striking music video, empowering lyrics and a middle eight section name-checking some of the biggest stars to ever grace the silver screen, Madonna’s song Vogue had all the makings of an instant hit.

It’s now over 30 years since she released the track, which reached number one in more than 30 countries and gave the Queen of Pop a brand new signature tune.

But despite being a song that’s now recognised all over the world – and still has everyone recreating those famous moves – there’s a lot you probably don’t know about Vogue.

So. Don’t just stand there. Let’s get to it.

On Madonna’s birthday, here are 30 things you probably didn’t know about the chart-topping track...

1. Vogue was actually never meant to be a single

Madonna actually hooked up with music producer Shep Pettibone – who had previously remixed a number of her songs – to create a B-side for the Like A Prayer cut, Keep It Together (not even a track that particularly stands out in the star’s back catalogue, either).

It was only when she played the track for her label that it ended up being made a single in its own right.

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2. Because they thought they were only making a B-side, Madonna and Shep were more focussed on having fun in the studio, rather than trying to create a hit

“We were just after a fun club record,” Shep told Entertainment Weekly a few weeks after Vogue topped the charts. “But when the record company bigwigs heard it, they said, ’This is a number one smash record. Let’s not put it on a B-side and lose it.”

3. It might be one of her biggest hits, but it came from one of Madonna’s most forgotten albums

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In 1990, Madonna starred opposite then-boyfriend Warren Beatty in Disney’s adaptation of Dick Tracy, and also teamed up with Stephen Sondheim and frequent collaborator Patrick Leonard to create a soundtrack album inspired by her character, Breathless Mahoney.

When her label heard Vogue for the first time, they decided to tack it on the end of the album, I’m Breathless, which is why it sounds so distinctly different from the musical theatre-inspired tracks that precede it.

4. She was inspired to write the song after seeing the House of Xtravaganza performing in a nightclub

“I’ve been very inspired [by New York],” Madonna told iHeartRadio last year, while reflecting on her career. “The song Vogue was inspired by walking into a nightclub and seeing the Xtravaganza crew voguing. And I was like ‘woah, what the hell is that?’. It was just the most amazing thing.”

5. But Madonna wasn’t actually the first to try and bring voguing into the pop scene

A year earlier, Malcolm McClaren (yes, the former Sex Pistols manager) paid homage to the ballroom scene with the single Deep In Vogue, which topped the US dance charts.

The track was co-produced by William Orbit, who would later go on to work with Madonna on her albums Ray Of Light, Music and MDNA, even earning the singer her very first Grammy for Ray Of Light.

6. The song landed Madonna at the centre of a row about cultural appropriation, particularly within the ballroom scene

Because voguing has its origins in the 1980s and 1990s ballroom culture – largely populated by queer people of colour – many at the time questioned whether it was appropriate for Madonna to profit from it with her hit single, and to many, become synonymous with a dance style that she had no hand in creating or perfecting (not to mention the fact that all of the celebrities name-checked in the song were rich and white).

Others felt that Madonna was shining a light on voguing and opening the door for ballroom to become more mainstream, particularly as she included actual dancers from the scene in the accompanying music video, and her next world tour.

7. In fact, this argument is explored in the second season of Pose

The second series of Ryan Murphy’s ball-centric drama is set in 1990, just as Vogue is becoming more popular.

While Blanca is hopeful that the song can help take ballroom to the next level – which it does, allowing the character Angel to pursue her modelling career – others, like Praytell, are more sceptical, particularly as time passes and little has changed for the core group.

8. Considering it’s a song that would eventually go down in pop history, the recording of Vogue was actually pretty slap-dash

“I would say I sent her the track [and] within possibly like two weeks she came to New York to sing it,” Shep Pettibone told Billboard in 2015.

“I think right after that she was on to something else, and I think it was within a week or so that I finished up the production and the mix and sent it off to [her label].”

He added: “Somebody had made a home recording studio, and I remember they had converted a closet that had bi-fold doors on it. They had put a sliding glass door on it, and that was the vocal booth.”

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9. And she recorded the verses and chorus in just one take

“She was always a first-take artist,” Shep recalled. “You didn’t have to go back in and punch a word. No tonal problems. She was pretty amazing that way.”

10. The famous “Greta Garbo and Monroe...” rap was pretty much done on the fly

Shep said: “For the middle part, I was like, ‘How about if we do like a rap or something in here?’ Because we didn’t have anything for that, really.

″[She was] like, “What do you mean?”, I’m like, “Oh, how about like you know bringing in movie stars and stuff?” So, we just wrote down a whole bunch of names of movie stars and that’s how the rap came up... But I mean that’s how she writes. You know, she’s fast. It’s just like, give her an idea or a direction to go.”

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11. The 16 stars name-checked in Vogue are now sadly all dead

Lauren Bacall, who died in 2014, was the only one still alive when Madonna opened her Super Bowl Half-Time Show with Vogue back in 2012.

12. Vogue’s iconic video was directed by David Fincher, who would go on to become a big name in the film world

The films David would later go on to direct include Fight Club, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Gone Girl and The Social Network.

He’s been nominated for Best Director at the Oscars twice, but is yet to win, although he did win an Emmy for his work on the Netflix drama House Of Cards.

13. But this wasn’t the first time the pair crossed paths

David previously directed Madonna’s Express Yourself and Oh Father clips, and would later go on to helm the video for Bad Girl in 1993, the fourth and final (so far...) time they would work together.

Other iconic videos in his repertoire include George Michael’s Freedom ’90, Janie’s Got A Gun by Aerosmith and, more recently, Justin Timberlake’s Suit & Tie, which was considered by some as an homage to Vogue.

14. In fact, Madonna was still annoyed with the director about the last time they worked together when they collaborated on Vogue

It turns out David Fincher was actually the one who told Madonna she should release the Like A Prayer cut Oh Father as a single, specifically so he could direct the accompanying video.

Although the track was critically acclaimed, it didn’t chart as well as many had hoped, and broke Madonna’s record of top five singles in the US (peaking at number 20).

Speaking to Rolling Stone, David Fincher claimed Madonna told him: “You screwed me up. You wanted to make this video for the song and no one liked the song and I went to bat for you and now I have to make a video by Tuesday.”

He added: ”[So] I said, ‘What’s the song called?’ And she said, ‘Vogue’.”

15. Like the song itself, the Vogue video was actually cobbled together pretty quickly

“We cut this thing together as quickly as we could,” David Fincher told The Guardian.

“It was one of those things where the [director of photography], Pascal Lebegue, who’s brilliant, literally showed up off the plane with his light metre and it was semi-pre-lit and he walked in and said, ‘This, this, this, this,’ and we shot the video for like 16 hours and we were done, that was it, she got on the plane and went on her world tour.”

16. Two members of the House Of Xtravaganza, who Madonna first saw voguing at a club in New York, choreographed and starred in the video

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Remembering his first meeting with Madonna, Jose Gutierez Xtravaganza told NBC News in 2015: “I was at the Sound Factory, an after-hours spot where we went to dance all night long. A mutual friend, Debi Mazar whispered to me that Madonna was in the club and wanted to see me. Madonna went straight to the point, she was very direct and asked, ‘Can I see you do this vogue thing I keep hearing about?’.

“I loved fashion, because of course, fashion is part of the expression and what you wear to the club is part of the performance and I didn’t want my clothes sweaty or dirty. And she saw me pause and says, ‘It’s your pants right?’ Then she tells her bodyguard to give me his pants. We went to the bathroom and changed. Wearing this stranger’s pants I did what I usually do, I danced my ass off.”

He added: “Then as more people found out that she was there everyone began to show their moves. It was a wild scene. I sat with Madonna and pointed out the best of what I saw.”

Both he and Luis Xtravaganza then joined Madonna on her Blond Ambition tour.

17. Jose and Luis both told their stories of working with Madonna in the 2015 documentary Strike A Pose (which, incidentally, is currently streaming on Netflix in the UK)

Of course, they also featured in Madonna’s infamous 1991 documentary, In Bed With Madonna, known as Truth Or Dare outside of the UK.

18. As well as dancers, Madonna’s real-life backing singers appear in the Vogue video too

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Donna De Lory and Niki Haris appear back-to-back in the Vogue video, both working with Madonna multiple times over the decades.

Niki also appeared as one of Madonna’s friends, alongside Debi Mazar (mentioned above) in the video for her song Music.

19. The Queen of Pop may be known as a perfectionist, but as this B-roll footage shows, she’s still up for having a laugh, even at her own expense

This extra 30 minutes of footage leaked online in the 2010s. That smile...

20. Fashion photographer Horst P. Horst was obviously a huge inspiration for the Vogue video, but he was actually pretty unimpressed with the whole thing

He later admitted he was “displeased” that Madonna and her people didn’t contact him before referencing his photography in the Vogue video. He died in 1999, at the age of 93.

21. MTV actually wanted to ban the Vogue video when it first came out

While Madonna is known for her controversial music videos, Vogue isn’t usually considered one of them. However, MTV still took issue with Madonna’s sheer blouse, suggesting it was too revealing, and demanded an edited version without the offending garment.

Madonna refused to relent, and MTV went ahead and showed it anyway.

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Little did they know that her next visual offering, Justify My Love, would be 100 times more raunchy, and would end up becoming her first (but not last!) to be totally banned by MTV.

22. The Vogue video was also the first time Madonna was seen in her iconic Jean-Paul Gaultier cone bra

One of her most famous outfits was debuted in the Vogue video. She’d later repeat the look in more than one of the costumes on her then-upcoming Blond Ambition tour.

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23. In fact, the tour started just two weeks after Vogue came out, giving fans a chance to watch the moves in real life

Vogue was given pride of place near the end of the show, just before her classic 80s hit Holiday and the encore track, Keep It Together.

24. Madonna included Vogue during her 2012 Super Bowl performance, opened her show at World Pride with it in 2019 and even sang it with James Corden on Carpool Karaoke

The most famous performance of Vogue was probably the Marie Antoinette-inspired rendition at the 1990 VMAs, where the video also picked up three awards.

25. The song has been reimagined on so many of her tours, but Madonna actually went a long period without performing at all

After The Girlie Show, it would be more than decade before Madonna dusted off Vogue and brought the song out of retirement.

During her Ray Of Light era, she was quoted as saying: “I can’t see myself singing Like A Virgin anymore, even Vogue seems like a million years away.”

Fortunately, she eventually came around, choosing the track to open the show when she hit the road for her Re-Invention Tour in 2004.

26. Vogue has been covered by absolutely everybody, including Rihanna, Kylie Minogue, Ariana Grande, Britney Spears and Katy Perry

All of those artists have spoken about Madonna’s impact on their own work at some point or another, with a select few even going on to collaborate with her (and, in one case, kiss her during a performance).

27. But Madonna has also interpolated the song into her own music on more than one occasion

Two years after its release, Madonna would borrow the “you’ve got to just let your body move to the music, you’ve got to just let your body go with the flow” lines and include them on the Erotica track Deeper And Deeper.

Fast-forward more than two decades, and Madonna once again snatched a few lines of Vogue, featuring them on her Rebel Heart album during the (extremely raunchy, we should add) track Holy Water.

On her latest album Madame X, critics also suggested the song I Don’t Search I Find was heavily influenced by musical elements in Vogue.

28. Not to mention reinventing the song for her Rock The Vote campaign in 1990

While perhaps tame by today’s standards, the above video – showing Madonna in red lingerie, wrapped in the American flag – caused quite the stir at the time.

“Dr King, Malcolm X, freedom of speech is as good as sex,” she raps, before adding: “Abe Lincoln, Jefferson Tom, they didn’t need the atomic bomb... don’t just sit there let’s get to it, speak your mind there’s nothing to it, vote.”

29. After Vogue, it would be eight years before Madonna topped the charts in the UK again with Frozen

In the US, it’d be just a few months, though, with Justify My Love reaching number one the following November.

30. And even now, Vogue is still helping Madonna break new ground

Last year, the music video reached 100 million views on YouTube. This made her the first female artist in history to have four songs from four different decades reach that milestone (the other songs with 100 million views were La Isla Bonita, Hung Up and Bitch I’m Madonna, from the 1980s, 2000s and 2010s, respectively).