A music legend, fashion icon, sex symbol, activist, feminist and all round superstar. Madonna’s portfolio of music videos include some of the most controversial of all time, but have continued to champion individuality and acceptance over her multiple decades in the industry.
Here we take a look at six of her most iconic music videos and they impact they had on the rest of the world.
Happy Birthday Madonna!
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'Vogue' (MTV) - 1990
Although not the actual music video, Madonna’s performance of Vogue at the 1990 MTV Music Video awards is just as good. While the video itself ranks in second position on MTV's 100 Greatest Videos Ever Made and was praised for bringing voguing into the mainstream, her performance that night was full of risqué moves and was a nod to Dangerous Liaisons - Madonna noticed the similarities between the movements of the aristocrats in the film, and voguing, so she went ahead and combined the two.
The performance went off without a hitch (not one dancer dropped their fan!) and set the standard for MTV performances to come, the performance was wonderfully camp, buckets of fun, and in true Madonna style, ever ethnically inclusive.
'Vogue' sits at the top of this list as it was the first Madonna song I’d ever listened to and started me on my journey of loving all things theatrical and slightly OTT. An anthem of inclusivity.
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'Like A Prayer' - 1989
Not just one of the greatest Madonna videos of all time, but one of the greatest videos of all time. And also my favourite song. There is so much in this video to dissect it’s difficult to know where to begin: racism, bigotry, violence, religious and sexual ecstasy, interracial relationships, one of the best choirs to feature in a pop song maybe ever…
As already mentioned, Madonna has always been big on social injustice and fighting for what’s right, y'know, because she’s Madonna. The video’s release sparked outrage with various religious groups at the time, resulting in the Pope John Paul II encouraging people to boycott the release!
Addressing something as controversial as the relationship between the police and black men is just as relevant now as it was then - and a young, white, female pop star addressing it in a music video in the 80’s was a radical, powerful move which surely helped pave the way for the outspoken, fiery ladies in pop today.
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'Hung Up' - 2005
I’ll admit, when I first heard 'Hung Up', I didn’t realise she’d nicked the opening off ABBA… but I was 10 and she was Madonna. This was the first song of hers that I am old enough to remember being released, but who could possibly forget that pink bodysuit?!
I remember being weirded out at the time for thinking a woman over a certain age was prancing about in pink, but now that I’m a bit older I see that is partially the point. Madonna was 47 when this video came out, and arguably looks better here in a leotard than I would now at 22.
I remember 2005 being a time where music videos where incredibly sex fuelled and pretty objectifying, so having Madonna storm back in and reminding others how it’s done (cough, Christina, cough), is simply iconic. This video shows that sex appeal and loving yourself shouldn’t have an expiry date. And also, look how bloody limber she still is!
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'Material Girl' - 1984
An ode to Madonna’s love of Marilyn Monroe combined with the satire of all girls wanting expensive things, this is video was beautifully directed and the story was that of a five minute romantic drama (and really should’ve been made into one) about a girl not wanting expensive things but wanting real love instead.
From here on Madonna gained the nickname “Material Girl”, which hung over her head for quite some time and definitely irked the star. Speaking to author J. Randy Taraborrelli, Madge once said “talk about the media hanging on a phrase and misinterpreting the damn thing as well. I didn't write that song, you know, and the video was about how the girl rejected diamonds and money. But God forbid irony should be understood.”
We love a pissed off queen, and we also completely love Material Girl.
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'Frozen' - 1998
Madge transforming into this witch-like creature and being surrounded by bleak emptiness and raw emotion just shows how versatile deserves a place on this list.
'Frozen' introduced the world to a new and unseen side of her, one which had suffered heartbreak and wasn’t afraid to be open and upfront about it, while still maintaining a level of grace and integrity. Even then at 40, for a singer who has by then been around for 20+ years to still be able to reinvent herself and adapt musically, is inspirational.
While maybe not reaching the same heights as previous singles did, 'Frozen' demanded to be seen in a new light, one of maturity and growth. Even whilst dressed up as a witch.
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'Open Your Heart' -1986
A real talent that Madonna has is the ability to combine sexiness with a sense of humour. The comical voyeurs in the video each give the scene this idea of Madonna being the one in complete control, even when she’s in the middle of all these men strutting her stuff.
Owning her sexuality is something that she has never been apologetic of, and this video is the perfect sorry not sorry to the slut shamers and victim blamers of the world. Plus there is this whole side story surrounding the ability to still be completely sexy even with short hair.
The ability to give a usually grotty venue a sweet, naive and fun atmosphere gave life to sexiness being empowering rather than seedy. A real forward-thinking video from the queen of sex appeal.
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Words: Laura Copley
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