In bed with In Bed With Madonna [April 15, 1991]
The pivotal year for the Queen of Pop
As a child of the late 70s, I have a vague memory of the time before Madonna. She emerged into pop culture at roughly the same time that we all learned about Prince. Despite being a tiny child, I could intuit that there was something different about these artists, and later I would learn that this difference was called sex.
This was right after Ireland’s first abortion referendum, when the country had declared itself a sex-free zone. To see a blonde bombshell and a Black midget both be so unashamedly lascivious was… It was confusing. I was, like, seven.
Much of 80s discource revolved around trying to make sense of Madonna. She was like a machine for generating attention back then. Imagine every influencer and social media provocateur in a single body, but also imagine if this being dropped tracks like “Holiday” and “Like A Virgin”.
In the first year of the 90s, Madonna earned almost $40 million, which madeher the biggest female entertainer in the world. Her success was the product of three things.
First, there was the Blonde Ambition tour, which was so wild that it still generates headlines today. Her cone bra is as iconic as Dorothy’s red shoes.
Second, there was Dick Tracy, a movie that was interesting, if not particularly good. The film was a commerical disappointment but Madonna relased a soundtrack album that included one of her all-time biggest hits, “Vogue”.
Third: The Immaculate Collection. I know it’s a bit Alan Partdge-ey to say that an artist’s best album is their Best Of, but have you seen the tracklist?
“Rescue Me” ended up being the only song Madonna released in 1991. It was recorded especially for The Immaculate Collection, along with the extraordinary “Justify My Love”, and both songs show that Madonna was beginning the process of evolving into the 90s, arguably at a faster pace than many of her peers.
The most important Madonna event of 1991 was the release of the documentray In Bed With Madonna (aka Madonna: Truth or Dare). This behind-the-scenes look at her life was raw, candid, artsy and intensely erotic. It made Madonna’s sexuality a star in its own right. For years, society spent endless hours debating whether she really meant it, if she was really that horny, if it was cool or if it was tacky.
In Bed With Madonna was shot in arty black and white, and it opened at Cannes. For a while in 1991, she was in almost perfect command of the discourse about her sexual persona.
Maybe this was also the end of her imperial phase. Madonna’s 90s are going to be busy and there are some notable highs and lows ahead for her. It’ll be interesting to debate if she ever again reached the highs on The Immaculate Collection. However, right now, in April 1991, she is an absolute collosus on the cultural landscape.
Elsewhere in the charts
The Chesney Hawkes era of popular music continues unabated with “The One and Only” still at Number One. Long may he reign.
There are no new songs in this weeks top ten. Everyone just kind of shuffles around a bit, with Madonna, The Wonder Stuff and Danii Minogue all moving up a place.
In fact, there’s only one new entry in the entire Top 40. That’s Bananarama all the way down at 38 with “Long Train Running”.
Top of the Pops
Madonna last appeared on Top of the Pops in 1984, and she’s not going to show up tonight. But the live acts who did show up were James…
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark….
Black Box (which isn’t on YouTube), Mock Turtles…
Zucchero and Paul Young…
and of course Chesney Hawkes, who was loving his moment.