Madonna has spent nearly 30 years as one of the world's top pop stars. In addition to her musical prowess, she is known for setting standards for the art of the music video. This is a guide to the top 10 music videos of her career.
The music video for Madonna's "Hung Up" was originally planned with direction by photographer David LaChapelle. However, disagreements over concept ended the collaboration. Instead, Swedish video director Johan Renck was chosen as director. The clip is conceived as a tribute to John Travolta's dancing in movies and dance in general. Due to a horseback riding accident just weeks before filming, Madonna had some difficulty performing her assigned dance moves. The music video also features Sebastian Foucan performing the French sport of parkour which involves uninterrupted motion around obstacles.
"Borderline" is arguably Madonna's first music video that expressed an interest in taking the fledgling art form in challenging new directions. In the clip she is involved in a conflict between a relationship with a white man and a romance with a Latin man. Madonna gained critical acclaim for addressing this type of issue. The "Borderline" music video is also seen as addressing power dynamics between men and women. It was the first of Madonna's videos directed by Mary Lambert who became a frequent collaborator.
Director Melodie McDaniel first gained acclaim as a photographer for album artwork. She filmed Madonna's "Secret" video at the Lenox Lounge in Harlem, New York. The clip is filmed in a lush photographic black and white. As the song progresses we see images of people along the street and content representing the religious concepts of rebirth and damnation.
Directed by Mary Lambert, the music video for Madonna's "Like a Virgin" took a leap forward in sophistication for her work and music video in general. It was filmed partially in New York and partially in Venice, Italy. Madonna is depicted as both a sexually aware woman as well as an ingenue in a virginal white wedding dress. Critics praised Madonna for seeming to confront the Venetian legacy of brutally punishing sexual misconduct by bringing her sexually charged music and imagery to the screen surrounded by the city.
Madonna filmed the music video for "American Life" with Jonas Akerlund shortly before the US invasion of Iraq. It is filled with powerful imagery about violence and war. Madonna initially claimed that she was not intending to make a political statement with the clip. Instead she was simply honoring her country by exercising her freedom of expression. However, after the uncensored version of "American Life" was shown on some European and Latin American TV outlets, Madonna abruptly withdrew the video with the following statement, "I have decided not to release my new video. It was filmed before the war started and I do not believe it is appropriate to air it at this time. Due to the volatile state of the world and out of sensitivity and respect to the armed forces, who I support and pray for, I do not want to risk offending anyone who might misinterpret the meaning of this video." A second video was shot that replaced the much more challenging original version.
Madonna's "Bedtime Story" music video ranks as one of the five most expensive music videos ever made. Mark Romanek was one of the most acclaimed of music video directors having worked on Nine Inch Nails' "Closer," k.d. lang's "Constant Craving," and En Vogue's "Free Your Mind." He set the pulsing electronic pop of "Bedtime Story" to a visual that shows Madonna subjected to some type of scientific test where she falls asleep and travels to a dream world filled with new age symbols and content. The Museum of Modern Art in New York added the music video to its permanent collection for its groundbreaking artistry.
At the time of its release, Madonna's "Justify My Love" music video was one of the most controversial ever filmed by a major pop artist. The explicit sexual content caused it to be banned by MTV. Angry at the ban, Madonna appeared on ABC's Nightline to defend her work. A decision was made to release the music video as a video single and it promptly became the biggest selling video single of all time. The clip features Madonna's then boyfriend, actor and model Tony Ward, and it was directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino who had worked with Madonna on the music video for "Open Your Heart." Today "Justify My Love" holds up both musically and visually while not seeming as shocking as when first released.
Filmed as a fast pace time lapse exploration of everyday life in cities around the world, the Jonas Akerlund directed music video for "Ray Of Light" is one of Madonna's most celebrated. It won the Grammy Award for Best Short Form Video as well as five MTV Video Music Awards. The song also received two Grammy Awards and was nominated for Song of the Year. Warner Brothers released a 40,000 copy limited edition VHS of the "Ray Of Light" music video that offered a clearer picture and better sound quality than could be obtained on a television broadcast.
Madonna aimed for the "Like a Prayer" music video to be the most challenging and provocative work yet of her career. At the core of the concepts in the video is a forbidden interracial love story. However, the music video adds on additional symbolism with burning crosses, mistaken arrest of a black man, tears from a religious icon, and the religious ecstasy of a gospel choir. Pepsi had signed a promotional agreement with Madonna that resulted in her premiering a Pepsi commercial during the Cosby Show the day before the first airing of the controversial "Like a Prayer" video. Religious groups around the world protested the music video and called for boycotts of Pepsi. The soft drink company caved and pulled the advertising campaign but allowed Madonna to keep her five million dollar advance. Ultimately the MTV Video Music Awards nominated "Like a Prayer" for Video of the Year.
Reportedly hundreds of dancers were auditioned for the parts in Madonna's "Vogue" music video. The clip was directed by David Fincher who would later become one of today's most celebrated film directors. Many of the scenes in the video are deliberate recreations of the classic black and white 1940s fashion photography work of Horst P. Horst. Close-up poses echoed images of Hollywood stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, and Jean Harlow. "Vogue" was filmed on an art deco themed set. Madonna generated controversy by wearing a lace blouse that seems to expose her breasts. MTV asked for it to be removed, but Madonna refused. What remained was a gorgeous and elegant tribute to the practice of voguing developed in the underground gay ballroom culture. The "Vogue" music video received nine MTV Video Music Award nominations winning three awards. Rolling Stone listed "Vogue" as the #2 music video of all time in 1999 second only to Michael Jackson's "Thriller."