Madonna’s 1990 “Blonde Ambition World Tour” changed the world of pop music forever. No, we’re not just being dramatic. This world tour, with Madonna’s brother Christopher at the helm of art direction, broke barriers and flipped expectations on their heads. The aesthetics combined Catholic imagery, Art Deco, and German expressionism, to name just a few influences.
The concert’s set design, Madonna’s choreography, and the costumes designed by Jean Paul Gaultier were all considered extremely cutting-edge and racy at the time. With “Blonde Ambition,” Madonna set a new precedent for pop concerts. She shamelessly presented herself the way she wanted versus what record labels thought she should do. Avant-garde performers like Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus have Madonna to thank for pushing the envelope.
“Vogue” Almost Wasn’t a Hit
“Vogue” is one of Madonna’s greatest songs in her entire discography. Now we know that this song brought voguing to the mainstream and changed the landscape of pop forever. But back when it was first recorded, Madonna didn’t think it was strong enough to be a single. Ironically, “Vogue” would become one of Madonna’s biggest hits ever.
In fact, Madonna originally wanted “Vogue” to be a B-side to “Keep It Together,” a song on her “Like a Prayer” album. However, after quickly recording the song in a small basement studio in New York, the Warner Brothers executives knew they had a hit on their hands.
The Origin of “Bedtime Story”
“Bedtime Story” was a song on Madonna’s 1994 album of a similar name. It’s not a popular song, and only hardcore Madonna fans can probably recall it off the top of their head. However, its origin story is pretty interesting. If you give it a listen, you’ll notice that it sounds a little different from Madonna’s usual repertoire.
That’s because it was written by none other than Icelandic singer Björk. The song is a hidden gem, with a mid-tempo electric beat and trance music influences. The story goes that Björk wasn’t a huge fan of Madonna’s music, but she couldn’t pass up the opportunity when the “Queen of Pop” invited her to collaborate. “Bedtime Story” is the only song that Björk ever wrote for Madonna.
The Pope Was Not a Fan
Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” album was quite controversial for its use of Catholic imagery and sensual undertones. When Madonna launched her “Blonde Ambition” tour in conjunction with the album, many conservatives had major feelings about it. The Pope himself even had something to say about Madonna’s world tour.
Pope John Paul II discouraged members of the Catholic church from listening to Madonna’s album and attending her concerts. He came in hot by saying that her show was one of the most satanic in the history of humanity. Dang. It seems that the controversy over Madonna’s world tour helped instead of hindered sales, which is the opposite of what Pope John Paul II probably wanted.
The Pepsi Fiasco
Madonna and Pepsi have a tumultuous relationship. Back in 1989, the soda company paid her a whopping $5 million to star in a commercial featuring her new song “Like a Prayer.” If you’ve seen the music video for that song, you know what’s coming next in this story. The commercial is utterly wholesome, featuring Madonna dancing with groups of happy people. Yes, it’s weird.
It’s totally incongruous with the music video for “Like a Prayer,” which was very dramatic and featured scandalous religious imagery. Pepsi realized its misstep once the official music video aired the next day. They pulled the commercial and pulled their sponsorship of Madonna’s “Blonde Ambition” tour after being on the receiving end of the Vatican’s wrath.