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Best Madonna Promo Videos: 10 Pop Masterpieces That Changed The World

Best Madonna Promo Videos: 10 Pop Masterpieces That Changed The World

The best Madonna promo videos are culture-shaping works of art that gave us as much to think about as they did watch.


Madonna has made her name as the ultimate culture chameleon and, along with Prince and Michael Jackson, used the exploding 80s medium of the pop video to become a superstar – creating some of the world’s best music videos as she did so. The “Queen Of Pop” has made over 75 clips to support more than 100 million sales of her singles, and in 2020, Billboard named her the Greatest Music Video Artist Of All Time. To illustrate why, here’s ten of the very best Madonna promo videos.

Listen to the best of Madonna here.

10: Borderline (1984)

Thanks to the release of the Borderline single, we have the clip where Madonna first became a character that her growing army of fans could relate to. Directed by Mary Lambert (who would go on to direct the Like A Virgin single promo, and others on this list of the best Madonna promo videos) at the start of the year that would see Madonna become a household name, 1984’s Borderline video saw her play an aspiring model whose head is turned by the career opportunities offered by a Svengali figure, before returning to the boy she loves. It’s an atmospheric, sweet narrative brilliantly shot in New York City, and sees the soon-to-be “Queen Of Pop” assuming a persona later more fully realised in her first feature film, Desperately Seeking Susan. MTV seized on the video, and heavy rotation, plus decent radio play, made Borderline Madonna’s first US Top 10 hit, further boosting the profile of her self-titled debut album.

9: Frozen (1998)

The film The English Patient inspired this chilly night shoot in the Mojave Desert, in the Sierra Nevada mountains, but the clip, directed by Chris Cunningham, did much to cement Madonna’s reinvention as the new regent of electronic pop, on the career-defining Ray Of Light album. One of the best Madonna songs, this broody synth ballad was a masterclass of mannered atmosphere, and also represented a bold choice for a comeback single. “I’m a mystical creature in the desert, and I’m the embodiment of female angst,” Madonna told MTV’s Kurt Loder about the video’s concept. Ever inventive and influential, the “Queen Of Pop”’s shapeshifting abilities get a physical presentation in one of the best Madonna promo videos, which won an award for its visual effects.

8: Give Me All Your Luvin’ (featuring Nicki Minaj and M.I.A.) (2012)

A new album – and an independent record deal – might have added enough pressure, but Madonna’s high-profile performance at the 2012 Super Bowl halftime show heightened the focus to a ridiculous degree on making Give Me All Your Luvin’ a hit. This co-write with Martin Solveig is a track with more hooks than a hallway coat-stand, and the OTT video has visuals to match. Comedy is an overlooked weapon in Madonna’s arsenal (consider her underrated performance in the film Who’s That Girl, or the promo video for Music), but the Give Me All Your Luvin’ clip is certainly the most tongue-in-cheek outing among the best Madonna promo videos, playing up her super-diva reputation to the max. M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj do their best, but Madonna is the star-turn here.

7: Open Your Heart (1986)

The sophisticated sexuality of this Jean-Baptiste Mondino clip from the True Blue era hints at the increasing maturity of Madonna’s work that was just around the corner. Shot in Los Angeles, the promo has plenty of nods to old Tinseltown glamour, most obviously on the final shots that recreate Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp, from 1921’s The Kid. One of a record-breaking run of Madonna No.1 singles, Open Your Heart is a blistering rock-dance nugget that Madonna’s raw vocal and this mannered video elevated to performance art, proving she had range beyond the press stereotype of an impossibly successful platinum-pop icon with a flair for controversy. Felix Howard was one of the era’s child stars and featured alongside Madonna in the clip, before going on to present the iconic UK music TV show The Tube.

6: What It Feels Like For A Girl (2001)

While married to film director Guy Ritchie, Madonna asked him to direct the video for this single from the Music album, resulting in one of the most notorious entries among the best Madonna promo videos. For a blistering trance remix of the album’s delicate ballad, Ritchie filmed something that was controversial in its choice of controversy – sex was on the back seat while What It Feels Like For A Girl riffed on attitudes towards violence. Madonna plays a psychopath picking off victims in an essay on the opportunities and challenges of feminism. Few would see beyond the stylised drama, and the music-video channels naturally banned it. In a more sensitive era, we certainly get the concerns, but there’s no denying the impact of the material – and isn’t great art supposed to sometimes provoke?

5: Material Girl (1985)

Did Madonna know what she was doing in this Marilyn Monroe pastiche? You can be certain of it. What better way to project your emerging superstardom than channelling the original blonde icon and pairing that visual shorthand with one of the standout Nile Rodgers-assisted cuts on the smash album Like A Virgin, which was selling by the millions, especially stateside, by the end of 1984? The restaging of Monroe’s Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend turn for the Material Girl promo video was directed again by Mary Lambert, but has as much to say about love as it does money, as illustrated by the storyline that saw Madonna reject expensive gifts in pursuit of an emotional connection. The shoot actually played up to the script – Madonna would meet actor Sean Penn on the set, and they were married later the same year.

4: Express Yourself (1989)

At the time of its release, in 1989, the Express Yourself single boasted the most expensive music video in history, and every penny of its reported $2 million budget can be seen in its Metropolis-inspired sequences. As the second single lifted from the Like A Prayer album, Express Yourself, written with Stephen Bray (co-composer of some of Madonna’s other hits from the period, such as Into The Groove and Angel), has all the ingredients of classic 80s Madonna. The eroticism is dialled up to max here, with steamier offerings such as Justify My Love and Erotica just around the corner, but for now the sex was bathed in an accessible, Technicolor gloss that was very much of Madonna’s making. “I oversaw everything,” she said at the time “… the building of the sets, everyone’s costumes… casting, finding the right cat”. One of the best Madonna promo videos of the era, Express Yourself marked Madonna’s first collaboration with film director David Fincher, who would go on to lens Gone Girl and huge 90s hits Seven and Fight Club.

3: Like A Prayer (1989)

Mary Lambert would direct this career-defining clip that repositioned Madonna as a pop artist, as opposed to simply a phenomenally successful pop act. The video for the Like A Prayer song presents its controversial (at the time) imagery with a theatrical but authentic flair that defies even the most vociferous of critics to not get swept along in the moment. Here, the powerful narrative of redemption and justice is paired with Madonna’s more familiar themes of religious and sexual ecstasy. Of course, corporate America bailed at the first sign of the fuss, with Pepsi pulling out of a big sponsorship partnership, leaving Madonna to keep all the cash and find another commercial partner for her upcoming tour. Even The Vatican got cross, but Madonna knows what she is doing, and the clip remains one of the best 80s music videos.

2: Take A Bow (1994)

A video so successful that Madonna returned to its narrative for You’ll See (released on her 1995 ballads compilation, Something To Remember), Take A Bow plays to her routine themes of sex and romantic tension but ramps it all up in a stylish big-budget production that helped the “Queen Of Pop” secure the title role in the biopic musical Evita, which gifted her the hit single Don’t Cry For Me Argentina. The fictional story of a love affair with real-life torero Emilio Muñoz plays out in Ronda, Spain, and while its depiction of bullfighting rattled many, Madonna asserted that she is no fan of the practise. Perhaps this contradiction helped further accentuate the impossible draw of lust and the dark, contradictory situations it can sometimes lead to – another of the themes prevalent across many of the best Madonna albums. Lifted from the Bedtime Stories album, Take A Bow became Madonna’s most successful song in US chart terms when it stayed on top of the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks.

1: Vogue (1990)

The world’s most successful single of 1990 – and one of the best 90s music videosVogue is a black-and-white masterpiece that was shot quickly by David Fincher, though its inspired simplicity allows Madonna’s star power to shine at its dazzling brightest. Soon to feature in the hit movie Dick Tracy (and on its attendant soundtrack album, I’m Breathless), and with the genre-defining Blond Ambition World Tour just months away, the song inspired a video that channels old-school Hollywood glamour, with charismatic choreography that went on to create a dance craze. In spotlighting the LGBTQ+ “Ballroom” subculture, Madonna again demonstrated her unique ability to harvest underground trends for mainstream attention, while also underscoring how effective she was at finding a striking visual presentation to sell a song. In that regard, Vogue supremely overdelivers on the core principle of a successful music clip, topping this list of the best Madonna promo videos in order to hold the worthy crown in a videography as spectacular as any the world of music has ever seen.

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