What’s really to say about “Express Yourself,” the second incredible single released from Madonna‘s Patchouli-kissed ’89 Like a Prayer set…….besides everything.
From the moment the Her Madgesty‘s anthem-for-the-ages hit Sony Walkman headphones in the summer of ’89, it immediately bulldozed its way into the Billboard Hot 100 top 5 and expressed itself straight to the number two spot for two weeks, with Simply Red‘s “If You Don’t Know Me by Now” and Martika’s (!)”Toy Soldiers” standing in the Material Girl’s way of achieving another number one single. While it didn’t become another top spot notch in her Boy Toy music belt, (it definitely should have), the song and its David Fincher directed trailblazing video made its mark on all of our Queen of Pop hearts that very fabulous moment it debuted on MTV.
Filmed in April 1989, Madonna’s iconic “Express Yourself” video was inspired by the Fritz Lang classic film Metropolis, and it also marked the first time we were served with the Shep Pettibone rewiring of the beloved song. The infamous clip had a total budget of $5 million ($9.51 million in 2015 dollars), which made it the most expensive music video in history at the time it was made, and currently the legendary pop visual is the third most expensive video of all time.
The general concept of the video was to portray the Material girl as a glamorous, gender-bending diva and chained masochist, with all those men serving to each and every one of her, um, needs. But as the clip ends, she picks one of them—played by model Cameron Alborzian—as her official boy toy, and the two of them express themselves with each other in as many positions possible.
Fun Fact-Madonna was dating Warren Beatty at that time, and asked him to play the part of a slave working at a factory; Beatty politely refused, saying later that “Madonna wanted the video as a show case of her sexual prowess, I never wanted to be a part of it.”
Also, we just can’t leave out Madonna’s first live performance of “Express Yourself” at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards, which is cone-bras down one of the best lived performances of her career. With backup singers Niki Haris and Donna De Lory by her side, the divas killed every step, every crotch-grab and would introduce us to vogueing, you know, that little dance trend that would take over our music lives the following year.
With Madonna’s birthday inching just a little bit closer, it’s time to really express ourselves and get lost in these classic Madonna offerings that we will never forget. And remember, you don’t need diamond rings or 18 karat gold…just music.