Morphology





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Some people really dislike the Madonna of the ‘90s. ‘Oh, she got so slutty!' they quibble. ‘She doesn't have the same kind of cultural impact that she had in the ‘80s,' they whine. ‘Once a trendsetter, now a trend follower,' they blabber. Obviously, these people haven't been paying much attention. With the recent release of The Video Collection - 93:99 (Warner Reprise Video), however, those naysayers are certain to realize what they've been missing.

Music videos have always been the perfect outlet to chronicle Madonna's smorgasbord of personas. In the ‘80s, she exploded onto the pop scene via MTV, where she lead a decade-long movement at redefining the promotional music video into a respectable art form. At the end of the decade, she released the video version of The Immaculate Collection, which chronicled her many landmark videos of the time.

The Video Collection begins a few years after Immaculate in 1993, smack dab in the middle of her turbulently sexual Erotica era. It was a time when she'd pushed the sexual boundaries of a pop star way too far, and the general public had given up on her. Surprisingly, neither the MTV-banned "Erotica" nor the whimsy "Deeper and Deeper" open the collection. Instead, the first image we see is of her dead, strangled body in "Bad Girl." It's an arresting choice to kick off with, suggesting that the "slutty" (yet fun) Madonna of that time would finally be gone forever - the rest of the'90s was going to show a change of heart from her.

That's not to say that "Bad Girl" is a bad video. On the contrary, it is what her film flop Body of Evidence should have been - a highy sexual, highly tragic story of fallen power. Directed by David Fincher (Fight Club, Seven), the video sets the quality level for the rest of The Video Collection sky high.

And knowing Madonna, she definitely manages to meet those standards thanks to the number of who's-who in music video directors she has worked with. Like Fincher, the innovative Mark Romanek helmed two of her best videos - the stunning "Rain" and the dreamscape of "Bedtime Story" - both of which she includes on the collection. The former looks as good as ever, while the latter, though it hasn't aged well, still has it's moments of interesting symbolism.

Other directors lend their own classsic styles to the collection. Matthew Rolston, best known for his vivid color schemes in videos for Jewel and Matchbox 20, tints "The Power of Goodbye" with the creams and blues that suit a raven-haired Madonna to a tee. And famous for his frightening images in Aphex Twin and Björk videos, Chris Cunningham brings a goth Madonna to life to haunt the video for "Frozen." It's an impressive group of directors indeed, and Madonna finds the perfect artistic synergy with each of them.

Of course, any Madonna fanatic will tell you that there are a few problems with The Video Collection. Not including the aforementioned "Erotica" and "Deeper and Deeper" videos is obviously a misjudgment, and forgetting about the classy "You'll See" and the tragic "I Want You" is a sad mistake. Any of those videos could have easily replaced some other questionable choices, but no - we're left with duds like "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" where Madonna lipsyncs to decade-old lyrics and grabs at a huge phallic marble pillar.

Regardless, the meat of Madonna in the ‘90s is still all there, from everyone's favorite tongue-in-cheek S/M tribute, "Human Nature," all the way up to her most recent hit, the hilarious "Beautiful Stranger." And we should be thankful that she includes every single from Bedtime Stories and Ray of Light - the videos of which matter most for her this decade in terms of diversity and artistic merit. If you watch closely, you can find one of the earth's elements represented in each of the ROL videos - a subtle yet brilliant maneuver on her part.

Forgive the woman if she deviated from the fame-hungry, attention-grabbing diva she was in the ‘80s. She's forgotten about the public and finally focused on how she wants to run her life and art herself. That's the true spirit of ‘90s Madonna, and at the end of it all you realize that The Video Collection is less about defining a decade and more about defining a woman ... and an artist.

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