Express Yourself

Album: Like a Prayer (1989)
Charted: 5 2
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Songfacts®:

  • This funk-pop sing-along was the second single from Madonna's fourth album, Like a Prayer. The track was a top-five hit in most of the world, peaking at #2 in the US and #5 in the UK. It also topped the charts in several countries, including Canada, Italy, Japan, Switzerland and also the Eurochart Hot 100.
  • The song was written and produced by Stephen Bray and Madonna. Bray originally met Madonna during her pre-stardom when she attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor to study dance. The pair went to New York together and became part of the band The Breakfast Club. Madonna soon left but Bray continued as their drummer and in 1987 they had a hit with "Right On Track." When Madonna obtained her recording contract with Sire Records, she continued collaborating with Bray and they wrote some of the Material Girl's biggest hits of the 1980s including "Into the Groove" and "True Blue."
  • The song is one of female empowerment, urging women never to "go for second-best." Madonna explained (as quoted in the book, Madonna 'talking': Madonna in Her Own Words): "The ultimate thing behind the song is that if you don't express yourself, if you don't say what you want, then you're not going to get it. And in effect you are chained down by your inability to say what you feel or go after what you want."
  • The David Fincher-directed video was filmed in April 1989 at Culver Studios in Culver City, California. It was based on the Fritz Lang classic silent film, Metropolis, and the budget of $5 million made it the most expensive music video in history at the time. The promo regularly comes in the Top 10 of polls regarding the top music videos, and Slant Magazine ranked it at #1 on its list of "100 Greatest Music Videos." Just a few months after this video, Fincher directed Madonna's "Oh, Father."
  • Lady Gaga was accused of ripping off this song on her 2011 #1 hit, "Born This Way." However, Gaga claimed to have received an email from Madonna, in which the Queen of Pop gave her support on behalf of the single.
  • The song was performed on the Fox TV show Glee in the 2010 episode titled, The Power of Madonna. This version was released on the soundtrack album, Glee: The Music, The Power of Madonna.
  • Fincher shot part of the video at a steam power plant in San Pedro, California - the same one used in Die Hard 2. Actor Gustav Vintas, known for his role in Lethal Weapon, played the factory owner, while Madonna plucked her onscreen lover, model Cameron Alborizian, from a Guess jeans ad.
  • This was featured in a Pepsi commercial that aired during the 2016 Super Bowl between the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos. In the ad, Janelle Monáe is dancing to the '60s hit "Do You Love Me" before she is drawn to another room, where she is suddenly accessorized like '80s Madonna and this song is playing. She dances along, before leaving for another generation.

    Pepsi and Madonna have a long history: in 1989 the company signed her to a $5 million deal, only to drop her when her video for "Like A Prayer," proved scandalous. A generation later, it seemed all was forgotten as Pepsi tagged her to represent the era in their high-profile spot.

Comments: 2

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn this day in 1989 {July 9th} "Express Yourself" by Madonna peaked at #2 {for 2 weeks} on Billboard's Top 100 chart, for it's first week at #2, the #1 record for that week was "If You Don't Know Me By Now" by Simply Red, and for it's second week at #2, "Toy Soldiers" by Martika was in the top spot...
    Twenty days later on July 29th, 1989 "Express Yourself" reached #1 {for 2 weeks} on the Canadian RPM Singles chart...
    "Express Yourself" was Madonna's third of six of her records to peak at #2, her five other #2 records were "Material Girl" for 2 weeks in 1985, "Causing A Commotion" for 3 weeks in 1987, "Cherish" for 2 weeks in 1989, "I'll Remember" for four weeks in 1994, and "Frozen" for 1 week in 1998...
    Madonna, born Madonna Louise Ciccone, will celebrate her 62nd birthday next month on August 16th, 2020...
    * And from the 'For What It's Worth' department, the remainder of Billboard's Top 10 on July 9th, 1989:
    At #3. "Good Thing" by The Fine Young Cannibals
    #4. "Toy Soldiers" by Martika
    #5. "Baby Don't Forget My Number" by Milli Vanilli
    #6. "Batdance" by Prince
    #7. "Miss You Like Crazy" by Natalie Cole
    #8. "What You Don't Know" by Expose
    #9. "The Doctor" by The Doobie Brothers
    #10. "So Alive" by Love And Rockets
  • Leo from Westminster 1, MdNow Express Yourself is a brilliant Dance/Rocker-at Verizon Center in Washington during the MDNA Tour, I had the time of my life and Madonna gave a brilliant performance. One of my favorite Madonna tunes, I love the message of this Kabbalah melody concerto! Madonna=Brilliance!
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