Released to promote her actually quite good performance in Dick Tracy, this is essentially Madonna’s 1990 fantasy of a vintage musical in which she sings every number. Only four songs — including three by Broadway maestro Stephen Sondheim — appear in the film; his “Sooner or Later” won an Academy Award the next year, and having sung repeatedly it in her Blond Ambition Tour, the star absolutely nailed it on the Oscars. Here, like much of the rest, it’s a tad belabored: Stripped of her usual multi-tracking and holding notes far longer than her usual punchy material demands, Madonna sounds like she’s trying extra-hard to pull off vocal licks just outside her comfortable reach.
As songwriters, though, she and Patrick Leonard acquit themselves; their swing-jazz ditty “Hanky Panky” (a largely forgotten Top 10 hit celebrating spanking) and the reflective ballad “Something to Remember” would make swell Glee numbers. The knockout here is, of course, “Vogue,” the star’s tribute to not just classic Philly disco, house music and the drag balls of Harlem, but also to many of the Hollywood vixens she celebrates throughout I’m Breathless and indeed her career. Both femme-centric cult-y and ultra-mainstream (it’s her all-time biggest US single), “Vogue” is quintessential Madonna.