Her bestselling single, `Vogue', for example, came about through a chance conversation with her best friend, actress Debi Mazar, a pal from her days in New York when they were hitting the clubs every night. It was Debi who spotted the dance craze, voguing, which swept the New York gay and Latino scene in the late 1980s. When she told Madonna about this cool, posing dance with its hypnotic hand movements, the singer homed in on its creative and commercial potential, collaborating with producer Shep Pettibone to write the song, which integrated the latest dance style with lyrics expressing Madonna's own homage to Hollywood stars of a bygone era.
As producer Ed Steinberg, who made her first video says, "She is very clear about what she wants but at the same time she accepts the creative input of other people. That is one reason why she is so successful — she is not a total egotist" The resulting single, with its accompanying stylish black-and-white video, had perhaps the greatest popular appeal of any of her songs, all the result of a chance conversation, a creative mind and artistic collaboration. Michael Musto of the Village Voice commented, "That is her genius. She takes something that is totally over with the in-crowd in New York and then brings it to Iowa. Her talent is picking something that is bubbling under the surface and making it her own."
While her ability to pick over the bones of modern culture and her successful collaborations with other artists are the hallmarks of her career, a constant source of admiration is the way she can effortlessly switch the focus of her attention, moving seamlessly from discussing a merchandising deal to framing the `hook' for her latest song. Songwriter Andy Paley, who has worked extensively with Paul Simon and Brian Wilson, went to her Los Angeles home on numerous occasions while they were working on the soundtrack for Dick Tracy, the 1990 film directed by her lover, Warren Beatty. For four hours at a stretch she would focus entirely on the creative process, waving away her secretary and others. "She puts the blinkers on when she is working," he says. "All outside distractions are forgotten. We sat at the piano and she would tap out the rhythm. She wants to feel that she can dance to any song she records. That's her test." Paley and other writers, including her first producer Mark Kamins, reckon that Madonna is one of the best in the business, a much underrated musician and lyricist. "She is the easiest person I know to write songs with," Paley says. "She has a very clear vision, the most direct person you will ever work with."
While that vision has been clouded by the controversy, much of it self-generated, which has enveloped Madonna's career, artistically her songwriting is often overshadowed by the striking appeal of her pop videos. Several of her films have been exhibited in museums around the world, notably the Pompidou Center in Paris, as modern works of art.