For a female music artist that boarded the train to fame
relatively late in her career, Michigander pop entertainer Madonna
has nonetheless compiled a body of work which rivals that of any
other woman in the history of show business.
Relocating to New York City after graduating high school in the
late 1970s, Madonna formed bands with love interests for several
years -- none of which met with any notable success -- before
receiving her break and signing a minor deal with major recording
label Sire in 1982. She parlayed the deal into an agreement for a
debut album, which arrived in the summer of 1983.
Madonna, on the strength of three teeny-boppish
Go-Gos-styled Top Twenty hits ("Holiday", "Lucky Star" and
"Borderline") served up the latest sexy blonde pop sensation to the
wider world, but it could not guarantee staying power in industry
built on "just another pretty face."
Possessing an uncommonly strong savvy for self-preservation in
securing her newly-gained success, Madonna assembled both a strong
vision and a strong supporting cast for the production of her
sophomore record, the intentionally provocative Like A
Virgin (1984). While the pop flavor still leaned on the
sugary side, the subject matter had matured in a big hurry, and the
diva succeeded in distancing herself from the all-too-common
also-ran sexpot one-hit-wonder moniker. Formulaic dance hits "Dress
You Up", "Angel" and "Into The Groove" echoed her first album, but
"Material Girl" introduced a coy hussy bartering the bulge in every
guy's pair of jeans in exchange for the good life, and the title
track had the coy hussy reaching into those jeans -- figuratively
over the radio, and literally through the medium of an
unforgettably slutty live performance on an MTV Video Awards
telecast. The strategy paid off in spades: Madonna became the
Material Girl and catapulted into superstardom.
Following the breakthrough of Virgin, Madonna
dominated the rest of the
1980s as few other pop artists have dominated their respective
eras. The all-but-christened Material Girl, over the course of her
next three albums (1986's True Blue, 1987's
soundtrack Who's That Girl and 1989's Like
A Prayer), perfected the musical recipe that would serve
her so effectively for the remainder of her career. In addition to
smash ballads ("Crazy For You", from the movie Vision
Quest, and "Live To Tell"), Madonna produced an unending
stream of danceable Top Five singles right up until the end of the
decade: "True Blue", "La Isla Bonita", "Causing A Commotion",
"Express Yourself" and "Cherish" simply framed off Number Ones
"Papa Don't Preach", "Open Your Heart", "Who's That Girl" and "Like
A Prayer." It was the most prolific procession of songs ever
unleashed on America's singles charts.
By 1990, Madonna had settled into an image that traded
considerably on the "golden era" of American pop culture. Not
surprisingly so -- given that her physical presence and enormous
pop culture icon status vould be likened to perhaps America's most
famous female movie star of the century, Marilyn Monroe. The
swirling, Euro-stylish "Vogue" sold over two million copies evoking
said golden era. Following "Vogue", and two additional Number Ones
between 1990 and 1992 ("Justify My Love" and A League Of
Their Own's "This Used To Be My Playground"), Madonna
attacked the mid-1990s like a freshly-divorced horny cougar,
focusing her hormones on the highly-publicized 'Sex' book project
and tailoring her ensuing album releases over the next few years
around the book's subject. Both Erotica (1992) and
Bedtime Stories (1994) heavily leaned on racy
After starring in the 1996 movie production of the fabled
Argentine leader Evita (whose cover of "Don't Cry
For Me Argentina" was also a hit), Madonna rolled out a pair of
more mature discs, 1998's Ray Of Light and 2000's
Music. "Frozen", "Ray Of Light", "Music" and
"Don't Tell Me" all charted Top Five. Concurrently, the Material
Girl contributed tunes to a number of movie releases, including
"Beautiful Stranger" (for 1999's Austin Powers: The Spy Who
Shagged Me), a cover of "American Pie" (for 2000's
The Next Best Thing), and "Die Another Day" (for
the 2002 James Bond series installment of the same name). Madonna
remained front and center in the spotlight of mainstream pop
culture throughout the world during this period, despite advancing
in age into her forties.
Madonna spent much of the 2000s involved in obscure causes, to
which she lent a substantive high-profile spotlight. Early in the
decade, she embraced the Eastern philosophy known as Kabbalah and
incorporated some of its messages in her recordings. Later in the
decade, she supported a central African orphanage in the nation of
Malawi, and adopted a child from the country. Musically, however,
the Material Girl retained her fully relevant cultural form --
capably infusing the styles of the era's young titans into her act.
Collaboration partners included Britney Spears ("Me Against The Music"),
Timberlake ("4 Minutes") and Lil Wayne ("Revolver").
On the stage in the new millenium, Madonna continued to exhibit
the energy of a performer half her age on mammoth concert tours
that routinely spanned the globe. Her Re-Invention World Tour of
2004 grossed well over nine figures, the Confessions Tour of 2006
narrowly missed grossing two hundred million dollars, and the
Sticky & Sweet Tour of 2008-2009 grossed over four hundred
million dollars. Unlike many aging musicians merely striving to
milk a few dollars out of their back catalogs in their twilight
years, Madonna's 2000s tours were innovative and energetic events
that refused to deprive younger fans of the artist's hard-earned
distinction as America's first lady of popular music. As a result,
Madonna wound up being the highest-selling and most-played artist
of the 2000s, in the US and UK, respectively.
Madonna shows little sign of slowing up in the 2010s. Her 2012
itinerary includes a Super Bowl halftime performance appearance,
and the release of a new studio album, titled
M.D.N.A. Fans can only speculate as to how many
more personas the Material Girl will be inventing for herself in
the years to come, before she elects to finally hang up her
jewel-studded crown and corset.
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