Madonna, the artist often referred to as the “Queen of Pop,” was born Madonna Louise Ciccone (see she came by her stage name legitimately!) on August 16, 1958, in Bay City, Michigan. From relatively humble beginnings, Madonna approached the music industry on her own terms and ended up, well… “The Queen of Pop!” To a degree, she followed the advice of P.T. Barnum in that she used the media to create exposure for herself and ignored the controversies that she often left in her wake. She became an international icon in the ’80s with her hit songs, style trends and controversial music videos. Known for pushing boundaries and reinventing her music and image, she was considered one of the most provocative figures of the ’80s.
Madonna moved to New York City in 1978 to pursue a career in dancing. Instead, she established herself as a singer and was signed by Sire Records in 1982. Sire released her single “Everybody” that same year and, because of its success, the label released her full-length self-titled debut album in 1983. Produced by the legendary John “Jellybean” Benitez, the album generated the hit songs “Holiday” which reached #16 on the Billboard “Hot 100” chart and “Lucky Star” landed in the position a little later. It was a solid start for newcomer.
Madonna’s second album, “Like a Virgin,”was released by Sire in late 1984. Recorded at the famous Power Station studio in New York, her sophomore album was produced by the legendary Nile Rodgers. The album solidified her stature as an up and coming hit maker with five singles charting internationally and four of the five taking top 10 spots on the Billboard “Hot 100.” Her song “Angel” was not eligible for the chart for technical reasons. The album’s title song ended up being her first number one single. This iconic album proved to critics that Madonna was not a one-hit-wonder and not only solidified her rapid ascension to icon status, but also was her first number one album on the Billboard“200” chart. It also made her the first female in the United States to sell more than five million copies of a record.
Her 1986 album, “True Blue,”was dedicated to her then-husband Sean Penn. She co-wrote and produced the entire album with Stephen Bray and Patrick Leonard. All of the songs are very personal to her life, like the hits “Live to Tell” and “True Blue.” She also tackled the social issue of teen pregnancy with “Papa Don’t Preach.” The album achieved critical acclaim as critics felt Madonna had grown musically and was vocally stronger.
Her fourth studio album, “Like a Prayer” was her last release in the ’80s. Again, she co-wrote and produced all of the songs with Bray and Leonard and she added Prince to her team. Critics called it her most personal and introspective release to date and Madonna admits most of the songs were about her mother who died when Madonna was only five years old.
But, like most great artists of the 80’s, it was about more than the music. Across the music industry, one’s style and fashion were critical to a musician’s success. Madonna’s look and style of dressing became one of the most popular female fashion trends of the era. Created by stylist and jewelry designer Maripol, her early ’80s look consisted of lace tops, skirts over capri pants, fishnet stockings, jewelry bearing the crucifix, bracelets, lace headbands and bleached, messy hair with dark roots.
By the mid-’80s, her look for the “True Blue” album release reflected a ’50s, edgy street-style with leather jackets, cropped hair and a “bad girl” look. In 1989, Madonna reinvented her look one more time and adopted a sexy vixen style to coincide with the release of her “Like a Prayer”album.
Madonna’s career has had its fair share of controversy, but she is a marketing genius who has used it to her advantage. In 1984 at the MTV Music Video Awards, Madonna’s heel slipped off while she was on stage performing “Like a Virgin” while as a bride. To cover, Madonna started squirming on stage and the crowd interpreted it as her enacting a woman losing her virginity on her wedding night. Critics thought this would end her career, but this “mishap” is considered by many, the moment that launched her to international stardom.
In her 1986 “Papa Don’t Preach” video, Madonna plays a pregnant, unwed teenager, who wants to keep her baby. The politically-charged song caused a lot of controversy with both pro-choice and anti-abortion camps. Planned Parenthood called the song anti-abortion, while Catholics felt it promoted sex outside of marriage. Poor Madonna just couldn’t win on this one with both camps finding fault with her video.
The music video for “Like a Prayer” stirred up religious controversy because of its use of the stigmata and burning crosses. Catholics were outraged by a dream sequence where Madonna makes love to a saint. The Vatican condemned the video, which caused Pepsi to cancel Madonna’s sponsorship contract. Madonna’s first and only Pepsi commercial was set to the hit single, but the controversy caused Pepsi to air the commercial only one time. The uproar didn’t impact Madonna – the song was a hit and she still made $5 million from that one commercial, clearly not a bad payday!
Madonna is one of the best-selling female recording artists of all time according to the Guinness World Records, having sold more than 300 million records worldwide. She established herself as the Queen of Pop in the ’80s but the 90’s were good to her as well. Even today, almost 40 years later, her influence on music, art, and fashion still has impact on a wide variety of artists.
Mark Burton is the visionary founder and a Managing Director at Pop-Daze Entertainment. Prior to creating the Pop-Daze Universe, he was an attorney and a partner in a private equity firm. His love of legacy music led him to leave the world of finance and find his own niche in the music industry. He is ultimately responsible for every aspect of your experience and always loves hearing from “Dazers!” It should be noted that while he does play the drums, he’s not very good at it, yet! He can be reached at [email protected]