(Work in progress.......heavy breathing....)
If you were conscious toward the end of the 20th century, you would have been aware of Madonna, as her music, films, tours, and sheer presence were everywhere. The most successful and most famous female musical artist of all time. Not the best, not the most admired, not the most respected, and possibly not even the most liked. But certainly the most well known and most bought. Most influential? Hmmm. Certainly she had a huge social impact, and was seen as a positive force along with The Spice Girls for promoting "girl power".
Madonna Louise Ciccone (born August 16, 1958) is an American singer, songwriter, actress, and businesswoman. Referred to as the "Queen of Pop" since the 1980s, Madonna is known for pushing the boundaries of songwriting in mainstream popular music, as well as imagery in music videos and on stage. She has also frequently reinvented both her music and image while maintaining autonomy within the recording industry. Besides sparking controversy, her works have been praised by music critics. Madonna is often cited as an influence by other artists.
Born and raised in Michigan, Madonna moved to New York City in 1978 to pursue a career in modern dance. After performing as a drummer, guitarist, and vocalist in the rock bands Breakfast Club and Emmy, Madonna signed with Sire Records in 1982 and released her eponymous debut album the next year. She followed it with a series of successful albums, including the global bestsellers Like a Virgin (1984) and True Blue (1986), as well as the Grammy Award winners Ray of Light (1998) and Confessions on a Dance Floor (2005). Throughout her career, Madonna has written and produced most of her songs, with many of them reaching number one on the record charts, including "Like a Virgin", "La Isla Bonita", "Like a Prayer", "Vogue", "Take a Bow", "Frozen", "Music", "Hung Up", and "4 Minutes".
Madonna's popularity was further enhanced by her roles in films such as Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), Dick Tracy (1990), A League of Their Own (1992), and Evita (1996). While the latter earned her a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress, many of her other films received poor reviews. As a businesswoman, Madonna founded her own entertainment company Maverick, including the label Maverick Records, in 1992. Her other ventures include fashion design, writing children's books, opening of health clubs, and film-making. She contributed in various charities and founded Ray of Light Foundation in 1998 and Raising Malawiin 2006.
Having sold more than 300 million records worldwide, Madonna is noted as the best-selling female recording artist of all time by Guinness World Records. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) listed her as the second highest-certified female artist in the U.S., with 64.5 million album units. According to Billboard, Madonna is the most successful solo artist in its Hot 100 chart history. She is also the highest-grossing solo touring artist of all time, accumulating U.S. $1.4 billion from her concert tickets. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in her first year of eligibility, Madonna topped VH1's countdown of 100 Greatest Women in Music. Additionally, Rolling Stone listed her among the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time and the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time.
After stars reach a certain point, it's easy to forget what they became famous for and concentrate solely on their personas. Madonna is such a star. She rocketed to stardom so quickly in 1984 that it obscured most of her musical virtues. Appreciating her music became even more difficult as the decade wore on, as discussing her lifestyle became more common. However, one of Madonna's greatest achievements is how she has manipulated the media and the public with her music, her videos, her publicity, and her sexuality. Arguably, Madonna was the first female pop star to have complete control of her music and image.
It's bright, breezy, empty, disco-pop. Madonna's success ensured that superficial pop acts who prioritised success over creativity would copy the synthesised beats and format to create a genre known as dance-pop which up to this date has been an enormously successful genre commercially. Generally ranked in the top three of her albums. Contains "Holiday" which first gained her some attention.
|Like A Virgin (1984)|
While this album had the big hits "Like A Virgin" and "Material Girl" which firmly put Madonna on the road to global stardom, it's not as complete as the debut due to so many weak or indifferent songs. However, its huge commercial success means it is often people's favourite Madonna album.
|True Blue (1986)|
With this album Madonna set out to appeal to a wider audience, and to satisfy music critics who felt her music was light. It is generally regarded as evidence of Madonna's ambition and manipulation, but as Erlewine says, that's what she does, and she does it brilliantly. Her desire to be noticed and accepted is stronger than her musical talent, but it is both that makes Madonna. Take away the naked desire, and you have a much lesser musician, one that would not have gained and held the public's attention, and one that would not have sold so many records. "Papa Don't Preach" is the carefully constructed stand-out track - the musicianship is lumpy and uninspired, the strings are questionable, the music is simple and predictable, but the lyrics are interesting.
|Who's That Girl - Soundtrack (1987)|
Madonna contributes four songs to the soundtrack to the third film in which she had been a major actor. There's nothing significant here.
|Like A Prayer (1989)|
Madonna's attempt at a grown up "serious" album. The title track is her most complex and developed song to date, both lyrically and musically, but the rest of the album, including the enjoyable hit "Express Yourself", is the same simplistic dance-pop albeit with intelligent attention-grabbing lyrics.
|I'm Breathless (soundtrack) (1990)|
|The Immaculate Collection (1990)|
A compilation of songs from the early (disco-pop) part of Madonna's career. This is all you need.
|Bedtime Stories (1994)|
|Something To Remember (compilation) (1995)|
|Evita (soundtrack) (1996)|
|Ray Of Light (1998)|
This is more grown up stuff than what I've heard so far. Her voice is deeper, warmer, and is doing more. The music is far more complex and interesting, with sonic resonance and texture, and varied rhythms and patterns. She has a sound that embraces and invites serious listening rather than superficial reacting. Hmmm. This has an attractive ambient techno sound, though it gets tedious after a while, and while the sound is generally quite good, and Mad's voice is warmer and more interesting, the songs are actually quite boring.
GHV2 (compilation) (2001)
American Life (2003)
Confessions on a Dance Floor (2005)
Hard Candy (2008)
Rebel Heart (2015)
- Madonna (1983)
- Like a Virgin (1984)
- True Blue (1986)
- Who's That Girl (soundtrack) (1987)
- Like a Prayer (1989)
- I'm Breathless (soundtrack) (1990)
- The Immaculate Collection (compilation (1990)
- Erotica (1992)
- Bedtime Stories (1994)
- Evita (soundtrack) (1996)
- Ray of Light (1998)
- Music (2000)
- GHV2 (compilation) (2001)
- American Life (2003)
- Confessions on a Dance Floor (2005)
- Hard Candy (2008)
- Celebration (compilation (2009)
- MDNA (2012)
- Rebel Heart (2015)
Similar artists / influences
Janet Jackson emerged around the same time as Madonna, and has some disco beats and bright pop in common, though Jackson's music is more complex, more soul and R&B orientated, and has fewer simply catchy songs and attention grabbing lyrics.
Up to Like A Prayer she mostly she sings in a little girl voice in a chirpy manner, or pushes some breathless urgency. There is little subtlety, depth or emotion - she simply delivers the song. The voice is not unattractive, but there's nothing compelling or interesting about it. It simply works, and I think for most of her listeners, that is enough.
488 March 2019