Synopsis of Pop Music
"You know that we are living in a material world,
And I am a material girl..."
The top female pop-music icon of modern times, Madonna has managed to stay consistently current as she has evolved from pop star to trendsetter. Her incredible sense of media savvy has allowed her to keep her image fresh throughout the endless changes of the last twenty years, and her ability to wear many hats (singer, actor, and entrepreneur to name a few) has allowed her to build a media empire. The fact that there are so many impressive aspects to her career makes it easy to forget that she has also made some of the best and most danceable pop music of last two decades.
Madonna began her career as a dancer. The former cheerleader moved to New York fresh out of high school and became part of its modern dance scene. She soon turned her attention to music and began performing in dance clubs. She also recorded a demo tape, which won her a recording contract. In late 1983 she released her self-titled debut album, a collection of sparkling, synth-driven songs that blended pop hooks and dance beats with plenty of attitude. She scored hits throughout the next year with the girl-group-styled “Holiday,” the soulful yet danceable “Borderline” and the smash hit “Lucky Star.”
Given her background as a dance-club performer, Madonna realized the importance of MTV early on. All of her early hits were promoted with videos that put her provocative style to good use. They became major attractions on MTV and made her unique dress style—including mesh halter tops and belts with 'BOY-TOY' buckles—the ‘in’ look with young girls around the world. At the end of 1984, Madonna released the album that would lift her to superstar status, Like A Virgin. It sold 9 million copies in the U.S. alone and its success put Madonna's face on the cover of Time magazine.
Madonna became the biggest-selling musician of the year in 1985. She dominated the singles chart with a string of glossy dance-pop singles: “Like A Virgin” was a #1 hit, while “Material Girl,” “Dress You Up” and “Angel” all became Top-5 singles from the Like A Virgin album. She also became an actress in 1985 via roles in the films Vision Quest and Desperately Seeking Susan. She brought her hit-making music to these films by singing the #1 hit ballad “Crazy For You” in Vision Quest and lending the dance-club smash “Into The Groove” to the Desperately Seeking Susan soundtrack.
Madonna also took her first acting role on the stage in 1985 with Goose and Tom Tom. During this time, she met actor Sean Penn, whom she married during the summer of 1985. The next year, she lent a #1 hit to the soundtrack of his film At Close Range with the moody ballad “Live To Tell.” The two also appeared together in the comedic adventure Shanghai Surprise.
True Blue was released in 1986, showing a more mature and ambitious sound for the Material Girl. “Papa Don’t Preach” mixed a danceable music with serious lyrics about an unwed pregnancy. It also boasted a memorably dramatic video with actor Danny Aiello playing Madonna’s father. “True Blue” was a bouncy song with girl-group harmonies, while “La Isla Bonita” was a smoldering Latin-style number. Both became Top-5 hits. The next year, Madonna starred in a comedy called Who’s That Girl and had hits from its soundtrack with the #1 title track and “Causin’ A Commotion.”
1988 saw Madonna acting on the stage in Speed The Plow and hitting the record charts with a remix album called You Can Dance. She returned to recording in 1989 with Like A Prayer, one of her most critically-acclaimed albums. The gospel-inflected title track became a #1 hit and attracted much attention with its controversial, religious-themed video. She followed it up with two back-to-back #2 hits in the hard-grooving “Express Yourself” and the bouncy “Cherish.” She embarked on the successful “Blonde Ambition” world tour as she racked up another Top-10 hit with “Keep It Together.”
In 1990, Madonna scored another high-profile film role when she played nightclub singer Breathless Mahoney in the Warren Beatty film Dick Tracy. She also did an album called I’m Breathless that mixed Dick Tracy-styled cabaret numbers with the traditional Madonna dance sound. It also gave Madonna one of her most memorable dance-pop hits with the #1 smash “Vogue.” At the end of the year, she commemorated her success with an impressive best-of album, The Immaculate Collection.
Madonna scored one of her steamiest hits in 1991 with “Justify My Love,” a moody love song whose memorably sexy video had to be heavily edited to avoid being banned. The uncut version became a best-selling home video. Madonna also made a splash on movie screens with Truth Or Dare, a documentary that presented a revealing behind-the scenes look at her “Blonde Ambition” tour. The next year, Madonna became an executive when she formed her own media venture, Maverick Enterprises. This impressive company has recording, motion picture, publishing, and television arms.
In 1992, Madonna continued to be a multimedia sensation by appearing in the hit comedy A League Of Our Own and releasing a controversial photo-book simply titled Sex. She continued the amorous trend to her music with the Erotica album, which featured two Top-10 hits in the dreamy title track and the retro-disco-styled “Deeper and Deeper.” The next year, Madonna released the gentler Bedtime Stories album and scored hits with “I’ll Remember,” “Secret” and “Take A Bow.” The latter song also became an MTV favorite thanks to its bullfighting-themed video.
Madonna released a ballads collection, Something To Remember, in late 1995. It contained “You’ll See,” a new song that became a hit. She also continued to act, taking roles in edgier independent films like Four Rooms and Blue In The Face. The next year, she took the lead role in the film version of Evita. Her performance earned her the best critical notices of her acting career and she also hit the charts with two songs from the film’s soundtrack, “You Must Love Me” and “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina.” The singer/actress/entrepreneur also made international headlines with the birth of her daughter Lourdes in 1996.
In 1998, Madonna returned to her music with the techno-influenced Ray Of Light. She received the best notices of her career for this thoughtful yet danceable set, which also won her four Grammy awards. She scored Top-5 hits with the atmospheric “Frozen” and the pounding “Ray Of Light.” “The Power Of Goodbye” was debuted at the MTV Europe Music Awards and became another hit for this album. A follow-up album, Music, arrived in the fall of 2000, featuring yet another smash single in the title track. Currently, Madonna divides her time between her music, the ever-growing Maverick corporation, and her family, which now includes husband and film director Guy Ritchie and new son Rocco. No one would expect anything less from the world’s most famous female pop star.
Artist Release History1983 - Madonna
1984 - Like a Virgin
1986 - True Blue
1987 - Who's That Girl
1987 - You Can Dance
1989 - Like a Prayer
1990 - Dick Tracy: "I'm Breathless"
1990 - The Immaculate Collection
1992 - Erotica
1994 - Bedtime Stories
1996 - Evita (Original Soundtrack)
1997 - Selections from Evita
1998 - Ray of Light
2000 - Rock on ROM
2000 - Music
Pop Sub Categoriespop
Essential Music AlbumsThe Immaculate Collection (Warner Bros.)
Something To Remember (Warner Bros.)