Madonna Louise Ciccone (born August 16, 1958), better known worldwide by only her first name, Madonna, is an Italian-American pop singer, songwriter, musician, record and film producer, dancer, actor, and author. Commonly referred to as the “Queen of Pop”, she is noted for her innovative music videos, elaborately mounted stage performances, and use of political, sexual, and religious themes and imagery in her work. Madonna Ciccone was born in Bay City, Michigan.
In 1980, Madonna signed a singles deal with Sire Records in the United States that paid her $5,000 per song. Her first release, “Everybody,” a self-written song produced by Mark Kamins, became a dance hit in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot Dance/Club Chart, but failed to make an impact on the Billboard Hot 100. It also gained airplay on U.S. R&B radio stations, leading many to assume that Madonna was a black artist. The double-sided 12″ vinyl single featuring “Burning Up” and “Physical Attraction” followed in 1983, and was a success on the U.S. dance charts. These results convinced Sire Records executives to finance a full-length album.
Her debut album, Madonna (1983), a collection of dance songs, was primarily produced by Reggie Lucas, but early in the recording process both realized that they could not work well together.
Her follow up album, Like a Virgin (1984), was an international success, and became her first number one album on the U.S. albums chart.
In 1985, Madonna entered mainstream films, beginning with a brief appearance as a club singer in the film Vision Quest. The soundtrack to the film contained her second number one pop hit, the Grammy-nominated ballad “Crazy for You.” Later that year she appeared in the commercially and critically successful film Desperately Seeking Susan, with her comedic performance winning her positive reviews. The film introduced the dance song “Into the Groove”, which was released as a B-side to her single “Angel”, peaking at number five in the U.S. In Europe, “Into the Groove” became a major hit and her first U.K. number one.
Madonna’s 1986 album True Blue presented a more musically and thematically mature album than its predecessors, prompting Rolling Stone to declare, ‘singing better than ever’, Madonna stakes her claim as the pop poet of lower-middle-class America.
In 1987, the star embarked on the successful Who’s That Girl World Tour, beginning her long association with backing vocalists and dancers Donna DeLory and Niki Haris, and moving closer to the more elaborately staged theatre-inspired concert tour. It also marked her first run-in with the Vatican, with the Pope urging fans not to attend her performances in Italy. The Vatican later expressed outrage at the unveiling of a racy 13-foot tall statue of Madonna in the Italian town of Pacentro, from where her father’s family hailed.
Madonna’s fourth album, 1989‘s Like a Prayer, presented more reflective and personal lyrics and a more mature vocal style. Co-written and co-produced with Patrick Leonard and Stephen Bray, it settled her as a serious pop artist. Most of the songs were recorded with all the musicians playing in the same room, which gave the album the straightforwardness and sincerity of a live recording. She teamed up with on a duet, who also lent his talent as a guitarist on two songs. Like a Prayer garnered Madonna the strongest reviews of her career and attracted a more mature audience. All Music Guide described the album as “her best and most consistent”, while Rolling Stone stated that the album is “proof not only that Madonna should be taken seriously as an artist, but that hers is one of the most compelling voices of the Eighties”. Like a Prayer produced five singles, including the #1 title track and #2 “Express Yourself”.
In early 1989, Madonna signed an endorsement deal with soft drink manufacturer Pepsi, which would debut her new song, “Like a Prayer”, in a Pepsi commercial that Madonna herself would also appear in.
The commercial used a child’s birthday party as a plot device, and was not controversial in itself; however, the following day, the music video for the song premiered on MTV. It featured many Catholic symbols, including stigmata, and was condemned by the Vatican for its “blasphemous” mixture of Catholic symbolism and eroticism. It depicted a black man, who comes to the aid of woman being murdered, arrested for the crime and jailed, until Madonna, who has witnessed the crime, secures his release.
Although the video denounced racism, Madonna was criticized for her use of symbols such as burning crosses. The public linked the commercial with the music video, and although they were different, Pepsi was subsequently bombarded with complaints and threats of boycotts; Pepsi withdrew the commercial from broadcasting, but Madonna was allowed to keep her five million dollar fee, as Pepsi had voided their contract. Sales for the album increased during the ensuing publicity, and it reached #1 on the US albums chart, ultimately being certified 4x platinum.
- Madonna (1983)
- Like a Virgin (1984)
- True Blue (1986)
- Like a Prayer (1989)
- Vision Quest (1985)
- Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)
- Shanghai Surprise (1986)
- Who’s That Girl (1987)
- Bloodhounds of Broadway (1989)