I love you baby
—Robbie Williams, "She's Madonna"
Madonna (born Madonna Louise Ciccone on August 16, 1958) is an American recording artist, actress and entrepreneur. Born in Bay City, Michigan, and raised in Rochester Hills, Michigan, she moved to New York City in 1977, for a career in modern dance. After performing as a member of the pop musical groups Breakfast Club and Emmy, she released her self-titled debut album in 1983 on Sire Records.
With her second album, Like a Virgin (1984), Madonna rocketed to super-stardom. The album spawned a slew of hit singles, and a live performance by the singer at the very first MTV Music Video Awards sealed the deal towards Madonna's ascension to super-stardom. Madonna's relationship with MTV further made her a household name; alongside Michael Jackson and Prince, she became one of the defining artists of the 80s as her videos and sexually charged, often ironic and catching lyrics made her an icon of the era.
By this time, Madonna had landed a supporting cast role in Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), playing the title character Susan. The film was a commercial and critical hit, and was the first of many movie roles for Madonna. Unfortunately, her follow-up films Shanghai Surprise (1986, with then-husband Sean Penn) and Who's That Girl (1987) didn't fare as well.
Her third album, 1986's True Blue, saw the first of many re-inventions for Madonna, as she shed her "mall rat" persona and adopted a more sophisticated "sex kitten" image. The album also contained "Live to Tell", one of most important songs Madonna ever put out. The ballad won over critics (many of whom had dismissed Madonna as a teenybopper act) and breathed new life to her career.
Expanding on the use of religious imagery with Like a Prayer (1989), Madonna received positive critical reception for her diverse musical productions, while at the same time receiving criticism from religious conservatives and the Vatican. The title track gained massive controversy, costing Madonna a hefty contract with Pepsi for use of the song in its commercials. Madonna's marriage to Sean Penn also collapsed under accusations of spousal abuse, which Madonna addressed (for the first and only time) in the song "Till Death Do Us Part".
Madonna made her Broadway debut in 1988 in David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow, but her acting career took off again in 1990's Dick Tracy, which also spawned one of her biggest hits, the song "Vogue". As the 1990s began, Madonna founded the Maverick corporation (the name is a portmanteau of "Madonna" and "Veronica", her confirmation name), a joint venture between herself and Time Warner, and released The Immaculate Collection, a "best of" album that featured the controversial single "Justify My Love". The video for the song was banned on MTV, kicking up more controversy as Madonna entered into her "Sex" period.
1992 saw the joint release of the studio album Erotica and the coffee-table book Sex. This, plus the 1993 critical flop Body of Evidence (which had Madonna playing a black widow nymphomaniac who used sex to kill men), created a firestorm of controversy regarding the artist.
1994 saw the release of Bedtime Stories; besides featuring a collaboration between Madonna and Bjork (the album's title track) and the commercially successful video/song "Take a Bow", the album was released as Madonna landed the lead role in the 1996 film version of the musical Evita. Winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy, the film was a turning point as Madonna began the transition towards a more respectable Hot Mom image, which was enhanced with the birth of her firstborn child.
Madonna's seventh studio album Ray of Light (1998) became her big comeback album, as it was one of her most critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums. The album mixed dance music with introspective lyrics about motherhood and religion, as Madonna became involved in Kabbalah. With Music (2000), Madonna returned to dance music full-time, the album also introduced Sasha Baron Cohen, whose Ali G character was featured in the video for the title track, to American culture. Sadly, Madonna's decision to try her hand at rap and politically conscious, anti-war lyrics caused her 2003 album American Life to flop. However, she rebounded with Confessions on a Dance Floor, a hugely successful album.
Departing from Warner Bros. Records, Madonna signed an unprecedented $120 million dollar contract with Live Nation in 2008. Her eleventh album Hard Candy was released the same year; it received a pretty mixed reaction from hardcore fans and casual listeners alike for its Hip Hop/Rhythm and blues sound, because many thought she was trying to pander to listeners of urban music. In any event, it did feature some interesting collaborations with Justin Timberlake, Kanye West, Pharrell, and Timbaland.
2012 saw the release of her twelfth studio album MDNA, launched by a single featuring Nicki Minaj and M.I.A., and not to mention a major Super Bowl halftime performance as well. It was a return to her dance-pop sound. However, it wasn't the comeback people were expecting. Many fans blame it on poor choices for lead singles and lack of promotion from Madonna. However, the album did receive generally positive reviews from critics, and spawned three hit singles, while going on to be the twelfth best-selling album (worldwide) of 2012.
Her thirteenth album Rebel Heart was scheduled for release in March 2015, but six tracks were made available through iTunes in December 2014 in response to hacking attacks which led to leaks of content and artwork.
Madonna is ranked by the Recording Industry Association of America as the best-selling female rock artist of the 20th century and the second top-selling female artist in the U.S., with 63 million RIAA-certified albums; she has sold over 200 million albums worldwide. In 2007, Guinness World Records listed her as the world's most successful female recording artist of all time, and she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2008). Considered to be one of the most influential women in contemporary music, Madonna has been known for continually reinventing both her music and image, and for retaining a standard of autonomy within the recording industry; she is recognized as an influence among numerous music artists.
- Madonna (1983)
- Like a Virgin (1984)
- True Blue (1986)
- Like a Prayer (1989)
- Erotica (1992)
- Bedtime Stories (1994)
- Ray of Light (1998)
- Music (2000)
- American Life (2003)
- Confessions on a Dance Floor (2005)
- Hard Candy (2008)
- MDNA (2012)
- Rebel Heart (2015)
- Who's That Girl (1987; only four Madonna songs are on this OST)
- I'm Breathless (Dick Tracy Soundtrack) (1990)
- Evita (1996)
- You Can Dance (1987)
- The Immaculate Collection (1990)
- Something to Remember (1995)
- GHV2 (2001)
- Remixed and Revisited (2003)
- Celebration (2009)
- Bare Your Midriff: Especially in the '80s; was practically a Madonna trademark at the time.
- Also in the video for "Ray of Light".
- Bi the Way
- Burger Fool: Before hitting it big as a recording artist, she worked in a New York Dunkin' Donuts, and was actually fired for squirting jelly in a customer's face.
- But Not Too White: Her debut single, "Everybody," was marketed without her image. The single's cover is a picture of a black neighborhood, implying that Madonna was a black urban artist. She had to fight the record label to make a video for the song.
- Canon Discontinuity:
- The video for "Holiday", Also the original video for "True Blue", which was done by an amateur director as part of a MTV contest.
- "True Blue" is also a major source of discontinuity, since the song was written about love for abusive ex-husband Sean Penn and Madonna has pretty much disowned the song, going so far as refusing to ever perform it in concert.
- Madonna had "Material Girl" filed under Canon Discontinuity by the late 1980s, due to the Misaimed Fandom of the song and the way that the media and fans basically used the title as their de facto nickname for Madonna. It was performed on the Re-Invention Tour, but only because she couldn't learn how to play the chords for "Dress You Up" in time, and the tour director (Jamie King) convinced her to put the song on the setlist.
- She directed a critically panned and mostly nonsensical film called Filth and Wisdom in 2008. Three years later when her next project came out promotional materials claimed it was her "directorial debut" and in an interview Madonna claimed she only directed Filth and Wisdom so she could learn how to make a film so apparently it doesn't count.
- Christmas Cake: Come on, admit it. She looks pretty good for her age.
- The Cover Changes the Meaning: "American Pie"; Madonna omitted most of the lyrics from the song that referred to the music scene of the late 1960s, to make it more of a dance song about music and love.
- Dirty Old Woman: Rapidly becoming this. See: Grandma, What Massive Hotness You Have! below.
- Double Standard: Madonna is often criticized for sexuality that would be considered pretty standard for a male rocker. She especially explores the topic in "What It Feels Like for a Girl" with the lyrics "Girls can wear jeans, And cut their hair short, Wear shirts and boots 'Cause it's OK to be a boy. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading 'Cause you think that being a girl is degrading."
- Ethical Slut: The subject of many songs like "Erotica" and "Human Nature", which provides the page quote.
- Fan Girl/Ascended Fangirl: Has a mutual supportive fangirl relationship with Britney Spears where since about 2002 she's made sure to work with her a lot, on songs and videos, multiple different performances, wearing her shirt as support once or twice, even flirting with her on twitter, implying they'll work together again, and doing interviews about Britney voluntarily for many of Brit's documentary's like For The Record. She generally tends to say she see's a lot of herself in Britney Spears and her career and understands some of her more unusual choices personally and professionally.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Subverted. While Madonna generally runs full steam ahead and crushes the radar like a semi-truck on the freeway, she won't let the original version of "Human Nature" appear on her "best of" albums lest she get stuck with a "Parental Advisory" warning (even though the album that contains the song doesn't have said sticker). Also, her big NBC concert special opted to use alternate angles and screen cutaways to avoid showing Madonna mock-crucified during "Live To Tell".
- Getting the videos for "Like a Prayer" and "Justify My Love" played at all certainly counts, though.
- Girl-On-Girl Is Hot: Her infamous onstage kisses with Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears.
- Good Girls Avoid Abortion: "Papa Don't Preach" is a subversion and a Take That against this trope.
- Grandma, What Massive Hotness You Have!: Recent music videos have shown her cavorting with boys who look like they're barely legal.
- Gratuitous Spanish:
- "La Isla Bonita", ("the beautiful island").
- "Quien es esa niña" and "señorita, mas fina" in "Who's That Girl".
- "Spanish Lesson" is full of this.
- Hell-Bent for Leather: A staple of her wardrobe, including high-heeled boots, riding crops etc.
- Hotter and Sexier: Depends on the song; some have very blatant sexual content (see Moral Guardians, Banned in China) while others are Lighter and Softer.
- I Was Young and Needed the Money: One reason given for her nude photos taken pre-fame in The Eighties.
- Informed Judaism: Okay, a somewhat "mystical" brand of Judaism in Kaballah, but Madonna rarely discusses it publicly.
- Intercourse with You: "Where Life Begins" (about the joys of eating pussy), "Like a Virgin" (self-explanatory), "Erotica", "Justify My Love" (especially the notorious video), and more.
- Last-Note Nightmare: The final song of Like a Prayer, "Act of Contrition". The whole song is pretty ominous, but the last four seconds will make you jump out of your seat. "WHAT DO YOU MEAN, IT'S NOT IN THE COMPUTER?!"
- Le Film Artistique: Some of her more "high concept" videos, such as "Justify My Love", "Frozen", "Bedtime Story" etc.
- Lighter and Softer: Madonna's ballads, such as "Frozen".
- Bedtime Stories, too. After the highly controversial "Sex" phase, Madonna aimed to soften her image with the album, which had a far less sexual approach.
- Lyrical Dissonance:
- "Till Death Do Us Part", a bouncy song about a woman who's vows to leave her abusive husband, only to go back to him and the implication that "Till Death Do Us Part" is going to be the only way she'll get free from him.
- The "Bang Bang" demo, a Mika-esque song about murder.
- Mood Whiplash: Most of her albums have at least one song, but the worst offender is MDNA with two. The entire album is pretty dance happy, and then you get to "Masterpiece", which is a slower romantic song, and then "Falling Free", a power ballad that will make anyone cry as you get closer and closer to the end.
- Moral Guardians: The reason she was so controversial in the 80s, and still is to some extent today. The music videos for "Justify My Love" and "Erotica" was almost entirely banned from appearing on TV; "Like a Prayer" was challenged almost as much.
- My Girl Is Not a Slut: Then-husband Sean Penn's Saturday Night Live appearance, during which he got into a fistfight with the Church Lady when "she" provided (music) video evidence that indeed, his girl was a slut.
- New Sound Album: She's known for having worked in many genres. Some of these would be synthpop, disco, house, ambient, techno, Latin, rock, gospel, funk, and R&B.
- Non-Indicative Name: "Gang Bang," which isn't even about sex in the slightest! It's actually about murder...
- Some have speculated that this was done to avoid comparison with the Cher single "Bang Bang", which contains similar themes and a nearly identical title.
- Of Corsets Sexy: A frequent costuming choice throughout her career.
- Older Than They Look: Believe it or not, she's approaching 60.
- One Mario Limit: There is no possible association for the name "Madonna" other than her.
- Pretty in Mink
- Raised Catholic: Okay, she may dance provocatively in front of religious symbols but they're Catholic religious symbols. The symbolism in Like A Prayer is Catholic and overall it probably takes a Catholic to piss the Church off so many times.
- Reality Subtext: "Me Against Madonna", Mad TV music video parody of the Britney Spears song "Me Against the Music", which portrayed Madonna (post American Life) hunting down Britney Spears so that she can bite her neck and drain her "youth and energy".
- Rearrange the Song:
- For the Confessions Tour Madonna used a less vulgar demo ("You Thrill Me"), added some lyrics from the final version of "Erotica", and reworked it into an electronic/dance/disco song.
- "Deeper and Deeper" was re-invented into a jazz song on the Re-Invention Tour.
- Most of her old songs have received this treatment when performed on recent tours.
- "Bang Bang", a happy-sounding song about murder, was transformed into "Gang Bang", a much darker song about murder.
- Refuge in Audacity: Plenty of what she has done counts, starting with her stage costumes.
- Repurposed Pop Song: In 1989, Pepsi-Cola paid $5 million to use Madonna's single "Like a Prayer" in a commercial, but the soft drink company chickened out after protests by religious groups in the wake of the song's video release...A video that, for anyone that doesn't know, includes burning crosses, stigmata, and Madonna having sex with what they assumed to be "Black Jesus". Mmm, Pepsi.
- The Rival:
- Madonna and Janet Jackson were definitely not BFFs, to put it lightly. They did bury the hatchet after Michael Jackson's death.
- Madonna almost started a rivalry with, of all people, Sinead O'Connor. Madonna, who was raised Catholic and been criticized by the Church for her stage acts, "Like A Prayer," "Erotica," the Sex book, and so on, spoke out against O'Connor's Crosses the Line Twice incident on Saturday Night Live. O'Connor claimed that Madonna said she "[looks] like [she] had a run in with a lawnmower and that [she] was about as sexy as a Venetian blind."
- Madonna also has a distaste for Mariah Carey.
- Has a love-hate relationship with Courtney Love. See their MTV interview at the red carpet in 1995.
- Madonna is certainly perpetuating the idea that Lady Gaga is an up-and-coming rival. See Take That below.
- Self-Deprecation: In one segment of The Hire, a series of big-budget short promotional films done by BMW, she plays a bitchy, entitled singer. The segment was directed by her then-husband, Guy Ritchie.
- She Cleans Up Nicely: For a former teenybopper whose style became known as "mall rat" fashion, Madonna cleaned up rather well.
- Shout-Out: "Hung Up" is a five-minute love song to the 1970s, with the video being based on Saturday Night Fever and the song's hook being a sample from ABBA's "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! A Man After Midnight".
- Surreal Music Video: "Fever", "Bedtime Story", "Dear Jessie", and "Nothing Really Matters".
- Take That:
- "Human Nature" is entirely about having a healthy attitude about sex, and a Take That against the criticism she routinely gets for being too provocative.
- Madonna said outright that "Born This Way" was a great cover of "Express Yourself". She later sang a bit of "Born This Way" during her MDNA Tour performance of "Express Yourself", then followed that up with the lyric "she's not me."
- A take that from the critics: a few reviewers described MDNA and/or its singles as "reductive", a word Madonna used to describe Born This Way.
- This Is for Emphasis, Bitch: "Thief of Hearts" ("Bitch! Sit your ass down!").
- Three Minutes of Writhing: Not uncommon in her videos.
- Fourple Meaning Title: The title of her forthcoming MDNA. can be taken four different ways;
- As an initialism of her name (MaDoNnA). Simple enough, right?
- But it also sounds suspiciously like the drug MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy. Leave it to the Moral Guardians to make a big stink over this interpretation just a day after the title being announced.
- The third interpretation can be taken from mtDNA (or mitochondrial DnA), which is the kind of DNA that is solely inherited by the mother of an organism. Many speculate this is a Take That to a certain pop singer who has obviously been inspired by Madge in recent years...
- And the fourth interpretation of the theme of the album is Madonna's DNA, harking back to her old pop ideas and inspirations, a retrospective of sorts. Also noted in the artwork which was rather science-like.
- Unscaled Merfolk: The "Cherish" video.
- Urban Legends: A popular urban legend in the late 1980s towards the story behind the song "Papa Don't Preach": Madonna had become pregnant in 1985, right before she was to go into the studio to start work on "True Blue". Rather than have the baby and risk derailing her career (which was at it's peak), Madonna secretly had an abortion to get rid of the pregnancy. However, her father had a major cow about his daughter having said abortion, leading to her writing, as a Take That, "Papa Don't Preach", in which she sarcastically opined what her father would say if she had gotten pregnant as a teenager and declared that she was going to have the child.
- Zettai Ryouiki: Madonna pulls off a nice Grade B in Celebration.
- "Who's That Girl", "Causing a Commotion", "The Look of Love", and "Can't Stop".
- It was actually a black saint, inspired by St. Martin de Porres