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Madonna (singer)

Madonna is the stage name used by Madonna Ciccone, a pop singer considered by many to be the queen of popular music. She has had a long career that has been full of success and controversy.


Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone was born in 1958 in Bay City, Michigan, USA. Raised in a strict Catholic family, her mother died from cancer when Madonna was just a child. She took classes in piano and ballet and at school was an active participant in artistic activities. She attended the University of Michigan for two years but quit and went to New York in 1978, where she pursued dance and acting professionally. She appeared in a short film called A Certain Sacrifice and joined up with several punk-pop bands such as Breakfast Club. She eventually penned several songs that brought her local fame in gay dance clubs such as Danceteria.

Madonna scored her first recording deal while sitting on the corner of the bed of an ailing music executive. Her first single "Everybody" was released without her photo on the jacket. This led many listeners to believe that Madonna was, in fact, black. Thankfully, because of the advent of MTV, her label was able to aggressively market Madonna's image. A playful and sexy combination of punk and pop culture, Madonna became a quick fixture on the network. Her bleached blonde hair (with black roots,) sexy lace gloves, lingerie on the outside and "boy toy" belt buckle were soon all the rage in popular fashion.

In 1983 her debut album, self-titled, was released and the first hit "Holiday" topped the charts across the world. Other hit singles included "Borderline", "Burning Up", "Lucky Star", and "Everybody". The album was a smashing success, and catapulted Madonna into instant stardom.

In 1984 she followed her hit debut with Like a Virgin. The album's provocative subject matter (especially the title track) received praise from reviewers and fans, but put Madonna in the direct fire of the religious right. She began what would become a reputation for controversy when she appeared at the MTV Music Video Awards[?] singing "Like a Virgin" in a wedding dress/bustier combination, writhing on the floor and showing her panties. The album spawned other number one hits with "Angel", "Dress You Up", and "Material Girl". (The moniker of "Material Girl" would stay with her for ages.)

Because of her instantly recognizable appearance it seemed logical that Madonna would make the transition to film. In 1985 she had a small appearance in the film Vision Quest[?] playing a club singer. (The role seemed mostly just to serve to introduce two more top ten hits, "Crazy For You" and "Gambler".) She also played supporting lead to Rosanna Arquette[?] in the hit film Desperately Seeking Susan[?], for which she received good reviews. It would be seven years before another kind word was said about her acting.

In 1985 she also married actor Sean Penn. She appeared with him in the 1986 flop Shanghai Surprise[?], which was unanimously panned by critics. They gathered a reputation for being anti-media, as Sean was repeatedly violent towards paparazzi[?] and photographers. That year she also released her third hit album, True Blue[?]. The album had hits with "Open Your Heart" (accompanied by a video in which Madonna played a stripper who befriends a young boy,) "True Blue", "Live to Tell", "Where's the Party", "La Isla Bonita" (accompanied by a video where Madonna played a Spanish woman, the first introduction to the public of her seeming fetish for Latino culture) and "Papa Don't Preach", an anthem about keeping a baby conceived out of wedlock.

Around this time in her career tasteful black and white nude photos of Madonna surfaced. They were published in both Penthouse and Playboy magazines. These photos were taken of Madonna during the very early 1980s when she posed for art photographers as a way to make money. Potentially devastating to her career, she shrugged them off and they only served to fuel her popularity.

At this point Madonna transitioned her entire image, something that would become a trademark for years to come. She chopped off her bleached blonde hair in favour of a butch, platinum blonde look. She began to pale her face and highlight her beauty mark, adapting a very modernized Marilyn Monroe look. This seemed to coincide with her performance in the film Who's That Girl[?], which was also a flop. The soundtrack did spawn hits with the title track and "Causing a Commotion".

In 1987 she released an album of dance remixes of previous material called You Can Dance[?]. It did not sell as well as her previous efforts. She also appeared as Hortense in a Broadway production of Bloodhounds of Broadway[?], which was dismissed as tripe. Critics began to peg Madonna as a thing of the past; her career seemed to be fading fast.

On 14 September 1989[?] she divorced husband Sean Penn, citing spousal abuse.

Then, in 1989, Madonna once again changed her image. She traded in her closely shorn platinum coif for long, curly black hair and an almost wholesome look for her album Like a Prayer[?]. Once again using religious imagery to stir up controversy, the title track compared the experience of lovemaking to praying. The video for the song featured Madonna as a streetwalker who witnesses a violent rape and murder. She goes into a church where, inside, a black Jesus statue turns to life and makes love to her. The video, which also featured burning crosses[?], sparked such controversy that Pepsi cola, who had paid Madonna millions of dollars for a commercial endorsement, pulled out of their contract. As the single soared to number one, Madonna thanked them for the controversy.

The album also had top ten hits with "Express Yourself", "Keep it Together", and "Oh Father". Additionally it featured a duet with singer Prince called "Love Song".

Madonna's career was continually shaped by controversial episodes in which she outraged varous mainstream segments of society. Her critics have accused her of deliberately manufacturing "controversy" in order to create publicity and publicize herself (and thereby sell more albums). She responded to these charges by stating that she is "an artist," and that she is practicing her freedom to create art in a manner that she chooses.

In 1990 she starred as Breathless Mahoney[?] in Dick Tracy with Warren Beatty, whom she also briefly dated. She received mild praise for the role though critics pointed out that it continued her tradition of performing well as characters quite similar to herself (in this case, a demanding and powerful vamp.) The film's soundtrack spawned the huge hit song "Vogue", which was accompanied by a dance trend in which people in clubs struck poses like fashion models. She also released her first greatest hits album called The Immaculate Collection[?]. She included two new songs, both top ten hits, "Rescue Me" and "Justify My Love". "Justify" was co-written by singer Lenny Kravitz. The sexual content of the song coupled with a very sexual music video caused its banning from MTV, the station that essentially made Madonna's career. In response, the music video was released stand-alone on video tape, the first "video single" ever released.

In 1991 Madonna starred in a documentary film called Truth or Dare[?]. The film followed Madonna on her "Blonde Ambition Tour[?]" and was a massive hit. In it her personality was chronicled to the last detail: extremely ambitious and demanding, forthright, sexually charged, intelligent and balls-out. It also showed softer sides of Madonna as she confronted family members and visited the grave of her mother. Truth or Dare was retitled In Bed with Madonna for its UK release. This title was parodied by the UK TV show In Bed With Medinner.

In 1992 Madonna appeared in the Penny Marshall[?] film A League of Their Own[?] about a woman's baseball team. Her performance was heralded by critics as an impressive turn from previous attempts, though her character, "All-The-Way Mae", a sexually charged vamp, again seemed to play directly off of Madonna's real life.

In 1992 she also released an erotic book called Sex. Adult in nature, it featured Madonna as the centerpiece of photographs depicting various sexual fantasies and acts (including lesbianism, anal sex, sadomasochism, homosexuality and rape.) The book was bound in sheet metal and mylar, and came with a CD single of her new song "Erotic", which was packaged to look like a giant condom.

She also released her next album, Erotica. Almost a companion piece to the book, it featured in-your-face sexual anthems that made no quarrel about where Madonna stood. The album was more successful in countries other than America, with top ten hits like "Erotica", "Fever", "Bye Bye Baby" and "Deeper and Deeper". Two of the singles from the album did however become top ten pop hits in America, "Erotica" and "Deeper And Deeper". "Rain", considered by many to be one of Madonna's loveliest ballads to date, was also a sizeable hit in America. "Bad Girl" was a minor American hit. The press coverage of both book and album was critical, panning Madonna for "tasteless" use of sexuality to move product. However, despite what the press would have had people believe, both items went on to sell more than three million copies (less than previous albums, but hardly a failure by any standards.)

In a seeming attempt to completely overexpose herself to the public, Madonna appeared in several film roles in 1993. Body of Evidence[?] was practically soft-core pornography, as Madonna portrayed a woman who killed someone using sex. The film contained gratuitous nudity and extreme simulated sex scenes. Dangerous Game[?] was similar in plot and content. Madonna would later comment that this entire period of her life was designed to give the world every single morsel of what they seemed to be demanding in their invasion of her life. She hoped that once it was all out in the open, people could settle in and focus on her actual work.

In 1994 Madonna released Bedtime Stories[?]. The album, which took her back to her R&B and pop roots, found her singing sultry vocals on many hits that tackled very diverse concepts. The top ten song "Secret" told the story of a heterosexual man in love with a transsexual, while "Human Nature" seemed directed at the media and critics who criticized Madonna's decisions of the last several years. (With lyrics like "I'm not Sorry/I'm not your bitch", there seemed no question whom she was addressing.) Other top ten hits included "Bedtime Story", penned by singer Bjork, and "Take a Bow", penned by singer Babyface, who also sang vocals. Madonna performed this song at The Grammy Awards, where she was nominated.

Madonna seemed to only want to further her reputation for being a bad girl. She made an appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman where she repeatedly used profanity, saying the word "fuck" 13 times.

In an attempt to get respect as an actress, Madonna opted over the next several years to take small roles in independent films. She appeared as a singing telegram girl in Blue in the Face[?] (1995) and as a witch in Four Rooms[?] (1995.) She also appeared as a phone sex company owner in Spike Lee's flop Girl 6[?] in 1996.

In a further attempt to soften her image, in 1996 she released a second greatest hits album, this time a collection of ballads called Something to Remember[?]. She began to wear designer dresses and more fashionable clothing, softening her hair colour to a medium length honey blonde. This all seemed an attempt to win the coveted role of Eva Peron in the 1996 film Evita. She did, and the film marked the first time Madonna was heralded as an actress. She delivered a Golden Globe winning performance and was critically praised; however, her detractors still managed to point out the similarities between the character (a former actress and fame-hungry politican's wife) and Madonna's own life.

In 1998 Madonna reinvented herself again. During 1996 and 1998 she began studying mystical Judaism and The Kaballah. She took Yoga lessons and brought herself into supreme physical condition. She became pregnant from her personal trainer, Carlos Leon, with whom she was in love, and bore his child Lourdes Leon Ciccone in 1996. In 1998 she released Ray of Light[?], an album co-produced by European techno music performer William Orbit. The album was her biggest smash hit in nearly ten years, selling over ten million copies. It spawned the top ten singles "Frozen", "Ray of Light", "(Drowned World) Substitute For Love", "Nothing Really Matters" (with an accompanying video where she portrayed a cross between a club kid and a geisha girl), and "The Power of Goodbye".

Her vocals were notably stronger, likely an after effect of vocal training received for Evita. The lyrics were some of Madonna's most introspective and respected. "Mer Girl" dealt with being a mother while having lost her own mother as a child; "Little Star" was a song encouraging the wise choices of her own daughter, once grown; "Swim" addressed the heralding of violence in popular culture. Still, critics were quick to note that Madonna was doing only what she knew best: taking things from the cultures around her (in this case, techno music and Eastern mysticism) and refining them for mass consumption. Madonna received her first Grammy award in her 15 year career, for Ray of Light.

After doing endless promotion of Ray of Light[?], Madonna focused on her pet project: a film called The Next Best Thing[?]. The film, co-starring her friend and openly gay actor Rupert Everett[?], was about a heterosexual woman and her gay best friend. After a drunken night of sex they discover she is pregnant, and decide to raise the child together, but outside romances serve to cause conflict and estrangement. Critics praised the first half of the film, but panned the second half in which it became a courtroom drama. The soundtrack did spawn the top ten hit "American Pie", a techno cover version of the Don McLean classic. The film itself, released in 2000, was a flop. (During this time Madonna also contributed the top ten hit "Beautiful Stranger" to the soundtrack of the film Austin Powers: the Spy Who Shagged Me.)

In 2000 Madonna released the album Music. The album, critically praised and a multi-million seller, seemed to be a complete update of her early 1980s image. Relying on vacuous lyricism and dance, pop and techno music, the album was produced partly by Orbit and partly by French techno musician Mirwais[?]. It did spawn the top ten hits "Music", "Don't Tell Me", and "What It Feels Like For a Girl". The latter was accompanied by a very violent music video directed by Madonna's then-boyfriend, film director Guy Ritchie. In the video Madonna robs an Automatic Teller Machine, runs over several innocent bystanders, blows up a gas station and eventually suicides by driving into a wall. The video was meant to showcase the fact that when men in film commit violent acts it is accepted, but when women do it just as mercilessly, it is shunned. Her point was served when the video was banned by MTV. The "Music" album noted another revamping of Madonna's image, this time as a cross between a disco-loving party girl and a rustic cowgirl. It started yet another trend of fashion, with pink cowboy hats adorned by tiaras cropping up everywhere.

In 2000 Madonna married director Guy Ritchie and appeared in a short film he directed for BMW called Star. She began working on a remake of the classic film Swept Away[?], about a wealthy socialite who, after a ship wreck, is trapped on a deserted island with a poor male servant. The film, released in 2002, received critical panning as being yet another in a string of flops. She also gave birth to her second child, a son - Rocco. She also released her second Greatest Hits album in 2001, called GHV2.

In 2002 Madonna continues to make music ("Die Another Day" for the James Bond film of the same title), and to act. She seems to have settled into an image, that of Earthy warrior-mother, spiritualist and assertive, ambitious entertainer. She seems content with her second marriage, and her career, although nothing like what it was in the mid 1980s, continues to keep her in the limelight.

Her career appeared to take a turn for the worse, however, when her critical drubbing for Swept Away was followed by an equally brutal critical reception to her 2003 album American Life. Critics described the album as "tired," monotonous, and an indication that she was apparently "in need of a vacation" from the stress of her career. In still another move that followed her pattern of creating "controversy" in the wake of her album's release, she filmed a music video for the album that included a scene of her tossing a hand grenade into the lap of an lookalike for President George W. Bush. Almost immediately following this incident, the online world was surprised and amused when marketers and promoters of her album attempted to disrupt the Internet file sharing networks by uploading a large number of "junk" musical files bearing her name. Instead of downloading an actual Madonna song, seekers of online music would instead download a file of Madonna saying, "What the fuck do you think you're doing?"

Additional factoids:


With some of the main singles from each album:

Studio Albums:

  • 1983 Madonna (Holiday, Lucky Star, ...) [reissued as: The First Album]
  • 1984 Like A Virgin (Material Girl, Angel, ...)
  • 1986 True Blue (Papa Don't Preach, La Isla Bonita, ...)
  • 1989 Like A Prayer (Express Yourself, Cherish, ...)
  • 1990 I'm Breathless - Music From And Inspired By The Film "Dick Tracy" (Vogue, Hanky Panky, ...)
  • 1992 Erotica (Erotica, Fever, Rain, ...)
  • 1994 Bedtime Stories (Secret, Take A Bow, Bedtime Story, ...)
  • 1998 Ray Of Light (Frozen, The Power Of Good-Bye, ...)
  • 2000 Music (Music, Don't Tell Me, ...)


  • 1987 You Can Dance (Spotlight, Into The Groove, ...)
  • 1990 The Immaculate Collection (Vogue, Into The Groove ...)
  • 1995 Something To Remember (This Used To Be My Playground, Oh Father, ...)
  • 2001 GHV2: Greatest Hits Volume 2 (Beautiful Stranger, Human Nature, ...)


  • 1985 Vision Quest (Gambler, Crazy For You)
  • 1987 Who's That Girl - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Who's That Girl, Causing A Commotion, ...)
  • 1994 Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack "With Honors" (I'll Remember)
  • 1996 Evita - The Complete Motion Picture Music Soundtrack (Don't Cry For Me Argentina, ...)
  • 1999 Music from the Motion Picture "Austin Powers - The Spy Who Shagged Me" (Beautiful Stranger)
  • 2000 Music from the Motion Picture "The Next Best Thing" (American Pie, Time Stood Still)
  • 2002 Music from the MGM Motion Picture "Die Another Day" (Die Another Day)

Not accounted into the official discography:

  • 1989 The Early Years (On The Street, Wild Dancing, ...)
  • 1996 Pre-Madonna (Laugh To Keep From Crying, Don't You Know?, ...)
  • 1998 In The Beginning (contains the same tracks as Pre-Madonna)

External links

  1. Madonna.com (http://www.madonna.com)
  2. Artist Direct (http://ubl.artistdirect.com/music/artist/bio/0,,414944,00?artist=Madonna)
  3. Artist Biography (http://www.vh1.com/artists/az/madonna/bio.jhtml)
  4. The A-Z of Madonna (http://homepage.ntlworld.com/alan.stuart/music/madonna/discs)
  5. Jeffrey's Music Room (http://www.mp3.com/stations/jeffreykee)

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