Queen of Pop, Madge, Mo, M, Material Girl, whatever your nickname of choice, Madonna made it to the big 6-0 last week.
Say what you want about her, but even the most vicious of critics cannot deny Madge’s remarkable longevity – -close to 40 years to be exact. To say she’s pushed the envelope is putting it mildly. More like pioneered the way for those who came after, and after, and after.
The Guinness Book of World Records continues to claim her as the top-selling female recording artist of all time with over 335 million sold. Think you can get there on a wing and a prayer? Think again. It takes talent, intelligence, hard work, and the ability to allow yourself to progress over and over again. And to let that progression and growth be manifested in visual art. Madonna herself has said she doesn’t like the word reinvent” because to her, she’s just growing, not creating fake versions of herself to stay relevant.
Madonna, a Detroit native, came to NYC in 1977 at the ripe old age of 19 with a mere $35 in her pocket. After years of struggle, being a victim of robbery, and even a sexual assault, Madonna released her first disco hit “Everybody,” which earned her a record deal with Sire Records.
Soon to follow would be her third hit of the early ’80’s “Holiday,” which would become the anthem of it’s time for every over-worked person in America.
Pushing the envelope…
Literally. Her first MTV Music Awards appearance in 1984 earned her the first “gasp” of her career as she rolled around onstage in her underwear to “Like a Virgin“. A move her manager waiting just off-stage told her would ruin her career. When Madonna was later asked why she did it, her response was true to form.”It seemed like a good idea at the time.” (Sidebar: my mother often likes to recount stories of my three-year-old self singing this song in my car seat in her old wood-paneled station wagon.)
Of course, this album would also bring her a permanent nickname in the form of “Material Girl.”
Many other hits would grace the 80’s such as “Papa Don’t Preach” (a pro-life story of teen pregnancy) and the wildly popular “Who’s That Girl” (from the 1987 hit movie). But nothing would rock the world like the hugely controversial “Like a Prayer,” which earned Madge an official condemning from the Vatican for its strong imagery.
Just getting started…
Madge didn’t let that stop her. In fact, she was just getting warmed up. The 90’s brought the release of “Erotica” and of course, her tongue-in-cheek “Sex” book, which she’s described to her critics as a “pictorial essay.”” Human Nature” later became her response to those who tore her apart for her blatant self-honesty.
In 1995, Madonna the star-role as Evita Peron while she was pregnant with baby Lourdes, her first child.
A new, enlightened Madonna emerged in 1998 with the release of “Ray of Light.” Madonna worked with top producers to create the newly electronica sounds on her softly-worded tracks such as “Nothing Really Matters.”
Since then, we’ve seen a plethora of Madonna-esque tracks such as “Don’t Tell Me,” “American Life,” “Nothing Fails,” “Isaac” and “Rebel Heart” just to name a few. Oh, and did I mention she writes her own music and plays guitar and drums, too?
Congrats, Madonna, and Happy 60…you’ve done the impossible. Held a successful career in the face of adversity for decades. And paved the way for those who find it so easy to “express themselves” now –pun intended.
Madonna’s current project includes a luxury skincare line called MDNA SKIN.