Madonna: The Making Of A Material Girl

By: Brennan Carley, Taylor Cavallo, Dan Siering

The Eighties

The ‘80s saw the start and development of Madonna’s multifaceted career. After having been in The Breakfast Club, a rock band that she left in 1980, Madonna signed with Warner Bros. records and started a solo career that would redefine and forever change pop music. Her album debut, the self-titled, Madonna released in 1983, features some of Madonna’s best and most famous pop-disco songs, despite her unfamiliarity with the celebrity world at this point. These songs include “Lucky Star,” “Borderline,” “Burning Up,” and “Holiday,” all of which are not only ‘80s classics, but timeless pieces of pop music. The album saw tremendous success in spite of being her first release, and it peaked at number eight on the Billboard 200 that year.

With her next album, the scandalous and controversial Like a Virgin, released only one year later and listed as one of the Definitive 200 Albums of All Time in 1998, her style and attitude changed. She no longer presented herself as the coyly edgy but still typically bubbly pop singer who sang cute, catchy love songs. It was her second album that brought fans the quintessential Madonna we all know and love. Her sensual bride performance on the first ever MTV Music Awards solidified her as a front-runner not only in the realm of female musicians, but pop music in general. The music video of the second single off Like a Virgin, “Material Girl,” featured Madonna as a 1980s Marilyn Monroe, leaving lines of male suitors in suits presenting her with gifts at the wayside, opting only for the diamonds.

Once Madonna reached this apex of popularity in the mid-‘80s, she became a style icon to a caliber that none had before. Madonna defined the fashion trends of the decade that, to this day, are still associated with her time period: the plastic neon colored layered bracelets, the bleached blonde hair, fishnets with brightly colored Chuck Taylors, lace gloves with the fingers cut off, and, of course, large and ornate crucifixes. Girls all around the country were imitating the style of the biggest pop star of their era.

 

In 1985, Madonna appeared in the films Vision Quest, a romantic drama whose soundtrack featured her single “Crazy for You,” and Desperately Seeking Susan, which featured her widely popular “Into the Groove.”

Her more mature 1986 album True Blue was dedicated to her husband at the time, actor Sean Penn, and included the singles “Papa Don’t Preach” and “La Isla Bonita.” By this time, Madonna was already developing as an artist stylistically and musically, which is truly astonishing with only a five-year career under her belt.

Toward the end of the ‘80s, Madonna began to raise eyebrows and turn heads from critics left and right once she released the music videos for “Like a Prayer,” which featured countless Catholic symbols juxtaposed against sexual themes (and included an African American Jesus) and “Justify My Love,” which featured tremendously sexual images, shocking for the time. Both videos were eventually banned from MTV, but Madonna defended herself to the end and was by no means done with her vivacious career.

 

The ‘80s saw the start and development of Madonna’s multifaceted career. After having been in The Breakfast Club, a rock band that she left in 1980, Madonna signed with Warner Bros. records and started a solo career that would redefine and forever change pop music. Her album debut, the self-titled, Madonna released in 1983, features some of Madonna’s best and most famous pop-disco songs, despite her unfamiliarity with the celebrity world at this point. These songs include “Lucky Star,” “Borderline,” “Burning Up,” and “Holiday,” all of which are not only ‘80s classics, but timeless pieces of pop music. The album saw tremendous success in spite of being her first release, and it peaked at number eight on the Billboard 200 that year.

With her next album, the scandalous and controversial Like a Virgin, released only one year later and listed as one of the Definitive 200 Albums of All Time in 1998, her style and attitude changed. She no longer presented herself as the coyly edgy but still typically bubbly pop singer who sang cute, catchy love songs. It was her second album that brought fans the quintessential Madonna we all know and love. Her sensual bride performance on the first ever MTV Music Awards solidified her as a front-runner not only in the realm of female musicians, but pop music in general. The music video of the second single off Like a Virgin, “Material Girl,” featured Madonna as a 1980s Marilyn Monroe, leaving lines of male suitors in suits presenting her with gifts at the wayside, opting only for the diamonds.

Once Madonna reached this apex of popularity in the mid-‘80s, she became a style icon to a caliber that none had before. Madonna defined the fashion trends of the decade that, to this day, are still associated with her time period: the plastic neon colored layered bracelets, the bleached blonde hair, fishnets with brightly colored Chuck Taylors, lace gloves with the fingers cut off, and, of course, large and ornate crucifixes. Girls all around the country were imitating the style of the biggest pop star of their era.

In 1985, Madonna appeared in the films Vision Quest, a romantic drama whose soundtrack featured her single “Crazy for You,” and Desperately Seeking Susan, which featured her widely popular “Into the Groove.”

Her more mature 1986 album True Blue was dedicated to her husband at the time, actor Sean Penn, and included the singles “Papa Don’t Preach” and “La Isla Bonita.” By this time, Madonna was already developing as an artist stylistically and musically, which is truly astonishing with only a five-year career under her belt.

Toward the end of the ‘80s, Madonna began to raise eyebrows and turn heads from critics left and right once she released the music videos for “Like a Prayer,” which featured countless Catholic symbols juxtaposed against sexual themes (and included an African American Jesus) and “Justify My Love,” which featured tremendously sexual images, shocking for the time. Both videos were eventually banned from MTV, but Madonna defended herself to the end and was by no means done with her vivacious career.

 

The Nineties

Although the ’90s wouldn’t garner many hits on the level of her earlier smashes, Madonna started off the decade with a bang, starring alongside Warren Beatty in the critically- panned (but cult-adored) Dick Tracy, which itself spawned a stage show at Walt Disney World that was as short-lived as the movie’s box office was miniscule. She released the soundtrack album I’m Breathless (also the name of her character in the film) that featured the smash hits “Vogue” and “Sooner or Later,” the latter of which earned an Oscar for Best Original Song.

Later that year, she launched the Blond Ambition World Tour—”its goal is to break useless taboos”—that featured acts so risque that the Pope himself asked the general public to boycott the shows. A year later, Madonna dated Vanilla Ice for eight fascinating months.

After starring in the all-female baseball flick A League of Their Own—for which she must receive countless royalties, since it seems to air on TBS every other night—Madonna started her own production company. Its first release, the coffee table book Sex, was rife with the provocative imagery she had quickly become associated with. The book sold close to 2 million copies in a matter of days.

After an appearance on Late Night With David Letterman in which she swore, ripped off her underwear, and threw them at the shocked host, fans and critics alike agreed that she had gone too far. In 1994, Madonna attempted to reconnect with audiences on the album Bedtime Stories, a surprisingly softer side of the star that fans ate up. She reappeared on Letterman’s show, a much tamer experience than the prior year’s debacle, and Stories yielded four mildly popular singles. A 1995 collection of ballads, entitled Something to Remember, proved completely unmemorable.

If anything, Madonna’s spotlight in the ’90s will most likely be remembered for her role as Eva Peron in Evita, a visually stunning and critically acclaimed musical film. She won a Golden Globe for the role, and the movie’s single, “You Must Love Me,” took home another Oscar for Madge. “This is the role I was born to play,” she said in an interview, “and it was the farthest I’ve ever had to push myself creatively.”

In 1996, the sex-obsessed, provocative swear-spitting superstar gave birth to her first child, Lourdes. Perhaps motherhood softened her up—whatever the case, Madonna turned next to religion, embracing Kabala thanks to the influence of friend and actress Sandra Bernhard. Her seventh studio album, Ray of Light, reflected her newfound faith. Madonna was quickly accused of plagiarizing the album’s first single, “Faith,” from Belgian songwriter Salvatore Acquaviva’s 1993 song “Ma Vie Fout L’Camp.”

To close the decade, Madonna dropped the single “Beautiful Stranger,” which was featured in the hugely popular Mike Myers 1999 film Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. She ended the year with a pregnancy.

 

The Aughts

Entering into the 21st century and well into her 40s, Madonna showed no signs of acquiescing her throne to the younger generation, continuing to pursue a variety of projects in each sector of the entertainment world, with the same scandalous manner of the previous two decades.

She kicked off the new millennium by starring in the feature film The Next Best Thing, to which she contributed a cover of Don McLean’s infamous hit “American Pie.” The movie was commercially and critically a flop, yet this did not deter the Queen of Pop from the film industry. In 2000, she began a long and tumultuous relationship with Guy Richie. In August, the two had a son, Rocco, and eventually married in Scotland at the end of the year.

It was also in 2000 that Madonna released her eighth studio album, Music. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard Charts, making it the first number one album for Madonna since Like A Prayer. The subsequent album tour was the highest-grossing concert by a solo artist in 2001. In the wake of Madonna’s resurgence, the pop artist was picked to perform the opening song for the Bond film Die Another Day.

After participating in various fashion art projects, Madonna continued to ride her wave of success and released American Life in 2003, a social criticism of American culture that received mixed reviews and would end up being the worst-selling album of her career. In the wake of negative sales, she reinserted herself into tabloids around the world when she kissed Britney Spears at a performance at the 2003 MTV Movie Awards. The scandal was the most talked-about pop culture story of the year.

Keeping up with her streak of album production, Madonna released her tenth studio album, Confessions on a Dance Floor, a collection of electronic-pop tunes, in 2005. Confessions went on to win a Grammy Award for “Best Electronic/Dance Album,” and the album’s global tour would become the most successful tour by a female artist at the time. The LP’s hit single, “Hung Up,” broke records, reaching number one in over 40 countries.

In 2008, Madonna celebrated her 50th birthday year in a variety of ways, including releasing the personal hip-hop record Hard Candy. The pop queen also was one of five performers inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where fellow Michiganites The Stooges covered a number of her songs. The one sour note amongst her accomplishments in 2008 was when she parted ways with Guy Richie, her husband of eight years.

In recent years, Madonna has turned her gaze to a few new sectors of the entertainment industry, such as directing W.E., her first full-length motion picture, about the forbidden romance between King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. But Madonna, by all means, has not shifted her gaze from music. Her latest single, “Give Me All Your Luvin’,” will premiere tonight during American Idol. The hope is to build hype for her much-anticipated performance at the Super Bowl this Sunday, which will include the likes of Nicki Minaj, M.I.A., and Cirque Du Soleil.

 

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