Round 16 is going to be split into 2. The reason being is that this particular recording artist is the very woman who many music critics consider to be the Queen of Pop Music. This artist is Madonna and the bitch started many a trope for female recording artists (Including but not limited to):
- Switching looks between songs and/or albums
- Having controversial music videos that further promote the song and/or album in question
- Using sex...tons and tons of sex alongside having aforementioned tropes to create an end all be all image for that particular era.
This post is examining her first half of 12 [soon to be 13] albums, Madonna to Bedtime Stories.
It all started for the Pontiac, Michigan raised singer when eponymous debut effort (Big ol' words that mean "album with the artist's name on it") was released in 1983. Five singles were released although 3-5 would begin to birth her career. The first two singles "Everybody" and "Burning Up" although Hot 100 busts by not charting began Madonna's backup plan: ranking on the Dance charts [both went to #3 on the Dance charts].
The first major single and third collectively was "Holiday". Released after the LP had its ground work, the single would eventually peak at #16 on the Hot 100 and at #1 on the Dance charts.
Second was "Lucky Star" and out of the 3 major singles was the highest Hot 100 peak, doing so at #4 while it replicated #1 success on the Dance charts.
Third was "Borderline", which peaked at #10 on the Hot 100 and #4 on the Dance charts.
Things in this era were screwy at first because her label didn't put her face on initial packaging of singles or album art. The reason being is that they were attempting to peddle her as an R&B artist and it wasn't until Madonna had pleaded to do the video for "Holiday" and onward that she at least est. herself as an artist of image. Singing credibility would take some time.
Her self titled debut peaked at #8 on the Billboard 200.
Cut to her breakthrough album, the 1984 released Like a Virgin. Madonna image buffs remember this for one reason: humping stage while performing at the VMAs in a wedding dress with a belt that read "BOY TOY". As with her previous work, 5 singles were released but 4 managed to find success as opposed to 3 ["Into the Groove" wasn't released in the U.S.]
The lead single and title track, would reach #1 on the Hot 100 and Dance charts [*Fun fact: Music enthusiasts call this a "crossover" smash; when a song that normally does well on the niche charts can go to the top on the Hot 100*] The video for the song was one of the most iconic of the MTV generation (From damn near every retrospective music source.) as Madonna is traveling around in a gondola in Venice, Italy wearing a shit-ton of jewelry and personifying early 80s fashion. As mentioned before, the fever pitch of the song came at the 1984 MTV Video Music Awards where...she humped stage in a wedding dress with a belt that read "BOY TOY".
The second song released from the album was "Material Girl". Video wise, this is remembered as the homage to the Marilyn Monroe movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and its tie-in song "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend". The song itself would peak at #2 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Dance charts and like its predecessor establish her ability to use image as a way to spread word about her singles an in turn album.
The reason this is in turn troubling, is that 2 more singles would be released [remember; "Into the Groove" was not one of them.] "Angel" and "Dress You Up". Both of these songs would peak at #5 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Dance charts. Yet because of the 2 lead singles and MTV video airplay [and song aging] these two became something to the effect of under-appreciated if not totally ignored songs.
This point in her career saw commercial success tie in with her radio success as Like a Virgin peaked at #1 on the Billboard 200.
Third, came the 1986 released True Blue. In traditional format, 5 singles were released. What ended up happening is that all 5 singles would chart in the Top 5 of the Hot 100 and 3 of them would go to #1.
First released was "Live to Tell". Video wise, she took inspiration from Marilyn Monroe and kept it subtle (Apparently, subtle can be used in the same sentence as Madonna and Marilyn Monroe.) Song wise, it's regarded as her best ballad and was a success in Adult Contemporary circles. The song itself peaked at #1 on the Hot 100 but was the first of her released material to utterly miss the Dance charts.
Second released from the album was "Papa Don't Preach". "Awesomely Bad"/"Guilty Pleasure" buffs remember this as the song Kelly Osbourne covered and achieved moderate at best success with. Madge buffs know this song as one of her iconic hits. *Fun fact: this song deals with teenage pregnancy and abortion. In fact, there are a ton of songs by all sorts of artists that are actually talking about abortion.* The song peaked at #1 on the Hot 100 and at #4 on the Dance charts.
Third, the title track. It eventually reached #3 on the Hot 100 and #6 on the Dance charts. Much like the lead single, it's retro inspiration serviced it well. The video history is in 2. The first was directed by James Foley who had worked on her previous videos "Live to Tell" and "Papa Don't Preach". The second video was the result of some genius promotional skills. The record company and MTV partnered to find who could make a decent follow up video. Taken from Wikipedia (Fuck off; I know it's subject to criticism but fuck off.) this is the winning entry description...
"The winning entry was by Angel Gracia and Cliff Guest and it showed the female protagonist (played by the director's sister Anabel Garcia) being supported and guided by her girlfriends who introduce her with the male protagonist. The girl even goes to the boy's door to gift him flowers, thereby reversing the usual gender-directed pattern of gift-giving. The male protagonist is portrayed as a "perfect boy" (played by William Fitzgibbon) having the sensibilities like attentiveness, cuteness, playfulness like a friend (after the lyrics "You're my best friend") and not sexual overtones. The video in-turn contrasts him with a self-centered boy who puts on sunglasses, throws his leather jacket over his shoulder and walks away from the girl."
Fourth, "Open Your Heart". This would peak at #1 on the Hot 100 and Dance chart.
Finally, "La Isla Bonita". This would peak at #4 on the Hot 100 and #10 on the Dance chart. Despite the seemingly low/paltry placements, this song is regarded as one of her best. With this effort, Madge had managed to break her hit and miss singles success. By this era, she had been something of a social crusader; being one of the first major pop acts to support gay rights and safe sex. Mix in the success of these singles, and this was by now her most lucrative phase of her career.
True Blue went to #1 in the States [and about 27 other countries O_O]
The came the most prevalent controversial era she would have to date [so much so, that it carries itself between two albums...]
Her fourth effort was the 1989 released, Like a Prayer. Six singles were spawned from the album. This was the era where Madge was something of a relatively edgy pop sensation as nothing she did was entirely eyebrow raising/"terrifying" in terms of music (With acting, however...eeep. There's a reason her movie career at best has been...what's the word...sporadic.) so much so that she was in talks with Pepsi to produce a commercial with her*
*TODAY'S LESSON: Why Pepsi Commercials Mattered to Recording Acts
You see kids; long ago in the U.S. Music Industry starting in a time called the 1980s, a recording artist knew something to the effect of Popular Culture Immortality was theirs when Pepsi-Cola came a knocking. Pepsi has a long standing history with music programs 'n shit, but a commercial; that was something every artist dreamed of. No, not just to sell the soda; but to make a fuck-load of money from the deal too...
(Sadly, a famed incident RE: Pepsi commercials of the time involved Michael Jackson, a spotlight, hairspray fumes and a trip to the hospital. Modern Pepsi commercial fame came when Bill O'Reilly of Fox News threw a fit over Ludacris being offered a deal simply because Luda existed.)
That shit changed quickly with the title track and lead single from the album.
"Like a Prayer" [my favorite single from any of these eras ("GASP!" Who the fuck are you? Joslyn Fox?)] went to #1 on the Hot 100 and Dance chart, but what added to the controversy of Madonna was the music video. Intended to be ballsier than any previous video she ever did, the video centers around Madge falling in love with a black man playing Jesus. Mission accomplished for controversy...if not for the accoutrement of BURNING CROSSES in a scene.
Protests occurred and eventually Pepsi nixed the deal with Madonna.
Second released from the album was "Express Yourself". Reaching #2 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Dance chart, this was the song Lady Gaga would be accused of ripping off for "Born This Way" (SPOILER; It's a different song in sound and execution.) The video is essentially Madonna in a suit; in a factory; being...well...Madonna.
Third released from the album was "Cherish". Reaching #2 on the Hot 100, missing the Dance chart and reaching #1 on the Hot Adult Contemporary charts, this was a simple song and video compared to the lead single and even to "Express Yourself" by a long shot. Here's the abridged and exaggerated version of their reaction; "Oh thank God; nothing 'Black Jesus-y', androgynous or weird."
Fourth released from the album was "Oh Father". The song itself didn't make the Dance chart...but did hit the Hot 100...at #20. Music video wise, there's an image of a woman with her lips sewn shut. Because this is the late 80s/early 90s, this was considered disturbing.
A fifth single, "Dear Jessie" was limited to international release. Critics were split on this song in general; some liked it, some went "What the fuck is she on?!"
Finally, "Keep it Together" despite another split review form the critics went to #8 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Dance charts.
For all of the controversy and nixed Pepsi deal, Like a Prayer peaked at #1.
In terms of controversy, she was merely warming up...
Cut past another acting gig in a Dick Tracy movie, her iconic single/music video "Vogue", a greatest hits album called The Immaculate Collection and its singles "Justify My Love" and "Rescue Me", a Jean-Paul Gaultier cone-bra, the Blonde Ambition tour where she simulated masturbation on stage to her next album.
Her fifth studio effort, Erotica, was released in 1992. Because this is the early 90s, this album would be perceived as controversial...but not entirely for its music. Six singles were spawned and not one of them hit #1 on the Hot 100.
The lead single and title track went to #3 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Dance charts. This song was in the era of Sex...the book of naked people like Madge, Naomi Campbell and Vanilla Ice. "Erotica" would be defined by this book and its music video being banned by MTV and pissing off the Vatican (You know the not common at all but oddly true saying: "Piss off the Vatican and you've done something right.")
Second released from the album was "Deeper and Deeper" which went to #7 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Dance charts.
Third, "Bad Girl"...it went to #36 on the Hot 100.
Fourth, a cover of a song called "Fever" which went to #1 on the Dance charts.
Fifth, was "Rain" which went to #14 on the Hot 100 and #2 on the Dance charts. Critically, this was seen as something of a return to form and is regarded among the best of her ballads.
Finally, "Bye, Bye Baby" was international only.
When I typed out "this song was in the era of Sex", the other singles are in a "guilt by association" terms with the album's legacy as well. For all of its critical pearl clutching, Erotica peaked at #2.
The final album in part I of this analysis is the 1994 released Bedtime Stories. By this album, Madonna's selling points were clear: sensationalized imagery/artistry and the occasional singing. Yet when this album came about, the feel of the sound was less severe than her predecessor. Four songs were released from the album and two were commercially successful.
The lead single from the album was "Secret". Peaking at #3 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Dance charts, this song would garner favorable reviews from critics who more or less saw this as the less hardcore sex-laden version of her previous works.
Second from the album was "Take a Bow". The song would be her first #1 on the Hot 100 since "Justify My Love"; it would also hit #1 on the Adult Contemporary charts.
Two more singles from the album would be released, though success would not come on the Hot 100.
Third from the album was "Bedtime Story". Despite the lackluster placing on the Hot 100, at #42, the song saw #1 success on the Dance charts. Keep in mind, the Dance charts have been backup for any artist, Madonna being no exception, but more on that in Part II.
Finally, "Human Nature" only went to #46 on the Hot 100, #1 on the Dance charts but has infamy through its music video. Picking up on most of Erotica's tropes of kinky shit/waving the freak flag high, the video rose to fame for the BDSM themes and sort of...Showgirls style of camp by poking fun at BDSM [which if you didn't feel...err know stands for Bondage Discipline & Sado Masochism named after Marquis de Sade...more or less nothing but a French pervert.]
Bedtime Stories peaked at #3.
So what made Madonna one of many W.W.C.I.I.T.M.I. through at least the first half of her career? Sex, Sex, sensationalized imagery which in turn lead to controversy which in turn was a justification for any artistry...at least from Like a Prayer to Erotica in terms of music. Early Madonna music wise was simply an attempted passing off as an R&B singer in general when really all she is and continued to be was a dance-floor diva.
Madonna in non-music mode from the first half of her career was simply an "eyebrow-raising"/"pearl clutching" recording artist who...was one of many to try her hand at acting [for whatever reason, some musicians are coaxed into acting in movies/TV with often...shitty results] and was met with usual derision until she played "All the Way" Mae Mordabito in the movie A League of Their Own and playing Eva Peron in the movie adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Evita. Her being Eva Peron managed to piss off Argentina and secure a Guinness World Record of Most Costume Changes in a Film [85 times (which included 39 hats, 45 pairs of shoes, and 56 pairs of earrings)].
In summation, this was Madonna being an artistically inspired act in the industry who give or take some instances of being an outright "STUNT QUEEN!" had the commercial backing to justify it all.
Part II sees this mostly in tact until the lead single of her ninth effort overall and third in the analysis all change...