Madonna (entertainer)

Madonna (entertainer)
Upper body of a middle-aged blonde woman. Her hair is parted in the middle and falls in waves to her shoulder. She is wearing a loose dress with black and brown prints on it. A locket is hung around her neck, coming up to her breasts. She is looking to the right and is smiling.
Madonna at the premiere of I Am Because We Are in 2008
Background information
Birth name Madonna Louise Ciccone
Also known as Madonna Ciccone, Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone (Catholic confirmation name), Esther (Kabbalah name)
Born August 16, 1958 (1958-08-16) (age 53)
Bay City, Michigan, United States
Genres Pop, rock, dance
Occupations Singer-songwriter, record producer, dancer, actress, film producer, film director, fashion designer, author, entrepreneur, philanthropist
Instruments Vocals, guitar, percussion, drums
Years active 1979–present
Labels Live Nation, Warner Bros., Maverick, Sire
Associated acts Breakfast Club, Emmy

Madonna (born Madonna Louise Ciccone (Italian pronunciation: [tʃik̚ˈkoːne] chee-co-nay); August 16, 1958) is an American singer-songwriter, actress and entrepreneur. Born in Bay City, Michigan, she moved to New York City in 1977 to pursue a career in modern dance. After performing in the music groups Breakfast Club and Emmy, she released her debut album in 1983. She followed it with a series of albums that attained immense popularity by pushing the boundaries of lyrical content in mainstream popular music and imagery in her music videos, which became a fixture on MTV. Throughout her career, many of her songs have hit number one on the record charts, including "Like a Virgin", "Papa Don't Preach", "Like a Prayer", "Vogue", "Frozen", "Music", "Hung Up", and "4 Minutes". Critics have praised Madonna for her diverse musical productions while at the same time serving as a lightning rod for religious controversy.

Her career was further enhanced by film appearances that began in 1979, despite mixed commentary. She won critical acclaim and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for her role in Evita (1996), but has received harsh feedback for other film roles. Madonna's other ventures include being a fashion designer, children's book author, film director and producer. Madonna has been acclaimed as a businesswoman. In 1992, she founded entertainment company Maverick as a joint venture with Time Warner. In 2007, she signed an unprecedented US $120 million contract with Live Nation.

Madonna has sold more than 300 million records worldwide and is recognized as the world's top-selling female recording artist of all time by the Guinness World Records. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), she is the best-selling female rock artist of the 20th century and the second top-selling female artist in the United States, behind Barbra Streisand, with 64 million certified albums. In 2008, Billboard magazine ranked Madonna at number two, behind only The Beatles, on the Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists, making her the most successful solo artist in the history of the Billboard chart. She was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the same year. Considered to be one of the "25 Most Powerful Women of the Past Century" by Time for being an influential figure in contemporary music, Madonna is known for continuously reinventing both her music and image, and for retaining a standard of autonomy within the recording industry.


Life and career

1958–81: Early life and career beginnings

Madonna was born in Bay City, Michigan, on August 16, 1958. Her father, Silvio Anthony Ciccone, is a first-generation Italian American, while her mother, Madonna Louise (née Fortin), was of French Canadian descent.[1] The Ciccone family originated from Pacentro, Italy; her father later worked as a design engineer for Chrysler and General Motors. Madonna was nicknamed "Little Nonni" to distinguish her from her mother.[2][3] The third of six children from the same two parents, her full-blood siblings are: Martin, Anthony, Paula, Christopher, and Melanie.[4] Madonna was raised Roman Catholic. Upon receiving confirmation, she adopted Veronica as an additional confirmation name.[5] She was raised in the Detroit suburbs of Pontiac and Avon Township (now part of Rochester Hills).

Her mother died of breast cancer at the age of 30 in 1963.[4] Months before her mother's death, Madonna noticed changes in her behavior and personality from the attentive homemaker she was, although she did not understand the reason.[6] Mrs. Ciccone, at a loss to explain her dire medical condition, would often begin to cry when questioned by Madonna, at which point Madonna would respond by wrapping her arms around her mother tenderly. "I remember feeling stronger than she was," Madonna recalled, "I was so little and yet I felt like she was the child."[6] Madonna later acknowledged that she had not grasped the concept of her mother dying. "There was so much left unsaid, so many untangled and unresolved emotions, of remorse, guilt, loss, anger, confusion. [...] I saw my mother, looking very beautiful and lying as if she were asleep in an open casket. Then I noticed that my mother's mouth looked funny. It took me some time to realize that it had been sewn up. In that awful moment, I began to understand what I had lost forever. The final image of my mother, at once peaceful yet grotesque, haunts me today also."[7]

Madonna eventually learned to take care of herself and her siblings, and she turned to her grandmother in the hope of finding some solace and some form of her mother in her. The Ciccone siblings resented housekeepers and invariably rebelled against anyone brought into their home ostensibly to take the place of their beloved mother.[6] In an interview with Vanity Fair, Madonna commented that she saw herself in her youth as a "lonely girl who was searching for something. I wasn't rebellious in a certain way. I cared about being good at something. I didn't shave my underarms and I didn't wear make-up like normal girls do. But I studied and I got good grades.... I wanted to be somebody."[6] Terrified that her father could be taken from her as well, Madonna was often unable to sleep unless she was near him.[6] Her father married the family's housekeeper Joan Gustafson, and they had two children: Jennifer and Mario Ciccone.[8] At this point, Madonna began to express unresolved feelings of anger towards her father that lasted for decades, and developed a rebellious attitude.[6] She attended St. Frederick's and St. Andrew's Catholic Elementary Schools, and then West Middle School. She was known for her high grade point average, and achieved notoriety for her unconventional behavior: she would perform cartwheels and handstands in the hallways between classes, dangle by her knees from the monkey bars during recess, and pull up her skirt during class—all so that the boys could see her underwear.[9]

Rochester Adams High School, where Madonna studied

Madonna later attended Rochester Adams High School, and was a straight-A student and a member of the cheerleading squad.[4] After graduating, she received a dance scholarship to the University of Michigan.[10] She convinced her father to allow her to take ballet lessons[11] and was persuaded by Christopher Flynn, her ballet teacher, to pursue a career in dance.[12] At the end of 1977 she dropped out of college and relocated to New York City.[13][14] She had little money and worked as a waitress at Dunkin' Donuts and with modern dance troupes.[15] Madonna said of her move to New York, "It was the first time I'd ever taken a plane, the first time I'd ever gotten a taxi cab. I came here with $35 in my pocket. It was the bravest thing I'd ever done."[16] She started to work as a backup dancer for other established artists. During a late night, Madonna was returning from a rehearsal, when she was dragged up an alleyway by a pair of men and forced to perform fellatio at knifepoint. Madonna had later commented that "the episode was a taste of my weakness, it showed me that I still could not save myself in spite of all the strong-girl show. I could never forget it."[17] While performing as a dancer for the French disco artist Patrick Hernandez on his 1979 world tour,[9] Madonna became romantically involved with musician Dan Gilroy. They formed her first rock band, the Breakfast Club,[8][18] for which Madonna sang and played drums and guitar. In 1980 she left Breakfast Club and, with her former boyfriend Stephen Bray as drummer, formed the band Emmy. Their music impressed DJ and record producer Mark Kamins who arranged a meeting between Madonna and Sire Records founder Seymour Stein.[19][20]

1982–85: Madonna, Like a Virgin and marriage to Sean Penn

Madonna signed a singles deal with Sire, a label belonging to Warner Bros. Records.[21] Her debut single, "Everybody", was released on October 6, 1982, and became a dance hit.[22] She started developing her debut album Madonna, which was primarily produced by Reggie Lucas, a Warner Bros. producer. However, she was not happy with the completed tracks and disagreed with Lucas' production techniques, so decided to seek additional help. Madonna moved in with boyfriend John "Jellybean" Benitez, asking his help for finishing the album's production. Benitez remixed most of the tracks and produced "Holiday", which was her third single. The overall sound of Madonna is dissonant, and is in the form of upbeat synthetic disco, utilizing some of the new technology of the time, like the usage of Linn drum machine, Moog bass and the OB-X synthesizer.[19][23] The album peaked at number eight on the Billboard 200, and yielded the hit singles "Holiday", "Borderline" and "Lucky Star".[24][25]

"I was surprised by how people reacted to "Like a Virgin" because when I did that song, to me, I was singing about how something made me feel a certain way – brand-new and fresh – and everyone interpreted it as I don't want to be a virgin anymore. Fuck my brains out! That's not what I sang at all. 'Like a Virgin' was always absolutely ambiguous."

—Madonna on the backlash for "Like a Virgin"[26][27]

Gradually, Madonna's look and manner of dressing, her performances and her music videos started influencing young girls and women. Her style became a female fashion trend of the 1980s. It was created by stylist and jewelry designer Maripol and the look consisted of lace tops, skirts over capri pants, fishnet stockings, jewelry bearing the crucifix, bracelets, and bleached hair.[28] She achieved global recognition after the release of her second studio album: Like a Virgin in 1984. It topped the charts in several countries and became her first number one album on the Billboard 200.[24][29] The title track, "Like a Virgin", topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for six consecutive weeks.[25] It attracted the attention of organizations who complained that the song and its accompanying video promoted premarital sex and undermined family values,[30] and moralists sought to have the song and video banned.[31] Madonna further came under fire when she performed the song at the first MTV Video Music Awards where she appeared on stage atop a giant wedding cake, wearing a wedding dress and bridal veil, adorned with her characteristic "Boy Toy" belt buckle. The performance is noted by scholars and by MTV as an iconic performance in MTV history.[32] In later years, Madonna commented that she was actually terrified of the performance. She recalled, "I remember my manager Freddy shouting to me, 'Oh my God! What were you doing? You were wearing a wedding dress. Oh my God! You were rolling around on the floor!' It was the bravest, most blatant sexual thing I had ever done on television."[32][33] Like a Virgin was certified diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America and sold more than 21 million copies worldwide.[34][35] The National Association of Recording Merchandisers and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame listed the album as one of the "Definitive 200 Albums of All Time" in 1998.[36]

Madonna married actor Sean Penn (above) on her birthday in 1985.

Madonna entered mainstream films in 1985, beginning with a brief appearance as a club singer in Vision Quest, a romantic drama film. Its soundtrack contained her U.S. number one single, "Crazy for You".[37] She also appeared in the comedy Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), a film which introduced the song "Into the Groove", her first number one single in the United Kingdom.[38] Although not the lead actress for the film, her profile was such that the movie widely became seen (and marketed) as a Madonna vehicle.[39] The film received a nomination for a César Award for Best Foreign Film and The New York Times film critic Vincent Canby named it one of the ten best films of 1985.[40] While filming the music video for the second single from Like a Virgin—"Material Girl"—Madonna started dating actor Sean Penn and married him on her birthday in 1985.[41]

Beginning in April 1985, Madonna embarked on her first concert tour in North America, The Virgin Tour, with the Beastie Boys as her opening act.[42] Madonna commented: "That whole tour was crazy, because I went from playing CBGB and the Mudd Club to playing sporting arenas. I played a small theater in Seattle, and the girls had flap skirts on and the tights cut off below their knees and lace gloves and rosaries and bows in their hair and big hoop earrings. [...] After Seattle, all of the shows were moved to arenas."[43] In July, Penthouse and Playboy magazines published a number of nude photos of Madonna, taken in New York in 1978. She had posed for the photographs as she needed money at the time, and was paid as little as $25 a session.[44] The publication of the photos caused a media uproar, but Madonna remained defiant and unapologetic. The photographs were ultimately sold for up to $100,000.[44] She referred to the whole experience at the 1985 outdoor Live Aid charity concert saying that she would not take her jacket off because "[the media] might hold it against me ten years from now."[45][46]

1986–91: True Blue, Like a Prayer and the Blond Ambition Tour

The image of a young blond woman. She is wearing a black coat. Her hair is short, straight and parted from the left to the right. She has bright red lips and appears to be speaking to someone on her left while looking down.
Madonna during the Blond Ambition World Tour

In June 1986, Madonna released her third studio album, True Blue, which was inspired by and dedicated to Sean Penn.[47] Rolling Stone magazine was generally impressed with the effort, writing that the album "sound[s] as if it comes from the heart".[48] It spawned three number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100: "Live to Tell", "Papa Don't Preach" and "Open Your Heart", and two more top-five singles: "True Blue" and "La Isla Bonita".[25][37] The album topped the charts in over 28 countries worldwide, an unprecedented achievement at the time.[49] She also starred in the critically panned film Shanghai Surprise, and made her theatrical debut in a production of David Rabe's Goose and Tom-Tom, both co-starring Penn.[50] The next year, Madonna's second feature film Who's That Girl was released. She contributed four songs to its soundtrack, including the title track and "Causing a Commotion".[25] In June 1987, she embarked on the Who's That Girl World Tour which continued until September. Regarding the tour, Madonna commented "I realised that I could go from being unmoulded clay, and over time and with the help of people, I could turn myself into something else. This tour is the reflection of that belief and it's as if saying to me 'Who are you girl?' Hence the name, its the new me."[51][52] Later that year, she released a remix album of past hits, entitled You Can Dance, which reached 14 on the Billboard 200.[53] Madonna and Penn filed for divorce in December 1987, citing irreconcilable differences, with Madonna's lawyer pointing to Penn's drinking problem and his abusive nature. The divorce was finalized in January 1989.[54] Of her marriage to Penn, Madonna later said, "I was completely obsessed with my career and not ready to be generous in any shape or form."[41]

"In Like a Prayer I've been dealing with more specific issues that mean a lot to me. They're about an assimilation of experiences I've had in my life and in relationships. They're about my mother, my father and my bonds with my family about the pain of dying, or growing up and letting go. [The album] was a real coming-of-age record for me emotionally. [...] I had to do a lot of soul-searching and I think it is a reflection of that."

—Madonna talking about the inspiration behind Like a Prayer.[55][56]

In January 1989, Madonna signed an endorsement deal with soft drink manufacturer Pepsi. In one of her Pepsi commercials, she debuted her song "Like a Prayer". The corresponding music video featured many Catholic symbols such as stigmata and burning crosses, and a dream about making love to a saint, leading the Vatican to condemn the video. Religious groups sought to ban the commercial and boycott Pepsi products. Pepsi revoked the commercial and canceled her sponsorship contract. However, she was allowed to retain her fee of five million dollars.[4] The song was included on Madonna's fourth studio album, Like a Prayer, which was co-written and co-produced by Patrick Leonard and Stephen Bray.[57] Rolling Stone hailed it as " close to art as pop music gets".[58] Like a Prayer peaked at number one on the Billboard 200 and sold 13 million copies worldwide, with 4 million copies sold in the U.S. alone.[24][59] Six singles were released from the album, including "Like a Prayer", which reached number-one, and "Express Yourself" and "Cherish", both peaking at number two.[25][37] By the end of the 1980s, Madonna was named as the "Artist of the Decade" by media such as MTV, Billboard and Musician magazine.[60][61][62]

Madonna starred as "Breathless" Mahoney in the film Dick Tracy (1990), with Warren Beatty playing the title role.[63] To accompany the film, she released the soundtrack album I'm Breathless, which included songs inspired by the film's 1930s setting. It also featured the U.S. number one hit, "Vogue",[64] and "Sooner or Later", which earned songwriter Stephen Sondheim an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1991.[65] While shooting the film, Madonna began a relationship with Beatty which dissolved by the end of 1990.[66][67] In April 1990 she began her Blond Ambition World Tour, which continued for nearly four months. Regarding the tour, Madonna commented "I know that I'm not the best singer and I know that I'm not the best dancer. But, I can fucking push people's buttons and be as provocative as I want. The tour's goal is to break useless taboos."[68] Rolling Stone called it an "elaborately choreographed, sexually provocative extravaganza" and proclaimed it "the best tour of 1990".[69] The tour was met with strong reaction from religious groups for her performance of "Like a Virgin", during which two male dancers caressed her body before she simulated masturbation.[52] The Pope asked the general public and the Christian community not to attend the concert.[70] A private association of Catholics calling themselves Famiglia Domani also boycotted the tour for its eroticism.[71] In response, Madonna said, "I am Italian American and proud of it. [...] The tour in no way hurts anybody's sentiments. It's for open minds and gets them to see sexuality in a different way. Their own and others"; she declared that the Church "completely frowns on sex ... except for procreation."[72] The Laserdisc release of the tour won Madonna a Grammy Award in 1992 for Best Long Form Music Video.[73]

The Immaculate Collection, Madonna's first greatest-hits compilation album, was released in November 1990. It included two new songs, "Justify My Love" and "Rescue Me".[74] The album was certified diamond by RIAA and sold over 30 million copies worldwide, becoming the best-selling compilation album by a solo artist in history.[34][75] "Justify My Love" reached number one in the U.S. and top ten worldwide.[37][76] Its music video featured scenes of sadomasochism, bondage, same-sex kissing and brief nudity.[77][78] The video was deemed too sexually explicit for MTV and was banned from the network. Madonna responded to the banning: "Why is it that people are willing to go and watch a movie about someone getting blown to bits for no reason at all, and nobody wants to see two girls kissing and two men snuggling? [...] MTV has been good to me, and they know their audience. If it's too strong for them, I understand. Although, half of me thought I was going to get away with it."[77][79] The second single, "Rescue Me", became the highest-debuting single by a female artist in Hot 100 chart history at that time, entering at number 15 and peaking at number nine.[74]

In December 1990, Madonna decided to leave Jennifer Lynch's film Boxing Helena, which she had previously agreed to star in, without any explanation to the producers.[80] From late 1990 to early 1991, Madonna dated Tony Ward, a model and pornography performer who appeared in her music videos for "Cherish" and "Justify My Love". She also had an eight-month relationship with rapper Vanilla Ice.[81] Her first documentary film Truth or Dare (known as In Bed with Madonna outside North America) was released in mid-1991. The documentary chronicled her Blond Ambition World Tour and provided glimpses into her personal life.[20]

1992–96: Maverick, Sex, Erotica, Bedtime Stories and Evita

A picture of a Evita, former first lady of Argentina. Her hair is drawn into a tight bun at the back. She is wearing a black, low-cut dress. Around her neck is a number of chains. The lady's hands are folded in her front and she has a white fur shawl around her.
Madonna's portrayal of Eva Perón (above) in the film Evita garnered her critical acclaim.

In 1992, Madonna had a role in A League of Their Own as Mae Mordabito, a baseball player on an all-women's team. She recorded the film's theme song, "This Used to Be My Playground", which became a Hot 100 number one hit.[37] The same year, she founded her own entertainment company, Maverick, consisting of a record company (Maverick Records), a film production company (Maverick Films), and associated music publishing, television broadcasting, book publishing and merchandising divisions. The deal was a joint venture with Time Warner and paid Madonna an advance of $60 million. It gave her 20% royalties from the music proceedings, one of the highest rates in the industry, equaled at that time only by Michael Jackson's royalty rate established a year earlier with Sony.[22] The first release from the venture was Madonna's book, entitled Sex. It consisted of sexually provocative and explicit images, photographed by Steven Meisel. The book caused strong negative reaction from the media and the general public, but sold 1.5 million copies at $50 each in a matter of days.[82][83] At the same time she released her fifth studio album, Erotica, which debuted at number two on the Billboard 200.[24][83] Its title track peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100.[37] Erotica also produced five further singles: "Deeper and Deeper", "Bad Girl", "Fever", "Rain" and "Bye Bye Baby".[84]

The provocative imagery that was her trademark continued in the 1990s with the erotic thriller Body of Evidence, a film which contained scenes of sadomasochism and bondage. It was poorly received by critics.[85][86] She also starred in the film Dangerous Game, which was released straight to video in North America. The New York Times described the film as "angry and painful, and the pain feels real."[87] In October 1993, she embarked on The Girlie Show World Tour, in which she dressed as a whip-cracking dominatrix surrounded by topless dancers.[88] The show faced negative reaction, specifically in Puerto Rico where she rubbed the island's flag between her legs on stage.[52] The same year, she appeared as a guest on the Late Show with David Letterman, using profanity that was required to be censored on television and handing Letterman a pair of her underwear and asking him to smell it.[89] The releases of her sexually explicit films, albums and book, and the aggressive appearance on Letterman all made critics question Madonna as a sexual renegade. She faced strong negative publicity from critics and fans, who commented that "she had gone too far" and that her career was over.[90]

According to biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli, the ballad "I'll Remember" (1994), was an attempt to tone down her provocative image. The song was recorded for Alek Keshishian's film With Honors.[91] She made a subdued appearance with Letterman at an awards show and appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno after realizing that she needed to change her musical direction in order to sustain her popularity.[92] With her sixth studio album, Bedtime Stories (1994), Madonna employed a softer image to reconnect with the general public.[92] The album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 and produced four singles, including "Secret" and "Take a Bow", the latter topping the Hot 100 for seven weeks.[37] At the same time, she became romantically involved with fitness trainer Carlos Leon.[93] Something to Remember, a collection of ballads, was released in May 1995. The album featured three new songs: "You'll See", "One More Chance", and a cover of Marvin Gaye's "I Want You".[37][94] In later years, Madonna commented that she was very fond of the albums between Like a Prayer and Something to Remember, "though I would agree that all of these albums were watershed moments for me".[95]

"This is the role I was born to play. I put everything of me into this because it was much more than a role in a movie. It was exhilarating and intimidating at the same time. And it was the farthest I've ever had to push myself creatively. At every level, I had a great education. And I am prouder of Evita than anything else I have done."

—Madonna talking about Evita and her role as Eva Perón.[96]

The following year saw the release of Evita in which she played the title role of Eva Perón.[97][98] For a long time, Madonna had desired to play Perón and even wrote to director Alan Parker, explaining how she would be perfect for the part. After securing it, she underwent vocal training and learned about the history of Argentina and Perón. During shooting she fell sick many times, commenting that "The intensity of the scenes we have been shooting and the amount of emotional work and concentration needed to get through the day are so mentally and physically exhausting that I'm sure I will need to be institutionalized when its over." It was on the set of Evita Madonna found out that she was pregnant, which further complicated the shooting for her.[99] Evita was a period drama and almost 6,000 costumes were needed for the scenes. Madonna herself wore 370 different costumes, earning her a Guinness World Record for the most costume changes in a film.[98] After its release, the film garnered critical appreciation. Zach Conner from Time magazine commented "It's a relief to say that Evita is pretty damn fine, well cast and handsomely visualized. Madonna once again confounds our expectations. She plays Evita with a poignant weariness and has more than just a bit of star quality. Love or hate Madonna-Eva, she is a magnet for all eyes."[100][101] Madonna won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for the role.[102] She released three singles from the Evita soundtrack album including "You Must Love Me" (which won an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1997) and "Don't Cry for Me Argentina".[103] On October 14, 1996, Madonna gave birth to Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon, her daughter with Leon.[104]

1997–2002: Ray of Light, Music and Drowned World Tour

A blond woman sitting on a block of hay. She is playing a guitar and singing in front of a standing microphone. She has short hair and wears grey colored cowboy clothes.
Madonna performing on the Drowned World Tour

After Lourdes' birth, Madonna became involved in Eastern mysticism and Kabbalah. She was introduced to the Jewish mysticism by actress Sandra Bernhard in 1997.[105] Her seventh studio album, Ray of Light, (1998) reflected this change in her perception and image.[106] She commented: "This record, more than any other records, covers all the areas of life. I had recently joined Kabbalah and I had left off partying—but I had just had a baby, so my mood was complete, and I was incredibly thoughtful, retrospective and intrigued by the mystical aspects of life."[107] The album garnered critical acclaim and Slant Magazine declared it as "one of the great pop masterpieces of the '90s".[108] Ray of Light was honored with four Grammy Awards, and listed as one of Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time".[109][110] Topping the charts in Australia, Canada, UK and mainland Europe, the album debuted at number two on the Billboard 200—held off from the top spot by the soundtrack to the film Titanic—and sold over 20 million copies worldwide.[24][111] The album's first single, "Frozen", became Madonna's first single to debut at number one in the UK, while in the U.S. it became her sixth number two single and set another record for Madonna as the artist with the most number two hits.[37][112] The song was banned in Belgium, however, adjudicated to be plagiarized from Belgian songwriter Salvatore Acquaviva's 1993 song "Ma Vie Fout L'camp".[113] The second single, "Ray of Light", debuted at number five on the Billboard Hot 100.[114] Madonna's relationship with Leon ended in December 1998; she declared that they were "better off as best friends."[115] Following their break-up, Madonna signed to play a violin teacher in the film Music of the Heart but left the project, citing "creative differences" with director Wes Craven.[116] She followed the success of Ray of Light with the single "Beautiful Stranger", recorded for the 1999 film Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. It reached number 19 on the Hot 100 solely on radio airplay and earned Madonna a Grammy Award for "Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media".[37][73]

In 2000, Madonna starred in the film The Next Best Thing, and contributed two songs to the film's soundtrack: "Time Stood Still" and the international hit "American Pie", a cover version of Don McLean's 1971 song.[117] She released her eighth studio album, Music, in September 2000. It featured elements from the electronica-inspired Ray of Light era, and catered to her gay audience.[118] Collaborating with French producer Mirwais Ahmadzaï, Madonna commented: "I love to work with the weirdos that no one knows about—the people who have raw talent and who are making music unlike anyone else out there. Music is the future of sound."[118] Stephen Thomas Erlewine from Allmusic felt that "Music blows by in a kaleidoscopic rush of color, technique, style and substance. It has so many depth and layers that it's easily as self-aware and earnest as Ray of Light.[119] The album took the number one position in more than 20 countries worldwide and sold four million copies in the first ten days.[109] In the U.S., Music debuted at the top, and became her first number one album in eleven years since Like a Prayer.[120] It produced three singles: the Hot 100 number one "Music", "Don't Tell Me" and "What It Feels Like for a Girl".[37] The music video of "What It Feels Like for a Girl" depicted Madonna committing murders and involved in car accidents, and was banned by MTV and VH1.[121]

Around the same time of the Music album, Madonna became involved in a relationship with Guy Ritchie, whom she had met in 1999 through mutual friends Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler. On August 11, 2000, she gave birth to their son, Rocco Ritchie.[122] In December, Madonna and Ritchie were married in an exclusive ceremony in Scotland.[123]

Her fifth concert tour, entitled Drowned World Tour, started in April 2001.[52] The tour visited cities in the U.S. and Europe and was the highest-grossing concert tour of the year by a solo artist, earning $75 million from 47 sold-out shows.[124] She also released her second greatest-hits collection, entitled GHV2, to coincide with the home video release of the tour. GHV2 debuted at number seven on the Billboard 200.[125] Madonna starred in the film Swept Away, directed by Ritchie. Released direct-to-video in the UK, the film was a commercial and critical failure.[126] Later that year, she released "Die Another Day", the title song of the James Bond film Die Another Day, in which she had a cameo role. The song reached number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 and was nominated both for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song and a Golden Raspberry for Worst Song.[37][127]

2003–06: American Life and Confessions on a Dance Floor

The front profile, from the waist up, of a middle-aged blond woman. She is wearing a white, sleeveless coat and white pants. Her hair is parted in the middle and is in locks around her face. She is holding a microphone in her right hand while her left hand is placed behind her head. She is smiling looking down. Behind her a video screen is red.
Madonna performing at the Live 8 benefit concert

Following Die Another Day, Madonna collaborated with fashion photographer Steven Klein in 2003 for an exhibition installation named X-STaTIC Pro=CeSS. It included photography from a photo shoot in W magazine, and seven video segments. The installation ran from March to May in New York's Deitch Projects gallery. It then traveled the world in an edited form.[128] Madonna released her ninth studio album, American Life, which was based on her observations of American society, and received mixed reviews.[129] She commented, "[American Life] was like a trip down memory lane, looking back at everything I've accomplished and all the things I once valued and all the things that were important to me."[130] Larry Flick from The Advocate felt that "American Life is an album that is among her most adventurous and lyrically intelligent. [...] It is like the flip side to 2000's Music, and turns out to be a lazy, half-arsed effort to sound and take her seriously."[130][131] The title song peaked at number 37 on the Hot 100.[37] Its original music video was canceled as Madonna thought that the video, featuring violence and war imagery, would be deemed unpatriotic since America was then at war with Iraq.[132] With only four million copies sold worldwide, American Life was the lowest selling album of her career.[133] She gave another provocative performance later that year at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards, while singing "Hollywood" with Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Missy Elliott. Madonna mouthkissed Spears and Aguilera during the performance, triggering a tabloid frenzy.[134][135] In October 2003, Madonna provided guest vocals on Spears' single "Me Against the Music".[136] It was followed with the release of Remixed & Revisited. The EP contained remixed versions of songs from American Life and included "Your Honesty", a previously unreleased track from the Bedtime Stories recording sessions.[137] Madonna also signed a contract with Callaway Arts & Entertainment to be the author of five children's books. The first of these books, entitled The English Roses, was published in September 2003. The story was about four English schoolgirls and their envy and jealousy of each other.[138] Kate Kellway from The Guardian commented "[Madonna] is an actress playing at what she can never be – a J.K. Rowling, an English rose."[139] The book debuted at the top of The New York Times Best Seller list and became the fastest-selling children's picture book of all time.[54]

The next year, Madonna and Maverick sued Warner Music Group and its former parent company Time Warner claiming that mismanagement of resources and poor bookkeeping had cost the company millions of dollars. In return, Warner filed a countersuit alleging that Maverick had lost tens of millions of dollars on its own.[140][141] The dispute was resolved when the Maverick shares, owned by Madonna and Ronnie Dashev, were purchased by Warner. Madonna and Dashev's company became a wholly owned subsidiary of Warner Music, but Madonna was still signed to Warner under a separate recording contract.[140] In mid-2004 Madonna embarked on the Re-Invention World Tour in the U.S., Canada and Europe. It became the highest-grossing tour of 2004, earning $125 million.[142] She made a documentary about the tour named I'm Going to Tell You a Secret.[143] Rolling Stone ranked her at number 36 on its list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time".[144] In January 2005, Madonna performed a cover version of the John Lennon song "Imagine" at Tsunami Aid.[145] She also performed at the Live 8 benefit concert in London.[146]

"I tried several different things when Stuart [producer Stuart Price] brought me music. And it was like divine inspiration. It just clicked, like: 'This is the direction of my record.' That's what we intended, to make a record that you can play at a party or in your car, where you don't have to skip past a ballad. It's nonstop."

—Madonna talking about Confessions on a Dance Floor.[147]

Her tenth studio album, Confessions on a Dance Floor, was released in November 2005. Musically the album was structured like a club set composed by a DJ. The songs on the album started out light and happy, and as it progressed, it became intense, with the lyrics dealing more about personal feelings, hence "Confessions."[148] Keith Caulfield from Billboard commented that the album was a "welcome return to form for the Queen of Pop."[149] The album won a Grammy Award for "Best Electronic/Dance Album".[73] Confessions on a Dance Floor and its lead single, "Hung Up", went on to reach number one in 40 and 41 countries respectively, earning a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.[150] "Sorry", the second single, became Madonna's twelfth number one single in the UK.[38] She embarked on the Confessions Tour in May 2006, which had a global audience of 1.2 million and grossed over $194.7 million, becoming the highest grossing-tour to that date for a female artist.[151] Madonna used religious symbols, such as the crucifix and Crown of Thorns, in the performance of "Live to Tell". It caused the Russian Orthodox Church and the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia to urge all their members to boycott her concert.[152] The Vatican protested the concert, as did bishops from Düsseldorf.[153] Madonna responded: "My performance is neither anti-Christian, sacrilegious or blasphemous. Rather, it is my plea to the audience to encourage mankind to help one another and to see the world as a unified whole."[154] In the same year, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry announced officially that Madonna has sold over 200 million copies for her albums alone worldwide.[155]

While on tour, Madonna participated in the Raising Malawi initiative by partially funding an orphanage and traveling to that country.[156] On October 10, 2006, she filed adoption papers for a boy from the orphanage, David Banda Mwale. He was later renamed David Banda Mwale Ciccone Ritchie.[157] The adoption raised strong public reaction, because Malawian law requires would-be parents to reside in Malawi for one year before adopting, which Madonna did not do.[158] She addressed this on The Oprah Winfrey Show, saying that there were no written adoption laws in Malawi that regulated foreign adoption. She described how Banda had been suffering from pneumonia after surviving malaria and tuberculosis when she first met him.[159] Banda's biological father, Yohane commented, "These so-called human rights activists are harassing me every day, threatening me that I am not aware of what I am doing. [...] They want me to support their court case, a thing I cannot do for I know what I agreed with Madonna and her husband."[160] The adoption was finalized on May 28, 2008.[161] A clothing line titled M by Madonna, in collaboration with Swedish clothing retailer H&M, was launched internationally in 2006.[162] The collection consisted of leather trench coats, sequined shift dresses, cream-colored calf-length pants and matching cropped jackets. H&M said the collection reflected Madonna's "timeless, unique and always glamorous style."[163]

2007–09: Live Nation, Hard Candy and the Sticky & Sweet Tour

A blond woman in a black dress, holding a black hat atop her head with her riht hand, and a microphon in her left. She is pointing her tongue towards the camera. Beside her the smiling face of a man is visible.
Madonna performing at the Live Earth concerts

Madonna released the song "Hey You" for the Live Earth series of concerts. The song was available as a free download during its first week of release. She also performed it at the London Live Earth concert.[164] Madonna announced her departure from Warner Bros. Records, and a new $120 million, ten-year contract with Live Nation. She became the founding artist for the new music division, Live Nation Artists.[165] She produced and wrote I Am Because We Are, a documentary on the problems faced by Malawians. The documentary was directed by Nathan Rissman, who worked as Madonna's gardener.[166] She also directed her first film Filth and Wisdom. The story of the film was about three friends and their aspirations. Madonna commented that it was Ritchie who inspired her to develop the screenplay for the film. "The fact of the matter is that all the work I do is very autobiographical, directly or indirectly, because who do I know better than me?"[167] The Times said she had "done herself proud" while The Daily Telegraph described the film as "not an entirely unpromising first effort [but] Madonna would do well to hang on to her day job."[168][169] In December 2007, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced Madonna as one of the five inductees of 2008.[170] At the induction ceremony on March 10, 2008,[171] Madonna did not sing but asked fellow Hall of Fame inductees and Michigan natives The Stooges to perform her songs "Burning Up" and "Ray of Light". She thanked Christopher Flynn, her dance teacher from 35 years earlier, for his encouragement to follow her dreams.[172]

Madonna released her eleventh studio album, Hard Candy, in April 2008. Containing R&B and urban pop influences, the songs on Hard Candy were autobiographical in nature and saw Madonna collaborating with Justin Timberlake, Timbaland, Pharrell Williams and Nate "Danja" Hills.[173] Rolling Stone complimented it as an "impressive taste of her upcoming tour."[174]

"Probably in many respects most of the songs [on Hard Candy] are [autobiographical]. But in more of an unconscious way. I don't really think about telling personal stories when I'm writing music. It just comes. And then a lot of times, six months later, eight months later, I go, 'Oh, that's what I wrote that song about.' But that's when I play the song for lots of people and they all go, 'Oh, I can totally relate to that.'"

— Madonna talking about the inspiration behind Hard Candy[175]

The album debuted at number one in 37 countries and on the Billboard 200.[176][177] It received generally positive reviews worldwide though some critics panned it as "an attempt to harness the urban market".[178][179] Its lead single, "4 Minutes", reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was Madonna's 37th Hot 100 top-ten hit—it pushed Madonna past Elvis Presley as the artist with the most top-ten hits.[180] In the UK, she retained her record for the most number one singles for a female artist; "4 Minutes" becoming her thirteenth.[181] At the 23rd Japan Gold Disc Awards, Madonna received her fifth "Artist of the Year" trophy from Recording Industry Association of Japan, the most for any artist.[182] To further promote the album, Madonna embarked on the Sticky & Sweet Tour; her first major venture with Live Nation. With a gross of $280 million, it became the highest-grossing tour by a solo artist, surpassing the previous record Madonna set with the Confessions Tour.[183] It was extended to the next year, adding new European dates, and after it ended, the total gross was $408 million.[183][184]

Life with My Sister Madonna, a book by Madonna's brother Christopher Ciccone, debuted at number two on The New York Times Bestseller List.[185] It was not authorized by Madonna, and led to a rift between them.[186] Problems also arose between Madonna and Ritchie, with the media reporting that they were on the verge of separation. Ultimately, Madonna filed for divorce from Ritchie, citing irreconcilable differences, which was finalized in December 2008.[187][188] She decided to adopt again from Malawi. The country's High Court initially approved the adoption of Chifundo "Mercy" James;[189] however, the application was rejected because Madonna was not a resident of Malawi.[190] Madonna appealed, and on June 12, 2009, the Supreme Court of Malawi granted Madonna the right to adopt Mercy James.[191] She also released Celebration, her third greatest-hits album, and the closing release with Warner. It contained the new songs "Celebration" and "Revolver" along with 34 hits spanning her career.[192] Celebration reached number one in the UK, tying her with Elvis Presley as the solo act with most number one albums in the British chart history.[193] She appeared at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards on September 13, 2009, to speak in tribute to deceased pop star Michael Jackson.[194] Madonna ended the 2000s as the best-selling single artist of the decade in the U.S. and the most-played artist of the decade in the UK.[195][196] Billboard also announced her as the third top-touring artist of the decade—behind only The Rolling Stones and U2—with a gross of over $801 million, 6.3 million attendance and 244 sell-outs of 248 shows.[197]

2010–present: W.E. and twelfth studio album

A blond woman in a black dress, smiling and looking down.
Madonna at the premiere of W.E. at the Toronto Film Festival.

Madonna performed "Like a Prayer" at the Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief concert in January 2010.[198] In April she released her third live album, Sticky & Sweet Tour. It was her first release under Live Nation, but was distributed by Warner Bros.[199] She announced plans to direct her second film, W.E., a biopic about the affair between King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson; it was co-written with Alek Keshishian.[200] She later clarified that the film is about a woman's journey and was not going to be about the duchess' life. Instead, the duchess would act as the woman's spiritual guide.[201] Following the completion of the shooting for W.E, Madonna released the "Material Girl" clothing line, which she designed with her daughter, Lourdes.[202] The 1980s inspired clothing line, borrowed from Madonna's punk-girl style when she rose to fame in the 1980s, was released under the Macy's label.[202] Soon after the clothing line went on sale, apparel manufacturer L.A. Triumph Inc. sued her saying that they have been using the name Material Girl and selling clothes under that name since 1997. They demanded that Madonna's clothing line be stopped from selling and the profits be returned.[203] The Material Girl clothing was first fronted by Taylor Momsen but she was later replaced by Kelly Osbourne.[204]

Madonna granted American TV show Glee the rights to her entire catalogue of music, and the producers planned an episode which would feature Madonna songs exclusively.[205] Titled "The Power of Madonna", the episode was approved by her, telling Us Weekly that she found it "brilliant on every level", praising the scripting and the message of equality.[206] The episode also received positive reviews from critics. Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly called it "one of the best hours of TV you’re likely to see all year", writing that the episode pays Madonna "the highest compliment possible" in not just expressing admiration for the singer, but "demonstrat[ing] a potent understanding of why Madonna matters."[207] Glee: The Music, The Power of Madonna, an EP containing eight cover versions of Madonna songs featured in the episode was released in May. The EP debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart, with 98,000 copies sold in the U.S.[208][209] Madonna also announced plans to open a series of fitness centers around the world. Named Hard Candy Fitness, the gyms are a partnership between Madonna, her manager Guy Oseary and Mark Mastrov, the founder and CEO of 24 Hour Fitness.[210] The first of the gyms was opened at Mexico City in November 2010, as Madonna believed that Mexico City "will serve as a great test market before bringing the gyms to cities around the world." She added, "If any of you have seen my shows, you know that I don't skimp on them, and the same is true for the gym. We spend what it takes to make a globally first-class gym."[211]

W.E. premiered out of the main competition at the 2011 Venice Film Festival, and received mixed reviews.[212] In June 2011, Madonna's manager, Guy Oseary, took to his Twitter page to confirm that Madonna would begin recording her twelfth studio album the following month.[213] Later, Madonna confirmed during the premiere of W.E. that the album will be released before spring of 2012, and a new single will precede it in February.[214]


Musical style

Madonna's music has been the subject of much analysis and scrutiny of critics. Robert M. Grant, author of Contemporary Strategy Analysis (2005), commented that what has brought Madonna success is "certainly not outstanding natural talent. As a vocalist, musician, dancer, songwriter, or actress, Madonna's talents seem modest."[215] He asserts Madonna's success is in relying on the talents of others, and that her personal relationships have served as cornerstones to the numerous reinventions in the longevity of her career.[215] Madonna's approach was far from the music industry wisdom of "Find a winning formula and stick to it." Her musical career has been a continuous experimentation with new musical ideas and new images and a constant quest for new heights of fame and acclaim. Grant concluded that "having established herself as the queen of popular music, Madonna did not stop there, but continued re-inventing."[216] Conversely, Rolling Stone has named Madonna "an exemplary songwriter with a gift for hooks and indelible lyrics, and a better studio singer than her live spectacles attest."[20] Mark Bego, author of Madonna: Blonde Ambition, called her "the perfect vocalist for lighter-than-air songs", despite not being a "heavyweight talent."[217] Madonna has always been self-conscious about her voice, especially in comparison to her vocal idols such as Ella Fitzgerald, Prince and Chaka Khan.[218]

Throughout her career, Madonna has written and co-written most of her own materials, as well as songs of other artists such as Nick Kamen's "Each Time You Break My Heart" and Gary Barlow's "Love Won't Wait".[219] According to Freya Jarman-Ivens, Madonna's talent for developing "incredible" hooks for her songs allows the lyrics to capture the attention of the audience, even without the influence of the music. As an example, Jarman-Ivens cites the 1985 single "Into the Groove" and its line "Live out your fantasy here with me, just let the music set you free; Touch my body, and move in time, now I know you're mine."[220] From 1983 to 1986, Madonna's musical productions were often girlish and naïve in nature, focusing primarily on love, romance, passion and boy-meets-girl relationships.[220] This changed with the album Like a Prayer, when the lyrics became much more personal, such as in "Promise to Try", which references Madonna's lingering pain at the loss of her mother.[220] Madonna's lyrics often suggest an identification with the gay community. Fouz believes that when Madonna sings "Come on girls, do you believe in love?" in "Express Yourself", she is addressing both the gay audience and the heterosexual female.[220] Even in the Erotica era, with its often adult-oriented lyrics, the songs appear free-flowing and gullible ("So won't you go down, where it's warm inside" — "Where Life Begins" from Erotica). Madonna's songwriting ability has been criticized, with Rolling Stone's Maria Raha calling her lyrics "flighty and not sophisticated. Madonna can only bring a trunk full of trite lyrics on the long standing tradition of pop music, love; when she wasn't singing about love, she was singing about partying and dancing."[221] Her lyrics were considered banal, and her songwriting capability was largely ignored by critics until the release of Ray of Light and Music. According to Jarman-Ivens, lyrics such as "You're frozen, when your heart's not open" ("Frozen", 1998) and "I can't remember, when I was young, I can't express if it was wrong" ("Paradise (Not for Me)", 2000) reflected an artistic palette, "encompassing diverse musical, textual and visual styles in its lyrics."[220]

Madonna, seen here on The Virgin Tour, had a bright, girlish vocal timbre that became passé in her later works.

She started her musical career with songs that she described as "soulful pop music". Madonna recalled in a 1983 interview with Island magazine that she had wanted to grow up as a black kid.[222] "First of all, all the black girls in my neighborhood had these dances in their yard where they had these little turntables with 45 records and they'd play all this Motown stuff and they would dance, just dance, all of them dancing together and none of the white kids I knew would ever do that. They were really boring and stiff. And I wanted to be part of the dancing. I didn’t like my friends. I had to be beaten up so many times by these little black girls before they would accept me and finally one day they whipped me with a rubber hose till I was like, lying on the ground crying. And then they just stopped doing it all of a sudden and let me be their friend, part of their group."[222] On her 1983 debut album, Madonna's vocal abilities and personal artistry were not fully formed. Her vocal style was similar to other pop stars of that period like Paula Abdul, Debbie Gibson and Taylor Dayne.[218] The songs on Madonna reveal several key trends that have continued to define her success, including a strong dance-based idiom, catchy hooks, highly polished arrangements and Madonna's own vocal style. In songs such as "Lucky Star" and "Borderline", Madonna introduced a style of upbeat dance music that would prove particularly appealing to gay audiences. The bright, girlish vocal timbre of the early years became passé in Madonna's later works, the change being deliberate, since Madonna was constantly reminded of how the critics had once labelled her as "Minnie Mouse on helium", because of her early voice.[218] Her second album, Like a Virgin (1984), foreshadowed several trends in Madonna's later works. It contained references to classical works (pizzicato synthesizer line that opens "Angel"); potential negative reaction from social groups ("Dress You Up" was blacklisted by the Parents Music Resource Center); and retro styles ("Shoo-Bee-Doo", Madonna's homage to Motown).[218] Madonna's early style, and the change that she ushered in it, is best evident in the song "Material Girl". It opens with Madonna using a little-girl voice, but following the first verse, she switches to a richer, more mature voice in the chorus.[218] This mature artistic statement was visible in True Blue (1986). The song "Papa Don't Preach" was a significant milestone in her artistic career. The classical introduction, fast tempo and the gravity in her voice was unprecedented in Madonna's œuvre at that time.[218]

With Like a Prayer (1989), Madonna again entered a new phase, musically. The album introduced live recorded songs and incorporated different genres of music, including dance, R&B and gospel music.[56] Madonna continued to compose ballads and uptempo dance songs for Erotica (1992) and Bedtime Stories (1994). She tried to remain contemporary by incorporating samples, drum loops and hip hop into her music. Her voice grew much deeper and fuller, evident in the tracks like "Rain" and "Take a Bow".[223] During the filming of Evita, Madonna had to take vocal lessons, which increased her range further. Of this experience she commented, "I studied with a vocal coach for Evita and I realized there was a whole piece of my voice I wasn't using. Before, I just believed I had a really limited range and was going to make the most of it."[224] Continuing her musical evolution with Ray of Light, the track "Frozen" displayed her fully formed vocal prowess and her allusions to classical music. Her vocals were restrained and she sang the songs in Ray of Light without vibrato. However, the intake of breath within the songs became more prominent.[218] With the new millennium came her album Music in which Madonna sang in her normal voice in a medium range, and sometimes in a higher register for the chorus.[218] A change was also noted in the content of the songs, with most of them being simple love songs, but with an underlying tone of melancholy. As she explained, "I sing about shattering an image that you have of somebody, but I also sing about loving someone that wish you didn’t love. Because you know that you’re doomed, but you can’t stop yourself."[225] Such melancholics continued in her next record American Life, which was infused with thumping techno rhythm, liquid keyboard lines, acoustic choruses and a rap on the title track. The unconventional rock songs of the album were intermingled with dramatic lyrics about patriotism and composition, including the appearance of a gospel choir in the song "Nothing Fails".[226] Musically, things changed with Confessions on a Dance Floor, which returned Madonna to pure dance songs, infusing club beats and retro music, but the lyrics continued to be about paradoxical metaphors and reference to her earlier works.[227] Her most recent studio album, Hard Candy, saw her mixing R&B and hip hop music with dance tunes. The album also had songs, who's lyrics craved for peace movements as well as being autobiographical. The singing in higher register continued, with employment of double tracking.[228] Fouz-Hernández commented that "Throughout her career, Madonna's manipulation of her voice shows us that, by refusing to be defined in one way, she has in fact opened up a space for new kinds of musical analysis."[218]


Bust of a blond woman in short curled hair and wearing a bright pink, sleeveless dress. Putting both her hands up, she looks to the right of the image.
Marilyn Monroe (pictured) had a profound influence on Madonna.

According to Taraborrelli, "Almost certainly, the defining moment of Madonna's childhood—the one that would have the most influence in shaping her into the woman she would become—was the tragic and untimely death of her beloved mother."[6] Psychiatrist Keith Ablow suggests that her mother's death would have had an immeasurable impact on the young Madonna at a time when her personality was still forming. According to Ablow, the younger a child is at the time of a serious loss, the more profound the influence and the longer lasting the impact. He concludes that "some people never reconcile themselves to such a loss at an early age, Madonna is not different than them."[6] Conversely, author Lucy O'Brien feels that the impact of the rape is, in fact, the motivating factor behind everything Madonna has done, more important even than the death of her mother: "It's not so much grief at her mother's death that drives her, as the sense of abandonment that left her unprotected. She encountered her own worst possible scenario, becoming a victim of male violence, and thereafter turned that full-tilt into her work, reversing the equation at every opportunity."[229]

As they grew older, Madonna and her sisters would feel deep sadness as the vivid memory of their mother began drifting, farther from them. They would study pictures of her and come to think that she resembled poet Anne Sexton and Hollywood actresses. This would later raise Madonna's interest in poetry with Sylvia Plath being her favourite.[6] Later, Madonna commented: "We were all wounded in one way or another by [her death], and then we spent the rest of our lives reacting to it or dealing with it or trying to turn into something else. The anguish of losing my mom left me with a certain kind of loneliness and an incredible longing for something. If I hadn't had that emptiness, I wouldn't have been so driven. Her death had a lot to do with me saying—after I got over my heartache—I'm going to be really strong if I can't have my mother. I'm going to take care of myself."[6] Taraborrelli felt that in time, no doubt because of the devastation she felt, Madonna would never again allow herself, or even her daughter, to feel as abandoned as she had felt when her mother died. "Her death had taught her a valuable lesson, that she would have to remain strong for herself because, she feared weakness—particularly her own—and wanted to be the queen of her own castle."[6]

In 1985, Madonna commented that the first song to ever make a strong impression on her was "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" by Nancy Sinatra; she said it summed up her own "take-charge attitude".[230] As a young woman, she attempted to broaden her taste in literature, art, and music, and during this time became interested in classical music. She noted that her favorite style was baroque, and loved Mozart and Chopin because she liked their "feminine quality".[231] Other musical influences included artists Karen Carpenter, The Supremes, Led Zeppelin, and dancers such as Martha Graham and Rudolf Nureyev.[232] Madonna's Italian-Catholic background and her relationship with her parents were reflected in the album Like a Prayer.[58] It was an evocation of the impact religion had on her career.[233] Her video for the title track contains Catholic symbolism, such as the stigmata. During The Virgin Tour, she wore a rosary, and also prayed with it in the music video for "La Isla Bonita".[234] The "Open Your Heart" video sees her boss scolding her in the Italian language. On Who's That Girl World Tour, she dedicated the song "Papa Don't Preach" to the Pope.[234][235]

During her childhood, Madonna was inspired by actors, later saying, "I loved Carole Lombard and Judy Holliday and Marilyn Monroe. They were all incredibly funny ... and I saw myself in them ... my girlishness, my knowingness and my innocence."[230] Her "Material Girl" music video recreated Monroe's look in the song "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend", from the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. She studied the screwball comedies of the 1930s, particularly those of Lombard, in preparation for the film Who's That Girl. The video for "Express Yourself" (1989) was inspired by Fritz Lang's silent film Metropolis (1927). The video for "Vogue" recreated the style of Hollywood glamour photographs, in particular those by Horst P. Horst, and imitated the poses of Marlene Dietrich, Carole Lombard and Rita Hayworth, while the lyrics referred to many of the stars who had inspired her, including Bette Davis, described by Madonna as an idol.[72][236] Influences also came to her from the art world, most notably through the works of artist Frida Kahlo.[237] The music video of the song "Bedtime Story" featured images inspired by the paintings of Kahlo and Remedios Varo.[238] Her 2003 video for "Hollywood" was an homage to the work of photographer Guy Bourdin; Bourdin's son subsequently filed a lawsuit for unauthorised use of his father's work.[239] Pop artist Andy Warhol's use of sadomasochistic imagery in his underground films were reflected in the music videos for "Erotica" and "Deeper and Deeper".[240] However, Madonna's film career has been largely received negatively by the film critic community. Stephanie Zacharek, critic for Time magazine, stated that, "[Madonna] seems wooden and unnatural as an actress, and it's tough to watch, because she's clearly trying her damnedest."[241] According to biographer Andrew Morton, "Madonna puts a brave face on the criticism, but privately she is deeply hurt."[241] After the 2002 box-office bomb Swept Away, Madonna vowed that she would never act in a film, hoping that her repertoire as a bad actress will never be discussed again.[241]

Madonna is dedicated to Kabbalah and in 2004, she adopted the name Esther which in Persian means "star".[242] She has donated millions of dollars to New York and London schools teaching the subject.[242][243] She faced opposition from rabbis who felt Madonna's adoption of the Kabbalah was sacrilegious and a case of celebrity dilettantism. Madonna defended her studies, saying "It would be less controversial if I joined the Nazi Party", and that her involvement with the Kabbalah is "not hurting anybody."[244] The influence of the Kaballah was subsequently observed in Madonna's music, especially albums like Ray of Light and Music.[242] During the Re-Invention World Tour, at one point in the show, Madonna and her dancers wore t-shirts that read "Kabbalists Do It Better".[242]

Music videos and performances

A female blond performer wearing a red top. She is holding a microphone in her brown-gloved right hand.
Madonna performing at the Confessions Tour in 2006

In The Madonna Companion, biographers Allen Metz and Carol Benson noted that more than any other recent pop artist, Madonna had used MTV and music videos to establish her popularity and enhance her recorded work.[245] According to them, many of her songs have the imagery of the music video in strong context, while referring to the music. The media and public reaction towards her most-discussed songs such as "Papa Don't Preach", "Like a Prayer" or "Justify My Love" had to do with the music videos created to promote the song and their impact, rather than the song itself.[245] Morton felt that "artistically, Madonna's songwriting is often overshadowed by her striking pop videos."[246] Madonna's initial music videos reflected her American and Hispanic mixed street style combined with a flamboyant glamor.[245] She was able to transmit her avant-garde downtown New York fashion sense to the American audience.[247] The imagery and incorporation of Hispanic culture and Catholic symbolism continued with the music videos from the True Blue era.[248] Author Douglas Kellner noted, "such 'multiculturalism' and her culturally transgressive moves turned out to be highly successful moves that endeared her to large and varied youth audiences".[249] Madonna's Spanish look in the videos became the fashion trend of that time, in the form of boleros and layered skirts, accessorizing with rosary beads and a crucifix as in the video of "La Isla Bonita".[250][251] Academics noted that with her videos, Madonna was subtly reversing the usual role of male as the dominant sex.[252] This symbolism and imagery was probably the most prevalent in the music video for "Like a Prayer". The video included scenes of an African-American church choir, Madonna attracted to a statue of a black saint, and singing in front of burning crosses. This mix of the sacred and the profane upset the Vatican and resulted in the Pepsi commercial withdrawal.[253] Madonna has been honored with 20 MTV Video Music Awards—the most for any artist—including the lifetime achievement "Video Vanguard Award" in 1986.[254] In 2003, MTV named her "The Greatest Music Video Star Ever" and said that "Madonna's innovation, creativity and contribution to the music video art form is what won her the award."[255]

Madonna's emergence occurred during the advent of MTV, and, according to Chris Nelson from The New York Times, "with its almost exclusively lip-synced videos, ushered in an era in which average music fans might happily spend hours a day, every day, watching singers just mouth the words."[256] The symbiotic relationship between the music video and lip-syncing led to a desire for the spectacle and imagery of the music video to be transferred to live stage shows. He added, "Artists like Madonna and Janet Jackson set new standards for showmanship, with concerts that included not only elaborate costumes and precision-timed pyrotechnics but also highly athletic dancing. These effects came at the expense of live singing."[256] Thor Christensen of the Dallas Morning News commented that while Madonna earned a reputation for lip-syncing during her 1990 Blond Ambition World Tour, she has subsequently reorganized her performances by "stay[ing] mostly still during her toughest singing parts and [leaves] the dance routines to her backup troupe ... [r]ather than try to croon and dance up a storm at the same time."[257] To allow for greater movement while dancing and singing, she was one of the earliest adopters of hands-free radio-frequency headset microphones, with the headset fastened over the ears or the top of the head, and the microphone capsule on a boom arm that extended to the mouth. Because of her prominent usage, the microphone design came to be known as the "Madonna mic".[258][259] Metz noted that Madonna represents a paradox as she is often perceived as living her whole life as a performance. While her big-screen performances are panned, her live performances are critical successes.[260] Madonna was the first artist to have her concert tours as reenactment of her music videos. Author Elin Diamond explained that reciprocally, the fact that images from Madonna's videos can be recreated in a live setting enhances the realism of the original videos. Thus her live performances have become the means by which mediatized representations are naturalized.[261] Taraborrelli said that encompassing multimedia, latest technology and sound systems, Madonna's concerts and live performances are deemed as "extravagant show piece, a walking art show."[262]


A blond woman standing on a stage. She has curvy, flowing hair and is dressed in a black, translucent top with boots in her leg and a white hat. The woman is holding an electric guitar with her left hand and singing in to a microphone in her right. She is surrounded by audience members whose heads can be seen in the image. Behind the woman, tow back-up singers can be seen in the distance.
Madonna performing at her Sticky & Sweet Tour, the highest-grossing tour of all time by a solo artist

Madonna has been considered to be one of the greatest figures in music and one of the most influential women in history.[263] She is featured in the book 100 Most Important Women of the 20th Century, published in 1998 by Ladies' Home Journal.[263] In 2010, Time magazine included Madonna in the elite list of the "25 Most Powerful Women of the Past Century", where she became one of the only two singers included, alongside Aretha Franklin.[264] Madonna also topped the VH1's list of "50 Greatest Women of the Video Era".[265] Academic authors Ros Horton and Sally Simmons documented Madonna on their 2007 book Women Who Changed the World, which "pays homage to fifty of the most influential and admired women of all time."[54] She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 10, 2008—her first year of eligibility—for "influence and significance on rock and roll music."[266] Additionally, Madonna ranked seventh on VH1 and People magazine's list of the "200 Greatest Pop Culture Icons of All Time."[267] In 2006, a new water bear species, Echiniscus madonnae, was named after her.[268] The paper with the description of E. madonnae was published in the international journal of animal taxonomy Zootaxa in March 2006 (Vol. 1154, pages: 1–36). The Zoologists commented: "We take great pleasure in dedicating this species to one of the most significant artists of our times, Madonna Louise Veronica Ritchie."[269] Aside from her critical acknowledgement, Madonna has also earned overwhelming commercial accomplishments. She has achieved multiple Guinness World Records citations, including world's top-selling female recording artist and most successful female recording artist of all time.[150] Madonna has sold more than 300 million records worldwide.[270][271] According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), she is the best-selling female rock artist of the 20th century and the second top-selling female artist in the United States, behind Barbra Streisand, with 64 million certified albums.[272][273] Madonna is also one of the top-touring artist in history and her Sticky & Sweet Tour remains the highest-grossing tour of all time by a solo artist.[274] In 2008, Billboard magazine ranked Madonna at number two, behind only The Beatles, on the Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists, making her the most successful solo artist in the history of American singles chart.[171] She has also scored many hits on major international charts, including 13 number one singles in the United Kingdom, 11 in Australia, and 23 in Canada—all of which are more than any other female artist.[275][276][277]

Caryn Ganz from Rolling Stone wrote that "Madonna is the most media-savvy American pop star since Bob Dylan and, until she toned down her press-baiting behavior in the nineties, she was the most consistently controversial one since Elvis Presley." According to her, Madonna's self-celebrating dance music and outré videos provided feminism with a makeover. Throughout the eighties she broke down sexual boundaries, making eroticism a crucial pop-song element, and challenging social and religious mores. Ganz felt that one fact was rarely disputed: "At nearly every turn, Madonna has maintained firm control over her career and image."[20] Throughout her career the singer has repeatedly reinvented herself through a series of visual and musical personas, earning her the nickname "Queen of Reinvention".[278] In doing so, "she exploited her sexuality to fashion herself into a cultural and commercial icon who, for more than a decade, was unchallenged as the reigning Queen of Pop music."[279] Fouz-Hernández agrees that these reinventions are one of her key cultural achievements.[280] Madonna reinvented herself by working with upcoming talented producers and previously unknown artists, while remaining at the center of media attention. According to Freya Jarman-Ivens, "In doing so Madonna has provided an example of how to maintain one's career in the entertainment industry."[280] Such reinvention was noted by scholars as the main tool in surviving the musical industry, for a female artist.[281] As Ian Youngs from BBC News commented, "Her ability to follow the latest trends and adapt her style has often been credited with preserving her appeal."[282] Madonna's use of shocking sexual imagery has benefited her career and catalyzed public discourse on sexuality and feminism.[280] The Times stated, "Madonna, whether you like her or not, started a revolution amongst women in music ... Her attitudes and opinions on sex, nudity, style and sexuality forced the public to sit up and take notice."[283] Rodger Streitmatter, author of Sex Sells! (2004), commented that "from the moment Madonna burst onto the nation's radar screen in the mid-1980s, she did everything in her power to shock the public, and her efforts paid off."[284] Shmuel Boteach, author of Hating women (2005), felt that Madonna was largely responsible for erasing the line between music and pornography. He stated: "Before Madonna, it was possible for women more famous for their voices than their cleavage, to emerge as music superstars. But in the post-Madonna universe, even highly original performers such as Janet Jackson now feel the pressure to expose their bodies on national television to sell albums."[285]

Very few public figures are such wizards at manipulating the press and cultivating publicity as Madonna is. She has always been a great tease with journalists, brash and outspoken when the occasion demanded it, recalcitrant and taciturn when it came time to pull back and slow down the striptease. Madonna is a self-created woman, no question, but it was not a virgin birth: her adroit handling of the press played a major part in the consummation. Publicity is the name of the game.[286]

—Becky Johnson from Interview commenting on Madonna's popularity.

Madonna has influenced numerous music artists throughout her career. Mary Cross, in her book Madonna: A Biography, wrote: "Her influence on pop music is undeniable and far-reaching. New pop icons from Nelly Furtado and Shakira to Gwen Stefani and Christina Aguilera (not to mention Britney Spears) owe Madonna, a debt of thanks for the template she forged, combining provocative sexiness and female power in her image, music, and lyrics."[287] According to Fouz-Hernández, female pop performers such as Spears, the Spice Girls, Destiny's Child, Jennifer Lopez, Kylie Minogue and Pink were like "Madonna's daughters in the very direct sense that they grew up listening to and admiring Madonna, and decided they wanted to be like her."[288] Among them, Madonna's influence was most notable in Spears, who has been called her protégé.[283] Madonna has also been credited with the introduction of European electronic dance music into mainstream American pop culture, and for bringing European producers such as Stuart Price and Mirwais Ahmadzaï into the spotlight.[234]

Madonna has received acclaim as a role model for businesswomen in her industry, "achieving the kind of financial control that women had long fought for within the industry", and generating over $1.2 billion in sales within the first decade of her career.[289] As Taraborrelli noted, she already showed strong business sensibilities early in her career when she signed Freddie de Mann, Michael Jackson's former manager, to manage her career.[290] As she said to Smash Hits magazine, "I thought, who’s the most successful person in the music industry and who’s his manager? I want him." Since it was Jackson, Madonna wanted de Mann more than anything else, and chance came when she learned that they have parted ways recently. After signing de Mann, her Madonna's associates had expressed their apprehension as to whether that was a good business decision by her. Madonna was adamant that since de Mann was free he would be able to devote all his time into his career. True to her, Madonna's popularity increased significantly, being asked to do more promotional tours and media appearances.[291] Her seriousness towards her business was also portrayed in the Truth or Dare documentary, in a scene where Madonna throws out the cameraman as she was going to have a business meeting. This led Taraborrelli to comment that "she always knew the importance of the outcomes of these discussions with her associates. And she wanted the element of surprise."[292] After its establishment, Maverick Records became a major commercial success from her efforts, which was unusual at that time for an artist-established label.[293] Music journalist Robert Sandall said that while interviewing Madonna, it was clear that being "a cultural big hitter" was more important to her than pop music, a career she described as "an accident". He also saw a contrast between her anything-goes sexual public persona and a secretive and "paranoid" attitude toward her own finances; she fired her own brother when he charged her for an extra item.[294] Professor Colin Barrow of the Cranfield School of Management described Madonna as "America's smartest businesswoman... who has moved to the top of her industry and stayed there by constantly reinventing herself". He held up her "planning, personal discipline and constant attention to detail" as models for all aspiring entrepreneurs.[295] London Business School academics called her a "dynamic entrepreneur" worth copying; they identified her vision of success, her understanding of the music industry, her ability to recognize her own performance limits (and thus bring in help), her willingness to work hard and her ability to adapt as the key to her commercial success.[296] Morton commented that "Madonna is opportunistic, manipulative and ruthless—somebody who won't stop until she gets what she wants—and that's something you can get at the expense of maybe losing your close ones. But that hardly mattered to her."[297] Taraborrelli felt that this ruthlessness was visible during the shooting of the Pepsi commercial in 1989. "The fact that she didn't want to hold a Pepsi can in the commercial, clued the Pepsi executives that Madonna the pop star and Madonna the businesswoman were not going to be dictated by somebody else, she will do everything in her way—the only way."[298] Conversely, reporter Michael McWilliams commented: "The gripes about Madonna–she's cold, greedy, talentless–conceal both bigotry and the essence of her art, which is among the warmest, the most humane, the most profoundly satisfying in all pop culture."[299]



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  • Axelrod, Alan (2007). One thousand one people who made America. National Geographic Books. ISBN 978-1-4262-0052-6. 
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  • Clerk, Carol (2002). Madonnastyle. Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-8874-9 
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  • Diamond, Elin (1996). Performance and Cultural Politics. Routledge. ISBN 9780415127677. 
  • Erlewine, Stephen Thomas; Bogdanov, Vladimir; Woodstra, Chris (2002). All music guide to rock: the definitive guide to rock, pop, and soul. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 1399. ISBN 0-87930-653-X 
  • Fouz-Hernández, Santiago; Jarman-Ivens, Freya (2004). Madonna's Drowned Worlds. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 0-7546-3372-1 
  • Friskics-Warren, Bill (2006). I'll Take You There: Pop Music and the Urge for Transcendence. Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 0-8264-1921-6 
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  • George-Warren, Holly (1997). Madonna: The Rolling Stone Files. Hyperion Books. ISBN 0-7868-8154-2 
  • Glenday, Craig (2007). Guinness Book of World Records 2007. Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-58992-X 
  • Grant, Robert (2005). Contemporary Strategy Analysis. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-4051-1999-3 
  • Guilbert, Georges-Claude (2002). Madonna as postmodern myth. McFarland. ISBN 0-7864-1408-1 
  • Guralnick, Peter; Wolk, Douglas (2000). Best Music Writing. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80999-0 
  • Hoban, Phoebe (2004). Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-303512-6 
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  • Landrum, Gene N. (2007). Paranoia & Power: Fear & Fame of Entertainment Icons. Morgan James Publishing. ISBN 1600372732 
  • Metz, Allen; Benson, Carol (1999). The Madonna Companion: Two Decades of Commentary. Music Sales Group. ISBN 0-8256-7194-9 
  • Morton, Andrew (2002). Madonna. Macmillan Publishers. ISBN 0-312-98310-7 
  • O'Brien, Lucy (2007). Madonna: Like an Icon. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-593-05547-0 
  • Orgill, Roxanne (2001). Shout, Sister, Shout!: Ten Girl Singers who Shaped a Century. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-689-81991-9 
  • Pitts, Michael (2004). Famous Movie Detectives. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-3690-4 
  • Rettenmund, Matthew (1995). Madonnica: The Woman & The Icon From A To Z. Macmillan. ISBN 0-312-11782-5 
  • Robertson, Pamela (1996). Guilty Pleasures: Feminist Camp From Mae West to Madonna. Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0-8223-1748-7 
  • Rooksby, Rikky (2004). The Complete Guide to the Music of Madonna. Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-9883-3 
  • Rust, Paula C. Rodriguez (2000). Bisexuality in the United States: A Social Science Reader. Columbia University Press 
  • Sexton, Adam (1993). Desperately Seeking Madonna: In Search of the Meaning of the World's Most Famous Woman. Delta Publishing Inc.. ISBN 0-385-30688-1 
  • St. Michael, Mick (2004). Madonna talking: Madonna in Her Own Words. Omnibus Press. ISBN 1-84449-418-7 
  • Streitmatter, Rodger (2004). Sex Sells!. Westview Press. ISBN 978-0-8133-4248-1 
  • Taraborrelli, Randy J. (2002). Madonna: An Intimate Biography. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-2880-4 
  • Tetzlaff, David (1993). Metatextual Girl. Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-1396-1 
  • Victor, Barbara (2001). Goddess, Inside Madonna. Cliff Street Books. ISBN 0-06-019930-X 
  • Voller, Debbie (1999). Madonna: The Style Book. Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-7511-6 
  • Warren, Holly; George, Patricia Romanowski; Bashe, Patricia Romanowski; Pareles, Jon (2001). The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll. Fireside. ISBN 0-7432-0120-5 
  • Welton, Donn (1998). Body and flesh: a philosophical reader. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 1-57718-126-3 

Further reading

  • Bronson, Fred (2003). The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits. Billboard books. ISBN 0-8230-7677-6. 
  • McAleer, Dave (2004). Hit Singles: Top 20 Charts from 1954 to the Present Day. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 0-87930-808-7. 
  • Wesley, Hyatt (1999). The Billboard Book of Number One Adult Contemporary Hits. Billboard books. ISBN 0-8230-7693-8. 

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