This woman’s career is so vast and big that so many have had to make contributions that made it into this post.
This is going to be her year once again after laying somewhat low over the last number of years. Her 2nd Directorial Film, “W.E.” is in theaters in February 2012 and has already received raving reviews. The song she performs at the end of the movie, “Masterpiece”, garnered her the Golden Globe Award.
She’ll be playing with the big boys at the Super Bowl Halftime show also in February 2012. In March 2012, she’ll be releasing her latest album, “M.D.N.A.” which also features the already classic track, “Masterpiece”. The album features acclaimed producer William Orbit who she hired to work with on her award winning “Ray of Light album”. It’s expected to be a happy, fun and also introspective CD. The world is definitely ready for some of that here as we have been battling a major global transformation. She’ll be kicking off a major world tour this Summer 2012 as well. I’ll be seeing her when she makes it to Los Angeles in October.
To say Madonna has been unfairly ostracized throughout her career and life is an understatement. What makes her so admirable is her strength, determination and creativity. In the nearly 30 consistent years in the spotlight we have never heard her fall into drug or alcohol abuse issues or scandalous adultery charges. This is someone who is against anything mind altering and she can be called anything, but a victim. For that matter, don’t be surprised to find her being a part of students history classes a hundred years from now as someone to gain inspiration from.
I listen to rock music more than anything else. Rarely have I been into pop music let alone the crap that gets played today. However, one of the triple dozen concerts I’ve been to, none were as out of this world as when I saw Madonna live. The woman was born to be on the stage. I had never seen anything electrifying and that sound system….wow! Not to mention the elaborate sets that take shape on her stage. This is one of the only great performers around today. It’s no surprise to find out through Madonna’s history that she was actually a dancer. She was also a cheerleader and to be one of those you have to have a 4.0 grade point average, which means she was already excelling as a young teen.
Today she has sold more than 300 million records worldwide and is recognized as the world’s top-selling female recording artist of all time. She is also the best-selling female rock artist of the 20th century and is ranked #2 behind the Beatles as the Top 100 All Time Top Artists. She is also #1 of the “25 Most Powerful Women of the Past Century” according to Time Magazine. Most everybody on all points of the globe knows who she is; no matter your age, race, religion – you know who she is.
When you have all this and much more, that will no doubt invite in ugliness and couch critics. Luckily for her she’s appeared unphased and keeps going. How’s that for a life mantra? She’s experienced bullying as a kid and a teen and has spoken out against it on the Ellen show while infusing inspiration to the new generation. How about these so called political figures who’ve said nothing on the matter? She was an easy target among her peers. When someone appears different or toots their own horn, you’re going to get some badness aimed at you from those that want to try and take you down to feel better about themselves. It is safe to say that those that are bullied as a teen do end up coming out on top as an adult. Madonna is the perfect example. She took charge of her life and stayed away from any kind of peer pressure.
The woman also has a head for business and it’s been said she even looks at every little receipt at hotels to make sure she’s not being overcharged $1.00 on something she didn’t approve of. She’ll circle it and have a staff member look into it. Nothing slips by her no matter what.
How she came to the career she’s had through most of her adult life is no surprise by many. Grew up in Michigan to a large catholic italian-american family with many brothers and sisters. She was the oldest girl and was fearless by nature. Her mother died when she was 6 and she assumed the eldest female role that would ring true the rest of her life. She wasn’t rebellious, but did want to be good at something. That eventually came with dancing when she was given a dance scholarship to attend college. Instead, she dropped out and headed to New York on her first plane ride to anywhere. With little money, but a lot of determination she aimed to be a successful dancer in New York. What ended up happening was much bigger than she or the world could ever have imagined or predicted as its still going on today.
Madonna described her rise to success and then some as a “series of suddenly’s”. Suddenly I was playing drums, then suddenly I met someone who had me sing and play guitar and suddenly I found myself with a recording contract…. You get the point.
While performing as a dancer for the French disco artist Patrick Hernandez on his 1979 world tour, Madonna became romantically involved with musician Dan Gilroy. They formed her first rock band, the Breakfast Club 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 a DJ and record producer Mark Kamins who arranged a meeting between Madonna and Sire Records (Subsidiary of Warner Bros. Records) founder Seymour Stein.
Her first single “Everybody” in October 1982 was a huge club favorite. As a young artist at 24, she was unhappy with the producer Warner Bros. assigned to her so she brought in her own team exuding keen business marketing sense even then. The overall sound of her self-title Madonna album 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. Each single released after Everybody on that album was more successful than the one before. Today they’re considered classic Madonna songs: Holiday, Borderline and Lucky Star.
MTV was also born and Madonna took full advantage of the music video art form and made classic mini-movies out of her songs the way Michael Jackson was doing. The video for Borderline showed her incredible fashion and style sense that defined the 80’s more than any other artist before. Her style became a sensational fashion trend.
Her first album was climbing up the charts quicker than the record company had estimated. They had her come into the studio and record some more like it. What she came out with was the album Like a Virgin in 1984. This would be the album that propelled her to #1 all around the world. The title track stayed at #1 for 6 weeks, which was a record at the time.
It was also the first time that Madonna came to attract the attention of some of the specs of society and their lynch mob mentality. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time as they always crawled out like woodwork and she would simply pay no mind and keep going. Let them wallow in their own negativity. Madonna’s history with a lynch mob is no doubt long due to her entire career attracting just as much positive as negative. When you’ve got a big light around you it attracts insects looking to suck on that blood. If anything after nearly 30 years not even they could stop her. The Like a Virgin album and title track attracted the attention of organizations who complained that the song and its accompanying video promoted premarital sex and undermined family values, and moralists sought to have the song and video banned.
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 a belt that said “Boy Toy” on the buckle. The performance is noted by scholars and by MTV as an iconic performance in MTV history. 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!’
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.
She also appeared in the comedy Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), a film which introduced another Madonna anthem song still popular today, Into the Groove. Although she wasn’t cast as the lead actress, but supporting to Rosanna Arquette, her star power was so huge in music that when the movie came out audiences flocked to see Madonna.
Beginning in April 1985, she embarked on her first concert tour in North America, The Virgin Tour with the Beastie Boys as the opening act. 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.”
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. 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. 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.” Madonna also released two other classics from the Like a Virgin album – Dress You Up and Angel. Both hit the top of the charts.
Just as the public had become accustomed to copying Madonna’s look in making fashion statements, she did a 180 and shocked them by changing her appearance to a more mature and classic feel. Her body was tighter, muscle definition was now seeping through and she appeared stronger. In June 1986, Madonna released her third studio album, True Blue.. Rolling Stone magazine was impressed with the effort, writing that the album “sound[s] as if it comes from the heart”. It spawned three number one singles: “Live to Tell“, “Papa Don’t Preach” and “Open Your Heart“, and two more top-five singles: “True Blue” and “La Isla Bonita“. The music videos for each song became classics visuals as well.
Papa Don’t Preach was the track that put Madonna in the line of fire by a lynch mob during this period. Women’s organizations and others in the family planning field criticized Madonna for encouraging teenage pregnancy, while groups opposed to abortion saw it as a positive pro-life message. The religious social conservatives actually applauded her for this one, a rare moment where they actually supported her.
The song also caused her first conflict with the Vatican, as she dedicated it to Pope John Paul II, who urged Italian fans to boycott her concerts during the Who’s That Girl World Tour in 1987. This didn’t stop them as she sold out stadium’s around the world. The tour was musically and technically superior than the Virgin Tour. Madonna trained herself physically with aerobics, jogging and weight-lifting, to cope with the choreography and the dance routines. The stage was huge, with four video screens, multimedia projectors and a flight of stairs in the middle.
The show consisted of seven costume changes, with song-and-dance routines, theatrics and addressing social causes. The tour was critically appreciated, who commented on the extravagant nature of the concert and complimented Madonna for her dancing, costume changes and dynamic pacing. It had never been done before and Madonna set the bar really high that record companies today are still looking for the next Madonna with no success. It was the second highest grossing tour that year behind Tina Turner. It is also noted for giving rise to the term “new Madonna”, a stronger and more intelligent sexual image of her former self which had given rise to the term Madonna wannabe.
Regarding the tour, Madonna commented “I realized 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.”
She released two new tracks, Who’s That Girl and Causing a Commotion which both went straight to #1. She later that year released a remix album of past hits, entitled You Can Dance.
In January 1989, Madonna signed an endorsement deal with the Pepsi soft drink manufacturer. In one of her Pepsi commercials, she debuted her new 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.
The song was included on Madonna’s fourth studio album, Like a Prayer, one of Madonna’s first true classic art albums. Rolling Stone hailed it as “…as close to art as pop music gets”. Like a Prayer peaked at number one. Six singles were released from the album, including Like a Prayer, which reached number-one. Also, Express Yourself, Cherish, Keep it Together, Dear Jessie and Oh Father.
“Express Yourself” was the most expensive music video ever made at the time. Ironically, it cost 5 million dollars which was Madonna’s paycheck from Pepsi. The video was directed by now acclaimed Director, David Fincher. It was hailed as a masterpiece showing Madonna stronger than ever before and mature at 30. By the end of the 1980s, Madonna was named as the “Artist of the Decade”.
Like a Prayer denoted a more artistic and personal approach to songwriting for Madonna, who believed that she needed to cater more to her adult audience. Like a Prayer was positively received by critics, and was a commercial success. This period was also marked as a turning point in Madonna’s career, who began to be viewed as an efficient businesswoman—someone who knew how to sell a concept. With the singles’ accompanying music videos, Madonna furthered her creativity and became known as a leading figure in the format.
Madonna said about the album, “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 starred as “Breathless” Mahoney in the film Dick Tracy (1990), with Warren Beatty playing the title role. To accompany the film, she released the soundtrack album I’m Breathless, which included songs inspired by the film’s 1930’s setting.
It also featured the U.S. number one hit and now classic song, Vogue. Sooner or Later, earned songwriter Stephen Sondheim an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1991 and Madonna performed the song at the Academy Awards Ceremony.
In April 1990 she began her Blond Ambition World Tour, which continued for nearly four months. It was the most incredible live show ever put on to date at that time. It also raised the bar for upcoming pop artists to begin adopting the putting on elaborate shows bit for their own concert tours.
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.” Rolling Stone called it an “elaborately choreographed, sexually provocative extravaganza” and proclaimed it “the best tour of 1990”.
The tour was met with strong reaction from religious groups like clockwork for her performance of “Like a Virgin“, during which two male dancers caressed her body before she simulated masturbation. The Pope asked the general public and the Christian community not to attend the concert (not that they would go anyway). A private association of Catholics calling themselves Famiglia Domani also boycotted the tour for its eroticism. If they had seen the 2 hour show they would’ve known that it was only that song that contained an explicit performance. The show was also a train ride, a journey as after that performance, she goes into Like A Prayer to find redemption for her sins.
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.” It became Madonna’s most successful concert tour ever and if her star status was off the charts before, now she was seen as one of the top powerful women in the world.
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. Justify My Love reached number one in the U.S. and saw more lynch mob crap going on. Its music video featured scenes of sadomasochism, bondage, same-sex kissing and brief nudity. The video was deemed too sexually explicit for MTV and was banned from the network. Although today they show far worse things than this music video which was beautifully shot.
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.” The second single, Rescue Me, became the highest-debuting single by a female artist in Hot 100 chart history at that time.
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. It’s considered the highest grossing documentary to date. Although you would think this would’ve invited in some naysayers and it did, but mostly people were in awe watching an music icon at work, which at the time had not been seen or done before this impeccably.
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 number one hit. 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.
If Madonna had faced criticism before all this she was about to face an angry backlash of lynch mobbing. The worst she’d ever had to date in her career. This was over the first release from the Maverick venture, Madonna’s own 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, yet it still sold 1.5 million copies at $50 each in a matter of days. It sold out in under a week, but the backlash continued by the other part of the general public growing tired of her sexual antics. The extremely controversial book featured strong adult content and softcore pornographic photographs depicting simulations of sexual acts, which included sadomasochism and analingus. Madonna wrote the book as a character named Mistress Dita, inspired by 1930s film actress Dita Parlo.
Ironically, today the book is the #1 most wanted and demanded “out of print” book of all time.
She simultaneously released one of her most underrated albums, Erotica. Erotica also produced five further singles beyond the self titled Erotica song which is still a favorite today: Deeper and Deeper, Bad Girl, Fever, Rain and Bye Bye Baby.
In October 1993, she embarked on The Girlie Show World Tour. The show had the central visual theme of a “sex circus”. Described as “a mixture of a rock concert, a fashion show, a carnival performance, a cabaret act and a burlesque show”, the show had a more complex stage than those from Madonna’s previous tours: it had a runway that led from the center of the main stage to a minor stage, a revolving elevated platform in the middle of the main stage, balconies in the rear of the stage, and a giant illuminated “Girlie Show” sign above stage, among other features. The Girlie Show was a substantial success, solidifying her artistic integrity in the aftermath of the Sex book controversy.
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. The early to mid-90’s 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. It was not. In fact, her best work of her career was just up ahead and would stay consistent catapulting her to even newer heights. If there was anything with Madonna it was that she is always changing and creating new product. No two would ever be the same.
The ballad I’ll Remember (1994), was an attempt to tone down her provocative image. 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.
With her sixth studio album, Bedtime Stories (1994), Madonna employed a softer image to reconnect with the general public. The album debuted at the top of the charts and released four singles, including Secret, Take a Bow, Bedtime Story and Human Nature which poked fun right back at the media telling them she would not stop.
Continuing on the path of keeping her profile low as well as softer and warmer, 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 an incredible hot cover of Marvin Gaye‘s I Want You.
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”. She would be right, because although that work spawned dozens of classics, the newer, older and wiser Madonna would show us a technically sophisticated version and her greatest work of her career.
The following year saw the release of Evita in which she played the title role of Eva Perón. 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 serious vocal training that would shine through on her later music work. She 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. 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.
After its release, the film garnered critical appreciation! 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.”
Madonna won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for the role. 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“.
She said, “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 became involved in Eastern mysticism and Kabbalah. Her seventh studio album, Ray of Light, (1998) reflected this change in her perception and image. This would be the album that would be thrown up there as one of the greatest records of all time garnering in all sorts of awards that she had never seen before.
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.”
Upon release, the album was lauded by contemporary critics as a masterpiece. Reviewers complimented the album for its mature, restrained nature and commended Madonna’s musical direction, calling it her “most adventurous” record. The album garnered critical acclaim and was declared “one of the great pop masterpieces of the ’90s”. Ray of Light was honored with four Grammy Awards, and listed as one of Rolling Stone‘s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time“. Any previous controversies or sexual escapades and been mostly forgotten. The album’s “lyrics are uncomplicated but its statement is grand” and “Madonna hadn’t been this emotionally candid since Like a Prayer“. Another stated that Ray of Light “is her richest, most accomplished record yet.” Spin magazine declared Madonna’s Ray of Light album to be her “most radical, mask-free work.” Rolling Stone called the album “brilliant”, others said of Light Madonna’s “most adventurous record” and her “most mature and restrained album.” Entertainment Weekly gave the album an A-, noting “For all her grapplings with self-enlightenment, Madonna seems more relaxed and less contrived than she’s been in years, from her new Italian earth-mother makeover to, especially, her music. Ray of Light is truly like a prayer, and you know she’ll take you there.”
Ray of Light’s lack of cynicism as its most positive aspect; “It’s not an album turned on the lathe of cynical pop manipulation, rather it’s been squished out of a lump of clay on a foot-powered wheel. Lovingly teased into life, “Ray Of Light” is like the ugly mug that doesn’t match but is all the more special because of it.”Music critic from Los Angeles Times wrote, “One reason why her new ‘Ray of Light’ is the most satisfying album of her career is that it reflects the soul-searching of a woman who is at a point in her life where she can look at herself with surprising prespective.” The Boston Globe said that Ray of Light is a remarkable album. “It’s a deeply spiritual dance record, ecstatically textured, a sumptuous, serious cycle of songs that goes a long way toward liberating Madonna from a career built on scavenged images and cultivated identities.”
The album featured a new musical direction for Madonna as well as personal lyrics about motherhood, fame, love and spirituality. Madonna’s vocal range spanned through higher notes, because of the choral training she underwent during Evita. Madonna had been a fan of William Orbit’s work, and loved the “sort of trancy, ambient quality” he gave to the songs he worked on. She began working with Orbit after he had sent her tapes of musical snippets he was working on, which were usually eight or sixteen-bar phrases and stripped down versions of tracks that would later be heard on the album. Madonna would listen to the samples over and over again until they inspired her to write lyrics. Once she had an idea about a song’s lyrical direction, she would take her ideas to Orbit and they would expand on the original music ideas.
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 became a huge hit and earned Madonna a Grammy Award for “Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media“.
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.
She released her eighth studio album, Music, in September 2000. It featured elements from the electronica-inspired Ray of Light era. 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.”
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. The album took the number one position in more than 20 countries worldwide and sold four million copies in the first ten days. In the U.S., Music debuted at the top, and became her first number one album in eleven years since Like a Prayer. It produced three singles: the Hot 100 number one “Music“, “Don’t Tell Me” and “What It Feels Like for a Girl“. 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.
Her fifth concert tour, entitled Drowned World Tour, started in April 2001. 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. She also released her second greatest-hits collection, entitled GHV2, to coincide with the home video release of the tour. GHV2 debuted at the top of the charts.
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 was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.
Madonna released her ninth studio album, American Life, which was based on her observations of American society, and received mixed reviews and is probably another underrated album like Erotica.
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.” 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.”
The title song’s 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. This may have been the first time Madonna opted out of any potential controversy, but this was mainly because the public had lost its sense of humor with anything at this time and would not get irony.
American Life was the lowest selling album of Madonna’s career and much of this was due to the low key nature of the release as many were unaware the CD even came out. The record company also did release important key songs that would’ve guaranteed success such as “Love Profusion” and “Nothing Fails”, but rather made poorer release choices like “American Life” and “Hollywood”.
This did not stop Madonna who ended up giving 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 that is still brought up today.
In mid-2004 Madonna embarked on the Re-Invention World Tour. It became the highest-grossing tour of 2004, earning $125 million, more than any of her previous tours. She made a documentary about the tour named I’m Going to Tell You a Secret. Rolling Stone ranked her at the top of its list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”.
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.” This became at the top of the list of one of Madonna’s greatest album’s of all time specifically with the younger generations. Madonna was collecting a new crop of fans and they were today’s youth who had never been privy to Madonna’s career.
Billboard commented that the album was a “welcome return to form for the Queen of Pop.” The album won a Grammy Award for “Best Electronic/Dance Album“. 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.
“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.”
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 surpassing once again her previous tours.
Madonna used religious symbols, such as the crucifix and Crown of Thorns, in the performance of “Live to Tell”. She faced criticism naturally by ‘certain’ groups. It caused the Russian Orthodox Church and the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia to urge all their members to boycott her concert. The Vatican protested the concert, as did bishops from Düsseldorf. 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.”
Despite the criticism, those that ACTUALLY attended the show didn’t find anything sacrilegious about that part of the concert and in fact found it to be one of the more powerful moments of the show getting everyone to think about humanity.
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. In June of 2006, Madonna was voted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends online Hall of Fame.
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.
She produced and wrote I Am Because We Are, an incredible documentary on the problems faced by Malawians. 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?” The Times said she had “done herself proud” while The Daily Telegraph described the film as “not an entirely unpromising first effort.”
In December 2007, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced Madonna as one of the five inductees of 2008. She thanked Christopher Flynn, her dance teacher from 35 years earlier, for his encouragement to follow her dreams.
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 andNate “Danja” Hills. Rolling Stone complimented it as an “impressive taste of her upcoming tour.”
The album debuted at number one in 37 countries and on the Billboard 200. It received generally positive reviews. Its lead single, “4 Minutes“, reached the top the charts and is considered a Madonna classic. The song pushed Madonna past Elvis Presley as the artist with the most top-ten hits. In the UK, she retained her record for the most number one singles for a female artist; “4 Minutes” becoming her thirteenth.
To further promote the album, Madonna embarked on the Sticky & Sweet Tour; her first major venture with Live Nation. It became the greatest show that Madonna has ever put on at aged 50! 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. It was extended to the next year, adding new European dates, and after it ended, the total gross was $408 million.
The New York Times compared the concert with aerobics and said that the concert was more of a workout than being erotic. Another review by Helen Brown from the same publication said that “Sticky Sweet’s highlights include a fresh, crunchy and gipsied-up ‘La Isla Bonita’ (complete with fiddles, flamenco and a spliced-in Romanian folk tune) and a raved-up ‘Like a Prayer’.”
The New York Daily News wrote that “[Madonna] may have just sailed past the half-century mark, but that didn’t stop [her] from dancing hard and fast in skimpy clothes for two hours nonstop at the opening show of her Sticky and Sweet tour. [..] No slack in the star’s sexuality or energy was apparent at the icon’s show.”
The Houston Chronicle commented that “most surprising about Madonna’s impeccably choreographed, frequently fantastic show was her willingness to show fans the flip side. She was still larger-than-life — and astonishingly fit for 50 — but Hard Candy‘s toot-toot disco beats have softened her edges.”
The Chicago Tribune commented that “Smiles don’t come easy for Madonna. Instead, there are usually smirks, sneers, pouts, leers and thin-lipped, tough-as-nails displays of contempt for anyone who would dare mess with her. Madonna, she’s one tough dominatrix, and she’s got better developed biceps than just about any of the fans who filled the United Center on Sunday for the first of two concerts.”
The Daily Mail commented “Nobody does a big stadium show quite like Madonna. She might be pop’s greatest female icon, but she does not rest on her laurels and this was a theatrical, two-hour blockbuster, featuring 16 dancers and a 12-piece band.”
The USA Today wrote: “Even the superstar’s most cynical critics couldn’t walk away from her two-hour extravaganza at the Izod Center on Saturday night without being thoroughly wowed. It was not only the spectacle of the concert, but the performer herself, as she reasserted her musical relevance and dominance in her 25th year in the spotlight. […] Madonna is not the world’s most gifted singer or dancer or even musician, but she may be its greatest performer.”
Rolling Stone noted that “Madonna may have toyed with dominance and submission on [2008’s] Hard Candy, but there was no question who was carrying the cane at the first New York City date on her Sticky & Sweet Tour last night (the trek’s second stop in the States). Emerging on a throne to the thumpy sound of ‘Candy Shop’, the 50-year-old singer kicked off a tightly choreographed two-hour set designed to accentuate her physical and musical strength and flexibility.”
Slant Magazine wrote: “Like a sex instructor, Madonna rules over her audience and tells them when they’re allowed to get off. And when the words ‘Game Over’ flash on the screen at the end of the show, you’re just happy to have played along.”
She 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. 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.
She appeared at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards on September 13, 2009, to speak in tribute to deceased pop star Michael Jackson. 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. 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.
Madonna granted American TV show Glee the rights to her entire catalogue of music, and the producers planned an episode featuring Madonna songs exclusively. 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. 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 October 2010, Madonna opened 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. The first of the gyms was opened at Mexico City in November 2010, as Madonna believed that Mexico City served 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.”
Following the Glee episode and the gyms, Madonna completed directing her second feature film, W.E., a biopic about the affair between King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson; it was co-written with Alek Keshishian. W.E. premiered out of the main competition at the 2011 Venice Film Festival, and received positive reviews.
She has also contributed a new song titled “Masterpiece” for the W.E. soundtrack and her new upcoming album. The song won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song at the January 15, 2012 69th Golden Globe Awards.
In December 2011, it was revealed that the singer had signed a three-album deal with Interscope Records, who would act as the distributor. It was also announced that the first single from the album, “Give Me All Your Luvin’“, is expected to be released in the last week of January, with the album following in March 2012.
Preceding this, the National Football League (NFL) confirmed that Madonna will perform at the Bridgestone Super Bowl XLVI Halftime Show to be broadcast on NBC on February 5, 2012, from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The performance will be visualized by Cirque Du Soleil and Jamie King. Naturally a tour will follow.
UPDATE ADDITION: The MDNA album debuted at number 1 on its released and is nearing the half a million mark. Critics have praised the new album, Rolling Stone writer Joe Levy called the album a “disco-fied divorce record” and wrote of its music, “there’s lots of naughtiness for the DJ to bring back, and the music has depth that rewards repeated listening.”
Like clockwork, Madonna has once again faced another lynch mob mentality, the kind she’s been used to since her career began. There are those tiny specs in society that are just wishing she would go away and getting a rush to find little cracks where she will fail. They cite she’s too old or her album dropped to #8, which on a Billboard Top 200, 8 is a pretty good fucking number.
There is no other artist in history who has had a career such as Madonna. They just don’t exist and whether there are naysayers, negative critics or an ostracizing lynch mob, that has never slowed her down or stopped her in 30 years. If there is anyone who can teach you to be strong, creative and follow your dreams it’s Madonna.