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When you hear the word Madonna, a lot of thoughts and memories might come to your mind. Some of us would remember her as this young blonde girl who was singing songs like “Like a Virgin” or “Papa don’t preach” in her debuts, others will rather remember her countless tours around the world, other might think more of the controversies she caused and other might just criticize her for her latest trial to adopt a child of the Malawi.
Since we are doing a music project, I will try to be as focused on her music as much as possible but since “She’s Madonna” (Robbie Williams’ song), I will to talk about her overall career.
According to Biography (2009), Madonna was born Madonna Louise Ciccone in 1958 in Michigan, USA. She grew up in the Catholic faith, lost her mother by cancer when she was still 5 years old and was an incident that highly affected Madonna’s teenage days who said “I think the biggest reason I was able to express myself and not be intimated was by not having a motherâ€¦ For example, mothers teach you manners. And I absolutely did not learn any of those rules and regulations”.
Her stepmother treated her like Cinderella since she had to take care of her younger sisters and brothers and that made her revolt by rejecting her faith and putting exposed clothes.
Being an excellent student, and a fine dancer, she dropped college and decided to learn dance in New York City. (ibid)
She met Dan Gilroy of Breakfast Club and discovered the combination of the stage and the singing. She went solo in 1981 and released her first hit “Everybody” in 1982 under her original name Madonna which has reached the first place on the dance charts of that year. The rest was like a fairy tale (ibid). The success was immediate and her album Madonna which sold 10 million copies in the world set the artist for an international career according to Linternaute (2009).
Peach (1998:191) notes in her book that “Her music shifted from disco and bubble-gum to rock to personal statements and melodic torch singing, then, with the aid of her music videos, to pop modernism” .
Listening to her songs and her albums, we can notice that her first albums are very different musically speaking from her last album. Madonna evolved with the demand of its epoch along with her style and her clothes. In fact, I listened to her second album “Like a virgin” and it was talking more about the universal themes like the parents, family, marriage and giving morals and was more pop and rock than her last album “Hard candy” which was a mixture of Pop, dance, electro pop, R&B, hip hop – which by the way I didn’t personally like. Although on her 2nd album’s cover, she was dressed in a wedding robe and her hair was long while her last album’s cover shows a Madonna more provocateur than ever touching her lips, putting the cross and wearing a wrestlers’ belt.
Why do people listen to her?
I do believe that despite that she now reached the age of 50 years; she’s still famous and well known for her music. In fact, she is not talented naturally nor is a Miss Universe. Grant (2005:6) wrote that the activities she do which are music videos, concerts, records, movies, books and charity events have all one goal which is the search for a celebrity position. Grant (ibid ) argues that once she reached this status, she started abusing from it and using it to attract or reject more people around the world especially when it came to using sex as a advertising instrument, pornographic images, nudity, suggestions of sexual deviance and combination of sexual and spiritual themes. She’s an icon, she’s famous worldwide. The church condemned her music and especially her album “like a prayer”. In 1992, she released a book called “Sex” which showed some pictures of her in different erotic poses (Biography, 2009). I see Madonna as an entrepreneur who knew how to keep up to date with her epoch and this can be seen from her musical style and clothing style and I believe people adore this type of person because if a singer doesn’t bring up constantly something new , people will get used to his/her style and soon he/she will be forsaken.
The youth are Madonna’s prime target since her last album “Hard Candy” was for example featuring her and Justin Timberlake on the song “4 minutes to save the world”, Timbaland and the Neptunes who are icons for the younger generation. Also she talks about other young talents like Ali G or William Orbit:”I’ve met these people along the way in my career and I want to take them everywhere I go.” I want to incorporate them into my little factory of ideas. I also come into contact with a lot of young talent that I feel entrepreneurial about” (from Grant (2005:6)). This is also a confirmation of her steps to keep up to date with its epoch. As for the targeted people when she started, and talking from a personal point of view, I remember my mother telling me that she used to listen to Madonna in her 20s but nowadays she doesn’t follow her actuality anymore since it is not her style of songs any longer and in fact, when going higher in age, our tastes and interests change. This means that her target was always the youth generation (early 20s to 32).
Relationships related to Other Activities
As mentioned before, Madonna is a singer, writer, dancer, movie actress. When reading about her multiple relationships with famous people of her epoch, I can see that these relationships were a strategy for reaching goals faster than normal. She dated Dan Gilroy of the breakfast club, her first band ever, then with the musician Jellybean Benitez (AbsoluteMadonna, 2009). Her marriage with movie actor Sean Penn took place in the equivalent timeline of her entry to the world of Hollywood. At this point of time, she was already famous and many men were actually looking forward to date her. Nowadays, she has a boy toy named Jesus whom she uses for every task.
In an interview with Larry King Live cited on CNN (1999), she says that her influences were Led Zeppelin, Karen Carpenter, the Suppremes and Martha Graham, Rudolph Nureyev for the dance. As for the influences of actors, she admits in an interview with the TIME magazine in 1985 cited in Allaboutmadonna (2009) “I also loved Carole Lombard and Judy Holliday and Marilyn Monroe. They were all just incredibly funny, and they were silly and sweet and they were girls and they were feminine and sexy”.
The provocateur, the icon
Madonna is such a big icon that many artists/bands have sung songs about her like the “She’s Madonna”by Robbie Williams or even the song “Do it with Madonna” from The Android (Onpedia, 2009). We cannot compare her to Elvis Presley who’s got more than 50 songs referencing him, but we can say she does pretty well.
Her domination of the Masculine sex is incontestable. Peach (1998:198) writes in her book talking about the Queen of the Pop that she was “[â€¦] frequently wearing men’s clothes, grabbing her crotch, and declaring she the boss, thus occupying male positions. She also had her male dancers wear fake breasts, women’s clothes, and submit to her power and control. The message was that “male” and “female” were social constructs that could be deconstructed and that women could occupy male positions, roles, and behavior and vice versa”. In her fourth album “Like a prayer”, Madonna broke all the traditions of her time being the first singer to reveal what is normally masked by showing off one belly’s button as we can see on the album’s cover (Virginmedia). She was a pioneer in this type of marketing. Madonna has been voted by the Advocate, a LGBT magazine as the “biggest gay icon of all time” as seen on Madonnanewsroom (2009). Who doesn’t remember her kissing Britney Spears in a trio with Christina Aguilera? I still remember it very well when it happened in 2003 and at that time, I was only aged 14 years old and I was shocked by this kiss. I do think that following this video, I started to learn more about the LGBT community especially the lesbians.
Dailymail (2006) wrote that Madonna made the highest earnings a female singer has ever achieved.
The Guardian (2008) notes that Madonna made it into the UK Top 40 every year except three years; 1988, 2004 and 2007.
She has sold more than 200 million albums worldwide in 27 years of career according to ArticlesBase (2007).
The following facts have their sources from The Guardian (2008):
“According to her brother Christopher, the only thing Madonna can cook is Rice Krispie cakes. This means that dishes she is incapable of serving up include La Isla Bolognese, Dear Jelly, Hanky Lamb Shanky, Don’t Cry for Me Polenta, and Crazy for Yule Log.
Like A Virgin was originally written for a MAN.
Madonna once noted: “I want to be like Gandhi and Martin Luther King and John Lennon – but I want to stay alive.”
Madonna lost her virginity in the back of a Cadillac, later explaining that she saw it as a career move.”
As words of conclusion, I would like to say that Madonna has never stopped to surprise us with whatever she does, was it controversial, unusual or provocateur, and I do believe that she will remain the Queen of the pop constantly adapting herself to the changes and variations of our epoch. As time goes on, she will keep breaking records and I do believe that her age is not a barrier at all.
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