One of Madonna's greatest achievements is how she has manipulated the media and the public with her music, her videos, her publicity, and her sexuality. Arguably, Madonna was the first female pop star to have complete control of her music and image.
Madonna moved from her native Michigan to New York in 1977, with dreams of becoming a ballet dancer. She studied with choreographer Alvin Ailey and modelled. In 1979, she became part of the Patrick Hernandez Revue, a disco outfit who had the hit "Born to Be Alive." She traveled to Paris with Hernandez; it was there that she met Dan Gilroy, who would soon become her boyfriend. Upon returning to New York, the pair formed the Breakfast Club, a pop/dance group. Madonna originally played drums for the band, but she soon became the lead singer. In 1980, she left the band and formed Emmy with her former boyfriend, drummer Stephen Bray. Soon, Bray and Madonna broke off from the group and began working on some dance/disco-oriented tracks. A demo tape of these tracks worked its way to Mark Kamins, a New York-based DJ/producer. Kamins directed the tape to Sire Records, who signed the singer during 1982.
Kamins produced Madonna's first single, "Everybody," which became a club and dance hit at the end of 1982; her second single, 1983's "Physical Attraction," was another club hit. In June of 1983, she had her third club hit with the bubbly "Holiday," which was written by Jellybean Benitez. Madonna's self-titled debut album was released in September of 1983; "Holiday" became her first Top 40 hit the following month. "Borderline" became her first Top Ten hit in March of 1984, beginning a remarkable string of 17 consecutive Top Ten hits. While "Lucky Star" was climbing to number four, Madonna began working on her first starring role in a feature film, Susan Seidelman's Desperately Seeking Susan.
Madonna's second album, the Niles Rodgers-produced Like a Virgin, was released at the end of 1984. The title track hit number one in December, staying at the top of the charts for six weeks; it was the start of a whirlwind year for the singer. During 1985, Madonna became an international celebrity, selling millions of records on the strength of her stylish, sexy videos and forceful personality. After "Material Girl" became a number two hit in March, Madonna began her first tour, supported by the Beastie Boys. "Crazy for You" became her second number one single in May. Desperately Seeking Susan was released in July, becoming a box office hit; it also prompted a planned video release of A Certain Sacrifice, a low-budget erotic drama she filmed in 1979. A Certain Sacrifice wasn't the only embarrassing skeleton in the closet dragged into the light during the summer of 1985 - both Playboy and Penthouse published nude photos of Madonna that she posed for in 1977. Nevertheless, her popularity continued unabated, with thousands of teenage girls adopting her sexy appearence, being dubbed "Madonna Wannabes." In August, she married actor Sean Penn; the couple had a rocky marriage that ended in 1989.
Madonna began collaborating with Patrick Leonard at the beginning of 1986; Leonard would co-write most of her biggest hits in the '80s, including "Live to Tell," which hit number one in June of 1986. A more ambitious and accomplished record than her two previous albums, True Blue was released the following month, to both massive commercial success (it was a number one in both the U.S. and the U.K., selling over five million copies in America alone) and critical acclaim. "Papa Don't Preach" became her fourth number one hit in the U.S. While her musical career was thriving, her film career took a savage hit with the November release of Shanghai Surprise. Starring Madonna and Sean Penn, the comedy received terrible reviews, which translated into disasterous box office returns.
At the beginning of 1987, she had her fifth number one single with "Open Your Heart," the third number one from True Blue alone. "La Isla Bonita," taken from the soundtrack of her third feature film, Who's That Girl?, was another Top Five hit, although the film itself was another box office bomb; the title track from the movie became her sixth number one single. 1988 was a relatively quiet year for Madonna, as she spent the first half of the year acting in David Mamet's Speed the Plow on Broadway. In the meantime, she released the remix album You Can Dance. After withdrawing the divorce papers she filed at the beginning of 1988, she divorced Penn at the beginning of 1989.
Like a Prayer, released in the spring of 1989, was her most ambitious and far-reaching album, incorporating elements of pop, rock and dance. It was another number one hit and launched the number one title track and "Express Yourself," "Cherish," and "Keep It Together," three more Top Ten hits. In April 1990, she began her massive Blonde Ambition tour, which ran throughout the entire year. "Vogue" became a number one hit in May, setting the stage for her co-starring role in Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy; it was her most successful film appearance since Desperately Seeking Susan. Madonna released a greatest hits album, The Immaculate Collection, at the end of the year. It featured two new songs, including the number one single "Justify My Love," which sparked another controversy with its sexy video; the second new song, "Rescue Me," became the highest-debuting single by a female artist in U.S. chart history, entering the charts at number 15. Truth or Dare, a documentary of the Blonde Ambition tour, was released to positive reviews and strong ticket sales at the end of 1991.
Madonna returned to the charts in the summer of 1992 with the number one "This Used to Be My Playground," a single featured in the film A League of Their Own, which featured the singer in a small part. Later that year, Madonna released Sex, an expensive, steel-bound soft-core pornographic book that featured hundreds of erotic photographs of herself, several models, and other celebrities - including Isabella Rossellini, Big Daddy Kane, Naomi Campbell, and Vanilla Ice - as well as selected prose. Sex received scathing reviews and enormous negative publicity, yet that didn't stop the accompanying album, Erotica, from selling over two million copies. Bedtime Stories, released two years later, was a more subdued affair than Erotica. Initially, it didn't chart as impressively, prompting some critics to label her a has-been, yet the album spawned her biggest hit, "Take a Bow," which spent seven weeks at number one. It also featured the Bjork-penned "Bedtime Stories," which became her first single not to make the Top 40; its follow-up, "Human Nature," also failed to crack the Top 40. Nevertheless, Bedtime Stories, marked her seventh album to go multi-platinum.
Beginning in 1995, Madonna began one of her most subtle image makeovers as she lobbied for the title role in the film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita. Backing away from the overt sexuality of Erotica and Bedtime Stories, Madonna recast herself as an upscale sophisticate, and the compilation Something to Remember fit into the plan nicely. Released in the fall of of 1995, around the same time she won the coveted role of Evita Peron, the album was comprised entirely of ballads, designed to appeal to the mature audience that would also be the target of Evita. As the filming completed, Madonna announced she was pregnant and her daughter, Lourdes, was born late in 1996, just as Evita was scheduled for release. The movie was greeted with generally positive reviews and Madonna began a campaign for an Oscar nomination that resulted in her winning the Golden Globe for Best Actress (Musical or Comedy), but not the coveted Academy Award nomination. The soundtrack for Evita, however, was a modest hit, with a dance remix of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" and the newly-written "You Must Love Me" both becoming hits.
During 1997, she worked with producer William Orbit on her first album of new material since 1992's Erotica. The resulting record, Ray of Light, was heavily influenced by electronica, techno, trip-hop and drum-n-bass, thereby updating her classic dance-pop sound for the late '90s. Ray of Light received uniformly excellent reviews upon its March 1998 release and debuted at number two on the charts. Within a month, the record was shaping up to be her biggest album since Like a Prayer, going on to win her a Grammy Award.
In 2000, Madonna hit the charts again with her idiosyncratic version of the Don McLean classic 'American Pie' - it debuted at No.1 in Australia in March.
Later on in that same year, her much anticipated new album, Music, hit the shelves. And with two huge hits, 'Don't Stop' and 'Music' from the album launching the CD into platinum sales, it was another huge success for the never ageing superstar.
In 2002, Madonna has had yet another busy year. She appeared as the lead role in her husband's (Guy Ritchie) movie 'Swept Away', she has a cameo in the soon-to-released Bond flick 'Die Another Die' PLUS she also sing's the title track to the movie!
Madonna released her ninth studio album, American Life, in April 2003. The lyrics were themed on American society. The record received mixed reviews. The song peaked at #37 on the Billboard Hot 100. Having sold 4 million copies, American Life became the lowest selling album of her career. Later that year, Madonna performed the song "Hollywood" with Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Missy Elliott at the MTV Video Music Awards. Madonna kissed Spears and Aguilera during the performance, resulting in tabloid press frenzy. That fall, Madonna provided guest vocals on Spears's single "Me Against the Music". During the Christmas season of 2003, Madonna released Remixed & Revisited, a remix EP that included rock versions of songs from American Life, and "Your Honesty", a previously unreleased track from the Bedtime Stories recording sessions.
In March 2004 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, WMG filed a countersuit, alleging that Maverick had lost tens of millions of dollars on its own. On June 14, 2004, the dispute was resolved when Maverick shares owned by Madonna and Ronnie Dashev were purchased. The company was now a wholly owned subsidiary of Warner Music. but Madonna is still signed to Warner under a separate recording contract. Later that year, 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. She made a documentary about the tour named I'm Going to Tell You a Secret. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked her #36 on their list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time".
Madonna during the 2006 Confessions Tour in Los AngelesIn January 2005, Madonna performed a cover version of the John Lennon song "Imagine" on the televised U.S. aid concert "Tsunami Aid", which raised money for the tsunami victims in Asia. In July 2005, Madonna performed at the Live 8 benefit concert in London, run in support of the aims of the UK's Make Poverty History campaign and the Global Call for Action Against Poverty. Her performances of "Like a Prayer", "Ray of Light" and "Music" were included in the Live 8 DVD.
Madonna's tenth studio album, Confessions on a Dance Floor sold more than 8 million copies. The album received positive reviews. It produced four singles including "Hung Up" which reached #1 in a record breaking 45 countries. Madonna opened the 2006 Grammy Awards with "Hung Up", alongside the nominated computer-generated band, Gorillaz. "Sorry" then became Madonna's twelfth number one in the UK, making her the female artist with the most #1 singles in the UK charts. "Sorry" peaked at #58 in the U.S. The third single, "Get Together", became her thirty-sixth number one dance hit in the U.S. The fourth single, "Jump", charted at number nine in the UK.
Madonna at the Wembley Arena in London during her worldwide model for H&M. Included in the deal was a specially designed track suit, created by Madonna. The next year, the clothing line M by Madonna was launched internationally. Madonna's Confessions Tour began in late May 2006 and ended in September 2006. It had a global audience of 1.2 million people and, with reported gross sales of $260.1 million. The use of religious symbols such as the crucifix and crown of thorns in the performance of "Live to Tell" caused controversy. The Russian Orthodox Church and the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia urged all members to boycott her concert. Prosecutors in Dusseldorf threatened to sue her and a Protestant Bishop said, "the only way an aging superstar can attract attention is to offend people's religious sentiments." Vatican officials claimed that Madonna's performance while hanging off a cross and wearing a crown of thorns was an open attack on Catholicism and should not be performed in the same city as the Pope's residence, to which 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."
In December 2006, PETA criticised Madonna for wearing a real chinchilla fur coat in a London restaurant.
2007-present: New record deal, directorial debut and Hard Candy
On May 16, 2007, Madonna released the download-only song "Hey You", in anticipation of Live Earth, which was free for its first week. Madonna performed "Hey You" among other songs at the London concert of Live Earth at Wembley Stadium on July 7, 2007.
In October, 2007 Madonna announced her departure from record company Warner Bros. and a new $120 million, ten year contract with pop concert promoters Live Nation. She will be the founding recording artist for the new music division, Live Nation Artists (formerly Artist Nation), and the deal will consist of albums, tours, merchandise and promotion. The Warner Bros. deal will be completed with her 2008 Hard Candy studio album and a compilation album due at the end of 2008 or early 2009.
In November 2007, The New York Post claimed animal enthusiasts were "horrified" by Madonna dyeing her sheep for a photograph, and "vilified" for organising pheasant-hunting parties at her estate. In December 2007, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced Madonna as one of the five inductees of 2008. The ceremony, which also included fellow inductees John Mellencamp, Leonard Cohen, the Ventures, and the Dave Clark Five, took place on March 10, 2008. Madonna was inducted into the Hall by Justin Timberlake. Madonna also directed her first film, Filth and Wisdom and produced and wrote I Am Because We Are, a documentary on the problems faced by Malawians directed by her former gardener Nathan Rissman. Filth and Wisdom received mixed reviews. The Times Online said she has "done herself proud" while The Telegraph described the film as "not an entirely unpromising first effort [but] Madonna would do well to hang on to her day job." I Am Because We Are was lauded by critics. The Guardian review said that Madonna "came, saw and conquered the world's biggest film festival yesterday."
In 2008, Madonna promoted her eleventh studio album, Hard Candy, with the Hard Candy Promo Tour. The 3-date tour was lauded by Rolling Stone, mentioning that it was an "Impressive taste of her upcoming tour". The album debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart, where Madonna has achieved ten number one albums. Hard Candy sold 100,000 copies in the United States upon its first day of release. It debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 with over 280,000 copies sold. It received favorable reviews by critics. The album was criticized for being "an attempt to harness the urban market", Its lead single "4 Minutes" reached number 3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. Future promotion of the album will include the Sticky & Sweet Tour due to begin in August 2008.