A look back at the Queen of Pop’s 20 greatest moments. (x)
Madonna has been entertaining the world for the past 30 years and has earned the title Queen of Pop. Born and raised in Michigan, Madonna used her strict Catholic upbringing as inspiration for much of her later work. After briefly attending the University of Michigan, Madonna moved to New York City at the encouragement of her dance teacher and friend, Christopher Flynn.
Madonna spent many years in the Big Apple trying to find her way. Years later, Madonna landed a record deal with Sire Records and the rest is history. She gave many people a voice, including the LGBT community at a time before it was trendy for female pop stars to do so. She has also been a vocal advocate for AIDS research and encourages the practice of safe sex. In 2008, Madonna was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
After Madonna recently announced via Instagram that she is working with Avicci on her forthcoming studio album, I thought it would be appropriate to look back on 20 of Madonna’s greatest moments.
20. American Bandstand
Madonna made her television debut on American Bandstand in 1984. She performed her hit, “Holiday,” and spoke to Dick Clark afterwards. When asked about what she hopes for the future, Madonna delivered the now-famous line, “to rule the world.”
19. 1984 MTV VMAs
The inaugural MTV Video Music Awards were held in 1984 at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. Madonna performed “Like a Virgin,” first appearing as a virginal bride. Once the performance ended, however, she appeared the exact opposite. Madonna later revealed that her former manager said her career was over after the performance. How wrong he was.
18. “Desperately Seeking Susan”
Madonna’s first film role came in 1985 as a bar singer in the teen-flick “Vision Quest.” It was a mere cameo role, however, and Madonna’s first starring role came shortly afterwards. The film, “Desperately Seeking Susan,” was not only a commercial success, critics called it “the Madonna movie.” It also helped Madonna’s song “Into the Groove” become her first UK number one.
17. “Papa Don’t Preach” controversy
Madonna was already known for empowering young girls, but that empowerment was about to take a serious turn. In 1986, Madonna released “Papa Don’t Preach,” a song about a teenage girl telling her father she is pregnant and is choosing to keep her baby. The song sparked controversy, with its opponents claiming it would encourage teenage pregnancy. Tipper Gore, who previously slammed Madonna’s sexually charged lyrics, praised the song, however. It went on to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
16. MTV Video Vanguard Award
Madonna’s impact on the medium of music videos was already being honored in 1986. She returned to MTV’s VMAs that year to accept the Video Vanguard Award. The award recognizes artists who made an impact on music videos and MTV culture. It was an impressive achievement, since Madonna was only on her third studio album and released a mere ten music videos at the time.
15. “Like a Prayer” video and Pepsi commercial
“Like a Prayer” was released in March 1989. It was Madonna’s fourth studio album and the title track served as the lead single. The song was to be promoted via a Pepsi commercial and music video. The latter of which premiered the day after the Pepsi commercial made its debut. The Catholic iconography, burning crosses, and interracial love was too much for many to swallow. After threats from conservative groups, Pepsi removed the commercial from the air and cancelled their planned sponsorship of Madonna’s upcoming tour. Madonna’s video got to stay on the air. In the end, “Like a Prayer” became a huge success, with Rolling Stone calling the album “as close to art as pop music gets.”
14. “Express Yourself”
The second single from “Like a Prayer” was “Express Yourself.” The music video, directed by David Fincher, was inspired by the 1927 film, “Metropolis.” The song became a Madonna classic, peaking at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and hitting number one on the European Hot 100 Singles chart (Madonna’s sixth time to achieve this feat). “Express Yourself” is an empowerment anthem that encourages self-respect and self-expression. The song has influenced many artists in its wake.
Madonna reached her peak in 1990 when she released “Vogue.” The song was inspired by the dance craze seen in gay nightclubs in New York City. Madonna brought voguing to the mainstream and popularized what was going on underground. The song topped the charts in over 30 countries and sold over six million copies, making it the world’s best-selling single of 1990. The iconic, black-and-white video helped solidify Madonna’s untouchable star status at that time.
12. Blond Ambition Tour
One of the classic images people often associate with Madonna is the cone-bra. The famous costume was designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier for Madonna’s 1990 Blond Ambition Tour. The tour was followed by controversy, with police in Toronto threatening to arrest Madonna for simulating masturbation on stage and the Pope asking Christians not to attend the concert. Rolling Stone named it the Greatest Concert of the 1990s and it became the highest grossing musical event of all time at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena with $456,720.
11. “Justify My Love” video ban
In late 1990, Madonna released her first greatest hits album, “The Immaculate Collection.” The album was certified diamond in the United States and became the best-selling compilation album by a solo artist in history. The album’s first single, “Justify My Love” caused controversy when the video was banned by MTV. The video’s content was too sexually explicit for airwaves at the time. Madonna pressed on, selling the video on VHS as a “video single,” the first of its kind. This was way before artists could make their music videos available on iTunes. She also gave an interview on ABC’s “Nightline” defending herself and the video. The song reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
10. “Truth or Dare”
If people thought Madonna’s stage performances were a spectacle, they were about to see what life was like when the shows ended. In 1991, Madonna released the documentary film, “Truth or Dare.” Director Alek Keshishian followed Madonna during her Blond Ambition Tour and filmed what went on behind-the-scenes. The film also featured rare glimpses into Madonna’s personal life, including a visit to her mother’s grave site. Footage from a gay pride parade attended by some of the dancers was also included. This was one of the many times Madonna used her platform to support LGBT people. The film grossed $29,012,935 worldwide, becoming the highest-grossing documentary of all time during that period.
9. “A League of Their Own”
Madonna starred alongside Geena Davis and Tom Hanks in the classic film, “A League of Their Own” in 1992. Directed by Penny Marshall, the film tells the story of the first All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The film was a critical and commercial success, grossing $107,000,000 in the United States alone. It also helped Madonna gain another number one hit, “This Used to Be My Playground.”
8. “Erotica” album and “Sex” book
Sexuality has always been a powerful force in Madonna’s work and she carried it even further in 1992. Madonna released her “Erotica” album and book, “Sex,” in October of that year. The book contained photography by Steven Meisel depicting Madonna’s various sexual fantasies. The book was panned by critics, but was a commercial success, selling over 150,000 copies the first day of its release. It also topped The New York Times Best Seller list. The “Erotica” album was overshadowed by the book, but still earned commercial success, going double-platinum in the United States and selling over six million copies worldwide. It is considered by many to be a fan-favorite.
7. 1997 Golden Globe Awards
Madonna’s acting career has seen more misses than hits. So, when she landed the role of Eva Peron in “Evita,” many were curious to see the film. The result was a huge success for everyone involved, including Madonna, who took home the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy. Madonna won another Golden Globe in 2012 for her song, “Masterpiece” from her directorial feature, “W.E.”
6. 1999 Grammy Awards
Filming “Evita” and becoming a mother changed Madonna as an artist. Her vocal ability strengthened and she grew as a spiritual being. All this maturity was captured on her “Ray of Light” album. In 1999, she opened the Grammy Awards with a performance of the album’s fifth single, “Nothing Really Matters.” Madonna won four awards that night and brought her co-producer William Orbit on stage during her acceptance speech. The “Ray of Light” album peaked at number two on the Billboard 200 chart and has sold over 16 million copies worldwide. In a 2013 Reddit AMA, Madonna said she considers “Ray of Light” to be “the quintessential Madonna album.”
5. “What It Feels Like For A Girl” video
Over a decade after the “Justify My Love” video was banned, Madonna proved she could still shake things up. Directed by her former husband, Guy Ritchie, the video for “What It Feels Like For A Girl” was only aired after midnight on MTV and VH1. The video was considered too violent. Madonna explained her character was acting out in a fantasy. Like “Justify My Love” before, the music video was released by Madonna herself as a DVD single.
4. “American Life” original video
Madonna’s political views have never been secret and in 2003, she intended to continue speaking her mind. Madonna released her “American Life” album in April that year. The title track was released as the album’s lead single and the video aimed to make a statement on the possibility of America going to war with Iraq. Madonna pulled her original video and released a different version once American troops invaded Iraq. She explained that she didn’t want to risk people misinterpreting the true meaning and intention behind the video, which was pro-peace. The original video leaked online after being broadcast briefly outside of America and can now be viewed on YouTube.
3. Confessions Tour
Madonna launched her Confessions Tour in 2006 to support her album, “Confessions on a Dance Floor.” During the show, Madonna appeared like Jesus, on a crucifix wearing a crown of thorns. The Vatican called the performance blasphemous and controversy erupted. Madonna defended her performance, explaining the point was to draw attention to the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Commercially, the tour was a success and it became the highest grossing tour for a female artist. Madonna would break her own record with the following Sticky & Sweet Tour, which became the second-highest grossing tour of all time.
2. Super Bowl XLVI Halftime Show
Madonna took the stage at the Super Bowl XLVI Halftime show in February 2012. During the 12-minute set, Madonna performed her classic hits “Vogue,” “Music,” and “Like a Prayer.” She also brought out special guests LMFAO, Nicki Minaj, M.I.A., and Cee Lo Green. The event became the most-watched halftime show in history with 114 million viewers until Bruno Mars and Red Hot Chili Peppers performed at this year’s Super Bowl.
1. MDNA Tour
Madonna launched her MDNA Tour in May 2012 and travelled around the world until the year’s end. The show caused controversy for its use of firearms, political commentary and Madonna’s occasional nudity on stage. Madonna also spoke out against Russia’s anti-gay law in St. Petersburg, prompting them to sue her for $1,000,000. The tour was a commercial success and was named the top grossing tour of 2012. Madonna was also awarded the Top Touring Artist Award at the 2013 Billboard Awards.
So, there you have it. 20 memorable moments from the Queen of Pop herself. There were many moments that didn’t make the list, from Madonna’s kiss with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera at the 2003 VMAs, to her number one duet with Justin Timberlake, “4 Minutes.” There was also no mention of her 1994 R&B-laced album “Bedtime Stories” or her “secretprojectrevolution” short film.
The point is, Madonna has done a lot in her career. Three decades later, she’s still going with no end in sight. She’s still shaking things up and making people think. She set the blueprint that every female artist of today follows. She is the best-selling female artist of all time and with good reason. With a new album in the works right now, I have a feeling her next memorable moment is right around the corner.
What’s your favorite Madonna moment? Are you excited for her upcoming album? Let us know in the comments below.