That was Madonna’s response to Dick Clark in 1984 when he asked her what she wanted for the year and the rest of her career. And rule she has.
As the release of Madonna’s 13th studio album approaches, I reflect on her first dozen; 30+ years of making music that changed the face of the industry. Some hits, some misses but always something to talk about. (Check out Darren Hayes’s fantastic piece on why the world needs a brilliant new Madonna album). I am a true blue Madonna disciple, no fairweather fan here. I’m here for her successes and her failures because she does everything on her own terms. Confession: I may have dressed up two teddy bears in ‘Material Girl’ and ‘Lucky Star’ video outfits and sent them to Madonna for her birthday.
Trying to find her place in a post-disco, new wave music world, Madonna struggled in the industry but carried her demos to Danceteria every day until she got someone to listen. And listen the did. Once Danceteria DJ Mark Kamins got a hold of it, he championed Madonna and eventually got her signed to Sire Records.
Working with famed producer Nile Rodgers, hand-picked by Madonna after Warner Brothers wouldn’t let her be her first album’s main producer, turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Yes, the male hierarchy kept her down in that moment but Rodgers mentored Madonna in a way that allowed her to flourish as a music producer in her own career post-Like a Virgin.
One of things I can always count on with a new Madonna album is that there will always be at least one song that I can count on to be one of the best of her career. Even though we’ve passed 10 albums (and therefore a top 10), I was always able to make a legitimate top 10 Madonna songs using every single album. It’s called consistency. It’s called longevity. Yes, she’s been more of a follower lately, playing catch-up these days to the likes of Katy Perry and Rihanna but where would they be without Madonna’s trailblazing? And where will they be in 30 years? Do we even need to mention the self-immolation known as Lady Gaga? No shade, no shade, I love Gaga but boy did she burn out quickly. You need to be in it for the long haul, ladies. And if I have to hear one more person that Madonna needs to ‘act her age’ or some other bullshit, I may have to cut a bitch. Does that kind of criticism get levied against acts like The Rolling Stones? No, it doesn’t. They’re praised for their stamina, wildness, youthful vigor. But Madonna (read: women) is chastised, ridiculed, debased for it. No, I am not here for that.
Let’s do a quick breakdown of Madonna’s career, by the numbers, to set the record straight.
Next page: Madonna, by the numbers…