Madonna in the 80s: the glory days for an artist that has had a long and illustrious career. Although Madonna has succeeded in reinventing herself repeatedly over the nearly 30 decade long career, she will forever be associated with the 80s as an icon of the sound and style of that time.
Madonna in the 80s - A Star is Born
The 1980s are the years most music fans associated with the start of Madonna's career, but she really got her start in music in the 70s. She moved to New York City with dreams of becoming a dancer (she packed her bags and moved there from her Michigan hometown at the urging of her dance teacher who believed she had the chops to make it).
Although she did work as a dancer in a few modern dance troupes once arriving in the city in 1977, she also began to become involved with music through her boyfriend at the time, musician Stephen Bray. She performed with a few pop groups in the city, and she caught the attention of famed Sire Records boss Seymour Stein. Stein imagined Madonna as a solo artist and signed her to a deal at Sire.
Madonna's first deal with Sire was a singles deal - in other words, she was under contract to produce singles but not a full length release - but that soon changed. Sire decided to release a debut album by her in 1982. This self titled album instantly put Madonna on the map and spawned a string of hits like Borderline, Lucky Star and Holiday.
Part of Madonna's appeal was her style. She single handedly started many of the style crazes of the 80s - ripped fishnets, shirts worn over leggings, lace gloves, lace headbands with bows, brightly colored make-up and crucifixes.
While Madonna was big, her follow-up album, Like A Virgin, was the album of a lifetime. Along with Michael Jackson's Thriller, it is one of the albums that defined the 1980s, and despite being pure pop, it remains one of the most important and influential albums of all times.
Her next studio album (more on her soundtrack work later) was True Blue. This album was hugely successful, though in many ways, Madonna would never be able to generate the same excitement as she did with Like a Virgin. The last studio album from Madonna in the 80s was the controversial Like a Prayer. Her use of Christian themes outraged some, and the video for Like a Prayer, which featured burning crosses and Madonna kissing Jesus, cost her an endorsement deal with Pepsi.
Madonna in the 80: Movie Work
Madonna has always had her eyes on a career as an actress, and she started moving in this direction in the 80s. She had a small role in the movie Vision Quest, in which she performed her song Crazy for You, and she followed that up with a vehicle starring her - Desperately Seeking Susan. She also appeared in Shanghai Surprise and Who's That Girl, for which she also contributed music. Madonna's success in acting has never approached her star power in the music industry.
Madonna and The MTV Connection
The rise of Madonna in the music industry in the 1980s was helped along tremendously by the birth of MTV during the same period. The new music video format was turning the industry upside down, and it was tailor made for an artist like Madonna who had a unique style and appearance. Her performance of Like a Virgin at the first ever Video Music Awards is music history. Her writhing on stage in her wedding dress and famous "boy toy" belt might be tame by today's standards, but it was outrageous at the time and was a defining moment for both her as an artist and the network. It is difficult to imagine an MTV in the 80s without a Madonna, and whether or not Madonna would be as successful as she is without a new outlet that had sprung up as she hit the scene is a question for the ages. There's no denying that like many pop stars of the 80s, MTV made her a household name.
Post 80s Madonna
The 1990s for Madonna were largely about courting controversy with her Sex book and in the 2000s, she has reinvented herself first as an electronica influenced pop star and then as a more dance/R&B orientated artist. For most music fans, however, Madonna will always be her music from the 1980s.