Classic Review: Madonna 25th Anniversary

Jay-Z boldly told a magazine editor last year that Rihanna was the Black Madonna. Where there is an array of arguments to that statement, one alone will do – Madonna showed an insatiable degree of savvy from the very beginning. During a time where label executives took the reigns over material and direction, Madonna was in charge of more than most. She wrote five tracks (out of eight) on her debut album Madonna, and this was a time when America didn’t care if the voice of the song was the writer or even a time when it wasn’t common knowledge that publishing was the main avenue for an artist to eat. The flagship single, “Everybody,” was released in October of 1982, almost a full year before the album even came to light. It garnered minor popularity peaking at No. 3 on the club play chart. Rumor has it that Madonna promised the producer of the track, Mark Kamins, full album production if he got her a record deal. Turns out he did, and even after fulfilling his end of the bargain, Madonna still decided to hire Reggie Lucas for the majority of the project, then hiring John “Jellybean” Benitez to remix and throw in the mega-hit “Holiday.” Kamins was left with only one track produced by him. Who says money changed the darling Madge?

 During this time, Madonna hooked-up romantically with Jim “Jellybean” Benitez, a Bronx native DJ of Puerto Rican descent; a key player that added R&B flavor to the two singles (“Holiday” and “Lucky Star”) that made a cross over to the R&B/Hip-Hop Charts. The behind-the-scenes happening of the album served as a sneak peek into Madonna’s future music industry politics and love for Hispanic bombshells (check her baby’s daddy and her awkward introduction to Ricky Martin after his Grammy win in 1999). Through the singles and videos, “Borderline,” “Lucky Star,” and “Holiday,” little girls were inspired to rock wardrobes where punk met mainstream. Malls in the U.S. began filling up with girls wearing mesh tops, lace gloves, jingly-jangly jewelry and moussed hair. Still, with only five singles (three of which were Top 40 hits and 2 of which made 1984’s Top 100 list) anyone could only imagine the madness that was to come from Ms. Ciccone – wardrobe influence was the least of her goals. The debut was successful, but nowadays it’s considered only mildly successful, as it served as a bridge for Like A Virgin. Stylistically, the debut carried over well into the late 1980’s – “I Know” and “Physical Attraction” were practically replicated in later albums. The debut stands as the only Madonna album in the ’80s that didn’t garner controversy surrounding virginity, teen-pregnancy, sex, and religion. For that it’s an important album – its simple lack of controversy. It was because of it that she figured out the secret to becoming the pop star she wanted to be – which was going beyond music and fashion and into challenging the moral, mental, and puritan territory of consumers.The Detroit-native made an album overflowing with synths and pretty melodies that made the clubs in New York tick in the early ’80s (check out “Burning Up,” “Think Of Me,” and “Everybody”). Really, it’s a testament to New York City culture and its ability to be bent and molded for international success. Sound familiar, Hip-Hop?

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