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Madonna
Born August 16, 1958


Unlike a Tramp
Intro to Madonna: Illustrated by Tim Riley. Hyperion, 1992. 

listen to audio narration here (5 mins)

When I wrote this book, Madonna's command of pop's cosmos seemed ironclad. Now in her fifth decade, triumphs like "Papa Don't Preach" and "Justify My Love" have lost their bang sooner than expected, and her Dick Tracy Oscar nomination looks misplaced. Ten years ago, Madonna's Super Bowl half-time show signaled pop royalty clinging to relevance. That early career arc, between her 1983 debut and Blonde Ambition had classic curves. Now, breaking through again with Finally Enough Love: 50 Number Ones, and a Saucy Santana mashup, renewal and forbearance make a yuge comeback. The kicker: Julia Garner cast in biopic, Madonna directing. 

MADONNA IS THE POP STAR everybody loves to hate. She can't sing, she can't dance, she can't act—she personifies the worst of what the 1980s did to pop culture. The cornier her misfortunes, the easier she is to knock: a nude-photo scandal, a failed celebrity marriage to a movie star, laughable performances—in a series of embarrassingly bad movies.
To her critics, Madonna's talent doesn't approach the magnitude of the fame she's fashioned for herself. She may be a genius at self-promotion, they contend, but she has nothing important to say, and her fans are an international horde of tin-eared sheep. If the masses find her trampy image entertaining, then pop deserves nothing better. But Madonna's phenomenal success can’t be explained simply by putting her down.
As of 1992, Madonna has had more number one hits than any other female artist of the rock era, the most consecutive Top Five singles since Elvis Presley, and more Top Five hits than any other artist in the 1980s. Since her debut in 1982, Madonna has sold more than 5 million albums and 16 million songs worldwide. And counting. 
Numbers like that provoke questions. What makes Madonna so popular? How do her critics explain the millions of Madonna Wanna-Bes who imitate the way she walks and talks and wears her hair? Her explosive concert tours? Her seven platinum albums? Most of all: What does Madonna's phenomenon say about us, her audience? 
According to most tellings, female singers were once costumed and puppeteered by male producers. Male fans were meant to drool and fantasize about them, female fans were supposed to relate to how well they hooked their man. And hung onto him. This grossly oversimplifies reality.
Madonna changed all that. She used sex to get over, but she had such a savvy understanding of sex as a tool that her frankness became part of her playful appeal. With her flair for glamour touched with cynicism, her knowing leer and insinuating vocals, she triumphed precisely because of her candid approach towards show business. Buying Madonna records, dancing to her music in a club, catching her on MTV, gave you more than your typical pop fix. Madonna let her audience in on her sexual wiles, and winked at us as we fell for it. She never made any bones about her sales figures being as important to her as her songs... 


continue reading Unlike a Tramp here
Madonna with Saucy Santana
With stiff competition from Portugal's Glória opening car sequence set to the Sonics, Best Music Coordinator kudos still go to A League of Their Own's Nikki Carrillo for choosing the The Muskateers's "Deep In My Heart" (1953) to close "Back Footed," Episode 5. Shazam plucks it outta the sky, let's hitch up Apple and Spotify. 
more Madonna
"From Madonna to Beyoncé, Pop Material Girls Draw From Rich Influence," by Jon Caramanica, New York Times, August 12, 2022
"Finally Enough Love," by Ben Cardew, Pitchfork, June 28, 2022
Finally Enough Love: 50 Number Ones, including Orbit's kaleidoscopic "Justify My Love" remix
"Justify My Love," or Lenny Kravitz redeemed, 1990
Madonna: Illustrated, by Tim Riley. Hyperion, 1992. [see WorldCat]


clips
Tina Turner: The Elvis of Feminism
A Rock Critic's Guide to Classical Music
Booked on Rock podcast: history, authorship, and the Beatles deluge


coming soon
Lenny Kaye on Lightning Strikes
Jason Gross, editor of Perfect Sound Forever
RJ Smith on Chuck Berry
Simone Dinnerstein, pianist


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