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Madonna (born Madonna Louise Ciccone; August 16, 1958) is an American recording artist, actress and entrepreneur. Born in Bay City, Michiganmarker, and raised in Rochester Hillsmarker, Michigan, she moved to New York Citymarker in 1977, for a career in modern dance. After performing as a member of the pop musical groups Breakfast Club and Emmy, she released her self-titled debut album Madonna in 1983 on Sire Records.

A series of hit singles from her studio albums Like a Virgin (1984) and True Blue (1986) gained her global recognition, establishing her as a pop icon for pushing the boundaries of lyrical content in mainstream popular music and imagery in her music videos, which became a fixture on MTV. Her recognition was augmented by the film Desperately Seeking Susan (1985) which widely became seen as a Madonna vehicle, despite her not playing the lead. Expanding on the use of religious imagery with Like a Prayer (1989), Madonna received positive critical reception for her diverse musical productions, while at the same time receiving criticism from religious conservatives and the Vaticanmarker. In 1992, Madonna founded the Maverick corporation, a joint venture between herself and Time Warner. The same year, she expanded the use of sexually explicit material in her work, beginning the release of the studio album Erotica, followed by the publishing of the coffee table book Sex, and starring in the erotic thriller Body of Evidence, all of which received negative responses from conservatives and liberals alike.

In 1996, Madonna played the starring role in the film Evita, for which she won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy. Madonna's seventh studio album Ray of Light (1998) became one of her most critically acclaimed, recognized for its lyrical depth. During the 2000s, Madonna released five studio albums, all of which reached top position on the Billboard 200. Departing from Warner Bros. Records, Madonna signed an unprecedented $120 million dollar contract with Live Nation in 2008.

Madonna has sold more than 200 million albums worldwide. She is ranked by the Recording Industry Association of America as the best-selling female rock artist of the 20th century and the second top-selling female artist in the U.S., with 63 million certified albums. Guinness World Records listed her as the world's most successful female recording artist of all time. She has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Famemarker. Considered to be one of the most influential women in contemporary music, Madonna has been known for continually reinventing both her music and image and for retaining a standard of autonomy within the recording industry; she is recognized as an influence among numerous music artists.


1958–1981: Early life and beginnings

Madonna was born in Bay Citymarker, Michigan at 7:05 AM on August 16, 1958, to Madonna Louise (née Fortin), who was of French Canadian descent, and Silvio Ciccone, who was a first-generation Italian American Chrysler/General Motors design engineer, originating from Pacentromarker, Abruzzo, Italymarker. Madonna is the third of six children; her siblings are Martin, Anthony, Paula, Christopher, and Melanie. Through her mother she is a descendant of Zacharie Cloutier.

Madonna was raised in the Detroitmarker suburbs of Pontiacmarker and Avon Township (now Rochester Hillsmarker). Her mother died of breast cancer at age 30 on December 1, 1963. Then her father married the family's housekeeper, Joan Gustafson, and they had two children; Jennifer and Mario Ciccone. Madonna commented on her father's second marriage: "I didn't accept my stepmother when I was growing up ... In retrospect, I think I was really hard on her." She attended St. Frederick's and St. Andrew's Elementary Schools (the latter is now known as Holy Family Regional School), and after that West Middle School. There she became known for her high GPA - and for her "unusual" behavior, particularly a kind of an underwear fetish: Madonna performed cartwheels and handstands in the hallways between classes, dangled by her knees from the monkey bars during recess, and thought nothing of tugging her skirt up over her desk during class so that all the boys could see her briefs.

Later, she went to Rochester Adams High Schoolmarker, becoming a straight-A student and a member of the cheerleading squad. Madonna received a dance scholarship to the University of Michiganmarker after graduating from high school. She wanted to take ballet lessons and convinced her father to allow her to partake the classes. Her ballet teacher persuaded her to pursue a career in dance, so she left the college at the end of 1977 and relocated to New York City. Madonna had little money at that time and hence lived in squalor, working as a waitress in Dunkin' Donuts and with modern dance troupes. Of her move to New York, Madonna said, "It was the first time I'd ever taken a plane, the first time I'd ever gotten a taxi cab. I came here with $35 in my pocket. It was the bravest thing I'd ever done." While performing as a dancer for the French disco artist Patrick Hernandez on his 1979 world tour, Madonna became romantically involved with the musician Dan Gilroy, with whom she later formed her first rock band, the Breakfast Club, in New York. She sang and played drums and guitar for the band and lived in a converted synagogue in Corona, Queensmarker. However, she departed from them and formed another band called Emmy in 1980, with drummer and former boyfriend Stephen Bray. She and Bray wrote and produced dance songs that brought her to local attention in the New York dance clubs. DJ and record producer Mark Kamins was impressed by her demo recordings, so he brought her to the attention of Sire Records founder Seymour Stein.

1982–85: Madonna, Like a Virgin and marriage to Sean Penn

Madonna signed a singles deal with Sire Records, a label belonging to Warner Bros. Records. Her first release was "Everybody" on April 24, 1982. Her debut album, Madonna was primarily produced by Reggie Lucas. At the same time, she became involved with artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, living with him for a time in his loft, and visiting Los Angeles over December 82-January 83. She left the artist soon after, over his drug use and late hours, and took up with musician John "Jellybean" Benitez, while developing the album.

Slowly Madonna's look and manner of dress, performances and music videos, became influential among young girls and women. Largely created by stylist and jewelry designer Maripol, Madonna's style of dress; defined by lace tops, skirts over capri pants, fishnet stockings, jewelry bearing the Christian cross, multiple bracelets, and bleached hair, became a female fashion trend in the 1980s. Her follow up album, Like a Virgin (1984), became her first number one album on the Billboard 200. Its commercial performance was buoyed by the success of its title track, "Like a Virgin," which peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks. The album sold approximately twelve million copies worldwide, eight of them in the United States alone. She performed the song at the first MTV Video Music Awards, wearing her then-trademark "Boy Toy" belt. The performance is considered as one of the iconic moments in the history of MTV, as is the album Like a Virgin which, the National Association of Recording Merchandisers and Rock and Roll Hall of Famemarker listed as one of the Definitive 200 Albums of All Time.

The next year, Madonna entered mainstream films beginning with a brief appearance as a club singer in the film Vision Quest. Its soundtrack contained her second US number-one single "Crazy for You". She also appeared in the comedy Desperately Seeking Susan, a film which introduced the song "Into the Groove," her first number-one single in the United Kingdom. Although not the lead actress for the film, her profile was such that the movie widely became seen (and marketed) as a Madonna vehicle. The film received a nomination for a César Award for Best Foreign Film, and The New York Times film critic Vincent Canby named the film as one of the 10 best films of 1985., with the lead Rosanna Arquette receiving a supporting actress BAFTA for her role. While filming the music video for "Material Girl" Madonna started dating actor Sean Penn and married him on her twenty-seventh birthday that year.

Madonna embarked on her first concert tour in North America titled The Virgin Tour, with the Beastie Boys as opening acts. In July 1985, Penthouse and Playboy magazines published a number of nude photos of Madonna taken in New York in 1978. Madonna posed for the photographs as she was in need of money. But because she had signed the appropriate release forms, she could not take legal action to block them. The publication caused media uproar. However, she remained defiant and unapologetic upon publication of the photos for which she was paid as little as $25 a session. The photographs were ultimately sold for up to $100,000. She referenced this incident at the outdoor Live Aid charity concert. She stated that she would not take her jacket off because "they[media] might hold it against me ten years from now."

1986–1991: True Blue, Like a Prayer and the Blond Ambition Tour

Madonna released her third album, True Blue, in 1986, prompting Rolling Stone to comment that "it sounds as if it comes from the heart." The album included the ballad "Live to Tell", which she wrote for the film At Close Range, starring her then-husband Sean Penn. The album spawned three number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100 charts: "Live to Tell", "Papa Don't Preach" and "Open Your Heart", as well as other top-five singles "True Blue" and "La Isla Bonita". In the same year, Madonna starred in the film Shanghai Surprise (which was panned by critics) and made her theatrical debut in a production of David Rabe's Goose and Tom-Tom, both co-starring Sean Penn. In 1987, Madonna starred in Who's That Girl, and contributed four songs to its soundtrack; including the title track and the United States number-two single, "Causing a Commotion". The same year, she embarked on the Who's That Girl World Tour. The tour was complimented for Madonna's innovative dresses. Later that year, she released a remix album of past hits, You Can Dance. In 1988, city officials in the town of Pacentro began to construct a statue of Madonna in a bustier. The statue commemorated the fact that her ancestors had lived in Pacentro. Madonna's marriage to Sean Penn also ended. After filing and withdrawing divorce papers in December 1987, they separated on New Year's Eve 1988 and divorced in January 1989. Of her marriage to Penn, Madonna said, "I was completely obsessed with my career and not ready to be generous in any shape or form."

By early 1989, Madonna had signed an endorsement deal with soft drink manufacturer Pepsi. She debuted her new song, "Like a Prayer" in a Pepsi commercial and also made a music video for it. The video featured many Catholic symbols such as stigmata and burning crosses. This subject matter led the Vatican to condemn the video. Since the commercial and music video were nearly identical, Pepsi was unable to convince the public that their commercial was not inappropriate. They revoked the commercial and cancelled their sponsorship contract with Madonna. However, she was allowed to retain her fee for the contract. Madonna's fourth studio album, Like a Prayer was released the same year. It was co-written and co-produced by Patrick Leonard and Stephen Bray. Rolling Stone hailed it as " close to art as pop music gets". Like a Prayer peaked at number one on the Billboard 200 album chart and sold seven million copies worldwide, with four million copies sold in the United States alone. The album produced three top five singles namely the title track (her seventh number-one single on the Hot 100), "Express Yourself" and "Cherish". By the end of the 1980s, Madonna had become the most successful female artist of the decade with three number-one albums and seven number-one singles; surpassed only by Michael Jackson.

In 1990, Madonna starred as "Breathless" Mahoney in the film adaptation of the comic book series Dick Tracy. The movie starred Warren Beatty in the title role. To accompany the release of the film, she issued the album I'm Breathless, which included songs inspired by the film's 1930s setting. It also featured her eighth US number-one single, "Vogue", and "Sooner or Later", a song that earned Stephen Sondheim an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1991. While shooting for the film, Madonna began a relationship with Beatty. He appeared on the album-cover of I'm Breathless and in her documentary Truth or Dare. Their relationship ended in the fall of 1990. Madonna began her Blond Ambition World Tour in April 1990. Featuring religious and sexual themes, the tour drew controversy for her performance of "Like a Virgin" during which two male dancers caressed her body before she simulated masturbation. The Pope again encouraged Catholics not to attend. A private association of Catholics, called Famiglia Domani, also boycotted the tour for featuring eroticism. In response, Madonna said, "I am Italian American and proud of it" and that the Church "completely frowns on sex ... except for procreation." She later won her first Grammy Award in 1992 in the Best Long Form Music Video category for the lasrdisc relase of the tour.

The Immaculate Collection, Madonna's first greatest-hits compilation album, was released in November 1990. It included two new songs called "Justify My Love" and "Rescue Me". "Rescue Me" became the highest-debuting single by a female artist in Billboard chart history at that time, entering at number fifteen and peaking at number nine. "Justify My Love" became a Madonna's ninth US number-one single. Its music video featured scenes of sadomasochism, bondage, same-sex kissing and brief nudity. It was deemed too sexually explicit for MTV and was banned from the station. At the end of the year, Madonna decided to leave the controversial Jennifer Lynch film Boxing Helena. From late 1990 to early 1991, Madonna dated Tony Ward, a model and porn star who starred in her music videos for "Cherish" and "Justify My Love". She also had an eight-month relationship with rapper Vanilla Ice. Her first documentary film, Truth or Dare (known as In Bed with Madonna outside North America) was released in mid-1991. The documentary chronicled her Blond Ambition World Tour, as well giving glimpses of her personal life. The following year, she appeared in the baseball film A League of Their Own in the role of Italian-American Mae Mordabito. She recorded the film's theme song, "This Used to Be My Playground" which became her tenth Billboard Hot 100 number-one hit.

1992–1996: Maverick, release of Sex, Erotica, Bedtime Stories and Evita

In 1992, Madonna founded her own entertainment company, Maverick, consisting of a record company (Maverick Records), a film production company (Maverick Films), and also music publishing, television, merchandising and book-publishing divisions. The deal was a joint venture with Time Warner as part of $60 million worth of recordings and businesses. The deal gave her a twenty percent royalty, equal at the time to Michael Jackson's. The first release from the venture was Madonna's first publication Sex, a book consisting of sexually provocative and explicit images photographed by Steven Meisel. It caused strong reactions from the media and the general public, but nevertheless sold 1,500,000 copies, at $50 each, in a matter of days. At the same time she released her fifth studio album Erotica. It peaked at number two in the United States. Its title track peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100. Erotica also produced five further singles namely "Deeper and Deeper," "Bad Girl," "Fever," "Rain" and "Bye Bye Baby."

Her provocative imagery continued with the erotic thrillers Body of Evidence and Dangerous Game. The first film contained scenes of S&M and bondage hence was poorly received by critics. Dangerous Game was released straight-to-video in North America but received some good reviews for Madonna's performance. The New York Times described that "She submits impressively to the emotions raging furiously around her." Madonna embarked on The Girlie Show World Tour at the end of 1993. It featured her dressed as a whip-cracking dominatrix, surrounded by topless dancers. The show faced negative reaction in Puerto Rico when she rubbed its flag between her legs on stage. Orthodox Jews protested against her first ever show in Israel. That year, she also appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman. After Letterman introduced her on his show as "one of the biggest stars in the world, andin the past 10 years she has sold over 80 million albums..and slept with some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry," Madonnasubsequently repeatedly used four-letter words and asked Letterman to smell a pair of her underwear she handed him. The release of Truth or Dare, Sex book, Erotica, Body of Evidence and the appearance on Letterman - all of them made critics question Madonna as a sexual renegade. She faced strong negative publicity with critics and fans commenting that "she had gone too far" and that her career was to be over.

Madonna tried to tone down this provocative image by releasing the single "I'll Remember", which she recorded for Alek Keshishian's film With Honors. She made a tame appearance with Letterman at an awards show, as well as appearing on the Jay Leno show. However, the public still did not accept her. It was then that she realized her music career needed some dramatic changes in order to sustain herself in the long run. With her sixth studio album Bedtime Stories Madonna tried to soften her image and reconnect with the general public once more. The album produced four singles— "Secret", "Take a Bow" which spent seven weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, "Bedtime Story" and "Human Nature". At the same time she became romantically involved with fitness trainer Carlos Leon. Continuing to tone down her image, Madonna released Something to Remember, a collection of her ballads, in May 1995. It featured her cover of the Marvin Gaye song "I Want You" and the top ten hit song "You'll See". The following year saw the release of Madonna’s most critically successful film, Evita. She portrayed the main part of Eva Perón, a role first played by Elaine Paige in the West Endmarker. The soundtrack album contained three of her singles including "You Must Love Me", a song that earned Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1997 and "Don't Cry For Me Argentina". Madonna won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy for the role. On October 14, 1996, Madonna gave birth to her and Carlos Leon's daughter, Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon.

1997–2002: Ray of Light, Music, second marriage and Drowned World Tour

After Lourdes' birth Madonna became involved in Eastern mysticism and Kabbalah. Her seventh studio album Ray of Light reflected this change in her perception and image. The album debuted at number two in the United States. Allmusic called it her "most adventurous record." The album produced two US top five singles: "Frozen", which reached number two and "Ray of Light", which reached five. It also won three Grammy Awards the same year. The title track "Ray of Light" won a Grammy for "Best Short Form Music Video", Best Video at the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards and was used by Microsoft in its advertising campaign to introduce Windows XP. The first single "Frozen" was adjudicated to be a plagiarism of Belgian songwriter Salvatore Acquaviva's 1993 song "Ma Vie Fout L'camp", and hence the album was banned in Belgiummarker. Ray of Light has been ranked number 363 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Beside the album, Madonna was signed to play a violin teacher in the film Music of the Heart but left the project, citing "creative differences" with director Wes Craven. Madonna followed the success of Ray of Light with the single "Beautiful Stranger", recorded for the 1999 film Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me s soundtrack. It reached number nineteen on the Billboard Hot 100.

Madonna starred in the movie The Next Best Thing in 2000. She contributed two songs to the film's soundtrack, "Time Stood Still" and the international hit "American Pie", a cover version of the 1970s Don McLean single. Madonna's eighth studio album, Music, was released in 2000 and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. It produced three singles; "Music", which became Madonna's twelfth number one US single as well as "Don't Tell Me" and "What It Feels Like for a Girl". The latter's music video depicted Madonna committing murders and accidents with cars and was banned by MTV and VH1 from airing. The same year Madonna became involved in a relationship with Guy Ritchie, whom she had met in 1999 through mutual friends Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler. On August 11, 2000, she gave birth to their son, Rocco. Later that year, Madonna and Ritchie married in Scotland.

Her fifth concert tour titled the Drowned World Tour, her first since 1993, started in May 2001. The tour visited cities in North America and Europe. It became one of the highest grossing concert tours of the year and grossed $75 million from 47 sold-out shows. She also released her second greatest hits collection titled GHV2 to coincide with the home video release of the tour. The album debuted at number seven on the Billboard 200. Madonna also starred in the film Swept Away directed by her husband Guy Ritchie. It was released in 2002. The film was a commercial and critical failure and released straight-to-video in the United Kingdom. Later that year, she released the title song "Die Another Day" to the twentieth James Bond film, in which she had a cameo role. The song reached number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 and was nominated both for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song and a Golden Raspberry for Worst Song.

2003–06: American Life, Confessions on a Dance Floor and adoption case

Madonna collaborated with fashion photographer Steven Klein in 2003 on an exhibition installation named X-STaTIC Pro=CeSS. It included photography from a photoshoot in W Magazine and seven video segments. The installation ran from March to May, in New York's Deitch Projects gallery. It then traveled the world in an edited form. Madonna released her ninth studio album called American Life. It was themed on the American society and received mixed reviews. The title song peaked at number thirty-seven on the Billboard Hot 100. Having sold four million copies, American Life became the lowest selling album of her career. Later that year, Madonna performed the song "Hollywood" with Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Missy Elliott at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards. Madonna kissed Spears and Aguilera during the performance, resulting in a tabloid frenzy. That fall, Madonna provided guest vocals on Spears' single "Me Against the Music". During the Christmas season of 2003, Madonna released Remixed & Revisited, a remix EP that included rock versions of songs from American Life, and "Your Honesty", a previously unreleased track from the Bedtime Stories recording sessions. Madonna also signed a contract with Callaway Arts & Entertainment for five books, and published the first one titled The English Roses. The story was about four English schoolgirls and their envy and jealousy of each other. After its release, The English Roses peaked at the top of New York Times Best Seller list.

The next year in March, Madonna and Maverick sued Warner Music Group and its former parent company, Time Warner, claiming that mismanagement of resources and poor bookkeeping had cost the company millions of dollars. In return, Warner filed a countersuit, alleging that Maverick had lost tens of millions of dollars on its own. The dispute was resolved when the Maverick shares owned by Madonna and Ronnie Dashev were purchased. The company became a wholly owned subsidiary of Warner Music but Madonna was still signed to Warner under a separate recording contract. Later that year, Madonna embarked on the Re-Invention World Tour in the United States, Canada, and Europe. It became the highest-grossing tour of 2004, earning $125 million. She made a documentary about the tour named I'm Going to Tell You a Secret. That same year, Rolling Stone ranked her number thirty-six on their list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time". During the 2004 presidential election, Madonna endorsed Wesley Clark's Democratic nomination.

She participated in the televised concert "Tsunami Aid" and performed a cover version of the John Lennon song "Imagine". The concert, which took place on January 2005, raised money for the tsunamimarker victims in Asia. The same year, Madonna performed at the Live 8 benefit concert in London in July, supporting the aims of Britain's Make Poverty History campaign and the Global Call for Action Against Poverty. Her tenth studio album, Confessions on a Dance Floor was released in November and has sold more than eight million copies. The album debuted at number one in all major music markets and won the Grammy Award for Best Electronic/Dance Album. Following the mixed reviews of her previous studio album, Confessions received positive reviews with critics claiming it as a return to commercial prominence for her. However, Israeli rabbis condemned the song "Isaac" from the album because they believed it was a tribute to Rabbi Isaac Luria and claimed that Jewish law forbid commercializing a rabbi's name. Madonna claimed that she had named it after an Israeli singer and said, "The album isn't even out, so how could Jewish scholars in Israel know what my song is about?" The first single from the album, "Hung Up" went on to reach number-one in a record breaking forty-five countries. "Sorry", the second single became Madonna's twelfth number one in the United Kingdom.

By mid-2006, fashion clothing line H&M had signed Madonna to become their worldwide model. The next year, the clothing line M by Madonna was launched internationally. Madonna's Confessions Tour began in May 2006. It had a global audience of 1.2 million people, with reported gross sales of $260.1 million. The use of religious symbols such as the crucifix and Crown of Thorns in the performance of "Live to Tell" caused the Russian Orthodox Church and the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia to urge all their members to boycott her concert. The Vaticanmarker as well as bishops from Düsseldorfmarker protested against the concert. Madonna responded that, "My performance is neither anti-Christian, sacrilegious or blasphemous. Rather, it is my plea to the audience to encourage mankind to help one another and to see the world as a unified whole."

While on the tour, Madonna traveled to Malawimarker to help and fund an orphanage as part of the Raising Malawi initiative. On October 10, 2006, she filed adoption papers for a boy named David Banda Mwale from the orphanage. He was renamed David Banda Mwale Ciccone Ritchie. The adoption raised strong public reaction because Malawian law requires would-be parents to reside in Malawi for one year before adopting. The effort was highly publicized and culminated in legal disputes. Madonna refuted the allegations on The Oprah Winfrey Show. She said that there are no written adoption laws in Malawi that regulate foreign adoption and that Banda had been suffering from pneumonia after surviving malaria and tuberculosis when she met him. Singer and humanitarian activist, Bono, defended her by saying, "Madonna should be applauded for helping to take a child out of the worst poverty imaginable." Some said that Banda's biological father Yohane did not understand what adoption meant and had assumed that the arrangement was fostering. He said, "These so-called human rights activists are harassing me every day, threatening me that I am not aware of what I am doing." He also said, "They want me to support their court case, a thing I cannot do for I know what I agreed with Madonna and her husband." The adoption was finalized on May 28, 2008.

2007–present: Live Nation, Hard Candy and the Sticky & Sweet Tour

In May 2007, Madonna released the download-only song "Hey You", in anticipation of the Live Earth series of concerts. The song was made available for free for its first week. She also performed it at the London Live Earth concert in July 2007. Madonna announced her departure from Warner Bros. Records and a new $120 million, ten year contract with Live Nation in October. She became the founding recording artist for the new music division, Live Nation Artists. Same year, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famemarker announced Madonna as one of the five inductees of 2008. The ceremony took place on March 10, 2008. Madonna produced and wrote I Am Because We Are, a documentary on the problems faced by Malawians. The documentary was directed by her former gardener Nathan Rissman. The Guardian praised I Am Because We Are, saying that she "came, saw and conquered the world's biggest film festival." She also directed her first film titled Filth and Wisdom. It received mixed reviews from the British press. The Times said she had "done herself proud" while The Daily Telegraph described the film as "not an entirely unpromising first effort [but] Madonna would do well to hang on to her day job."

Madonna released her eleventh studio album, Hard Candy, in April 2008. It was lauded by Rolling Stone as an "impressive taste of her upcoming tour." The album debuted at number one in 37 countries worldwide, including Billboard 200 with over 280,000 copies sold. The album received mostly positive reviews worldwide, though some critics panned it as "an attempt to harness the urban market". Its lead single "4 Minutes" reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100. The single scored Madonna her thirty-seventh Billboard Hot 100 top ten hit, thus surpassing Elvis Presley as the artist with the most top-ten hits. In the United Kingdom, she retained her record for the most number one singles for a female artist, this being her thirteenth. To further promote the album, Madonna embarked on the Sticky & Sweet Tour, which was her first major venture with Live Nation. It became the highest-grossing tour ever by a solo artist with gross of $US280 million, surpassing the title previous held by her Confessions Tour. The tour was extended to the next year, adding new European dates and places where Madonna did not visit previously, finally wrapping it up with two final Tel Avivmarker dates. The total gross by the end of the whole tour was US$408million.

Life with My Sister Madonna, a controversial book by Madonna's brother, Christopher Ciccone, was released on July. The book debuted at number two on the New York Times Best Seller List. It was not authorized by Madonna and led to a rift between them. Madonna filed for divorce from husband Guy Ritchie in October 2008. After being granted a preliminary decree of divorce, the separation became final in December. On March 2, 2009, Madonna was honored with the Japan Gold International Artist of the Year award at the Recording Industry Association of Japan Gold Disc Awards for her album Hard Candy. Madonna decided to adopt again from Malawi. The country's High Court initially approved the adoption of Chifundo "Mercy" James. However the adoption was rejected with court registrar Ken Manda stating the reason being was that Madonna was not a resident of Malawi. This ruling was overturned by the country's highest court. On June 12, 2009, the Supreme Court of Malawi granted Madonna the rights to adopt Mercy James.

In September 2009, Madonna released Celebration, her third greatest hits album, and closing release with Warner Bros. Records. It contained the new songs "Celebration" and "Revolver", plus 34 hits spanning her career. The album became Madonna's eleventh number-one album in the UK Albums Chart, tying her with Elvis Presley as the solo act with most number-one albums in the British chart history. In June, Forbes Magazine named her as the third-most-powerful celebrity of the year. Madonna appeared at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards on September 13, 2009, to pay tribute to Michael Jackson with a speech.

Musical style and influences

As an artist, Madonna's music has been the subject of much scrutiny among critics. Author Robert M. Grant comments in his book Contemporary Strategy Analysis (2005), wrote that what has brought her success is "[c]ertainly not outstanding natural talent. As a vocalist, musician, dancer, songwriter, or actress, Madonna's talents seem modest." He asserts Madonna's success lies in relying on the talents of others and that her personal relationships have served as cornerstones to the numerous reinventions in the longevity of her career. Conversely, Rolling Stone magazine has named Madonna "an exemplary songwriter with a gift for hooks and indelible lyrics, and a better studio singer than her live spectacles attest." She has been called "the perfect vocalist for lighter-than-air songs", despite not being a "heavyweight talent."

In 1985, Madonna commented that the first song to ever make a strong impression on her was "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" by Nancy Sinatra and that it summed up her "take-charge attitude." As a young woman, she attempted to broaden her taste in literature, art, and music, and during this time became interested in classical music. She noted that her favorite style was baroque, and loved Mozart and Chopin because she liked their "feminine quality". In 1999, Madonna identified musical influences that impacted her such as Karen Carpenter, The Supremes and Led Zeppelin, and dancers like Martha Graham and Rudolf Nureyev. In a 2006 interview with The Observer, Madonna cited her current musical interests, which included Detroit natives The Raconteurs and The White Stripes, as well as New York band The Jett Set.

Madonna's Catholic background and relationship with her parents were reflected in the album Like a Prayer. It is also an evocation of the impact religion had on her career. Her video for the title track contains Catholic symbolism, such as the stigmata. During The Virgin Tour, she wore a rosary and also prayed with it in the music video for "La Isla Bonita". She also referred to her Italian heritage in her work. The video for "Like a Virgin", features Venetian settings. The "Open Your Heart" video sees her boss scolding her in Italian. In Ciao, Italia! - Live from Italy, the video release of her Who's That Girl Tour, she dedicates the song "Papa Don't Preach" to the Pope ("Papa" is the Italian word for "Pope".)

During her childhood, Madonna was inspired by actors, later saying, "I loved Carole Lombard and Judy Holliday and Marilyn Monroe. They were all incredibly funny...and I saw myself in girlishness, my knowingness and my innocence". Her "Material Girl" music video recreated Monroe's "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" from the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and she later studied the screwball comedies of the 1930s, particularly those of Lombard, in preparation for her film Who's That Girl. The video for "Express Yourself" (1989) was inspired by Fritz Lang's silent film Metropolis (1927). The video for "Vogue" recreated the style of Hollywood glamour photographers, in particular Horst P. Horst, and imitated the poses of Marlene Dietrich, Carole Lombard and Rita Hayworth, while the lyrics referenced many of the stars who had inspired her, including Bette Davis, described by Madonna as an idol, along with Louise Brooks and Dita Parlo.

Inflences also came to her from the art world, most notably through the works of artist Frida Kahlo. Her 1995 music video to "Bedtime Story" featured images inspired by the paintings of Kahlo and Remedios Varo. Her 2003 video to "Hollywood" was a homage to the work of photographer Guy Bourdin although it sparked a lawsuit by Bourdin's son, due to the unauthorised use of his father's work. Other new-age artists like Andy Warhol was the inspiration behing the music videos for "Erotica" and "Deeper and Deeper". Warhol's usage of S&M imagery in his underground films were reflected in these videos. Madonna even imitated Warhol's one-time muse Edie Sedgwick in "Deeper and Deeper".

Madonna became a follower of the Kabbalah school of Jewish mysticism in 1994 after the release of her album Bedtime Stories. She has spoken about the influence of the religion on her and donated millions of dollars for schools based on the religion, around New York and London. In 2004, she changed her name to Esther, which in Hebrew means "star". However, her immersion in Kabbalah caused a furor and she faced opposition from Rabbis who saw Madonna's joining the religion as sacrilegious and a case of celebrity dilettanism. Madonna defended her Kabbalah studies by stating it "would be less controversial if I joined the Nazi Party" and that the Kabbalah is "not hurting anybody." The religion went on to influence Madonna's music, especially albums like Ray of Light and Music. It made an appearance in her 2004 Re-Invention World Tour where at one point of the show, Madonna and her dancers wore t-shirts that read "Kabbalists Do It Better."

Music videos and live performance

In The Madonna Companion, biographer Andrew Metz noted that more than any other recent pop artist, Madonna had used MTV and music videos to establish her popularity and enhance her recorded work. According to him, many of her songs have the imagery of the music video in strong context while referring to the music. The media and public reaction towards her most-discussed songs like "Papa Don't Preach", "Like a Prayer" or "Justify My Love", had to do with the music videos created to promote the song and their impact, rather than the song in itself. Her initial music videos reflected her American and Hispanic mixed street style and a flamboyant glamour. Essentially a dancer, Madonna expressed this imagery through her music videos. With her first real music videos for songs like "Burning Up", "Borderline" and "Lucky Star", Madonna transmitted her avant-garde downtown New York fashion sense to the American audience. She continued with the imagery and incorporation of Hispanic culture and Catholic symbolism with the music videos from the True Blue era. Author Douglas Kellner noted, "such 'multiculturalism' and her culturally transgressive moves turned out to be highly successful moves that endeared her to large and varied youth audiences". Madonna's Spanish look in the videos became popular and appeared in the fashion trends at that time in the form of boleros and layered skirts accessorizing with rosary beads and crucifix like the video.

Academics noted that with her videos, Madonna was subtly reversing the usual role of male as the dominant sex and destabilizing the usual power relationship between the "voyeuristic male gaze and object". This symbolism and imagery was probably the most prevalent in the music video for "Like a Prayer". The video included an African American church choir, Madonna "turning on" a statue of a black saint and singing in front of burning crosses. This mix of the sacred and the profane upset the Vatican and resulted in the Pepsi commercial withdrawal. From being in boy-toy girlish roles of her earliest videos to the sexual persona in videos for "Justify My Love" and "Express Yourself", Madonna represented herself as someone who is unfazed by the cultures and the struggles she has endured. Devoid of this, she portrayed herself to be dancing off-screen to the music at the end of the video. Her re-invention has continued in her most recent videos like "Ray of Light", which was lauded with the video of the year award at the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards.

Madonna's emergence occurred during the advent of MTV, and "with its almost exclusively lip-synced videos, ushered in an era in which average music fans might happily spend hours a day, every day, watching singers just mouth the words." The symbiotic relationship between music video and lip-syncing led to a desire for the spectacle and imagery of music video to be transferred to live stage shows. Chris Nelson of The New York Times reported: "Artists like Madonna and Janet Jackson set new standards for showmanship, with concerts that included not only elaborate costumes and precision-timed pyrotechnics but also highly athletic dancing. These effects came at the expense of live singing." Thor Christensen of the Dallas Morning News commented that while Madonna earned a reputation for lip-syncing during her 1990 Blonde Ambition tour, since then she has reorganized her performances by "stay[ing] mostly still during her toughest singing parts and [leaves] the dance routines to her backup troupe ... [r]ather than try to croon and dance up a storm at the same time."


According to Rolling Stone, Madonna "remains one of the greatest pop acts of all time". She is also "the world's highest earning female singer on earth". Madonna's 2008 Sticky & Sweet Tour became the highest grossing concert tour by a solo artist. Madonna is ranked as the most successful solo artist (second artist overall behind The Beatles) on "Billboard Hot 100 Top All-Time Artists", where, in 2008 she has surpassed Elvis Presley as the artist with most top ten hits in the history of Billboard Hot 100. She is also the most successful female in the British chart history with most number-one albums and number-one singles by female solo artist in the United Kingdom. In 2007, Madonna was listed by VH1 as eighth in the Greatest Women of Rock & Roll. On March 10, 2008, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Famemarker.

Madonna's use of at times shocking sexual imagery has both benefitted her career and had an impact on public discourse on sexuality and feminism. The Times has commented that, "Madonna, whether you like or not, started a revolution amongst women in music. She made the female body seem more like a machine with cravings, rather than a Barbie doll. Her attitudes and opinions on sex, nudity, style and sexuality forced the public to take up and notice." Rodger Streitmatter reported in his book Sex Sells! (2004) that "from the moment Madonna burst onto the nation's radar screen in the mid-1980s, she did everything in her power to shock the public, and her efforts paid off". He further commented, "[t]he reigning Queen of Pop thrived on the criticism, and continued, throughout the decade, to reiterate the most fundamental of her issues by consistently celebrating women's sexual power." Shmuel Boteach, author of Hating women: America's hostile campaign against the fairer sex (2005) comments Madonna has been largely responsible for erasing the line between music and pornography. He states: "Before Madonna, it was possible for women more famous for their voices than their cleavage to emerge as music superstars. But in the post-Madonna universe, even highly original performers such as Janet Jackson now feel the pressure to expose their bodies on national television to sell albums." Part of the recent academic sub-discipline of Madonna Studies has been taken up with the iconography of minority groups such as gay and lesbian people, which she uses in videos such as those for "Vogue", "Like a Prayer", "La Isla Bonita" and "Borderline". The book Sex depicts her in sexual situations with men and women, and she has been credited with educating people about bisexuality. At the time there was even speculation about her relationships with other women, including Naomi Campbell and Sandra Bernhard.

Her openly sexualised persona has influenced many younger performers. Routledge International Encyclopedia of Women: Global Women's Issues and Knowledge (2000) stated, "Madonna may have preached control, but she created an illusion of sexual availability that many female pop artists felt compelled to emulate". Writer-author Santiago Fouz-Hernández, in his book Madonna's Drowned Worlds has commented that female pop performers such as Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Lopez, Kylie Minogue and Pink were like Madonna's daughters in the sense that they grew up listening to her and admiring, while deciding to emulate her style. Among all of them, Madonna's influence was most notable in Spears, who was called her protégé. Spears has commented on their similarity: "I think we have the same drive. When we want something, we get it." Madonna's influence on the Spice Girls came with her reinterpretation of feminism as a power in her music videos. The Spice Girls' slogan of "girl power" is noted to have been derived from this portrayal of female independence. Beyoncé Knowles of Destiny's Child was influenced by her sense of control over her music. She has also been credited with the introduction of European electronic dance music into the mainstream of American pop culture, and bringing European producers like Stuart Price and Mirwais Ahmadzai into the spotlight.

Madonna has also received acclaim as a role model for businesswomen in her industry, "achieving the kind of financial control that women had long fought for within the industry" generating over $1.2 billion dollars in sales within the first decade of her career. Offered by Warner Music the usual perk of a vanity label (similar deals had been arranged for artists such as Mariah Carey and others), within a few years Maverick Records had - unusually for such labels - become a large commercial success due to her efforts. Writing in The Times in 2009, music journalist Robert Sandall reported that in a 1992 interview with Madonna it had been clear that being "a cultural big hitter" was more important than pop music, a career she described as "an accident". He also noted the contrast between her anything-goes sexual public persona, and a secretive and "paranoid" attitude towards her own finances (for example, firing her own brother as interior designer when he charged her for a light-fitting, estranging him in the process.). An analysis of Madonna's business acumen by academics at the London Business Schoolmarker presents her as a "dynamic entrepreneur" worth copying, identifying her vision of success, her understanding of the music industry, her ability to recognise her performance limits (and thus bring in help), her "sheer hard work" and her ability to change as key to why she has been a striking commercial success. However her ability to overcome her own musical limits has been sharply criticised by songwriter Joni Mitchell, who in widely reported comments stated that "[Madonna] has knocked the importance of talent out of the arena. She's made a lot of money and become the biggest star in the world by hiring the right people." These comments were part of a sustained attack on the contemporary music industry as a whole, with Mitchell threatening to quit recording altogether. Reporter Michael McWilliams comments: "The gripes about Madonna -- she's cold, greedy, talentless -- conceal both bigotry and the essence of her art, which is among the warmest, the most humane, the most profoundly satisfying in all pop culture."

Throughout her career Madonna, like David Bowie, has repeatedly reinvented herself through a series of visual and musical personas, as well as expanding her career to become a film and stage actor. Fouz Hernandes argues that this reinvention is one of her key cultural achievements. He argues she has achieved this by constantly working with upcoming talented producers and previous unknown artists, while remaining at the center of media attention. In doing so she has provided an example of how to maintain one's career in the entertainment industry.

In 2006 a new water bear species (Latin: Tardigrada), Echiniscus madonnae, was named after Madonna. The paper with the description of E. madonnae was published in the international journal of animal taxonomy Zootaxa in March 2006 (Vol. 1154, pages: 1–36). The authors' justification for the name of the new species was: "We take great pleasure in dedicating this species to one of the most significant artists of our times, Madonna Louise Veronica Ritchie." The Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) number of the species is 711164.


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