‘Madonna’ Turns 30 Years Old Today

All Hail the Reigning QUEEN of the Universe

Madonna turns 30 years old today. Not the queen of the universe Madonna Louise Ciccone but her self-titled debut album Madonna … it was released 30 years ago today on July 27, 1983 … and the world was forever changed. As the expertly written article quoted below by Entertainment Weekly writer Kyle Anderson brilliantly explains, Madonna‘s impact on the world wasn’t immediate … but it was a slow burn that was ignited in the Summer of ’83 and continues to blaze even to this day where Madonna reigns supreme as the best selling female artist of all time. It’s really hard to imagine that Maddy‘s debut album came out 3 decades ago (particularly because I have vivid memories of the album’s impact when I was a young child) but it’s true … Madonna turns 30 today, so homage must be paid to her royal Madgesty.

30 Years Ago, The World Met Madonna by Kyle Anderson

In the summer of 1983, ‘Thriller’ and the ‘Flashdance’ soundtrack pumped from every radio, ‘Return of the Jedi’ ruled the box office, and astronaut Sally Ride became the first American female in space. Somewhere in the then wilds of New York City’s Lower East Side, there was another woman with astronomical ambition waiting to emerge: Madonna Louise Ciccone, who released her self-titled debut on July 27, and the world … pretty much ignored it, actually. Her first two singles, ‘Everybody’ and ‘Burning Up’, didn’t even break the Hot 100, and Rolling Stone described her voice as “irritating as hell.” (Though it did concede, “It helps that she writes good tunes — catchy and bare to the bone.”) It seemed that the career she’d been toiling away at since dropping out of the University of Michigan in 1977 to move to Manhattan, where she waitressed and found occasional gigs as a dancer; might be done before it really began. But slowly the record started to gain attention (a fact even more remarkable when you consider how many other artists released watershed albums that year).

Albums like Rebel Yell by Billy Idol, Let’s Dance by David Bowie, Pyromania by Def Leppard, Kill ‘Em All by Metallica, She’s So Unusual by Cyndi Lauper, War by U2, Sports by Huey Lewis and the News … and MORE!

‘Burning Up’ managed to become a club hit, and the accompanying video — directed by Seve Barron, who’d helmed early MTV staples like Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean’ and Toto’s ‘Africa’ — made its way onto the channel’s rotation. Her raw charisma took over from there. In her first appearance on American Bandstand, Madonna famously told Dick Clark she wanted to “rule the world,” and one could argue that she achieved it: She’s spent three decades spinning various alter egos (wedding-dress co-opter, Dick Tracey moll, postmodern geisha, leotarded disco revivalist) into her titled as the top-selling female of all time, with 300 million-plus albums sold. But for all the fame and influence that came later; ‘Madonna’ is a surprisingly stripped-down snapshot of an artist before she became an icon. In just over 40 minutes, it paints the definitive portrait of Madonna at 24: a denizen of New York’s downtown scene caught between the punk ethos of CBGB (she idolized Debbie Harry), the post-disco chaos of Studio 54, and the druggy, Warhol-led high-art movement (she dated the late Jean-Michel Basquiat years before Jay Z rapped about him). She was a girl on the verge, throwing knockout punches with fingerless gloves. Of ‘Madonna’s eight tracks, five were released as singles, and each one climbed greater heights. The propulsive ‘Burning Up’ and the bleepy-bloopy ‘Everybody’ established Madonna’s disco bona fides on the dance charts, while the breezy ‘Holiday’ finally helped her crack the top 20. And ‘Lucky Star’ and ‘Borderline’, with their Bubbilicious-sticky videos, brought her straight into the top 10. (‘I Know It’, ‘Think Of Me’ and ‘Physical Attraction’ round out the album.) Madonna’s sound, and of course her look, would be heavily copied for years to come, but ‘Madonna’ heralded something bigger: the arrival of the pop diva as a singular force who put personality above all else. And its musical merits notwithstanding, the triumph of ‘Madonna’ is less in the album itself than in the superstar it created. Like all visionary ideas, it just took a little while for the rest of us to catch up.

This article has not yet been made available online so I had to transcribe it for sharing here with all due respect to Kyle Anderson and EW magazine. I was so impressed with Anderson‘s article about the Madonna album that I had to share it in full. In some respects, for me, the release of Madonna‘s debut album 30 years ago doesn’t seem like that long ago. I mean, yes, 30 years is a long time but … for me, because I remember seeing her videos on MTV (when EVERYONE watched MTV) and hearing her songs on the radio (I used to love recording her songs on my cassette tape deck pressed up to the speaker of my radio when her music would play on Power 96 in Detroit, MI) it just seems like a part of my childhood, my life … and even tho we get older every year, our childhoods remain frozen in memory … seemingly within grasp. Those jelly bracelets, I wore them … everyone wore them. The lyrics to her songs, I knew them … I still know them … we all know them. Madonna exists as an integral pillar of our pop and social culture because her impact on the world was so … astronomical, right from the start. The world may not have known for sure how big her destiny would turn out to be after the release of just her first album … but she knew. She was hungry for it and there was no way Madonna was going to be denied the future she knew she would enjoy. I’ll be spinning the Madonna album at least one time today … it will take me back to my childhood, take me back to a very happy time in my life when I first “met” Madonna. Happy anniversary, Madonna. Thank you for changing the world … for the better.

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  1. Alecia

    I love this post so much. Unfortunately I wasn’t born until the late 1980s so I always imagine the awesomeness that was early MTV. With all of those albums that came out, Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual, Huey Lewis and the News Sports, and Thriller by Michael, it’s a wonder she even got a mention. However, it is definitely good she decided to go on and keep trying until she hit the big time.
    Early Madonna was so raw and hungry and you really sense that. Honestly, I love so many artists and actors when they first come out because you can sense what they’re about, their passion, and their enthusiasm and they aren’t jaded about the industry and so forth.
    Even though these songs weren’t instant hits, I’m sure they hold a special place for her. I forgot who said it but essentially one artist said you have your whole life to record your first album, the follow-ups not so much. That’s why I think it’s amazing to see that after all that has happened and how she’s evolved as an artist, it’s those first chords to Borderline and the sweet charm of Lucky Star that still make you smile like the first time you heard it.
    Thanks so much for sharing this Trent :).

    • Karen

      I think one of the things that made MTV such a big deal when it started is that before it existed, we only very rarely got to *see* the artists we listened to. I was too young to go to concerts, so the only time I saw them before MTV was probably very randomly on awards shows (randomly because I def did not follow awards shows as a kid!).

      It’s hard to imagine now, especially with the internet, but it was captivating to get to see the source of the music. And I think it was really exciting for some of the artists to create visual interpretation of their music. (Not so much for other artists — some of the videos weren’t imaginative.)

      I don’t think that period lasted very long, but it was really cool.

  2. LiQue

    MY oh MY trent you couldn’t said it better! there is not enough words or space here to express how this woman has touched me in so many ways. Happy Anniversary !

  3. Lisbeth Slander

    I’ve heard Madonna’s voice more than I’ve heard my moms. She helped shape me in to the person I am today, if it weren’t for her I truly don’t know how I would have turned out. It has been the greatest thrill of my life to watch someone I not only admire, but touched me deeply, go on to truly rule the world of music and proved all the haters wrong. And is still doing it 30 years later.
    She has been an inspiration, a voice for all of those that didn’t have one or were two afraid to stand up and be who they really are.
    There is NOTHING on this planet like going to a Madonna concert, where you can look around and you just know “everybody here just gets it”.

  4. Karen

    I remember so clearly when Madonna appeared on the scene. I’m actually glad I’m old enough to remember that, and how shocked people were by her. She really had an effect on our culture.

  5. MJ

    Madonna is also a fond reminder of my childhood. I recall my mom dressing like her, lol. And Like a Prayer was the very first cassette I ever bought. Thanks for this post, Trent! :)

  6. DJ

    Timeless record. Timeless artist!!

  7. iKNOWit

    i was living overseas & noticed M’s album cover in the r&b section long before i heard her for the first time–i was SO intrigued by this strikingly hot & hard looking white girl & then when i picked it up her sound was anything but hard (well maybe a bit of edge on Burning Up :) the entire album blew me away with it’s freshness & groovyness & still does
    dance clubs in the 80s! sigh… i was pretty fresh myself :D

  8. dadf

    Living Legend

  9. Ben@PR

    Madonna is an icon and she’s simply the most successful female singer of all-time. Even in the present. She changed the role of the solo female singer forever. And that’s why I cringed every time some one criticizes her for her age and her actions. She can do whatever she wants because she has earned it. She reshaped the whole music industry specially for women. So bow down to the Only Queen of Music Her Royal Highness Madonna Luise Ciccone.

    • @Ben@PR — “And that’s why I cringed every time some one criticizes her for her age and her actions. She can do whatever she wants because she has earned it.”

      A-effing-men!

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