Madonna, Madonna- 1983
RMR Album Rating- 6
Madonna’s 1983 debut shows her at her most inexperienced, unsophisticated and non-thematic, but— at the same time, she is not in anyway immature, and she is even a bit adventurous on some songs.
If you compare Madonna to many of her successors, her background and path to music superstardom couldn’t be more different. Instead of being almost born into show business like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera who had been signing for Disney since they were kids and were then packaged as superstars with recording contracts already in place, Madonna’s success took much more work. At 19 and with essentially no money, she moved to New York City to pursue a career in ballet and professional dance. She also played guitar, drums and sang in a hard rock band called the Breakfast club, which gave her a foundation as a songwriter, which is another major difference from her successors.
She left the Breakfast Club in 1980 and started to work on her own songs, which she recorded and laid down onto a mix tape that she would pass out at clubs. Through word of mouth, Madonna began to develop a reputation in the club scene, mainly through her song “Everybody,” which became an underground hit, and it eventually led her to be signed by Sire records, at which time she was given a recording contract (Click here to listen to Everybody).
The album, although not nearly as good as her later work, is impressive for a debut. Of the 8 tracks, only 3 them— “I know it,” “Think of Me,” and “Physical Attraction” can really be considered filler. “Physical Attraction” is the most interesting of these. First of all, it runs for almost 7-minutes, which is unheard of for any song on a dance-pop album, especially from an unknown artist on her first release. In addition to its extended 7-minute run time, it is much more of a new-wave track than a typical pop track, and Madonna used new technology such as the Linn drum machine, Moog bass and the OB-X synthesizer to achieve this new-wave feel. Although “Physical Attraction” might be my least favorite track from the album, it might also be the most important because it shows Madonna’s adventurous side and that she was willing to take risks—a key component of her later success (Click here to listen to Physical Attraction).
As for the rest of the tracks, they were all massive hits and were all released as singles. I already mentioned “Everybody,” which put her on the scene. Then, you have “Lucky Star,” “Borderline,” “Burning Up,” and “Holiday.”
Aside from being the highest charting single from the album (and probably the most well known) “Lucky Star” is my least favorite of these, as it has the most “bubble gum” pop sound to it, but it certainly resonated with the pop market, as it reached #4 on the billboard hot 100. “Borderline” and “Holiday” are my favorites from the album, and they both still sound fresh and current. Plus, if they were released today—they would most likely still be chart toppers.
Click here to listen to Borderline
Click here to listen to Holiday
So with 5 massive hit singles, Madonna’s debut was certainly a pop success, but as mentioned, it also foreshadowed her maturity, fearlessness and penchant for risk taking that would all be so instrumental in her future success. I certainly don’t consider it a must own, but it is absolutely a fun listen and an interesting look at where Madonna got her start.
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