However you might feel about Madonna’s music, you have to admit she is a genius at marketing. Not since David Bowie has an artist come along so skilled at reading the audience and reinventing oneself accordingly. Starting out in the mid 80s as a street waif, she evolved into a boy toy, then became a gold digger, a sex goddess… hell, she’s even been Marilyn Monroe and Evita Peron. Through it all, her audience, originally a mega-gaggle of subteen girls known as Wannabes, grew exponentially, encompassing larger and larger slices of urban and suburban culture, from the malls to the dance clubs, from senior proms to gay bars. About the only genre Madonna has not yet taken on is country, but you know that when she does try it, she’ll nail it.

As to the music itself, though much of it is fluffy and almost proudly insubstantial, it is also as danceable and hook-laden a repertoire as one could ask for. While she may lack the complexity of Cyndi Lauper, she is also not nearly as Vegas-y as Cher. Where Madonna really shines, though, is in shimmering ballads like La Isla Bonita and the bittersweet Live to Tell (penned with collaborator Patrick Leonard for then-hubby Sean Penn’s movie At Close Range). In my view, it is in heartfelt tunes like these that she truly earns her diva status.

Overall, no matter how you might feel about Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone, in all her various guises, and all the much publicized turns of her turbulent tabloid life, from Sean Penn to Warren Beatty to Dennis Rodman to her newfound domesticity with film director Guy Ritchie, a good dig through her albums may unearth, amongst the glitz and the posing and the relentless disco beat, nuggets of musical gold.

–D. Drummond

Madonna Reviews on Pop Rock Nation

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