Madonna Louise Ciccone has sold over 300 million records worldwide and is recognized as the best-selling female recording artist of all time by Guinness World Records. She was born in 1958 in Bay City Michigan. She attended the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance before joining the group Breakfast Club where she sang, and played drums and guitar. In 1981 she left the band to start a solo career. Her first album was titled Madonna and contained upbeat disco music. Her breakthrough came with her second album, Like a Virgin, in 1984. It was her first number one album and topped the charts in many countries. The catchy title track, ‘Like a Virgin’, was popular and controversial. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for six weeks but was heavily criticised by some who complained that the promotional video undermined marital values and promoted fornication.
Madonna continued to experiment with new styles of music and different artistic media. She changed her look with every new album. She started with a pop and dance music. Madonna’s look and style of dressing, was highly influential and she became a female fashion icon. Her look in the 1980s included bleached hair, lace tops, skirts over capri pants, fishnet stockings and heavy jewellery.
She changed her image and embraced Hollywood glamour as a ‘Material Girl’ in the style of Marilyn Monroe. In the 1990s with ‘Justify My Love’ she pushed the boundaries of video towards S&M long before Fifty Shades of Grey came along. She has continued to innovate, provoke and court controversy with here music and videos while changing style and fashion. As a result she became the most successful solo artist in the history of American singles chart.
Madonna increased her reputation for versatility by her film roles. She appeared in the 1985 comedy Desperately Seeking Susan in which she sang ‘Into the Groove’, her first number one single in the United Kingdom. In 1996 she won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for Evita. She has also enjoyed success with filmmaking, fashion design and writing children’s books, and filmmaking. As a highly successful businesswoman Madonna founded entertainment company Maverick (including the label Maverick Records) in 1992 as a joint venture with Time Warner. In 2007 she signed a record $120 m deal with Live Nation.
While there is no doubt that Madonna is an excellent song writer, performer and lyricist the longevity of her success is due to her powers of reinvention. Robert Grant, author of Contemporary Strategy Analysis (2005), commented that what has brought Madonna success involves combining the talents of others to help her numerous reincarnations. Madonna’s approach was far from the music industry wisdom of “Find a winning formula and stick to it.” Her musical career has been a continuous experimentation with new musical ideas and new images and a constant quest for new heights of fame and acclaim. Grant concluded that “having established herself as the queen of popular music, Madonna did not stop there, but continued re-inventing.”
Based on a chapter in Think like an Innovator by Paul Sloane published by Pearson.