Madonna is Madonna's self-titled debut studio album that was released on July 27, 1983 by Sire and Warner Bros. Records.
- Lucky Star 5:30
- Borderline 5:18
- Burning Up 3:41
- I Know It 3:45
- Holiday 6:08
- Think Of Me 4:53
- Physical Attraction 6:35
- Everybody 4:57
In 1982, 24-year-old Madonna was living in New York, trying to set up her music career. She was joined by her then-Detroit boyfriend Steve Bray who became the drummer of her band, the Breakfast Club, which played generally hard-rock music.
Soon they abandoned playing songs in the hard-rock genre, and got signed by a music management company called Gotham Records, planning to move in a new musical direction.
They decided to pursue the funk genre, but the record company was not happy with their musical talents and they were dropped from the label; Madonna and Bray left the band also.
Meanwhile, Madonna had written and developed some songs on her own. She carried rough tapes of three of the songs: "Everybody", "Ain't No Big Deal" and "Burning Up".
At that time, she was frequenting the Danceteria nightclub in New York. It was here that Madonna convinced the DJ Mark Kamins to play "Everybody". The song was received positively by the crowd, and Kamins decided that he should get Madonna a record deal, on the understanding that he would get to produce the single.
Kamins took Madonna to his boss Chris Blackwell, who owned Island Records, but Blackwell refused to sign her, so they approached Sire Records. Michael Rosenblatt (who worked in the artists and repertoire department of Sire, offered Madonna $5,000 in advance, plus $1,000 in royalties, for each song she wrote.
Madonna was ultimately signed for two 12" singles by the President of Sire, Seymour Stein, who was impressed by her singing after listening to "Everybody" at a hospital in Lenox Hill where he was admitted.
The 12-inch version of "Everybody" was produced by Mark Kamins at Blank Tapes Studios in New York, who took over the production work from Steve Bray. The new recording of the song ran 5:56 on one side and 9:23 for the dub version on the reverse side. Madonna and Kamins had to record the single at their own cost.
Arthur Baker (a friend of Mark Kamins) guided him through the role of a music producer and provided him with studio musician Fred Zarr who played keyboards on the track.
Zarr became one of the common musical threads on the album by eventually performing on every track. Due to restrained budget the recording was done hurriedly. Madonna and Kamins had difficulty in understanding each other's inputs for the sessions.
Rosenblatt wanted to release "Everybody" with "Ain't No Big Deal" on the other side, but later changed his mind and put "Everybody" on both sides of the vinyl record after hearing the recorded version of "Ain't No Big Deal".
The single was commercially released in October 1982 and became a dance hit in the United States. This led to Sire signing Madonna for an LP and two more singles.
"Madonna" was primarily recorded at Sigma Sound Studios in New York City.
Madonna opted not to work with either Kamins or Bray, but chose Reggie Lucas, a Warner Bros. producer. Bray decided to push her in the musical direction of pop music and recorded the song "Burning Up" with her.
However, Madonna still did not have enough material to generate a full album. The songs available were "Lucky Star", a new version of "Ain't No Big Deal", "Think of Me" and "I Know It". Lucas brought another two songs to the project, "Physical Attraction" and "Borderline".
As he recorded the tracks he deviated considerably from the original versions of the demos; one such altered song was "Lucky Star". The song was written by Madonna for Kamins, who previously promised to play the track at Danceteria.
However, the track was instead used by Madonna for the album, which she planned to call "Lucky Star." She believed that "Lucky Star" (along with "Borderline") were the perfect foundation for her album.
Problems arose between her and Lucas during the recording of the songs. Madonna was unhappy with the way the final versions turned out.
According to Madonna, Lucas used too many instruments and did not consider Madonna's ideas for the songs; this led to a dispute between the two and, after finishing the album, Lucas left the project without tailoring the songs to Madonna's specifications; hence, she called John "Jellybean" Benitez, a DJ at Funhouse disco, to remix the available tracks.
In the meantime, due to a conflict of interest, Bray had sold the song "Ain't No Big Deal" to an act on another label, rendering it unavailable for Madonna's project.
It was Benitez who discovered a new song, written by Curtis Hudson and Lisa Stevens of the pop group Pure Energy. The song (titled "Holiday") had been turned down by Phyllis Hyman and Mary Wilson, formerly of The Supremes.
Benitez and Madonna sent the demo to their friend, Fred Zarr so he could embellish the arrangement and program the synthesizer lines. After the vocals were recorded by Madonna, Benitez spent four days trying to enhance the commercial appeal of the track before the April 1983 deadline.
Just before it was completed, Madonna and Benitez met Fred Zarr at Sigma Sound in Manhattan, where Zarr added the now familiar piano solo towards the end of the track.
According to AllMusic, "Madonna" is a dance-pop and post-disco album.
The overall sound of the album is dissonant, and is in the form of upbeat synthetic disco, utilizing some of the new technology of the time, like the usage of Linn drum machine, Moog bass and the OB-X synthesizer; this equipment has dated since, consequently the sound of the album comes off as somewhat harsh.
Madonna commented on her debut album: "The songs were pretty weak and I went to England during the recordings so I wasn't around... I wasn't in control. [...] I didn't realize how crucial it was for me to break out of the disco mold before I'd already finished the [first] album. I wish I could have got a little more variety there."
The album starts with the song "Lucky Star", a medium-paced dance track, beginning with a sparkle of synth note and is followed by heavy beats of electronic drum and handclaps. A guitar is played in high riff and a bubbling bass synth is produced to accompany the guitar sound.
The song revolves around the "Starlight, starbright" hook for more than a minute, before going to the chorus.
According to author Rikky Rooksby, the lyrics are repetitive and inane, revolving around the transparent ambiguity of the stars, and juxtaposition of the male character with being a heavenly body in the sky.
"Borderline" is a sentimental track, talking about a love that is never quite fulfilled. According to author Santiago Fouz-Hernández and his book Madonna's drowned worlds, the lyrics of the song like: "Something in the way you love me won't let me be/I don't want to be your prisoner so baby won't you set me free" depicted a rebellion against male chauvinism.
Madonna used a refined and expressive voice to sing the song, backed by Lucas's instrumentation. The song opens with a keyboard rich intro and a catchy synth melody provided by Fred Zarr. Bass player Anthony Jackson doubled Dean Gant's synth bass to provide a solid and more complex texture.
The chords in the song were inspired by Seventies disco sound in Philadelphia as well as Elton John's musical style during the mid-seventies.
The chord sequences cite from Bachman–Turner Overdrive's song "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" while the synth phases display her typical musical style.
The third track "Burning Up" has a starker arrangement, brought about by bass, single guitar and Linn drum machine. The drum beats used in the song were reminiscent to the records of singer Phil Collins.
It also incorporated electric guitars and the most state-of-the-art synthesizers of that time. The chorus is a repetition of the same three lines, while the bridge consists of a series of double entendres; the lyrics describing what Madonna is prepared to do for her lover, and that she is individualistic and shameless.
The next track "I Know It" has a gentler swing to it and features music from piano, a saxophone, synth phrases while having an offbeat chord change.
"Holiday" consists of a four-bar sequence, featuring instrumentation from guitars, electronic drums and handclaps from the Oberheim DMX, cowbell played by Madonna and a synthesized string arrangement. A side-by-side repetitive progression is achieved by making use of the chorus.
Towards the end of the song, a change in the arrangement happens where a piano break is heard. Lyrically, the song expresses the universal sentiment that everybody needs a holiday.
In "Think of Me", Madonna warns her erring lover that he should pay her attention or else she would leave.
The song consists of beats from the Linn drum machine and a saxophone interlude. "Physical Attraction" is a medium paced track, with synth bass, a guitar line, sounds of a brass and Madonna singing in a shrill voice, about the attraction between herself and a boy.
The last song on the album is "Everybody", which starts with a heavily synthesized and spoken introduction, with Madonna taking a loud intake of breath. Madonna displayed her bubblegum-pop like voice in the song, which was also doubletracked.
"Madonna" was first released in the United States on July 27, 1983 by Sire Records.
The album was originally slated to be titled "Lucky Star" after the track of the same name, but it was eventually titled simply "Madonna" perhaps that this singular name could have star power.
The album's artwork was shot by photographer Gary Heery and directed by Carin Goldberg.
The front cover shows Madonna with short-cropped platinum hair, wearing a number of black rubber bangles on her hands and a dog chain around her throat. Her navel is also prominent on the inner sleeve of the album.
Madonna commented: "The picture inside the dust of sleeve of my first album has me, like, in this Betty Boop pose with my belly button showing. Then when people reviews the album, they kept talking about my cute belly button. [...] I think there are other unobvious places on the body that are sexy and the stomach is kind of innocent."
Regarding the album photoshoot, Gary Heery recalled: "[Madonna] arrived at my Broadway studio in New York with a small bag of clothes and jewelry, and no entourage. Then, in front of the camera she was explosive, like a great model, but with her own unique style. She came over the next day to see some prints and the proofs, and there was shot after shot to choose from. We agreed on every choice and whittled it down to the album cover images. I had no idea what I had just been a party to."
In the United States, "Madonna" entered the Billboard 200 chart at #190, the week of September 3, 1983.
The album had a slow and steady climb, and peaked at eight on the Billboard 200 on the week ending October 20, 1984, more than a year after its release; it also peaked at twenty on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.
Within a year, "Madonna" had sold 2.8 million copies in the United States. It placed at number twenty-seven on the year-end chart for 1984 and at number 25 on the year-end chart for 1985, with Madonna becoming the top pop artist for the year 1985.
After 17 years since its release, the album was certified five-times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipment of five million copies across United States.
With the advent of the Nielsen SoundScan era in 1991, "Madonna" sold a further 450,000 copies as of August 2010.
In Canada, the album was released on March 10, 1984, and debuted at number 87 on the RPM Albums Chart. After few weeks, it re-entered the chart again, at number 95 on August 4, 1984.
"Madonna" finally reached its peak position of number 16 in its 29th week. It was present on the chart for a total of 47 weeks, and ranked at number 50 on the RPM Top 100 Albums of 1984 list.
In the United Kingdom, the album was released on February 11, 1984, and charted on the UK Albums Chart, reaching a peak of thirty-seven and present on the chart for twenty weeks.
After a re-release titled "Madonna – The First Album" in July 1985, the album charted again on the UK Albums chart. It ultimately reached a peak of number six and was present on the chart for 125 weeks.
Six months since the re-release, "Madonna" was certified Platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) for shipment of 300,000 copies of the album.
In Australia, the album reached a peak of ten on the Kent Music Report albums chart and was certified triple platinum.
"Madonna" reached the top ten of the charts in Netherlands, France and New Zealand; in the last two markets, it was certified Platinum. It was also certified Platinum in Hong Kong and Gold in Germany and Spain.
Worldwide, the album has sold more than 10 million copies
Stephen Thomas Erlewine from AllMusic wrote the album as "cleverly incorporated great pop songs with stylish, state-of-the-art beats, and it shrewdly walked a line between being a rush of sound and a showcase for a dynamic lead singer. This is music where all of the elements may not particularly impressive on their own — the arrangement, synth, and drum programming are fairly rudimentary — but taken together, it's utterly irresistible."
Tony Power from Blender said that the album consisted of "quacking synths, overperky bass and state-of-the-art mechanical disco, with Madonna strapped to the wing rather than holding the controls. It's a breathless, subtlety-free debut, with overtones of Soft Cell and Tom Tom Club."
While reviewing the remastered version of the album (released in 2001), Michael Paoletta from Billboard felt that "Nearly 20 years after the release of Madonna, such tracks as 'Holiday', 'Physical Attraction', 'Borderline' and 'Lucky Star' remain irresistible."
Jim Farber from Entertainment Weekly gave the album an A, saying "[Madonna] might have wound up just another post-disco dolly if [the songs on the album] didn't announce her ability to fuse club beats with peerless pop."
Bill Lamb from About.com commented: "[The] album is state of the art dance-pop loaded with hits from 'Holiday' and 'Lucky Star' to 'Borderline'. Irresistible pop hooks glide across shimmering synth beats to make this a landmark album of the early 80's."
Jonathan Ross from Q said that "'Borderline' is sweet and 'Holiday' still fizzes with invention and joie de vivre....this quintessentially '80s dance hit also features a barrelhouse piano solo."
Robert Christgau wrote in The Village Voice: "In case you bought the con, disco never died — just reverted to the crazies who thought it was worth living for. This shamelessly ersatz blonde is one of them, and with the craftily orchestrated help of a fine selection of producers, remixers, and DJs, she's come up with a shamelessly ersatz sound that's tighter than her tummy — essence of electro, the D in DOR."
Don Shewey from Rolling Stone was of the opinion that "without overstepping the modest ambitions of minimal funk, Madonna issues an irresistible invitation to the dance."
Sal Cinquemani from Slant Magazine rated the album four and a half out of five stars and commented: "Heralding the synth-heavy movement was a debut album [Madonna] that sounds just as fresh today as it did almost two decades ago."
Throughout 1983 to 1984, Madonna had promoted the album by performing a series of "track dates" one-off gigs.
The shows were done at New York City and London clubs like Danceteria and Camden Palace and on American and British television programs like American Bandstand and Top of the Pops.
On American Bandstand, Madonna performed the track "Holiday" and told interviewer Dick Clark that she wanted "to rule the world." John Mitchell from MTV said that the appearance "remains one of her most legendary."
The album's singles were later performed on The Virgin Tour in 1985. It was Madonna's first concert tour and visited North American dates. The Virgin Tour received mixed reception from critics, but was a commercial success. As soon as the tour was announced, tickets were sold out everywhere.
Macy's New York department store was flooded with buyers, who bought the tour merchandise like the crucifix earrings and fingerless gloves.
After its end, the Virgin Tour was reported to have grossed over $5 million ($11.65 million in 2018 dollars) with Billboard Boxscore reporting a gross of $3.3 million ($7.69 million in 2018 dollars).
The tour was recorded and released in VHS, as "Madonna Live: The Virgin Tour."
Later authors have looked back at the tour and commented that it was clear that "[Madonna] was a bonafide pop star in the process of becoming a cultural icon."
Shari Benstock and Suzanne Ferriss noted the clothes and fashion in the tour and said, "Virgin Tour established Madonna as the hottest figure in pop music."