While Madonna is, without a doubt, one of the most defining icons of recent popular culture, her rise to success could not have been achieved without the advent of the music video industry. Madonna IS the video music artist. In the early 80's, with the future of the recording industry in question, record execs desperately needed a product that would add visibility and credibility to the music being produced. Faced with a critical and popular backlash against disco, country, and pop rock, the only solution seemed to be radio contests and prolific DJ's. Yet even this solution fell short until a little television series, run on Nickelodeon Television, achieved status as a channel all its own--Music Television (MTV). MTV came on the air in August, 1981. Now, record execs and music video execs alike realized the "gift" they had been given--music videos could provide vision to music and offer audiences a face behind the names heard singing on the radio. And indeed it did just that as artists like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, Prince, and Madonna profited both financially and socially from this new art form that had emerged. (I might add that those economically shaken record companies profited too!)
But of the four artists mentioned, one especially used the video music medium to her advantage, artistically and culturally . . . Madonna. Her first few videos, "Lucky Star," "Burning Up," and "Borderline," helped her establish an image behind the club-based hits she was putting out. In fact, many believed Madonna was a black singer prior to seeing her perform on MTV in these videos. I might add that these videos all appeared shortly after MTV's first anniversary (it is a "marriage" still in existence after nearly 20 years). But it was not until the release of the video for "Like A Virgin," coupled with her memorable wedding dress-bedecked slinking on the stage of the First Annual MTV Video Music Awards, that Madonna rocketed herself to superstardom. Not to be boxed into any given image, this iconic chameleon transformed herself, her videos, and ultimately music videos in general. From her Marilyn Monroe homage in "Material Girl" to her Metropolis-based turn in "Express Yourself," Madonna has set the standard for music video as an art form and means of expression. In doing so, she has given credibility to herself not only as a musician, but more importantly as an artist. Therefore, I give this collection of videos a 10 out of 10, although some in the collection lack the visual and artistic qualities of what many consider to be "great," all in the their own way have had an influence on MTV, the music industry, Madonna, and most importantly, pop culture.
For a collection of Madonna's videos in the Nineties, see "Madonna: The Video Collection, 93-99."
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