Madonna (entertainer)

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Madonna (entertainer) : biography

August 16, 1958 –

Music videos and performances

In The Madonna Companion, biographers Allen Metz and Carol Benson noted that more than any other recent pop artist, Madonna had used MTV and music videos to establish her popularity and enhance her recorded work. According to them, many of her songs have the imagery of the music video in strong context, while referring to the music. Cultural critic Mark C. Taylor in his book Nots (1993) felt that the postmodern art form par excellence is video and the reigning "queen of video" is Madonna. He further asserted that "the most remarkable creation of MTV is Madonna. The responses to Madonna’s excessively provocative videos have been predictably contradictory". The media and public reaction towards her most-discussed songs such as "Papa Don’t Preach", "Like a Prayer", or "Justify My Love" had to do with the music videos created to promote the songs and their impact, rather than the songs themselves. Morton felt that "artistically, Madonna’s songwriting is often overshadowed by her striking pop videos." Madonna’s initial music videos reflected her American and Hispanic mixed street style combined with a flamboyant glamor. She was able to transmit her avant-garde downtown New York fashion sense to the American audience. The imagery and incorporation of Hispanic culture and Catholic symbolism continued with the music videos from the True Blue era. Author Douglas Kellner noted, "such ‘multiculturalism’ and her culturally transgressive moves turned out to be highly successful moves that endeared her to large and varied youth audiences". Madonna’s Spanish look in the videos became the fashion trend of that time, in the form of boleros and layered skirts, accessorizing with rosary beads and a crucifix as in the video of "La Isla Bonita".

Academics noted that with her videos, Madonna was subtly reversing the usual role of male as the dominant sex. This symbolism and imagery was probably the most prevalent in the music video for "Like a Prayer". The video included scenes of an African-American church choir, Madonna attracted to a statue of a black saint, and singing in front of burning crosses. This mix of the sacred and the profane upset the Vatican and resulted in the Pepsi commercial withdrawal. Madonna has been honored with 20 MTV Video Music Awards—the most for any artist—including the lifetime achievement "Video Vanguard Award" in 1986. In 2003, MTV named her "The Greatest Music Video Star Ever" and said that "Madonna’s innovation, creativity and contribution to the music video art form is what won her the award." Her videos "Die Another Day", "Express Yourself", "Bedtime Story", and "Give Me All Your Luvin’" are some of the most expensive music videos of all time.

Madonna’s emergence occurred during the advent of MTV; Chris Nelson from The New York Times spoke of pop artists like Madonna saying, "with its almost exclusively lip-synced videos, ushered in an era in which average music fans might happily spend hours a day, every day, watching singers just mouth the words." The symbiotic relationship between the music video and lip-syncing led to a desire for the spectacle and imagery of the music video to be transferred to live stage shows. He added, "Artists like Madonna and Janet Jackson set new standards for showmanship, with concerts that included not only elaborate costumes and precision-timed pyrotechnics but also highly athletic dancing. These effects came at the expense of live singing." Thor Christensen of the Dallas Morning News commented that while Madonna earned a reputation for lip-syncing during her 1990 Blond Ambition World Tour, she has subsequently reorganized her performances by "stay[ing] mostly still during her toughest singing parts and [leaves] the dance routines to her backup troupe …[r]ather than try to croon and dance up a storm at the same time." To allow for greater movement while dancing and singing, she was one of the earliest adopters of hands-free radio-frequency headset microphones, with the headset fastened over the ears or the top of the head, and the microphone capsule on a boom arm that extended to the mouth. Because of her prominent usage, the microphone design came to be known as the "Madonna mic". Metz noted that Madonna represents a paradox as she is often perceived as living her whole life as a performance. While her big-screen performances are panned, her live performances are critical successes. Madonna was the first artist to have her concert tours as reenactment of her music videos. Author Elin Diamond explained that reciprocally, the fact that images from Madonna’s videos can be recreated in a live setting enhances the realism of the original videos. Thus her live performances have become the means by which mediatized representations are naturalized. Taraborrelli said that encompassing multimedia, latest technology and sound systems, Madonna’s concerts and live performances are deemed as "extravagant show piece, a walking art show."