The history of pop music can essentially be divided into two eras: pre-Madonna and post-Madonna. Michael Jackson sold more albums and Prince was more prolific, but of the three singular musical icons born in 1958, Madonna is still the one who most set the template for what a pop star could and should be: bold, brilliant, ambitious, consistently innovative and constantly evolving.
Madonna’s rise to galactic superpower status in the ’80s mirrored the rise of MTV as a cultural force, and hardly by coincidence: no figure since David Bowie married sound and vision so expertly. Before Madonna, artists could be considered daring if they reinvented themselves with each new album; she sped up the pace to where she was doing so practically with each music video, defining “iconic” so many times over she eventually had to make a song about it. Unlike many of her superstar predecessors and peers, there is no one true definitive Madonna sound or album — rather, there are a couple dozen definitive Madonna eras, which could last as long as four years or as short as, well, four minutes.
Starting with her 1983 self-titled debut, the hits (and controversies) came quickly for the woman who boldly declared she wanted “to rule the world” during her North American network TV debut appearance on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. Since then, she’s delivered on that promise, reigning as the undeniable Queen of Pop.
Her four decades of culture-shifting hits — including 12 Billboard Hot 100 No. 1s — will take center stage during her 2023 Celebration Tour. And there’s a lot to celebrate. For years, Madonna wasn’t ahead of the curve so much as consistently bending its angle with her gravity. She talked (and sang, and wrote, and performed) frankly about sex and desire at a time when doing so largely inspired mockery at best and condemnation at worst. She loudly championed her LGBT fanbase while many pop stars were still avoiding their existence altogether. She confronted misogyny, abuse and gender double standards inside and outside of the music industry for decades before there was any kind of nationwide #MeToo movement to support her.