Sire Records, 1983

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


Right from the very beginning, Madonna was one of a kind. Warner Bros. didn’t know if they should market her as an R&B act, a dance act, or a pop act. Even before she secured her record deal, there was some talk of turning her into the next Pat Benatar. The fact of the matter is, Madonna has never wanted to be put in a box with any kind of label on her or her music. She was an original, pure and simple. She couldn’t have been more delighted when her first single “Everybody” got played in nightclubs, because without her photo on the sleeve, many listeners were led to believe that she was black! This was, of course, just the first of many ironic statements she would make in her long and fruitful career. Madonna’s firm belief in herself, her talent, and her artistic choices would indeed carry her far, and she’s still going strong to this very day.

Madonna may have dismissed her first album as nothing more than an aerobics record (I admit, I even brought this album in to my gym class to exercise along to), but every song on it is a vintage blend of dance, pop, and New Wave. Relegating her to a subsidiary label, the edgy Sire Records (where other misfit acts like Talking Heads and Depeche Mode resided), Madonna quickly flourished and became the label’s flagship artist. When Madonna started up her own Maverick label in the ‘90s, Sire’s fortunes all but dried up and they were forced to close their doors, albeit temporarily.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The best-known tracks on this Reggie Lucas-produced release are “Holiday,” “Borderline,” and “Lucky Star.” Boyfriend Jellybean Benitez gave Madonna “Holiday,” a song that would take on a life of its own in being the most performed song in her extensive repertoire. MTV helped turn “Borderline” into a huge hit by adding the clip to their heavy rotation list. As for “Lucky Star,” the swirling synths provide the perfect intro to the album and along with “I Know It,” helps to introduce Madonna’s unique sound to the world. The dominant keyboards may seem spare and primitive now, but taken as a whole, all of it works and adds up to an impressive debut that is still so fun and exciting to hear. In a way, this album’s long shelf life is due to its sluggish chart progress and limited sales when it was first released. It may have taken awhile for Madonna’s first album to catch fire, but once it did, there would be no stopping her.

Back in 1983, the media created a war between the two latest female artists to burst onto the scene -- Madonna and Cyndi Lauper -- but I didn’t buy into any of this nonsense. In fact, I ended up buying both of their debut albums in protest! Sure, Lauper’s She’s So Unusual beat out Madonna with the critics and in terms of chart performance, but the public would soon grow tired of Lauper’s goofy persona and ridiculous ties to the wrestling world. Madonna’s gimmicky sexual antics may have been just as off-putting and calculated to some people, but at least she understood the importance of always having a Plan B to fall back on. Like a cat with nine lives, Madonna always seemed to know just what to do to keep her career afloat. As great as Cyndi Lauper still is as a performer, her flame would dim quite a bit in the ‘90s and beyond. Madonna’s fuse on the other hand, is still “Burning Up.”

Rating: A

User Rating: B



© 2008 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sire Records, and is used for informational purposes only.