Today in Madonna History: January 25, 1989

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On January 25, 1989, following eight months of negotiations, Pepsi announced that they had signed Madonna to a year-long endorsement contract, for which they would pay her $5 million. In return, Madonna would appear in a series of television commercials and Pepsi would sponsor the Like A Prayer World Tour, tentatively slated for later that year.

Pepsi was undaunted by Madonna’s image in the tabloids. “Her appeal is in her music and her acting. That’s where people’s interests are,” announced Pepsi spokesman Tod MacKenzie.

If the Like A Prayer World Tour had gone ahead as planned, do you think it would have been drastically different from Blond Ambition? What would have changed? Vogue and all the songs from Dick Tracy (or I’m Breathless) would have been omitted. What else? 

Today in Madonna History: January 18, 1989

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On January 18 1989, Madonna purchased a $3 million estate in the Hollywood Hills, Hollywood, California.

Madonna bought the gated three-bedroom house from Allen Questrom, the former president and CEO of Neiman Marcus, and sold it for $2 million during California’s 1994 real estate slump.

In the music video for Bad Girl Madonna played the character “Louise Oriole” (Madonna’s middle name is Louise and Oriole is a street she once lived on).  The house she purchased in 1989 is located at 9045 Oriole Way, Hollywood, California.  

Do you know who currently resides at this address? Tip: he might think that he’s the “King of the World” in a popular boat sinking movie.

Today in Madonna History: December 30, 1989

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On December 30 1989, Dear Jessie peaked at number-five on the UK singles chart. The track was released as the fourth single from Like A Prayer in Europe (with the exception of France which instead opted to service the North American/Japanese fourth single, Oh Father) and as the fifth single in Australia.

Dear Jessie was written and produced by Madonna and Patrick Leonard and was inspired by Leonard’s young daughter, Jessie, with whom Madonna had developed a special connection.

The psychedelia-infused reflection on childhood fantasy and innocence was particularly poignant within the context of the Like A Prayer album’s sequencing, with its segue into Oh Father offering a stark musical and emotional contrast that is perhaps one of the most effective in Madonna’s body of work.

Today in Madonna History: November 11, 1989

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On November 11 1989, the music video for “Oh Father” premiered on MTV in the US. Filmed at Culver Studios, California in late October, 1989 by director David Fincher, the black & white clip drew cinematic influence from the 1941 Orson Welles film, Citizen Kane. Its narrative expanded on darker elements from Madonna’s life – focusing on the death of her mother, her relationship with her father and the recurring effects of childhood trauma in her adult life. The clip’s icily detached symbolism and heavy subject matter are counter-balanced by overarching themes of forgiveness and inner-strength.

In a 2009 interview with The Guardian, Fincher recalled:

“I had kinda talked Madonna into releasing “Oh Father” as a single and we did this video and were very happy with the video – but nobody ever saw it because the song wasn’t a hit.”

Although the video was put into rotation on MTV, the channel had requested that Madonna remove a scene that displayed a close-up of the deceased mother’s lips sewn shut – a request that she refused to consider. Compounded by a tepid response to the song from radio, where its bleak overtones clashed with playlists of the day, the single stalled at number twenty in the US – her lowest peak on the Hot 100 at the time (excluding her first two singles, neither of which broke into the Hot 100). In Canada the video was put into heavy rotation and the release fared slightly better on the charts, peaking at number fourteen.

Despite its relative lack of commercial appeal, the song and video are frequently cited as a creative triumph for Madonna by fans and critics alike.

Today in Madonna History: October 7, 1989

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On October 7 1990, Madonna’s “Cherish” single hit #2 on the USA Billboard Hot 100 chart.

With the success of “Cherish” Madonna overtook The Beatles on the list of all-time consecutive top 5 singles in US (16 singles) and also tied with Michael Jackson for the artist with the most consecutive top 10 singles in the 1980s (17 singles).

Today in Madonna History: September 21, 1989

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On September 21 1989, Madonna was featured in People magazine’s list of the “20 Who Defined the Decade“.

Launching a Navel Offensive Against Every Pop Piety, the Material Girl Navigated the Shark-infested Shoals of Showbiz Like Anything but a Virgin

When she first appeared on the scene six years ago, not much about Madonna marked her for transcendent stardom except her ferocious will. Early hits like Borderline and Holiday proved she had a good ear for a musical hook. But her voice had the range of a penny whistle, her songs were simpler than the alphabet, and around her famous navel the MTVenus packed a little mound of tummy blub.

No matter, she knew that image—or better still, a succession of images—had become as important to a pop career as musical gifts. Sticking her tongue out at critics, then lodging it firmly in cheek, she put on a series of brazen attitudes—the Material Girl, the blond bombshell, the Catholic penitent in a negligee. More than just a cartoon of vice, Madonna was a one-woman vice squad, a whole collection of public images crafted to tease our mixed feelings about lust, money and ambition. If you loved it, it was probably because there was something thrilling about seeing our secret passions so gleefully paraded. And if you didn’t love it—hey, Papa, don’t preach.

Madonna grasped very well that the best way to create scandal in an era that was blasé about old pieties was to twit the new ones. So she flipped a finger at the earnestness of the late ’60s and the ’70s, fashioning a persona of raw cunning and comically overcooked sexuality, a cross between Lady Macbeth and Betty Boop. And she tormented the feminists with her Boy Toy belt buckles and sex-cookie vamping, harking back to an era when a woman’s only leverage in life was the power of eye-batting sex. When Madonna dressed for success, it had nothing to do with getting into law school.

But the message she sent to the multitude of teen age wannabes was mostly about a dream of self-indulgence—a black-lace fantasy for a strait-laced generation.Madonna spread before them the agreeable but dubious proposition that you can play the cutie and still wield clout. In her case, of course, she had a point. Madonna is, after all, that rare cutie who heads a $30-million-a-year corporation. She co-writes her own songs, co-produces her own albums and has directed her mammoth concert tours from city to city as adroitly as Hannibal trotted his elephants across the Alps.

Madonna roamed across pop culture to find the models for her provocations. Her trash-flash wardrobe was pioneered by Bette Midler, her B-girl demeanor owed much to Blondie’s Debbie Harry, and Carol Channing beat her to the discovery that “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.” Above all, her scrumptious sexuality was a variation on themes developed by Mae West and Marilyn Monroe, among quite a few others. But she never just appointed herself the next in their line.

Like an Elvis impersonator bringing the beloved back to life, she reenacted Marilyn’s career for us in a wish-fulfillment version, in which Marilyn gets to be both sexy and shrewd. She doesn’t kill herself; she slays everybody else. It was Marilyn without martyrdom, Marilyn for a decade that loved a winner. Sean Penn stood in for both of Monroe’s husbands, Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller. In this public revision of the Marilyn saga, he played both the slugger and the somber artist, the big biceps and the furrowed brow.

Madonna was canny enough never to become too closely identified with any of her incarnations. Her most brazen pronouncements were delivered with a wink. (You have to love somebody who can describe losing her virginity as “a career move.”) “Being the vixen, the heartbreaker and the incredibly provocative girl is a very marketable image,” she once admitted. Then she added, with the have-it-both-ways tease that is essential to her appeal: “But it’s not insincere—you just can’t take it seriously.”

It was that kind of “only kidding” come-on that made Madonna the perfect temptress for the ’80s, when all of our pleasures were guilty pleasures, the age of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and “Just Say No,” when all of our excesses were conducted in the shadow of some impending calamity, whether it was AIDS or the national debt.

Madonna wasn’t just a mirror of her times. She was a hall of mirrors, reflecting back a cleverly mixed and fractured message that was just the thing for a decade in which people wanted to shake their hips while putting their shoulders to the wheel. Now that may be a hard position to hold. But like she says: Papa, don’t preach.