On October 17 1987, Billboard magazine featured a two-page spread taken out by Madonna’s manager, Freddy DeMann, thanking everyone involved with Madonna’s massively successful Who’s That Girl World Tour, which had wrapped up in Europe the month before.
In the same issue of Billboard, Chart Beat columnist Paul Grein marked Madonna’s 13th consecutive top-5 hit as Causing A Commotion moved into the #5 position on the Hot 100. Speculating on how long Madonna’s winning streak could last, he warned of the dangers of over-exposure and artistic complacency. Without the benefit of hindsight, the back-handed compliment and slightly patronizing advice is not altogether unreasonable, and is certainly not unusual for the time.
Less reasonable, however, is his summation that the severity of Madonna’s potential fall from grace would be compounded by the abundance of female singers of the era who “sound like Madonna”.
Because you know, all female singers are only that – female singers. Even though you’re co-writing and co-producing your own songs and radio can’t get enough, neither can your audience or even your peers, you’re breaking records set by top male and female artists alike, you’re selling out stadiums around the world and earning high praise as a live performer – don’t think any of these things should afford you any respect. You may not have entered the business through the back door and you may have paid your dues and then some, but you’ve still just been lucky, that’s all. You couldn’t possibly possess the talent or the drive to evolve or the insight to be able to stay in the game once your luck runs out. Even though you are the one that everyone is copying – you’re still just another female singer, and they’re a dime a dozen.
While we no longer need hindsight to spot the glaring absurdity and blatant sexism of such an argument today, would it be as obvious if Madonna hadn’t stuck around to dispel it?