Today in Madonna History: May 25, 2004

On May 25 2004, Rolling Stone magazine published a review of Madonna’s Re-Invention World Tour with the headline, “Madonna Reinvents herself. Amid images of war and peace, pop star shows she can sing.”

Here’s the review by Barry Walters:

After twenty years in the limelight, Madonna is expected to cause controversy and reinvent herself for every new tour. So for the May 24th Los Angeles opening of her Re-Invention world trek, Madonna did the most unexpected thing she could: She came back as a great concert singer.

Even the most diehard Madonna fan will concede that her live performances have almost without exception been plagued by a multitude of missed notes, breathy passages, and, as of late, fake British accents. But while Mariah and Whitney have of been losing the acrobatic vocal dexterity and lung power on which their reputations rest, forty-five-year-old Madonna, whom few have ever taken seriously as a musician, has never sounded better than she did during the first of several gigs in her adopted West Coast home. Whether rocking out with classic black Les Paul in hand during a metallic rendition of her early club hit “Burning Up,” or performing “Like a Prayer” behind a screen-projected gospel choir, Madonna belted, and did not once seemed strained. In the midst of a $1 million production festooned with a walkway that jutted out from the stage and over the audience, massive moving video screens, a dozen dancers, a bagpipe player, a stunt skateboarder and a whole lot of emotionally charged anti-war imagery, the focus was nevertheless on Madonna, and how she’s matured into a truly great pop singer.

Opening with a yoga-trained twist on her famous Louis XIV-inspired MTV Video Music Awards rendition of “Vogue” and ending on a kilt-wearing finale of “Holiday” against a video backdrop of national flags that eventually morphed into one, the show was thematically simpler and more focused than her last several productions.

The barbarism of war and the necessity of love were at the heart of the entire show, and both played off each other, sometimes for ironic and decidedly uneasy effect. The original military-themed video footage of “American Life” that the singer withheld at the start of the Iraq war was finally unveiled, and then expanded upon during “Express Yourself,” where Madonna sang her anthem of unbridled, intimate communication in front of dancers dressed as soldiers and goose-stepping with twirling rifles.

By contrast, Madonna closed an extended acoustic section of the show with a straightforward and thoroughly committed rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine” as images of war and poverty-ravaged children eventually gave way to footage of a Muslim boy and his Israeli counterpart smiling as they walked with their arms wrapped around each other.

The heaviness of much of the imagery was balanced by Madonna’s own presence, which seemed remarkably fun-loving and self-assured for the opening night of her most technically complex production. Only when she strapped on an acoustic or electric guitar during several songs and repeatedly glanced at her left hand to make sure it was playing the proper chords did she seem at all nervous. “How many people out there really think that I am the Material Girl?” she asked during a break in her most iconic early smash as she strummed with much deliberation.

For the last several songs, Madonna and her dancers donned black and white kilts, an apparent nod to husband Guy Ritchie’s Scottish heritage, and black T-shirts that read “Kabbalists Do It Better,” a cheeky reference to both her religious studies and the “Italians Do It Better” T-shirt she wore during her video for “Papa Don’t Preach,” a song that was performed without the “near-naked pregnant women” described in pre-tour reports of the show. In a number dedicated for the “fans that’ve stood by me for the last twenty years,” she sang her earliest hit ballad, “Crazy For You,” earnestly and without contrivance.

Madonna’s continued relevance was impressive, but it was even more striking that she’s putting more love and genuine passion into her spectacle than ever.

 

Today in Madonna History: April 30, 1983

On April 30 1983, Madonna’s second single – the double A-side Burning Up/Physical Attraction – moved into the Top 10 on Billboard’s Dance/Disco Top 80 chart (now known as Hot Dance/Club Play), leaping from #18 to #9.

Interestingly, the release charted as Physical Attraction/Burning Up throughout its run on the Dance chart. When two songs are promoted together to dance clubs, Billboard will generally position the track that earns the higher number of spins first in its Dance chart entry.

The same Billboard issue also saw some early radio support for Madonna, as New York City’s WKTU-FM featured Physical Attraction among their top playlist adds for the week.

Today in Madonna History: April 9, 1983

On April 9 1983, Madonna’s Burning Up debuted at #66 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart in the USA.

Is Burning Up one of your favourite Madonna songs?

I grew up with my older sister first loving the Like A Virgin-era, so I wasn’t always aware of it. When I began my adventure into Madonna fandom, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there was an edgier Madonna before the likes of Material Girl and Dress You Up. I LOVE the video for this song and the song itself — and I’m so glad that she’s embraced it LIVE over the last few years. – Jay

Today in Madonna History: October 13, 1983

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On October 13 1983, Madonna performed Burning Up, Everybody and Holiday at Camden Palace’s Thursday Party Night in London, England.

The following article about Madonna’s performance was originally published on October 15 1983 by The Guardian:

This could be the way pop promotion is going – new artists launched not with a full concert, but with the live equivalent of a video clip.

The scene at the Camden Palace in the early hours was like something from a British version of Flashdance. The place was packed with the usual exotically dressed clientele – there to see and be seen rather than just listen to the music – when the dancing was interrupted by what’s known on the American disco scene as a “track date.”

Pioneered by the likes of Grace Jones, this is a cut-price promotion device in which a disco artist suddenly appears for half an hour, singing live to backing tapes.

This demonstration was by a white girl in her early twenties, known simply as Madonna, a dancer who moved to New York from the Mid-West as an ambitious teenager and is currently the most important new figure in the American dance scene.

She succeeded partly because she makes great records and partly because she has turned the boring idea of a track date into an exotic event.

Dressed in holocaust chic – black top, black skirt and leggings, lots of bare midriff, and hair in ringlets – she sang well, with a husky, black-sounding voice, and danced even better. She hurtled around the stage, mostly swivelling her hips like a belly-dancer while performing her songs like Lucky Star and the stirring Holiday.

Given a full set and a live band behind her, Madonna would seem to have the makings of a major star, so it’s no wonder she is now being managed by the man who guided Michael Jackson’s recent career.

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Today in Madonna History: May 13, 1983

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On May 13 1983, Madonna performed Physical Attraction during a track date at the FunHouse in New York City.

Located at 526 West 26th St, the FunHouse (1979-1985) was a breeding ground for the new electronic sounds of the street and helped to make its resident disc jockey, Jellybean Benitez, one of dance music’s first superstar DJ’s.

Of course, Jellybean’s close association with Madonna certainly didn’t hinder his growing popularity either. His first working collaboration with Madonna was to remix Physical Attraction, the b-side to her sophomore single on Sire Records, Burning Up/Physical Attraction, which may explain why it was chosen over the more frequently performed lead track for her performance at the FunHouse. The same remix of Physical Attraction was later used on her debut album, together with new remixes Jellybean provided for Burning Up and Lucky Star alongside his first full production for Holiday.

Today in Madonna History: April 29, 1995

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On April 29, 1995, Bedtime Story peaked at #42 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S.

Released as the follow-up to the longest-running U.S. #1 single of her career (Take A Bow), Madonna & Warner Bros. likely hoped that the momentum would carry over to the cutting-edge Björk penned title track. Despite a respectable reception in Europe (in the U.K. it performed better than Take A Bow) and significant buzz generated by its music video, Bedtime Story proved to be too unconventional for radio in North America, where it became her first fully promoted single to miss the Top 40 since Burning Up in 1983. It fared no better in Canada, peaking at #46 on May 1st, 1995.

The remixes for Bedtime Story, however, were a hit with North American D.J.’s and earned Madonna another #1 on Billboard’s Hot Dance/Club Play chart.