is undoubtedly one of the world's most influential pop stars. After all, you don't get the title "Queen of Pop" for nothing. For most of her career, Madonna has been pushing the boundaries of what a pop star can say and do, both musically and in performance, creating quite a few controversies along the way. Madonna created a new model for female pop stars, and paved the way for many female solo acts that came after her. Countless artists today cite Madonna as one of their musical influences. Basically, Madonna is a legend. So, in honor of her birthday this week, we're taking a look back at some of the most iconic (and controversial) moments in her career.
1984: Madonna performs "Like a Virgin" at the first MTV Video Music Awards
Madonna shocked audiences with her 1984 performance of "Like a Virgin" at the first ever MTV Video Music Awards. She begins her performance on top of a wedding cake, fully costumed as the bride next to her fake groom. As she sings through the song, she slowly dismounts the cake and takes it all the way to the ground. After dancing around a bit and twirling her veil, she gets…cozy with the veil, eventually ending the song by rolling around on stage. The performance by today's standards actually seems kind of tame, but that's only because of how drastically things changed after this very performance. Madonna created a wild scandal with "Like a Virgin," paving the way for Miley Cyrus
' NSFW performance with a blow-up doll to be called "her most boring show yet
1985: Music video for "Material Girl" is released
"Material Girl," from Madonna's second studio album Like a Virgin,
was one of the songs that established her as an icon. The song charted in the top five in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Ireland, Japan, and the UK, and reached the number two spot on the Billboard
Hot 100 chart in the US. The video, featuring Madonna mimicking Marilyn Monroe's performance of "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend," shows that even though her character was fully a "material girl," Madonna the actress was won over by the Hollywood director only when he stops trying to buy her love. "Material Girl" was so iconic that after it came out, most of the press started to use the phrase as a nickname for Madonna.
1985: Madonna stars in classic 80s movie Desperately Seeking Susan
In 1985, Madonna made her first film appearance, starring alongside Rosanna Arquette in Desperately Seeking Susan
. Her song "Into the Groove" was used for the film's soundtrack, and is still instantly recognizable for most. One of the most iconic parts of Madonna's role in the movie was her fashion; mostly inspired by Madonna's personal closet, her outfits were over-the-top mash-ups of a bunch of different styles that exuded confidence and a carefree attitude.
1989: "Like a Prayer" music video creates controversy
Madonna's video for "Like a Prayer" caused a lot of controversy when it first aired, so much so that it caused Pepsi to drop the ad she had starred in and cut ties. The video featured a lot for 80s audiences to take issue with, including seducing a statue of a saint, making love with a black man on the church pew, and dancing in front of burning crosses. Once again, Madonna showed that she wasn't afraid to challenge what audiences were comfortable with and go all out.
1990: Madonna performs "Vogue" at the VMAs
"Vogue," both the song and video, were inspired by the actual dance style of vogueing that started in New York clubs that were a part of the underground gay scene. The dance style is comprised of a lot of posing and complex hand motions that mimic the poses of Hollywood stars and models on the cover of Vogue
. Madonna brought the dance style to the mainstream, and to this day, most people probably know what to do if you tell them to vogue. In her performance at the 1990 VMAs, she went all out with Victorian-esque costumes and backup dancers.
1990: "Justify My Love" video is Madonna's first to be banned on MTV
The music video for "Justify My Love" was Madonna's first video to be banned on MTV. Yes, just her first - a few later videos would also be deemed unfit for TV. The sexually explicit video, which features numerous controversial themes including bisexuality, androgyny, and sadomasochism, was instead premiered on ABC's Nightline
, and the video was sold on VHS, which went on to become a bestselling video single. Madonna fought back in interview about the ban, questioning why violence and the degradation of women was fine for TV screens and movie screens, but same-sex couples had to be censored.
1996: Madonna wins a Golden Globe for 1996 role in Evita
In 1996, found her first truly serious, dramatic role in the film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Weber's musical Evita
. The movie and musical show the life of Argentina's First Lady Eva Perón. Although she had acted in plenty of films before, Madonna truly impressed audiences in Evita
, and in 1997 she won the Golden Globe for best actress.
2003: Madonna and Britney Spears share a kiss on stage at the VMAs
Once again, Madonna took a chance to shock audiences with her performance at the 2003 VMAs. After she teamed up with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera
to recreate her iconic "Like a Virgin" VMA performance, the three pop stars continued on to perform the song "Hollywood." Before calling for Missy Elliott
to make her appearance, Madonna went in for the kiss with Britney. This is actually the first iconic Madonna moment I remember hearing about. When I was little, and before I even knew the full extent of why Madonna was famous, this event was so talked about that even I knew about Madonna and Britney's steamy onstage kiss.
2012: Madonna goes all out for Super Bowl Halftime Show
Madonna put on one of the most over-the-top Super Bowl Halftime shows ever in 2012, but who would expect anything less? Donning gold and black outfit and being carried in by an army of men, Madonna started off her performance with the iconic "Vogue." The Madonna's 2012 performance ended up being the most watched Super Bowl Halftime Show up until that point, and for good reason.