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Madonna

Madonna

Perhaps the single most recognizable pop artist of her era, Madonna maintained a prominent role in the public consciousness beginning in the early '80s. Born Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone in Bay City, Michigan and raised in the Detroit suburb of Rochester Hills, Madonna excelled in dance and cheerleading during her teens. She enrolled at the University of Michigan on a dance scholarship, but dropped out after two years to embark on a professional career, moving to New York City in 1978 where she further trained in dance and became embroiled in the city's burgeoning dance and punk scenes. She would dance, sing, and play drums in a number of projects before finally landing a recording contract with Sire Records in 1982. Her subsequent eponymous album spawned a number of hits on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart, but her follow up, 1984's Like a Virgin proved to be her breakthrough, skyrocketing Madonna to instant pop fame. Her keen fashion sense and highly performative style made her a perfect artist for the music video format, which was exploding thanks to the recent advent of MTV. The '80s found Madonna moving from strength to strength musically, with a steady and ever-evolving string of pop albums. She also found mixed success in the realm of acting, earning acclaim for her performance in Susan Seidelman's "Desperately Seeking Susan" (1985) while her on-screen collaboration with then-husband Sean Penn, "Shanghai Surprise" (1986) was panned. She would shock more conservative audiences with 1992's sexually charged album Erotica and the coffee table book that accompanied it, simply titled Sex, but the record would still prove successful, selling over six million copies worldwide. She would later pivot sharply when in 1996 she was cast as Eva Peron in the big screen adaptation of the stage musical "Evita" (1996), impressing even the most incredulous critics with an almost universally lauded performance. This came on the heels of Madonna's next phase as a pop artist as she released the more electronic album Ray of Light in 1998. She would continue to explore styles ranging from techno to R&B as she moved through the 2000s and 2010s, all while expanding her horizons in other fields as well, directing her first film, the comedy-drama "Filth and Wisdom" (2005) in 2005. She would take on an even more complex project with her next cinematic effort, the historical drama "W.E." (2011) based on the lives of King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. However, Madonna would continue to challenge herself with her musical endeavors as well, earning particular praise for the complex influences heard on her 2019 album Madame X.
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