Madonna has been many things in her 26-year career.
The Material Girl has been a pop star, a video star, a movie star, a singer, a songwriter, an author, a dancer, a label exec, a producer and, most recently, a director.
Calling her a rocker, though, is a bit of a stretch.
Yes, there are a handful of borderline rock songs in her catalog and she did learn the guitar for her “Music” tour. But Madonna is a pop star. When she looks for new musical inspiration, it has almost always come from the dance clubs, embracing electronica and Europop instead of rock.
Does that mean Madonna should be excluded from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Of course not.
|The other Hall of Fame inductees By Glenn Gamboa Newsday (MCT) Like Madonna, the rest of this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction class stretched the definition of rock in a variety of directions and changed the music of their times. Leonard Cohen - First known as a poet, then a singer-songwriter, Cohen’s dramatic, literary songs in the late `60s, especially “Suzanne” and “Dress Rehearsal Rag,” set him as a Canadian Bob Dylan. The songs on his stunning comebacks in the `80s, on “Various Positions” and “I’m Your Man,” continue to be rediscovered today, as Jeff Buckley’s version of “Hallelujah” or U2’s version of “Tower of Song” lead fans to Cohen’s originals. Lou Reed will induct Cohen. Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff - The architects of “The Philly Sound,” responsible for hits from the O’Jays; McFadden and Whitehead, and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, will be inducted as nonperformers by Jerry Butler. John Mellencamp - The Indiana rocker known for little ditties about Jack and Diane and little pink houses for you and me, Mellencamp arrived in the late `70s as John Cougar, the Midwest’s answer to New Jersey’s Bruce Springsteen. From “Hurts So Good” to “Small Town” to “The Authority Song,” Mellencamp was the champion for the heartland, which continues today, leading to the popularity of his songs among this year’s presidential candidates’ campaigns. Billy Joel will induct Mellencamp. The Dave Clark Five - The Beatles’ early “British Invasion” rivals, they landed 24 hits on the American charts in less than four years, from 1964 to 1968, including top pop hits “Glad All Over” and “Over and Over.” Tom Hanks will induct singer-drummer Dave Clark, singer-keyboardist Mike Smith, guitarist Lenny Davidson, bassist Rick Huxley and saxophonist Denis Payton. A special tribute to Smith, who died of pneumonia Feb. 28, is planned. Little Walter - The harmonica master, best known for his work with Muddy Waters, and his solo hit “Juke” in 1952, will be inducted in the Sidemen category by Ben Harper. The Ventures - The most successful band in rock `n’ roll history to do nothing but instrumentals, spanning styles ranging from surf to psychedelic to pop, with hits including “Walk - Don’t Run” and the theme from “Hawaii Five-O.” John Fogerty will induct guitarists Bob Bogle, Nokie Edwards, Gerry McGee, Don Wilson and drummer Mel Taylor.|
“To me, it’s the same issue as last year with Grandmaster Flash and `does hip-hop belong in?’” says Jim Henke, vice president of exhibitions and curatorial affairs at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. “I think here at the museum and among other inductees, we’ve always defined rock and roll pretty broadly.
“It’s not just about four guys with guitars or something like that. Madonna certainly had a huge impact on popular music and rock `n’ roll throughout the `80s and `90s and she’s certainly deserving of being honored.”
Henke points to Madonna’s music, her incorporation of dance elements and her mixing of styles that influenced lots of performers that came after her.
Her biggest contribution, though, was her music videos.
“Madonna takes us into a new era,” says Rick Krim, VH1’s executive vice president for music and talent programming. “As the years go on, the new eligibles from the MTV era will be different from those who came before them. They will be different from the Ventures or the Dave Clark Five. And Madonna emerged as one of the icons of the video era.”
When Madonna made her debut in 1982 with the dance single “Everybody,” she seemed like just another dance pop singer, like the countless ones who would follow, from Regina and Martika to Stacey Q and Pebbles.
Once she figured out how to use music videos to sell her image as well as her songs, Madonna, with the help of MTV, was soon in a league of her own.
Established performers who adapted well to music videos improved their careers, but Madonna was the first superstar to be launched on MTV.
“Other acts, like Michael Jackson or Prince, saw their careers taken to another level by videos on MTV,” says Krim, who worked at MTV in its early days. “Madonna was born there. She always pushed the limits. Her videos never looked like something somebody else did. We always took everything she did really seriously and we still do.”
Starting with “Borderline” in 1984, Madonna turned her videos into events. Teenage girls - dubbed Madonna “wannabes” - quickly copied her various styles, from the crucifixes to the rubber bracelets to the mesh shirts and the underwear as outerwear trends.
Madonna videos became just as important as the songs they represented, sometimes becoming more attention-getting than the songs, either with the controversial “Like a Prayer” and “What It Feels Like for a Girl” clips or the artistic, culture-shaping videos for “Express Yourself” and “Ray of Light,” which influenced video and filmmaking styles.
“She is still a musical and cultural icon,” Krim says. “She’s always finding a way to impact culture and changing with the times, someone who, despite having plenty of exposure, still has a mystique about her. She’s a smart woman and done an amazing job managing that career and still having people wanting to see more and hear more. She’s not settling back and relying on what she’s done in the past. She’s always looking ahead.”
While induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is seen by many as the culmination of a career, Madonna is still moving forward with hers.
Her new album, “Hard Candy” (Warner Bros.), due next month, includes a rumored duet with Justin Timberlake, who will induct her into the Rock Hall. And Krim says it continues the Madonna tradition of pushing the envelope.
“It sounds great - it’s very 2008,” he says. “But it’s still very Madonna. She’s growing with the times. She’s not an oldies act. There’s still a lot of anticipation for her new album. Every time she releases a new video, it will be an event and we’re going to treat it that way. I believe MTV will, too. She still has a place on MTV and not many 49-year-old artists can say, that even though a lot of them would like to.”
And Madonna is set to push a new envelope, signing a new $120-million business agreement with concert promoter and venue owner Live Nation that makes her the first major artist to partner with a nonmusic company for all her music-related businesses, from her tours to her future album releases.
“Madonna is a true icon and maverick as an artist and in business,” Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino said in a statement. “Our partnership is a defining moment in music history. I am thrilled that Madonna, who is also now a shareholder in our company, has joined with us to create a new business model for our industry.”
In a statement, Madonna said she felt the new partnership created more opportunities than the traditional major-label model.
“For the first time in my career, the way that my music can reach my fans is unlimited,” she says. “I’ve never wanted to think in a limited way and with this new partnership, the possibilities are endless. Live Nation has offered me a true partnership and after 25 years in the business, I feel that I deserve that.”
Apparently, Madonna isn’t through attaching new job titles to her resume just yet.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction takes place Monday at 8 p.m. EST at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan. VH1 Classic will air a live simulcast of the event beginning at 8:30 p.m.
// Notes from the Road
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