By Adem | July, 29, 2009 | 14 comments


As far as debut albums go, there are none quite as majestic or truly magical as Madonna‘s 1983, self-titled debut. Before Madonna blitzed the world in a pink leotard on Confessions On A Dance Floor, she inaugurated her star into the pop realm with this dance-floor-heavy coming-out. A truly self-assured star was well and truly born, and it was a sight to behold.

Off the back of two spikey singles, Everybody and Burning Up, the album Madonna (the only time in history it has been okay to self-title an album because, let’s face it, this album could ONLY have ever displayed text that simply read that name) proved to be a timeless collection of my favourite type of music. To quote Popjustice, it’s a record which is Dance Music that sounds like Pop Music/Pop Music that sounds like Dance Music. The first single, Everybody, is an actual true testament to the ‘timeless’ tag so many liberally throw around these days. As recently as four weeks ago, I heard Everybody being played in a nightclub full of ‘hip young things’ (hem hem), and it sounded as fresh and vibrant as it did back during its inception. What made me even happier was, looking to the dance floor, packed, with kids aged 18 – 23 dancing their arses off; to Madonna’s debut single. It’s a moment so special to me that I had to document it in this review. Amazingly, I now hear the song out almost weekly and, naturally, this makes it one of her most inspired singles.

The same goes for Physical Attraction, though (criminally) never a single, is possibly in her Top 10 greatest as well. The longest running track on the album; clocking in at 6:40 (interestingly, most of the songs on the record are quite lengthy compared to todays standard), Physical Attraction is a pure disco dance floor romper that catapults you into musical bliss. Brilliantly, the lyrics are that of romance, the burning desire to be in love. It’s that chemical reaction, she squeaks. It had all the elements of a proper disco song; it made you want to dance and the singer was a woman in love. What’s so genius about that (and Madonna) is that this was a time when Disco was the last thing on peoples minds. And yet, Madonna, a middle class girl from Detroit, Michigan, reinvented the way people would listen to music in the future by giving them just that. Whatever you say about her music now, that is something no critic can take away from her.

Burning Up remains a big favourite amongst fans, and rightfully so. The single is one of her danciest moments (still), and sits comfortably with a crowd whether you’re at an 80′s themed party, or a dark, sweaty nightclub. Seeing Madonna in the singles video clip, on a road as she sings Do you wanna see me down on my knees? Bending over backwards now, would you be pleased? I’m not the others I’d do anything; I’m not the same, I have no shame – I’m on fire! was a sure-fire iconic moment. Never has she looked sexier and, more to the point, been so forthright. The lyrics may have been about a violently burning desire to engulf someone, but they also told the world that Madonna herself was not like the others. Because she would do anything. And that is why she is the icon she is today. A pinnacle pop moment; things only get bigger however.

Arguably Madonna’s biggest song, Holiday (Into The Groove would probably be its only competition when it comes to a general public consensus I would imagine), is not one of my favourites at all. It’s one of my least favourite Madonna songs actually, though that’s not to say I hate it. She’s just had better days than Holiday (like, hey, Burning Up!) and it annoys me that people think THAT’S an iconic image of her. I mean, for Gods sake – it didn’t even have a proper video clip!!!

But Borderline, another big single from the record, is one that I love deeply, and is very possibly also in her Top 10 of all time; lyrics about love going/feeling wrong (Something in your eyes is making such a fool of me/Stop driving me away/Just try to understand, I’m giving all I can, but you got the best of me; Borderline. Feels like I’m going to lose my mind, you just keep on pushing my love, over the Borderline), and an incredibly massive finish (the da-da-dada, da-da-dada, daaaa-daaaa-daaaaauuuhh bit STILL sends shivers up, down, and through my body every time I hear it), with one of her best video clips ever featuring her greatest fashion accessory; that bloody hat, I want oneLucky Star, although not my favourite of Madonna songs, is a delightful pop thumper with an iconic chorus. I Know It and Think Of Me, however filler they may be, still sound incredibly fresh. Fresh filler is better than dated filler, isn’t it Bedtime Stories?

It’s understandable that, at the time, people thought Madonna would be just another flash-in-the-pan pop star with one album and a couple of hits under her belt. At this time she still had a (minor) vulnerability to her (was it the chubbiness perhaps?) so it was easy to underestimate her as an artist.

It’s also understandable that, a few years down the track, those very people would be eating their words and crying into their morning paper.

There is no one like Madonna. And there is no debut like Madonna’s. And that’s just one (of 16) reasons why she is the ultimate, pop music icon.

God Save The Queen.

14 Responses to Debut.

  • John

    It’s interesting to see an album review like this, because at the time, I felt like it was rather patchwork. The years have been good to the singles on this album, unlike most of the single output of “Virgin” (“Dress You Up” is a huge exception). Great review! You are definitely jazzed for the GH, aren’t you?

  • Paul

    brilliant review monsieur. I would put it overall at an A-/B+ myself but i do believe it’s stood the test of time well and that the “lesser known” tracks are actually quite stunning. Love your line “there is no one like madonna” Many try. all fail.

  • Yuri

    Amen, brother! God save the Queen!

    Another excellent album review. When you tweeted your review of the debut “for the very first time”, I knew it was going to be excellent. You did not disappoint!

    I recently re-heard Physical Attraction not long ago and marveled at it’s awesomeness. And it IS quite a lengthy track! Still love the spoken word part in the middle.

    If ever there was a truly deserved A+ review, Madonna would be it. Great stuff.

  • Aaron

    Hehe – May I ask what the other 15 reasons are?

    I can’t say I’ve heard the album (I know, Shame!) – but I really do want to!

    Brilliant final paragraph – You’re spot on, There really is nobody like her.

  • xolondon

    How funny because I played this album Monday night on my way home from and not just how perfect it is, but that it sounds modern and cool and edgy now for some reason. It’s very pure. I also forgot how much I love the spoken bits on here, esp on Physical Attraction.

    Even the track left off it, Ain’t No Big Deal has aged well. Uh uh uh uh uh.

    The cover looks “amazeballs” on your sexy blog.

  • Glenn

    It really is a phenomenal record and hard to believe it is a debut. “Borderline” is my favourite. A true absolute stunner. The groove and the melody and those synths! Bliss.

  • playpause

    Nice review.
    The way you listen to her hits with nowadays ears is quite relevant, but you’re almost analyzing the album’s structure and environment with today’s standards, which are so different (song length, videos, single “status”…). Madonna indeed changed the face of pop music and the industry, but after this album, because this was her first landmark, I guess the “system” got more efficient and systematic with her following releases.

  • Dave

    A great review; I look forward to reading all the rest, should be a real treat! It’s so great to read well-articulated but also truly passionate reviews.

    However, I am slightly disappointed (if not surprised) that more words weren’t given to ‘I Know It’. No one else has ever seemed to value it as much as I do; it’s one of my most-played and most treasured Madonna songs, a true forgotten gem. I find it so uplifting and vibrant; I’m not sure why, exactly, but I find it magical. Especially the chorus.

    But then ‘Think Of Me’ is possibly my second favourite on the album, and… well. I’m clearly out-of-line here, aren’t I? I suppose it shows the strength of her entire career that the singles are so well supported by a breadth of marvellous album tracks.

    (Thanks for the link on the sidebar, by the by, much appreciated.)

  • Glenn

    BTW, have we ever discovered why there is that black bar at the top of the sleeve art? It’s always confused me.

  • Lyndsey

    Love it. Can we have a post to remind/introduce everyone to the awesomeness of Gambler? No one ever knows what I’m talking about when I mention it!

    Also we’d like to follow you on Twitter if possible?

  • Will-W.

    Yay! Did you review the remastered version? It sounds amazing. When I ripped the tracks on my iPod and listened to it in comparsion to the other albums that were not remastered, it was like night and day!

  • Brad

    Well this sounds nice, maybe I’ll take a listen to her.

    Justttt kidding. Most excellent review of a most classic album.

  • Gordon

    I Know spreads her cards on the table and is my favourite puppy-phat filler here. Holiday is the Sister Sledge song that never was and hasn’t lost an ounce of spontaneity – it sparks one of my first memories of enjoying music. The album is totally sequenced the wrong way, but it works. Dress You Up might have fit nicely here. I think the album has aged well simply because the only ‘gimmick’ was that she desperately wanted these songs played in clubs, and spent a huge chunk of her life in them at the time – which is what I think accounts for their DJ-appealing durations.

    I have so many discussions about Madonna’s career at this point with one of my friends, but it’s usually in relation to Cyndi Lauper (long story), but I think plucking out what was going to work best for her was her finest attribute all through the 80s.

  • Michael

    “Physical Attraction” is DEFINITELY one of the most underrated Madonna songs ever. Fantastic album from start to finish.

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