Madonna‘s evolution as a pop star and performer has always been defined by her unended quest to grow and develop as an artist. Because she was initially dismissed as a grasping, untalented pop tart, she has doggedly chased artistic credibility throughout most of her career. What this means practically is that with each album, each music video, each concert, she mines her seemingly depthless reserve of creativity and knowledge of pop culture and pop subculture to create art that’s simultaneously radio-ready pop music as well as a ‘statement’. From her self-titled debut in 1983, Madonna used pop music to forge her one-woman sexual revolution.

Her second album, 1984’s Like a Virgin, made her into a bonafide superstar. Still, it was her third album in which she made a self-conscious effort to broaden her creative and artistic talents, swiping at different cultural tropes to produce a brilliant record. The hit singles off the album – all five hit the top five on the Billboard charts, with three of them going to number one – scored 1980s pop radio and have become pop classics. But more importantly, the album set the stage for the exponential ascent of Madonna’s brilliance, starting with 1989’s classic Like a Prayer and peaking with 1998’s Ray of Light.

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