MTV At 30: A Look Back At Madonna

This was originally published on Culture Brats on July 20, 2010. But nothing says early MTV like Madonna videos, so we're playing it again! Here are our eighteen favorite Madonna videos:

18. "Lucky Star"
17. "Justify My Love"
16. "Burning Up"
15. "Cherish"
14. "Ray Of Light"
13. "Express Yourself"
12. "Crazy For You"
11. "Bad Girl"
10. "True Blue"
9. "Open Your Heart"
8. "Get Into The Groove"
7. "Music"

6. "Like A Virgin"
Like most adolescents of the '80s, I was hot for Madonna. Since she first appeared on the scene in '83, there have been a lot of different Madonnas, but my personal favorite has always been the Desperately Seeking Susan version--and no video showcases the Madonna of that era better than "Like a Virgin."

Seriously, back in the day, "Like a Virgin" was viewed as pretty on-the-edge in terms of pushing the limits of sexuality on television. Remember, this was a time when MTV (which played nothing but music videos then... weird) was just coming into its own. It was making music a visual medium. And, while the lyrics to the song certainly ruffled some feathers, seeing Madonna gyrating and slinking around in fishnet and lace was more than a lot of people could handle. Family organizations wanted "Like a Virgin" banned, which, of course only drew more attention to both the song and the awesome video.

Beyond the obvious appeal of the blond one herself and her slinky outfits, the filmmaker in me saw even than that the visual style of the video was a prime example of the direction that music videos were headed at the time. Many of the early videos were super-simple: just the singer and maybe a band and/or some dancers on a stark set. "Like a Virgin" is a stylized mini-film that tells a story. Well, sort of. Beyond the obvious--Madonna writhing on a bed and such (the essence of the song's story)--there were also some really odd things going on. What was up with that lion roaming the streets and buildings of Venice? Or that dude in the lion mask? Weird. But, at any rate, it was a concept piece, the forerunner of many concept videos to come.

Plus, it reminds me of Weird Al Yankovic's "Like a Surgeon." Which is really really funny. --Dave

5. "Material Girl"
Ah, how sad is it that Madonna, while appreciative of what "Material Girl" did for her career on the heels of "Like A Virgin," has been quoted as saying had she known that she would be labeled "a material girl" for decades after, she probably never would have recorded it. Um, right. I call bullshit. This video was a major part of establishing her as an iconic performer with a sense of humor. Who cares if the mainstream media failed to recognize the irony in the video? It was so obvious that the video was a performance and the two characters Madonna was portraying were polar opposites. While the video pays tribute to one of the most tragic icons in Hollywood history, Madonna herself is no tragedy and is a force to be reckoned with. I am pretty sure my girl crush on Madonna was sealed in concrete with the release of this video. I adored her in it. I loved how she transformed from a dirty little "virgin" to this elegant, classic beauty. Also, the suspense of thinking that a boob HAD to pop out at some point was enough to keep anyone watching, over and over and over, don't you think?

The entire idea of someone, such as the character that Keith Carradine played, going to great lengths to court a young woman was such a foreign idea that I found it intriguing and completely romantic. Every teenage girls dream.

Lastly, Madonna's outfit at the end just before she gets in the beat up old truck to go on the date, was an outfit that BLEW. MY. MIND. I think I spent every waking moment trying to duplicate it, sadly, without any real success. But I tried. I tried hard. --A Vapid Blonde

4. "Papa Don't Preach"
"Papa Don't Preach" caused a sensation in 1986. Feminists hated it, denouncing Madonna for seemingly encouraging girls to go out and get pregnant. Pro-Life groups loved it because "I'm keeping my baby?" She's obviously telling people that abortion is bad, right? Wrong and wrong. Even my extremely naive 14-year-old self could see Madonna was singing about taking control of her own life and ownership of her actions and their consequences. I mean, duh. Obviously. And for a teenage girl, that was a very powerful message.

It was a great song with a catchy hook from a darn good pop album, True Blue, full of catchy hooks, but it was the video that really pulled me in. Also starring the incomparable Danny Aiello, "Papa Don't Preach" was the unveiling of Madge's second major style transformation. Gone was the Boy-Toy. In her place was a more toned-looking Madonna who looked and dressed like an '80s version of a '50s Audrey Hepburn, albeit one with blond hair and more womanly curves. Hands down, one of my favorite looks for her. The video's more tomboyish Madonna made the t-shirt "Italians Do It Better" iconic and I still covet her stripped boat-neck tee with the black flats and the leather jacket.

"Papa Don't Preach," both the song and the video, left a lasting mark on me. The theme, the style, the music, I loved them all. And the guy, the love interest in the video? I might have had a crush on him. Just a small one. What? I was 14. Blame it on the hormones. --Tania

3. "Like A Prayer"
I remember when Madonna came on the scene. "Lucky Star," "Borderline," loved the bracelets, but she didn't really register with me. But then "Like A Prayer" dropped and that's when MTV got banned from my house. My mom is a good Catholic woman. As far as she's concerned, good music died with John Lennon. But a pop tart named Madonna makes a video in a church with burning crosses? Hooo boy. I remember it was all over the news that evening. Pepsi flipped out and dropped her. Mom was very vocal about her disapproval of this wayward tramp and her poor family values. Somehow she missed "Like a Virgin" and "Papa Don't Preach"--they didn't grab as many headlines, or maybe she thought I didn't understand the sexual connotations. All I knew was that I HAD to see this video. I had to sneak to a friend's place after school to see it--my friend with the "cool" mom who let us watch R-rated movies and didn't tell my folks. I was blown away by the audacity. And the naughty factor definitely made it cooler. In my mind, the scene with the dark night and the burning crosses is THE Madonna moment of the 1980s. Everyone on the planet saw it: that clip was on the news, the image was in the papers, I saw it everywhere. I might be wrong, but I always felt that "Like A Prayer" was the video that cemented Madonna as THE woman on the '80s pop scene. --Archphoenix

2. "Borderline"
Where do I even start?

Was it the funky hair and makeup? The Jellybean Benitez dude?

Or maybe it was the storyline which mirrored her own meteoric rise to fame while having to pick and choose who she would keep by her side or toss away.

Whatever it was about this video that made it so watchable, you just knew that you made time to sit down and enjoy it every time MTV played it.

I remember wearing my unruly high school mane that was soaked with hair product in very much the same style as hers with dangly earrings and tons of makeup and don't even get me started on the rubber bracelets.

I suppose this video brings back so many memories because it was still the golden age of videos and music. You actually came home from school, threw down you bag, plopped on your sectional couch with your buddies and watched videos for hours. They were fun,entertaining glimpses at your favorite artists giving you something extra to go along with the music. Madonna was at the forefront and this is where she really began to skyrocket. --Dufmanno

1. "Vogue"
Have YOU ever Vogued?

C'mon. Be honest. Fess up. You know you have. I know you have. We know you have.

I know I have.

Strike a pose.

And without having to explain what I mean… you know EXACTLY what I mean.

Madonna. "Vogue" and that voguealicious video. You're striking a pose right now, aren't you? Yes you are. You can't help it. I can't help it either.

As a song, "Vogue" stands alone, but that video... Without the video, what would vogueing be, really? Would anyone but models be striking poses? The video brought new moves to dance floors all over the world. So I wasn't on too many dance floors prior to 1990, besides the local high school gym. But after this video, dancing and dance floors have never been the same. We owe it all to this video, and those silly men who could really add a bit more muscle, as far as I'm concerned.

Strike a pose?

OK. --Jenny On The Spot

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