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Celebrate Madonna's Controversial Legacy on Her 53rd Birthday

Today our music industry is filled with auto-tuned vocals and remixed beats, and it goes without saying that few of the pop artists will ever go on to achieve icon status. But when you have a singer like Madonna who at age 53 is still creating music, does it really matter?

Born in Bay City, Michigan Madonna Louise Ciccone always knew she wanted to be a performer and at the age of 19 with $35 in her pocket she made the move to New York City.

In 1983, Madonna was introduced to the world with her self-titled

debut album, and it was packed with irresistible dance hit singles like

"Borderline", "Lucky Star", and "Holiday". But it wasn't until the 1984

release of sophomore album, Like a Virgin, that she began to

receive global recognition. With this album Madonna proved to the

critics that she wasn't just another one hit wonder and was going to

take the music industry by storm. Not only was she growing as a musical

star, but her trademark style of dressing was beginning to sweep the

planet. Women all over the world wanted to be seen in lace corsets,

crucifix jewels, fishnets, and bleached out hair. The release of title

track, "Like a Virgin", and her performance at the first ever MTV Video

Music Awards marked the first of many instances to attract controversial

attention from the conservative population.

From music to movies and an array of scandalous performances, there isn't an

outlet that Madonna hasn't explored. In celebration of her 53rd

birthday, we look back on some of our favorite moments from the pop

icon's groundbreaking and highly controversial career.

10. Her "Like a Virgin" performance at the 1984 MTV Video Music Awards. Clearly an obvious choice to start with, but it was the first time Madonna looked at the world and basically said, "This is who I am, deal with it." 

9. In July of 1985, Playboy and Penthouse magazines published several nude photos taken of Madonna in 1978. Staying true to her nature, Madonna remained unapologetic and on stage at the 1985 Live Aid benefit that she would not take her jacket off because "[the media] might hold it against me ten years from now."

8. Her 1989 Pepsi commercial that debuted single, "Like a Prayer". After religious fanatics saw the corresponding music video that featured burning crosses and sexual themes, they threatened to boycott Pepsi and sought out to have it banned. Pepsi caved, revoking the commercial and canceling her endorsement deal.

7. The 1990 music video for "Justify My Love" featured scenes involving S&M, same-sex kissing, bondage, and partial nudity. MTV labeled it as too sexually explicit and banned it from the network. Compared to the videos that are shown today, "Justify My Love" really wasn't all that bad. 

6.The early 90's documentary film Truth or Dare that chronicled her time on the highly controversial Blonde Ambition World Tour and gave a peek inside her personal life. It was shot entirely in black and white, excluding the on-stage footage. An array of celebrities appear on camera including Al Pacino, Antonia Banderas, Olivia Newton-John, Sandra Bernhard, Kevin Costner, and boyfriend at the time Warren Beatty. From vulgar moments like sucking on a glass bottle to a group game of Truth or Dare? this documentary gave a no holds barred look into life on tour with Madonna.

5. Madonna's Sex, a book collaboration with photographer Steven Meisel that showcased extremely sexual content depicted through softcore pornographic images. The book was released to accompany Madonna's fifth album, Erotica. Despite the efforts of various organizations to ban the book and stores refusing to carry it, Sex completely sold out of its 1.5million copies worldwide within three days of its release. 

4. In 1994, Madonna appeared on the David Letterman Show, making it the most censored episode in American network television talk-show history. She used the word "fuck" thirteen times, asked Letterman to smell her panties, and refused to leave the set. In Madonna's defense, from the beginning of the interview Letterman introduced her in a nasty manner and instigated her when she sat down. 

3. The single "Human Nature" off sixth studio album Bedtime Stories, which was written as a response to all the negative backlash she received involving previous album Erotica and coffee table book Sex. Such sarcastic lyrics included, "Did I say something wrong? Oops, I didn't know I couldn't talk about sex. I must have been crazy" and "Express yourself, don't repress yourself." The accompanying music video showcased a PVC-clad Madonna with her dancers engaging in S&M play.

2. The video for "What It Feels Like for a Girl", a single off her eighth studio album, Music, featured Madonna on a murderous rampage as well as being involved in car accidents. VH1 and MTV both banned this video from being shown.

1. At the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards Madonna incited a media frenzy when she mouth-kissed singers Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera during a performance. 

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Betsey Denberg

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