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Madonna remains, to this day, the quintessential bad girl of pop, and she has made umpteen points to prove it. And, it all began much before people were even aware of her powerful vocal chords.

By the time her first album (Like A Virgin) released, magazines like Playboy and Penthouse had splashed her nudes from her earlier days. The album itself wasn't short of controversies. Back in those days the very word 'virgin' wasn't something you openly mouthed, leave alone put it on your debut album title. It was perhaps an indicator of sorts for all that's to follow. The title song was debuted at the first MTV awards, where Madonna wore a white wedding gown and suggestively writhed on the floor. As if this weren't enough, she showcased her 'boy toy' belt for the world to have a dekko so no one was left in any doubt about their latest pin-up and her preferences.

Besides her antics, she was also experimental with her lyrics. Papa Don't Preach was about an unwed mother refusing to give her child up, something that was seen as a stand for anti-abortion. Even though she won over a few fans who had earlier criticized her, some of her existing fans didn't quite take kindly to her latest philosophy. Nonetheless, she managed to stay in news long enough. Though she courted controversy deliberately most of the time, some of her actions were misinterpreted, like the video of Open Your Heart where she's dressed as a peep-show dancer, who eventually leaves her job to walk into the sunset with a teen fan. Even though she said she meant it was all about choosing innocence over anonymous sexual encounters, it was taken as encouraging young boys to hang out at such clubs.

She did like to stir the hornet's nest. This time she did it with the video of Like A Prayer, which was supposed to be part of her endorsing Pepsi for the whole family. But the video she released on MTV was far from it. Apart from French kissing a black priest in church and witnessing a murder, she's seen dancing in a field full of burning crosses, something which incensed many, leading to widespread protests.

Just when this controversy died down, she was back in the news again, this time with her Blond Ambition world tour, which meant men in bras, Madonna in bullet-like breast plates, Madonna involved in acts of self-gratification, Madonna performing sexual skills on a bottle and discussing her adolescent lesbian experiments.

Now, thought the world feasted on such antics, she was getting too hot to handle, leading to even a ban of her video, Madonna Justify My Love on MTV. The video had a fair share of female nudity with bare breasts, lesbian play, leather fantasies, and sadomasochism. She proved why she's not called 'material girl' for nothing. She sold the video as the first 'video single,' leading to millions in sales.

Early nineties were heady days for Madonna, the newsmaker. And, she didn't just rely on her singing skills, continuing her escapades like never before. More bans were in store, especially with her next video, Madonna Erotica/ Video Single from her most explicit album, Erotica. But, it was too much even for her die-hard fans, when she next released Body Of Evidence. By then the fans had had enough of Madonna's body. The year before had seen her book Sex hitting the stands that had Madonna in various sexual positions with many, including rappers Big Daddy Kane and Vanilla Ice, actress Isabella Rosalini and model Naomi Campbell.

These experiences toned her down, though she was still ripe for controversy, like the one in Argentina for her performance in Evita. Even though Madonna ill-fit the role of their legendary former first lady, the controversy died a premature death primarily because no one outside Argentina seemed to particularly care. Things cooled down after that. Just when one was attributing change to age, Madonna did it again. This time she incensed Hindus across the globe with her MTV performance of her latest single Ray Of Light where she wore sacred Hindu drawings on her body, while her breasts were clearly and provocatively visible.

But age seems to definitely have had an impact on her. Take, for instance, the title track of American Life, which got embroiled in controversy because of its anti-war stance.

You can read the rest of our feature on Madonna in the May 2005 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.

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