Life and career
1958–1981: Early life and career beginnings
Madonna was born to Catholic parents Madonna Louise (née Fortin) and Silvio Anthony "Tony" Ciccone in Bay City, Michigan on August 16, 1958. Her father's parents were Italian emigrants from Pacentro, while her mother was of French-Canadian descent. Tony worked as an engineer designer for Chrysler and General Motors. Since Madonna had the same name as her mother, family members called her "Little Nonni". She has two elder brothers, Anthony and Martin, and three younger siblings, Paula, Christopher, and Melanie.
Upon being confirmed in the Catholic Church in 1966, she adopted Veronica as a confirmation name. She was raised in the Detroit suburbs of Pontiac and Avon Township (now Rochester Hills). Months before her mother died of breast cancer at age 30 on December 1, 1963, Madonna noticed changes in her behavior and personality, although she did not understand the reason. Her mother was at a loss to explain her medical condition, and often began to cry when Madonna questioned her about it. Madonna later acknowledged that she had not grasped the concept of her mother dying.
Madonna turned to her paternal grandmother for solace. The Ciccone siblings resented housekeepers and rebelled against anyone brought into their home who they thought would try to take the place of their beloved mother. Madonna later told Vanity Fair that she saw herself in her youth as a "lonely girl who was searching for something. I wasn't rebellious in a certain way. I cared about being good at something. I didn't shave my underarms and I didn't wear make-up like normal girls do. But I studied and I got good grades.... I wanted to be somebody." Terrified that her father Tony could be taken from her as well, Madonna was often unable to sleep unless she was near him.
Madonna's stepmother and father, Joan and Tony Ciccone (2009)
In 1966, Tony married the family's housekeeper Joan Gustafson. They had two children, Jennifer and Mario. Madonna resented her father for getting remarried, and began rebelling against him, which strained their relationship for many years afterward. She attended St. Frederick's and St. Andrew's Catholic Elementary Schools, and West Middle School. Madonna was known for her high grade point average, and achieved notoriety for her unconventional behavior. She would perform cartwheels and handstands in the hallways between classes, dangle by her knees from the monkey bars during recess, and pull up her skirt during class—all so that the boys could see her underwear.
Madonna's father put her in classical piano lessons, but she later convinced him to allow her to take ballet lessons. Christopher Flynn, her ballet teacher, persuaded her to pursue a career in dance. She later attended Rochester Adams High School where she became a straight-A student and a member of the cheerleading squad. After graduating, she received a dance scholarship to the University of Michigan.
In 1978, Madonna dropped out of college and relocated to New York City. She had little money while working as a waitress at Dunkin' Donuts and with modern dance troupes, taking classes at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and eventually performing with Pear Lang Dance Theater. Madonna said of her move to New York, "It was the first time I'd ever taken a plane, the first time I'd ever gotten a taxi cab. I came here with $35 in my pocket. It was the bravest thing I'd ever done." She started to work as a backup dancer for other established artists. Madonna claimed that one night, while returning from a rehearsal, a pair of men held her at knifepoint and forced her to perform fellatio. She later found the incident to be "a taste of my weakness, it showed me that I still could not save myself in spite of all the strong-girl show. I could never forget it."
While performing as a backup singer and dancer for the French disco artist Patrick Hernandez on his 1979 world tour, Madonna became romantically involved with musician Dan Gilroy and they lived in an abandoned synagogue in Corona, Queens. Together, they formed her first rock band, the Breakfast Club, for which Madonna sang and played drums and guitar. In 1980 or 1981 she left Breakfast Club and, with her then boyfriend Stephen Bray as drummer, formed the band Emmy. The two began writing songs together, but Madonna later decided to promote herself as a solo act. Her music impressed DJ and record producer Mark Kamins who arranged a meeting between Madonna and Sire Records founder Seymour Stein.
1982–1985: Madonna, Like a Virgin, and first marriage
After Madonna signed a singles deal with Sire, her debut single, "Everybody", was released in October 1982, and the second, "Burning Up", in March 1983. Both became big club hits in the United States, reaching number three on Hot Dance Club Songs chart compiled by Billboard magazine. After this success, she started developing her eponymous debut album, Madonna, which was primarily produced by Reggie Lucas of Warner Bros. However, she was not happy with the completed tracks and disagreed with Lucas' production techniques, so decided to seek additional help.
Madonna moved in with boyfriend John "Jellybean" Benitez, asking his help for finishing the album's production. Benitez remixed most of the tracks and produced "Holiday", which was her third single and her first international top-ten hit. The overall sound of Madonna was dissonant and in the form of upbeat synthetic disco, using some of the new technology of the time, like the Linn drum machine, Moog bass and the OB-X synthesizer. The album was released in July 1983 and peaked at number eight on the Billboard 200 six months later, in 1984. It yielded two top-ten singles on the Billboard Hot 100, "Borderline" and "Lucky Star".
Madonna's look and style of dressing, her performances, and her music videos influenced young girls and women. Her style became one of the female fashion trends of the 1980s. Created by stylist and jewelry designer Maripol, the look consisted of lace tops, skirts over capri pants, fishnet stockings, jewelry bearing the crucifix, bracelets, and bleached hair. Madonna's popularity continued to rise globally with the release of her second studio album, Like a Virgin, in November 1984. It became her first number-one album in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, the UK, and the US. Like a Virgin became the very first album by a female to sell over five million copies in the U.S. It was later certified diamond, and has sold over 21 million copies worldwide.
The album's title track served as its first single, and topped the Hot 100 chart for six consecutive weeks. It attracted the attention of conservative organizations who complained that the song and its accompanying video promoted premarital sex and undermined family values, and moralists sought to have the song and video banned. Madonna received huge media coverage for her performance of "Like a Virgin" at the first 1984 MTV Video Music Awards. Wearing a wedding dress and white gloves, Madonna appeared on stage atop a giant wedding cake and then rolled around suggestively on the floor. MTV retrospectively considered it one of the "most iconic" pop performances of all time. The second single, "Material Girl", reached number two on the Hot 100 and was promoted by a music video recreating Marilyn Monroe's performance of "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" from the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. While filming this video, Madonna started dating actor Sean Penn. They married on her birthday in 1985.
I was surprised by how people reacted to "Like a Virgin" because when I did that song, to me, I was singing about how something made me feel a certain way—brand-new and fresh—and everyone interpreted it as "I don't want to be a virgin anymore. Fuck my brains out!" That's not what I sang at all. "Like a Virgin" was always absolutely ambiguous.
—Madonna on the backlash for "Like a Virgin"
Madonna entered mainstream films in February 1985, beginning with a brief appearance as a club singer in Vision Quest, a romantic drama film. Its soundtrack contained two new singles, her U.S. number-one single, "Crazy for You", and another track "Gambler". She also played the title role in the 1985 comedy Desperately Seeking Susan, a film which introduced the song "Into the Groove", her first number-one single in the UK. Her popularity relegated the film as a Madonna vehicle, despite not having lead actress billing. The New York Times film critic Vincent Canby named it one of the ten best films of 1985.
Beginning in April 1985, Madonna embarked on her first concert tour in North America, The Virgin Tour, with the Beastie Boys as her opening act. She progressed from playing CBGB and the Mudd Club to playing large sporting arenas. The tour saw the peak of Madonna wannabe phenomenon, with lots of female attendees dressing like her. At that time, she released two more hits, "Angel" and "Dress You Up", making all four singles from the album peak inside the top five on the Hot 100 chart. In July, Penthouse and Playboy magazines published a number of nude photos of Madonna, taken in New York in 1978. She had posed for the photographs as she needed money at the time, and was paid as little as $25 a session. The publication of the photos caused a media uproar, but Madonna remained "unapologetic and defiant". The photographs were ultimately sold for up to $100,000. She referred to these events at the 1985 outdoor Live Aid charity concert, saying that she would not take her jacket off because "[the media] might hold it against me ten years from now."
1986–1991: True Blue, Who's That Girl, Like a Prayer, and Dick Tracy
In June 1986, Madonna released her third studio album, True Blue, which was inspired by and dedicated to Sean Penn. Rolling Stone magazine was generally impressed with the effort, writing that the album "sound[s] as if it comes from the heart". Five singles were released from the album—"Live to Tell", "Papa Don't Preach", "True Blue", "Open Your Heart", and "La Isla Bonita"—all of which reached number one in the United States or the United Kingdom. The album topped the charts in 28 countries worldwide, an unprecedented achievement at the time, and became her best-selling studio album of her career with sales of 25 million copies. True Blue was featured in the 1992 edition of Guinness World Records as the best-selling album by a woman of all time.
Madonna starred in the critically panned film Shanghai Surprise in 1986, for which she received her first Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress. She made her theatrical debut in a production of David Rabe's Goose and Tom-Tom; the film and play both co-starred Penn. The next year, Madonna was featured in the film Who's That Girl. She contributed four songs to its soundtrack, including the title track and "Causing a Commotion". Madonna embarked on the Who's That Girl World Tour in July 1987, which continued until September. It broke several attendance records, including over 130,000 people in a show near Paris, which was then a record for the highest-attended female concert of all time. Later that year, she released a remix album of past hits, titled You Can Dance, which reached number 14 on the Billboard 200. After an annulment in December 1987, Madonna filed for divorce from Penn in January 1989, citing irreconcilable differences.
In January 1989, Madonna signed an endorsement deal with soft-drink manufacturer, Pepsi. In one of her Pepsi commercials, she debuted "Like a Prayer", the lead single from her fourth studio album of same name. The corresponding music video featured many Catholic symbols such as stigmata and cross burning, and a dream of making love to a saint, leading the Vatican to condemn the video. Religious groups sought to ban the commercial and boycott Pepsi products. Pepsi revoked the commercial and canceled her sponsorship contract. "Like a Prayer" topped the charts in many countries, becoming her seventh number one on the Hot 100.
Madonna co-wrote and co-produced Like a Prayer with Patrick Leonard, Stephen Bray, and Prince. Music critic J. D. Considine from Rolling Stone hailed the album "as close to art as pop music gets ... proof not only that Madonna should be taken seriously as an artist but that hers is one of the most compelling voices of the Eighties." Like a Prayer peaked at number one on the Billboard 200 and sold 15 million copies worldwide. Other successful singles from the album were "Express Yourself" and "Cherish", both peaked at number two in the US, as well as the UK top-five "Dear Jessie" and the US top-ten "Keep It Together". By the end of the 1980s, Madonna was named as the "Artist of the Decade" by MTV, Billboard and Musician magazine.
Madonna starred as Breathless Mahoney in the film Dick Tracy (1990), with Warren Beatty playing the title role. The film went to number one on the U.S. box office for two weeks and Madonna received a Saturn Award nomination for Best Actress. To accompany the film, she released the soundtrack album, I'm Breathless, which included songs inspired by the film's 1930s setting. It also featured the U.S. number-one song "Vogue" and "Sooner or Later". While shooting the film, Madonna began a relationship with Beatty, which dissolved by the end of 1990.
In April 1990, Madonna began her Blond Ambition World Tour, which was held until August. Rolling Stone called it an "elaborately choreographed, sexually provocative extravaganza" and proclaimed it "the best tour of 1990". The tour generated strong negative reaction from religious groups for her performance of "Like a Virgin", during which two male dancers caressed her body before she simulated masturbation. In response, Madonna said, "The tour in no way hurts anybody's sentiments. It's for open minds and gets them to see sexuality in a different way. Their own and others". The live recording of the tour won Madonna her first Grammy Award, in the category of Best Long Form Music Video.
The Immaculate Collection, Madonna's first greatest-hits compilation album, was released in November 1990. It included two new songs, "Justify My Love" and "Rescue Me". The album was certified diamond by RIAA and sold over 30 million copies worldwide, becoming the best-selling compilation album by a solo artist in history. "Justify My Love" reached number one in the U.S. becoming her ninth number-one Its music video featured scenes of sadomasochism, bondage, same-sex kissing, and brief nudity. The video was deemed too sexually explicit for MTV and was banned from the network.
In December 1990 Madonna decided to leave Jennifer Lynch's film, Boxing Helena, which she had previously agreed to star in, without any explanation to the producers. Around this time, Madonna had an eight-month relationship with rapper Vanilla Ice; he ended their relationship because of Madonna's Sex book. Her first documentary film, Truth or Dare (known as In Bed with Madonna outside North America), was released in May 1991. Chronicling her Blond Ambition World Tour, it became the highest-grossing documentary of all time (surpassed eleven years later by Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine).
1992–1997: Maverick, Erotica, Sex, Bedtime Stories, Evita, and motherhood
In 1992, Madonna starred in A League of Their Own as Mae Mordabito, a baseball player on an all-women's team. It reached number one on the box-office and became the tenth highest-grossing film of the year in the U.S. She recorded the film's theme song, "This Used to Be My Playground", which became her tenth Hot 100 number-one hit, the most by any female artist at the time. The same year, she founded her own entertainment company, Maverick, consisting of a record company (Maverick Records), a film production company (Maverick Films), and associated music publishing, television broadcasting, book publishing and merchandising divisions. The deal was a joint venture with Time Warner and paid Madonna an advance of $60 million. It gave her 20% royalties from the music proceedings, the highest rate in the industry at the time, equaled only by Michael Jackson's royalty rate established a year earlier with Sony.
The first two projects released simultaneously from the venture were Madonna's fifth studio album, Erotica, and her coffee table book, Sex. Consisting of sexually provocative and explicit images, photographed by Steven Meisel, the book received strong negative reaction from the media and the general public, but sold 1.5 million copies at $50 each in a matter of days. The widespread backlash overshadowed Erotica, which ended up as her lowest selling album at the time. Despite positive reviews, it became her first studio album since her debut album not to score any chart-topper in the U.S. The album entered the Billboard 200 at number two and yielded the Hot 100 top-ten hits "Erotica" and "Deeper and Deeper". Madonna continued her provocative imagery in the 1993 erotic thriller, Body of Evidence, a film which contained scenes of sadomasochism and bondage. It was poorly received by critics. She also starred in the film Dangerous Game, which was released straight to video in North America. The New York Times described the film as "angry and painful, and the pain feels real."
In September 1993, Madonna embarked on The Girlie Show World Tour, in which she dressed as a whip-cracking dominatrix surrounded by topless dancers. In Puerto Rico she rubbed the island's flag between her legs on stage, resulting in outrage among the audience. In March 1994, she appeared as a guest on the Late Show with David Letterman, using profanity that required censorship on television, and handing Letterman a pair of her panties and asking him to smell it. The releases of her sexually explicit book, album and film, and the aggressive appearance on Letterman all made critics question Madonna as a sexual renegade. Critics and fans reacted negatively, who commented that "she had gone too far" and that her career was over.
Biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli described her ballad "I'll Remember" (1994) as an attempt to tone down her provocative image. The song was recorded for Alek Keshishian's film With Honors. She made a subdued appearance with Letterman at an awards show and appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno after realizing that she needed to change her musical direction in order to sustain her popularity. With her sixth studio album, Bedtime Stories (1994), Madonna employed a softer image to try to improve the public perception. The album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 and generated two U.S. top-five hits, "Secret" and "Take a Bow", the latter topping the Hot 100 for seven weeks, the longest period of any Madonna single. Something to Remember, a collection of ballads, was released in November 1995. The album featured three new songs: "You'll See", "One More Chance", and a cover of Marvin Gaye's "I Want You". Around this time Madonna started dating rapper Tupac Shakur, but it ended in 1994. Next year, Shakur revealed in a letter to Madonna that he ended the relationship because she was white. She later became romantically involved with fitness trainer Carlos Leon.
In the 1996 musical, Evita, Madonna played the title role of Eva Perón. For a long time, Madonna had desired to play Perón and wrote to director Alan Parker to explain why she would be perfect for the part. She said later, "This is the role I was born to play. I put everything of me into this because it was much more than a role in a movie. It was exhilarating and intimidating at the same time. And I am prouder of Evita than anything else I have done." After securing the role, she had vocal training and learned about the history of Argentina and Perón. During filming Madonna became ill several times, after finding out that she was pregnant, and from the intense emotional effort required with the scenes. After Evita's release in December 1996, Madonna's performance was praised by film critics. Zach Conner from Time magazine commented, "It's a relief to say that Evita is pretty damn fine, well cast and handsomely visualized. Madonna once again confounds our expectations." Madonna won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for the role.
The Evita soundtrack, containing songs mostly performed by Madonna, was released as a double album. It included "You Must Love Me" and "Don't Cry for Me Argentina"; the latter reached number one in countries across Europe. Madonna was presented with the Artist Achievement Award by Tony Bennett at the 1996 Billboard Music Awards. On October 14, 1996, she gave birth to Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon, her daughter with Leon. Biographer Mary Cross writes that although Madonna often worried that her pregnancy would harm Evita, she reached some important personal goals: "Now 38 years old, Madonna had at last triumphed on screen and achieved her dream of having a child, both in the same year. She had reached another turning point in her career, reinventing herself and her image with the public." Her relationship with Carlos Leon ended in May 1997 and she declared that they were "better off as best friends".
1998–2002: Ray of Light, Music, second marriage, and touring comeback
After Lourdes's birth, Madonna became involved in Eastern mysticism and Kabbalah, introduced to her by actress Sandra Bernhard. Her seventh studio album, Ray of Light, (1998) reflected this change in her perception and image. She collaborated with electronica producer William Orbit and wanted to create a sound that could blend dance music with pop and British rock. American music critic Ann Powers explained that what Madonna searched for with Orbit "was a kind of a lushness that she wanted for this record. Techno and rave were happening in the 90s and had a lot of different forms. There was very experimental, more hard stuff like Aphex Twin. There was party stuff like Fatboy Slim. That's not what Madonna wanted for this. She wanted something more like a singer-songwriter, really. And William Orbit provided her with that."
The album garnered critical acclaim, with Slant Magazine calling it "one of the great pop masterpieces of the '90s" Ray of Light was honored with four Grammy Awards—including Best Pop Album and Best Dance Recording—and was nominated for both Album of the Year and Record of the Year. Rolling Stone listed it among "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Commercially, the album peaked at number-one in numerous countries and sold more than 16 million copies worldwide. The album's lead single, "Frozen", became Madonna's first single to debut at number one in the UK, while in the U.S. it became her sixth number-two single, setting another record for Madonna as the artist with the most number two hits. The second single, "Ray of Light", debuted at number five on the Billboard Hot 100. The 1998 edition of Guinness Book of World Records documented that "no female artist has sold more records than Madonna around the world".
Madonna founded Ray of Light Foundation which focused on women, education, global development and humanitarian. She signed on to play a violin teacher in the 1999 film Music of the Heart but left the project, citing "creative differences" with director Wes Craven. She recorded the single "Beautiful Stranger" for the 1999 film Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, which earned her a Grammy Award for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media. Madonna starred in the 2000 film The Next Best Thing, and contributed two songs to the film's soundtrack; "Time Stood Still" and a cover of Don McLean's 1971 song "American Pie".
Madonna released her eighth studio album, Music, in September 2000. It featured elements from the electronica-inspired Ray of Light era, and like its predecessor, received acclaim from critics. Collaborating with French producer Mirwais Ahmadzaï, Madonna commented: "I love to work with the weirdos that no one knows about—the people who have raw talent and who are making music unlike anyone else out there. Music is the future of sound." Stephen Thomas Erlewine from AllMusic felt that "Music blows by in a kaleidoscopic rush of color, technique, style and substance. It has so many depth and layers that it's easily as self-aware and earnest as Ray of Light." The album took the number-one position in more than 20 countries worldwide and sold four million copies in the first ten days. In the U.S., Music debuted at the top, and became her first number-one album in eleven years since Like a Prayer. It produced three singles: the Hot 100 number-one "Music", "Don't Tell Me", and "What It Feels Like for a Girl". The music video of "What It Feels Like for a Girl" depicted Madonna committing acts of crime and vandalism, and was banned by MTV and VH1.
She first met director Guy Ritchie, who would later become her second husband, in the summer of 1998 and gave birth to their son Rocco John Ritchie on August 11, 2000 in Los Angeles. Rocco and Madonna suffered complications from the birth due to her experiencing placenta praevia. He was christened at Dornoch Cathedral in Dornoch, Scotland, on December 21, 2000. Madonna married Ritchie the following day at nearby Skibo Castle. After an eight-year absence of touring, Madonna started her Drowned World Tour in June 2001. The tour visited cities in the U.S. and Europe and was the highest-grossing concert tour of the year by a solo artist, earning $75 million from 47 sold-out shows. She also released her second greatest-hits collection, titled GHV2, to coincide with the home video release of the tour. GHV2 debuted at number seven on the Billboard 200.
Madonna starred in the film Swept Away, directed by Ritchie. Released direct-to-video in the UK, the film was a commercial and critical failure. In May 2002 she appeared in London in the West End play Up For Grabs at the Wyndhams Theatre (billed as 'Madonna Ritchie'), to universally bad reviews and was described as "the evening's biggest disappointment" by one. That October, she released "Die Another Day", the title song of the James Bond film Die Another Day, in which she had a cameo role, described by Peter Bradshaw from The Guardian as "incredibly wooden". The song reached number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 and was nominated for both a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song and a Golden Raspberry for Worst Song.
2003–2006: American Life and Confessions on a Dance Floor
Following Die Another Day, Madonna collaborated with fashion photographer Steven Klein in 2003 for an exhibition installation named X-STaTIC Pro=CeSS. It included photography from a photo shoot in W magazine, and seven video segments. The installation ran from March to May in New York's Deitch Projects gallery and also traveled the world in an edited form. The same year, Madonna released her ninth studio album, American Life, which was based on her observations of American society. She explained that the record was "like a trip down memory lane, looking back at everything I've accomplished and all the things I once valued and all the things that were important to me." Larry Flick from The Advocate felt that "American Life is an album that is among her most adventurous and lyrically intelligent" while condemning it as "a lazy, half-arsed effort to sound and take her seriously." The title song peaked at number 37 on the Hot 100. Its original music video was canceled as Madonna thought that the clip, featuring violence and war imagery, would be deemed unpatriotic since America was then at war with Iraq. With four million copies sold worldwide, American Life was the lowest-selling album of her career at that point.
Madonna gave another provocative performance later that year at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards, when she kissed singers Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera while singing the track "Hollywood". In October 2003, she provided guest vocals on Spears' single "Me Against the Music". It was followed with the release of Remixed & Revisited. The EP contained remixed versions of songs from American Life and included "Your Honesty", a previously unreleased track from the Bedtime Stories recording sessions. Madonna also signed a contract with Callaway Arts & Entertainment to be the author of five children's books. The first of these books, titled The English Roses, was published in September 2003. The story was about four English schoolgirls and their envy and jealousy of each other. The book debuted at the top of The New York Times Best Seller list and became the fastest-selling children's picture book of all time.
The next year Madonna and Maverick sued Warner Music Group and its former parent company Time Warner, claiming that mismanagement of resources and poor bookkeeping had cost the company millions of dollars. In return, Warner filed a countersuit alleging that Maverick had lost tens of millions of dollars on its own. The dispute was resolved when the Maverick shares, owned by Madonna and Ronnie Dashev, were purchased by Warner. Madonna and Dashev's company became a wholly owned subsidiary of Warner Music, but Madonna was still signed to Warner under a separate recording contract.
In mid-2004 Madonna embarked on the Re-Invention World Tour in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. It became the highest-grossing tour of 2004, earning around $120 million and became the subject of her documentary I'm Going to Tell You a Secret. In November 2004, she was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame as one of its five founding members, along with the Beatles, Elvis Presley, Bob Marley, and U2. Rolling Stone ranked her at number 36 on its special issue of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, featuring an article about her written by Britney Spears. In January 2005, Madonna performed a cover version of the John Lennon song "Imagine" at Tsunami Aid. She also performed at the Live 8 benefit concert in London in July 2005.
Her tenth studio album, Confessions on a Dance Floor, was released in November 2005. Musically the album was structured like a club set composed by a DJ. It was acclaimed by critics, with Keith Caulfield from Billboard commenting that the album was a "welcome return to form for the Queen of Pop." The album won a Grammy Award for Best Electronic/Dance Album. Confessions on a Dance Floor and its lead single, "Hung Up", went on to reach number one in 40 and 41 countries respectively, earning a place in Guinness World Records. The song contained a sample of ABBA's "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)", only the second time that ABBA has allowed their work to be used. ABBA songwriter Björn Ulvaeus remarked "It is a wonderful track—100 per cent solid pop music." "Sorry", the second single, became Madonna's twelfth number-one single in the UK.
Madonna embarked on the Confessions Tour in May 2006, which had a global audience of 1.2 million and grossed over $193.7 million, becoming the highest-grossing tour to that date for a female artist. Madonna used religious symbols, such as the crucifix and Crown of Thorns, in the performance of "Live to Tell". It caused the Russian Orthodox Church and the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia to urge all their members to boycott her concert. At the same time, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) announced officially that Madonna had sold over 200 million copies of her albums alone worldwide.
While on tour Madonna founded charitable organization Raising Malawi and partially funded an orphanage in and traveling to that country. While there, she decided to adopt a boy named David Banda in October 2006. The adoption raised strong public reaction, because Malawian law requires would-be parents to reside in Malawi for one year before adopting, which Madonna did not do. She addressed this on The Oprah Winfrey Show, saying that there were no written adoption laws in Malawi that regulated foreign adoption. She described how Banda had been suffering from pneumonia after surviving malaria and tuberculosis when she first met him. Banda's biological father, Yohane, commented, "These so-called human rights activists are harassing me every day, threatening me that I am not aware of what I am doing ... They want me to support their court case, a thing I cannot do for I know what I agreed with Madonna and her husband." The adoption was finalized in May 2008.
2007–2011: Filmmaking, Hard Candy, and business ventures
Madonna released and performed the song "Hey You" at the London Live Earth concert in July 2007. She announced her departure from Warner Bros. Records, and declared a new $120 million, ten-year 360 deal with Live Nation. In 2008, Madonna produced and wrote I Am Because We Are, a documentary on the problems faced by Malawians; it was directed by Nathan Rissman, who worked as Madonna's gardener. She also directed her first film Filth and Wisdom. The plot of the film revolved around three friends and their aspirations. The Times said she had "done herself proud" while The Daily Telegraph described the film as "not an entirely unpromising first effort [but] Madonna would do well to hang on to her day job." On March 10, 2008, Madonna was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in her first year of eligibility. She did not sing at the ceremony but asked fellow Hall of Fame inductees and Michigan natives The Stooges to perform her songs "Burning Up" and "Ray of Light".
Madonna released her eleventh studio album, Hard Candy, in April 2008. Containing R&B and urban pop influences, the songs on Hard Candy were autobiographical in nature and saw Madonna collaborating with Justin Timberlake, Timbaland, Pharrell Williams and Nate "Danja" Hills. The album debuted at number one in 37 countries and on the Billboard 200. Caryn Ganz from Rolling Stone complimented it as an "impressive taste of her upcoming tour", while BBC correspondent Mark Savage panned it as "an attempt to harness the urban market".
Madonna performing on the 2009 leg of the Sticky & Sweet Tour
, which was the second highest-grossing tour of all time
"4 Minutes" was released as the album's lead single and peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100. It was Madonna's 37th top-ten hit on the chart and pushed her past Elvis Presley as the artist with the most top-ten hits. In the UK she retained her record for the most number-one singles for a female artist; "4 Minutes" becoming her thirteenth. At the 23rd Japan Gold Disc Awards, Madonna received her fifth Artist of the Year trophy from Recording Industry Association of Japan, the most for any artist. To further promote the album, she embarked on the Sticky & Sweet Tour, her first major venture with Live Nation. With a total gross of $408 million, it ended up as the second highest-grossing tour of all time, behind The Rolling Stones's A Bigger Bang Tour. It remained the highest-grossing tour by a solo artist until Roger Waters' The Wall Live surpassed it in 2013.
Life with My Sister Madonna, a book released in July 2008 by Madonna's brother Christopher, debuted at number two on The New York Times bestseller list. The book caused a rift between Madonna and Christopher, because of unsolicited publication. By fall, Madonna filed for divorce from Ritchie, citing irreconcilable differences. In December 2008, Madonna's spokesperson announced that Madonna had agreed to a divorce settlement with Ritchie, the terms of which granted him between £50–60 million ($64.1–76.92 million), a figure that included the couple's London pub and residence and Wiltshire estate in England. The marriage was dissolved by District Judge Reid by decree nisi at the clinical Principal Registry of the Family Division in High Holborn, London. They entered a compromise agreement for Rocco and David, then aged eight and three respectively, and divided the children's time between Ritchie's London home and Madonna's in New York, where the two were joined by Lourdes. Soon after, Madonna applied to adopt Chifundo "Mercy" James from Malawi in May 2009, but the country's High Court rejected the application because Madonna was not a resident there. She re-appealed, and on June 12, 2009, the Supreme Court of Malawi granted her the right to adopt Mercy.
Madonna concluded her contract with Warner by releasing her third greatest-hits album, Celebration, in September 2009. It contained the new songs "Celebration" and "Revolver" along with 34 hits spanning her musical career with the label. Celebration reached number one in several countries, including Canada, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom. She appeared at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards to speak in tribute to deceased pop singer Michael Jackson. Madonna ended the 2000s as the best-selling single artist of the decade in the U.S. and the most-played artist of the decade in the UK. Billboard also announced her as the third top-touring artist of the decade—behind only The Rolling Stones and U2—with a gross of over $801 million, 6.3 million attendance and 244 sell-outs of 248 shows.
Madonna performed at the Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief concert in January 2010. Her third live album, Sticky & Sweet Tour, was released in April, debuting at number ten on the Billboard 200. It also became her 20th top-ten on the Oricon Albums Chart, breaking the Beatles' record for the most top-ten album by an international act in Japan. Madonna granted American television show, Glee, the rights to her entire catalog of music, and the producers created an episode featuring her songs exclusively. She also collaborated with Lourdes and released the Material Girl clothing line, inspired by her punk-girl style when she rose to fame in the 1980s. In October, she opened a series of fitness centers around the world named Hard Candy Fitness, and three months later unveiled a second fashion brand called Truth or Dare which included footwear, perfumes, underclothing, and accessories.
Madonna directed her second feature film, W.E., a biographical account about the affair between King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. Co-written with Alek Keshishian, the film was premiered at the 68th Venice International Film Festival in September 2011. Critical and commercial response to the film was negative. Madonna contributed the ballad "Masterpiece" for the film's soundtrack, which won her a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.
2012–2016: Super Bowl XLVI halftime show, MDNA, and Rebel Heart
In February 2012, Madonna headlined the Super Bowl XLVI halftime show at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. Her performance was visualized by Cirque Du Soleil and Jamie King and featured special guests LMFAO, Nicki Minaj, M.I.A. and Cee Lo Green. It became the then most-watched Super Bowl halftime show in history with 114 million viewers, higher than the game itself. During the event, she performed "Give Me All Your Luvin'", the lead single from her twelfth studio album, MDNA. It became her record-extending 38th top-ten single on the Billboard Hot 100.
Madonna performing during The MDNA Tour
, 2012. The tour became the tenth highest-grossing tour of all time after its completion.
MDNA was released in March 2012 and saw collaboration with various producers, including William Orbit and Martin Solveig. It was her first release under her three-album deal with Interscope Records, which she signed as a part of her 360 deal with Live Nation. She was signed to the record label since Live Nation was unable to distribute music recordings. MDNA became Madonna's fifth consecutive studio record to debut at the top of the Billboard 200. The album was mostly promoted by The MDNA Tour, which lasted from May to December 2012. The tour featured controversial subjects such as violence, firearms, human rights, nudity and politics. With a gross of $305.2 million from 88 sold-out shows, it became the highest-grossing tour of 2012 and then-tenth highest-grossing tour of all time. Madonna was named the top-earning celebrity of the year by Forbes, earning an estimated $125 million.
Madonna collaborated with Steven Klein and directed a 17-minute film, secretprojectrevolution, which was released on BitTorrent in September 2013. With the film she launched the Art for Freedom initiative, which helped to promote "art and free speech as a means to address persecution and injustice across the globe". The website for the project included over 3,000 art related submissions since its inception, with Madonna regularly monitoring and enlisting other artists like David Blaine and Katy Perry as guest curators.
By 2013, Madonna's Raising Malawi had built ten schools to educate 4,000 children in Malawi at a value of $400,000. When Madonna visited the schools in April 2013, President of Malawi Joyce Banda accused her of exaggerating the charity's contribution. Madonna was saddened by Banda's statement, but clarified that she had "no intention of being distracted by these ridiculous allegations". It was later confirmed that Banda had not approved the statement released by her press team. Madonna also visited her hometown Detroit during May 2014 and donated funds to help with the city's bankruptcy. The same year, her business ventures extended to skin care products with the launch of MDNA Skin in Tokyo, Japan.
Madonna's thirteenth studio album, Rebel Heart, was released in March 2015, three months after its thirteen demos leaked onto the Internet. Unlike her previous efforts, which involved only a few people, Madonna worked with a large number of collaborators, including Avicii, Diplo and Kanye West. Introspection was listed as one of the foundational themes prevalent on the record, along with "genuine statements of personal and careerist reflection". Madonna explained to Jon Pareles of The New York Times that although she has never looked back at her past endeavors, reminiscing about it felt right for Rebel Heart. Music critics responded positively towards the album, calling it her best effort in a decade. Rebel Heart became Madonna's first album to miss the top position of the Billboard 200 since Ray of Light, but reached number one in other major music markets, including Australia, Canada, Germany and Italy.
From September 2015 to March 2016, Madonna embarked on the Rebel Heart Tour to promote the album. The tour traveled throughout North America, Europe and Asia and was Madonna's first visit to Australia in 23 years, where she also performed a one-off show for her fans. Rebel Heart Tour grossed a total of $169.8 million from the 82 shows, with over 1.045 million ticket sales. While on tour, Madonna became engaged in a legal battle with Ritchie, over the custody of their son Rocco. The dispute started when Rocco decided to continue living in England with Ritchie when the tour had visited there, while Madonna wanted him to travel with her. Court hearings took place in both New York and London. After multiple deliberations, Madonna withdrew her application for custody and decided to resolve the matter privately.
In October 2016, Billboard named Madonna its Woman of the Year. Her "blunt and brutally honest" speech about ageism and sexism at the ceremony received widespread coverage in the media. The next month Madonna, who actively supported Hillary Clinton during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, performed an impromptu acoustic concert at Washington Square Park in support of Clinton's campaign. Upset that Donald Trump won the election, Madonna spoke out against him at the Women's March on Washington, a day after his inauguration. She sparked controversy when she said that she "thought a lot about blowing up the White House". The following day, Madonna asserted she was "not a violent person" and that her quote had been "taken wildly out of context".
2017–present: Upcoming 14th studio album and other projects
In February 2017, Madonna adopted four-year-old twin sisters from Malawi named Esther and Stella, and she moved to live in Lisbon, Portugal in summer 2017 with her adoptive children. In July she opened the Mercy James Institute for Pediatric Surgery and Intensive Care in Malawi, a children's hospital built by her Raising Malawi charity. The live album chronicling the Rebel Heart Tour was released in September 2017, and won Best Music Video for Western Artists at the 32nd Japan Gold Disc Award. That month, Madonna launched MDNA Skin in select stores in the United States, after getting "tired of hearing people complain here that they can't get it in America". A few months earlier, the auction house Gotta Have Rock and Roll had put up Madonna's personal items like love letters from Tupac Shakur, cassettes, underwear and a hairbrush for sale. Darlene Lutz, an art dealer who had initiated the auction, was sued by Madonna's representatives to stop the proceedings. Madonna clarified that her celebrity status "does not obviate my right to maintain my privacy, including with regard to highly personal items". Madonna lost the case and the presiding judge ruled in favor of Lutz who was able to prove that in 2004 Madonna made a legal agreement with her for selling the items.
In January 2018, Madonna announced on Instagram that she had started working on her 14th studio album. She later clarified the album would be infused with Portuguese fado music, with its release scheduled in 2019. Four months later, she appeared at the 2018 Met Gala and performed a new song called "Beautiful Game", along with "Like a Prayer" and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". Her other projects include directing the MGM film, Taking Flight, based on ballet dancer Michaela DePrince's memoir, as well as adapting author Andrew Sean Greer's novel, The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, for film. At the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards, Madonna paid tribute to singer Aretha Franklin, who had died the previous week.