Madonna reigns as pop's longest-standing queen of reinvention, fueled by a Bowie-like knack for bold ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, rendered in a style all her own.
Now the one-time Material Girl, who turns 60 Aug. 16, stands poised to chart a new stardom path – defying age as she extends one of music's most durable careers.
Madonna emerged in the early 1980s amid the rise of hip-hop and as 1960s rockers entered their 40s. Since first hitting it big with the “Like a Virgin” album, Madonna has exhibited adventurousness, outspokenness and fearlessness rivaled by few in the business.
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She’s forged her own brand of superstardom, employing equal parts truth and dare. Madonna took charge of her image, from her music and videos to fashion and publishing (her explicit 1992 coffee table tome “Sex” and her more recent children’s books, alike), generally with huge success. Her constant gossip-column presence proved harder to control (but publicity almost never hurt), while her film forays have been a mixed bag.
By some measures, Madonna is a kid. The likes of Paul McCartney and The Rolling Stones remain top acts well into their 70s. Septuagenarians Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie still draw crowds with Fleetwood Mac, and The Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde, who turns 67 next month, seems destined to never stop rocking. Tina Turner, of course, toured well into her 60s.
But few performers of any gender or age tackle performing with Madonna's physical intensity and her restless determination to take her songwriting in new directions.
Her ambitious 2015-2016 "Rebel Heart" tour pushed her lifetime concert gross to more than $1 billion. Plans for a new album – she’s hinted it will be influenced by Portuguese fado music – seem destined to extend her Guinness Book of World Record’s mark as music's top-selling woman artist.
Madonna also stands alone, in one sad sense: Her biggest 1980s pop contemporaries – Whitney Houston, Prince (who would have turned 60 in June) and Michael Jackson (who would have hit the mark Aug. 29) – are no longer with us.
Like them, she's exerted ongoing influence – including on other performers recognizable by one name, from Gaga to music’s current greatest force, Beyoncé.
Madonna’s an idol, but she’s determined to be a competitor. She's invented an entertainment empire based on a persona that’s evolving and maturing to point where, unlike her Material Girl character, numbers don't matter.
At 60, Madonna is still in vogue.