"Like a Virgin" (1984), directed by Mary Lambert, was shot in Venice, Italy and featured Madonna dancing on a gondola and in a wedding dress.
In 1985, Madonna entered mainstream films, beginning with a brief appearance as a club singer in the film Vision Quest. The soundtrack to the film contained her second number one pop hit, the Grammy-nominated ballad "Crazy for You." Later that year she appeared in the commercially and critically successful film Desperately Seeking Susan, with her comedic performance winning her positive reviews. The film introduced the dance song "Into the Groove", which was released as a B-side to her single "Angel", peaking at number five in the U.S. In Europe, "Into the Groove" became a major hit and her first U.K. number one.
She embarked on her first concert tour in the U.S. titled The Virgin Tour supported by The Beastie Boys.
In July 1985, Penthouse and Playboy magazines published a number of black and white nude photos of Madonna taken in the late 1970s. The publications caused a swell of publicity and public discussion of Madonna, who remained unapologetic and defiant. Speaking to a global audience at the Live Aid charity concert at the height of the controversy, Madonna made a critical reference to the media and vowed that, for her performance, she would not give her critics the satisfaction of taking off her jacket, despite the sweltering heat.
1986-1991: Artistic development
The music video for "True Blue" (1986), directed by James Foley, featured a 1950s theme.
Madonna's 1986 album True Blue presented a more musically and thematically mature album than its predecessors, prompting Rolling Stone to declare, 'singing better than ever, Madonna stakes her claim as the pop poet of lower-middle-class America.' The album included the soulful ballad "Live To Tell", which she wrote for the film At Close Range, starring then-husband Sean Penn. The album was also the first to credit her as producer. She collaborated with composer Patrick Leonard, who would become a long-time collaborator and friend. True Blue reached #1 in thirty-eight countries, and sold over 40 million copies worldwide, becoming her most successful studio album internationally,  and produced five successful singles, including three #1 entries in the United States.
The music videos for the album True Blue displayed Madonna's continued interest in pushing the boundaries of the video medium to a cinematic level, including elaborate art direction, cinematography and film devices such as character and plot. Though Madonna had already made videos expressing her sexuality, she added religious iconography, gender archetypes and social issues to her oeuvre, and these concepts would carry through her work for years to come. One notable example was the "Open Your Heart" video, her first collaboration with French photographer Jean-Baptiste Mondino.
In 1987, Madonna starred in the modestly successful film Who's That Girl?, and contributed four songs to its soundtrack, including the film's title track, which became an international hit and Madonna's sixth #1 single in the US.
In 1987, the star embarked on the successful Who's That Girl World Tour, beginning her long association with backing vocalists and dancers Donna DeLory and Niki Haris, and moving closer to the more elaborately staged theater-inspired concert tour. It also marked her first run-in with the Vatican, with the Pope urging fans not to attend her performances in Italy. The Vatican later expressed outrage at the unveiling of a racy 13-foot tall statue of Madonna, in the Italian town of Pacentro.
Later that year, Madonna released a remix album, You Can Dance, which included one new track, "Spotlight". Although the album did not reach the Top 10, it was certified platinum in the US.
"Like a Prayer" (1989) caused controversy as it was condemned by the Vatican for its 'blasphemous' mixture of Catholic symbolism and eroticism.
Madonna's fourth album, 1989's Like a Prayer, presented more reflective and personal lyrics and a more mature vocal style. Co-written and co-produced with Patrick Leonard and Stephen Bray, it settled her as a serious pop artist. Most of the songs were recorded with all the musicians playing in the same room, which gave the album the straightforwardness and sincerity of a live recording. She teamed up with Prince on a duet, who also lent his talent as a guitarist on two songs. Like a Prayer garnered Madonna the strongest reviews of her career and attracted a more mature audience. All Music Guide described the album as 'her best and most consistent', while Rolling Stone stated that the album is '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 produced five singles, including the #1 "title track" and "So much screwing."
In early 1989, Madonna signed an endorsement deal with soft drink manufacturer Pepsi, which would debut her new song "Like a Prayer" in a Pepsi commercial that Madonna herself would also appear in. The commercial used a child's birthday party as a plot device, and was not controversial in itself; however, the following day, the music video for the song premiered on MTV. It featured many Catholic symbols, including stigmata, and was condemned by the Vatican for its "blasphemous" mixture of Catholic symbolism and eroticism. It depicted a black man, who comes to the aid of woman being murdered, arrested for the crime and jailed, until Madonna, who has witnessed the crime, secures his release. Although the video denounced racism, Madonna was criticized for her use of symbols such as burning crosses. The public linked the commercial with the music video, and although they were different, Pepsi was subsequently bombarded with complaints and threats of boycotts; Pepsi withdrew the commercial from broadcasting, but Madonna was allowed to keep her five million dollar fee, as Pepsi had voided their contract. Sales for the album increased during the ensuing publicity, and it reached #1 on the US albums chart, ultimately being certified 4x platinum.
" "Cherish" (1989) (file info) - play in browser (beta)
o Touches upon minorsubject matter. It became the third single release from Like a Prayer and another Top 10 hit worldwide.
" "Vogue" (1990) (file info) - play in browser (beta)
o A tribute to 'The Golden Age of Hollywood', it became Madonna's biggest hit of the 90s, reaching #1 in the UK and the US
" "Justify My Love" (1990) (file info) - play in browser (beta)
o Featuring whispered and spoken vocals, it became one of Madonna's most controversial singles, due to its sexually explicit lyrics and music video.
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In 1990, Madonna starred as Breathless Mahoney in a film adaptation of the popular comic book series Dick Tracy. To accompany the launching of the film, as well as to provide more material for her upcoming Blonde Ambition Tour, she released I'm Breathless, a novelty album, with songs inspired by the film's 1930s setting. It featured the #1 dance-floor anthem "Vogue" (which was a hommage to the Hollywood stars), the Gershwin-esque "Something To Remember", and