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 411mania » Music » Columns

The Savage Animal 04.10.13 The Album Covers of Madonna
Posted by Mikey MiGo on 04.10.2013

WrestleMania 29 has come and gone. It was pretty much exactly what you'd expect it to be. If you're a fan of wrestling you'd know the conclusions they went with were the obvious ones. I know sometimes a story will have a natural conclusion and even the obvious ending is the right one, but I don't know about that with this. Some matches, yes, but the whole show just felt lackluster as a whole.

I'll start with the good. It was cool that The Miz won the IC title, but I'm also a fan of Wade Barrett so I hope this isn't his downfall. The "official" opening match was solid. The Shield winning was awesome. Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns getting a big win like this in a pretty decent match will only add to their growing credibility. They've not had to face really any mid-carders. They've had a great debut period where they've worked tons of former World Champs and main eventers. I was pleasantly surprised that Mark Henry got the win over Ryback, but it was a pretty shitty match. The Team Hell No/Zig-E match was a bright spot as well. The best match of the night was the Undertaker/Punk thing. It was a good story, but the actual action was shitty.. I probably need to watch it again, but I think once the dust settles it'll be on par with the likes of Taker/Edge or even Taker/Batista. If this match had been on a Smackdown without the aura of Mania and the steak being on the line, it would have been a great TV match, but forgettable. The story rocked and it pulled you in. That's all you can ask for with Undertaker matches these days. It's always a big emotional war of Taker overcoming all odds to get the win. I'm not a bitter Punk fan or anything. I do think the streak should end, but not Punk.

The show wasn't fun. Nothing felt special. Del Rio has gotten so much better and came into his own, but his match with Swagger was boring. I hope the Swagger project is over. Keep Zeb and give him a new guy or even a tag team, but Jack Swagger is not a World Title guy. Stop it already. Triple H defeated Brock Lesnar because he's a much better fighter, he's stronger, he's more experienced in submission wrestling, and he's just the best thing EVER. Seriously, just ask him. If the internet isn't full of shit, Triple H has done some awesome stuff in his corporate role. His performances just don't do it for me. His promos are the same thing over and over and every time he has a big match Shawn Michaels has to come back and cut promos to REALLY sell it. He can't on his own and he's always going to be Shawn Michaels' second no matter what role he takes on. Michael's IS "Mr. WrestleMania" for a reason. It just sucked to have to see him show up dressed like an unemployed NASCAR fan for the biggest show of the year. It was a waste. The suspense and story of the match was painful. The story of the Rock/Cena match was just as painful. I don't care that Cena won, but it just didn't click. The crowd wasn't as alive as they should have been for a main event match. Cena would always have that whole "people might cheer, people might boo, but they're at least reacting!" thing going for him. I think that's done. It's hard to cheer for this guy and booing him is pointless. He's just boring and stale. I'm going to go ahead and speak for the entire universe and announce that we are all officially burnt out on this stuff. This show was a "call in" show. The WWE didn't give a shit about this show. They took our money in plans of actually attempting something big at next year's big "30". You can just tell they were holding back in terms of build, star power, and even the action. The storytelling in a WWE wrestling match has gotten really formulaic. It's like WWE fans and critics automatically think a match is "great" when it's over 15 minutes and involves kicking out of a million finishers. It's big finisher, a close 2 count tease, and then rinse and repeat until they run out of spots. It's cool for a match or two, but any match the WWE books to be a "big match" will have THIS formula. And now they'll break the random barrier around the time keeper as a big "oh my" spot. It's the same thing over and over. This was pretty much $70 down the drain. You could have went out to a decent concert, out to a nice dinner, a few nights at the movies, a few DVDs, about a dozen five dollar foot longs from Subway, booze, drugs, clothes, donated to a charity, bought a few tickets to local indie shows, or even $70 worth of paint. Watching it dry would at least last longer than four hours.

Material Grrrl.
Madonna has been around since 1979. Before that Madonna Louise Ciccone was living in Michigan dreaming of bigger and better things. In the late 70's she got started but by the mid-80's she was an established pop culture icon. With hits like "Like a Virgin", "Papa Don't Preach", "Like a Prayer", "Vogue", "Music", etc. etc. etc. It goes on and on. She has done movies, been involved in tabloid scandals, and has had tons of controversy around her. The controversy sometimes comes because of the content of her music, but most of the time it's because her visuals. It's been the way she dresses, the way she performs, the way her videos are, and just anything about her image. One aspect of her image that doesn't seem to get its share of attention is her album covers. For someone whose career is just as based on her image as much as her talent, if not more, you'd think her album covers would rock right? Let's see!

Album: Madonna
Release: 1983

Madonna's debut album is about thirty years old. This is pretty much an ancient artifact at this point. The cover to this landmark album is a simple black and white shot. It's a great photograph of her looking deeply and almost menacing into the camera. She has a short cropped up haircut, the wrists full of bracelets, and heavy eye-liner. It's not quite the Madonna image from the 80's that comes first to mind, but it works. The font is simple on the side with the only color in the entire image is the red "o" in her name. Not bad.
Rating: 7.5

Album: Like a Virgin
Release: 1984

It's another black and white photograph, but this time with a slight tone to it. Shot by Steven Meisel, Madonna knew exactly what she wanted to convey with this image and worked it like no other. This is also that image of Madonna that most of us think about from this time frame. She's in the dress, still has a punk-ish look, she's sexy, she's serious, and it's fair to argue that this could have been her best looking time period and most likely her best work as well. It's just a really good shot.
Rating: 8.0

Album: True Blue
Release: 1986

Madonna rocks the short hair in this lavish "neck up" shot. She leans her head back with a very dominate face. She looks satisfied, strong, and graceful all at the same time. The coloring is mainly the paleness of her face and platinum blond hair with shadowy blues in the background. Apparently it was shot in black and white and altered in post. The photograph is great, the style is all Warhol-like, and the result is easily one of Madonna's best images. Photographer Herb Ritts captured a stunning shot here.
Rating: 8.75

Album: Like a Prayer
Release: 1989

If you've seen The Rolling Stone's album cover for Sticky Fingers then you see this and wonder "Whadupwitdat?!" Yeah, it's pretty similar. The Madonna show is of her midsection, with hands resting on her jeans. We don't see all that much skin because of the logo blast over the naval and the big gaudy jewelry. I guess for the time it would have been "provocative" or "controversial", but its weak sauce for long term appeal.
Rating: 6.5

Album: Erotica
Release: 1992

There's not much going on here. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It's a tight shot of Madonna's "oh face". The only colors we see are white and shades of blue. The font is sprawled on there and looks hastily laid out. Siung Fat Rjia was the art director and designer on this album. I appreciate his simplistic approach for a very big and charismatic personality like Madonna. It's simple, but impactful.
Rating: 7.25

Album: Bedtime Stories
Release: 1994

Madonna is upside down, looking upward with heavy make-up, a nose ring, chopped up blond hair, and simple neon fonts. Yes folks, it's the mid-90s! She has that whole Drew Barrymore thing going on here for sure. It's an interesting shot and you can't help but look at it. Her eyes pull you in to the shot and the soft colors in the background make it easier to absorb yourself into. It's not her best cover, but it's not her worst.
Rating: 7.0

Album: Ray of Light
Release: 1998

I like this cover. It's not too gaudy and doesn't seem like it's trying too hard. Kevin Reagan's art direction is simple. It's just a side shot of her looking at the camera in motion or with wind at her back. It's heavy on blues and her natural tones, but still has a pleasant softness to it. Around this time I recall Madonna getting into more alternative religions and spirituality. Knowing that, you understand the cover just a bit more. The text is small and simple, but clear. It's not a hugely memorable cover, but a good one nonetheless.
Rating: 7.25

Album: Music
Release: 2000

Oddly enough, this won a Grammy in 2001 for "Best Recording Package". It looks nice and all, but I don't see the "award worthiness" of it. It's a rare shot of Madonna looking face on at the camera. She's wearing a blue button-up shirt, a blue-ish cowboy hat, and there's a car and random blurred shit in the background. The interesting part is the logo. It looks like a mock-up for a belt buckle, but lazily colored and put together. I like the deep contrast, the bright colors, and the actual photograph but the logo is off-putting. Really good, but a Grammy? I dunno about that…
Rating: 8.0

Album: American Life
Release: 2003

A reputable French design team put this together. They've worked with a few other acts in the past, but I don't know if any of their covers got THIS much attention. It was obviously made to make some grand political point and come off as "edgy" and "controversial". The Che Guevara looking image looks like its "tagged" or spray painted. It comes off as a lame homage to Patty Hearst or something. It's just not working for me. I know what's being attempted here, but it's lame. It's like a suburban teenage girl trying a little too hard to be "rebellious".
Rating: 4.5

Album: Confessions on a Dance Floor
Release: 2005

Not bad. It's a obviously a throw-back cover. She's putting on a disco image this time around. Her hair is reddish orange, pink top, punk shorts, and she's in low-to-the-ground dance pose. The background is blurred color lights. It's strange that when this kind of image was contemporary and popular, she was doing her own thing. It's like she decided to play catch up. It's a cool visual piece and it pops. Pretty decent.
Rating: 7.5

Album: Hard Candy
Release: 2008

I'm a big fan of this horrible album cover. The background of swirly red and white candies is gaudy. Her black clad dominatrix wrestling attire is bad ass. She even has a cool as shit championship belt. Being a wrestling fan, I can honestly say that it's a very nicely designed belt. If only the WWE could use it for the Diva's Division. It's a tacky and laughable cover. The font is silly. I like it a lot.
Rating: 8.5

Album: MDNA
Release: 2012

I like this cover for legitimate reasons. It doesn't spoon feed the typical image of Madonna to the eyes. He spreads outward in a reddish dress with red finger-less gloves. She stands behind a textured glass. It's leaves a really cool staggered effect that gives off an awesome motion vibe. This is just a visually appealing cover. I don't know ANY of the music from it, but the art is good.
Rating: 8.0

What is YOUR favorite Madonna album cover?


My problem with this movie isn't so much that I didn't like it. It's that I should have read a synopsis or a review before going into it. All I knew was that it was critically acclaimed, had award buzz, and Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman is great in it. That's all I needed. Paul Thomas Anderson wrote, directed, and produced this as well so that's always an interesting crap shoot. Luckily, all these awesome ingredients wouldn't go to waste. The movie revolves around Phoenix, playing a man in post-WWII America adjusting to the world around him. He meets a writer played by Hoffman who starts his own religion called "The Cause". They form a crazy and weird relationship. The rest is narrative. Hoffman's wife is played by Amy Adams and the rest of the cast is full of quality performances from quality performers. The story was strange until you realize "Wait a minute; this is about Scientology isn't it?" That's where me reading a review or a synopsis would have come in handy. Watching it knowing that there is some inspiration from Scientology made is much more interesting. We don't know if any of its really what goes on with their religion, but the mystery and tight-lipped nature makes it really fun to wonder about. The performances were great. Philip Seymour Hoffman probably COULD start his own religion and have a creepy amount of success with it. He's just a powerful presence in this movie. Amy Adams is just as strong and supportive as Hoffman is powerful. You could understand why sheep would flock to them. Joaquin Phoenix pulls off a character and personality that I really can't compare to anything else. He is lost, he is confused, and you really never know what he's doing or saying. You just watch him and hope for the best. The focus of rational seems so jilted that you lose your own perspective and just spectate at what's going on. Once it's over, I was left a bit awe struck. It was an experience. As great as the performances and direction was, it was a really exhausting experience. I dug it and I'd recommend it, but I don't think it's a movie I'll be racing to see again anytime soon. See it for yourself though! B

"Worst Case Scenario" is a new take on the concept of "fantasy booking". For years professional wrestling fans would spend endless hours of thinking up the coolest things that could happen. Why waste the energy? This only leads to high expectations. "Worst Case Scenario" flips that. Instead of looking through rose colored glasses, let's take a bi-weekly look at the worst possible scenarios in professional wrestling. I'm not going to be malicious or anything too mean, but I will not refrain from letting my brain come up with the worst possible shit I can. Sadly, it seems the writers and producers of mainstream TV wrestling and the mainstream iPPV level indies are doing the same thing but charging us for it. And now…

"The Montreal Screw Job Was A Work!"

If you're reading this and don't know what the "Montreal Screw Job" is then you need to bookmark this page, go read, watch, and listen to about a hundred hours of backstory. If you love professional wrestling, juice scandals, or Shakespearian-style tragedy then you'll have no problem with this. Okay, good?

Since 97, there have been tons of shoot interviews, audio interviews, and print interviews. There has been more time devoted to this historic story than pretty much any other wrestling moment I can think of including WWE buying WCW and even the Benoit tragedy. The "Screw Job" is just a really intriguing situation involving a handful of some of the most interesting personas in wrestling. Everyone has theories about this. Based on Bret Hart's side, he's the victim. Based on Shawn Michaels' side, he wasn't as guilty as people assume. Vince stands by the fact that he had to do what he had to do. The strange part is that it seems everyone involves' motives and stories change every few years.

The only person that knows EVERYTHING is Vince McMahon. He'll never go public with it and I don't blame him. Shawn has his perspective, Bret has his, Earl Hebner has his side, Triple H has one, Chyna, Owen, Bulldog, Bret's ex-wife, and even the convenient timed and placed documentary film crew has one. Here's the twist. Who really knew? Let's get creatively bad!

I'm going to throw this one out there. We'll say Vince knew because he had to. But what if the "work" was on Shawn Michaels? What if this whole thing was Triple H and Vince working together to get Bret Hart out of there? Triple H obviously knew what was up because as soon as the bell rang he was out there in his horrible pink polo shirt to pull Shawn away. I'm not saying Shawn is innocent. I'm saying that maybe he didn't know WHAT was going to happen. He just knew something would.

Then we could cross a really bizarre bridge. What if Bret Hart was in on it too? I've read others and heard others say this stuff too. Bret was under contract for a lot of money and really, he deserved it. He goes to WCW, a company who can pay him, and leaves the WWF in the biggest scandal ever. Bret gets his money, he gets his dignity, and he gets all of that. But what else? Bret was never a fan of Hogan. For years he was such a die-hard WWF flag bearer. I'm wondering if he left WWF to go to WCW and destroy them from the inside. Maybe Bret provided a little "inside" information for Vince? Maybe Bret went to WCW as a spy!

Then again, maybe THIS was the start of the Triple H/McMahon regime.

We'll never know…

I never saw the Superman reboot from a few years ago. I don't know why I didn't, but I just never did. I'll watch it someday, but most likely after I watch this new rendition. Zack Snyder is an awesome director and I can't wait to see his vision of this world come to life. Henry Cavill seems to be a perfect "young Superman" and then the cast is stacked with Amy Adams, Kevin Costner, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburn, Russell Crowe, and Christopher Meloni to name a few. This will be another origin story but I think we're due a good Superman origin story. We get to see Superman take form and fight off General Zod. I don't know what else we'd need in a movie like this. It's obviously the start of a new franchise so I guess we gotta start off somewhere. This should be a good start..er.. re-re-re-start.

That's all for now. Madonna has never been my thing, but I've never been a hater. At times she can get a little hokey with her accent and old lady attempts at controversy, but all in all she's got my respect. She's constantly evolving. That is what an artist should do, for better or worse. Next week I'll finally post that "First Impressions of The Police" column. I listen to all of their studio albums in a row. Will it suck? Who knows! After that I'll take a look at the sins of Taylor Swift, my first impression of a random electronic band I just heard of, and the album art history of R.E.M. Lots on deck. Until next time… Have a Great Week!


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