Madonna the Woman

On her new album, Madonna proves that she has come full circle as the consummate pop icon.

Her new CD, Confessions on a Dance Floor, takes us back to the beginning. Her releases from this decade have experimented with electronic music and political themes, but Confessions goes back to the dance floor roots of early Madonna.

When I heard “Hung Up,” the first single on the album, I thought she was jumping on the house music bandwagon. However, it’s catchy and samples my favorite Abba song, “Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight).” There is a refreshing lack of ballads, which were always my least favorite Madonna songs. She even drops the pretentious British shtick with “I Love New York,” a fast and repetitive ode to the city that gave her a start. Some of the songs, such as “Jump,” have a distinct trance sound.

The Material Girl became a recording artist while pursuing a dance career. She released her first album in 1982. The advent of music videos made Madonna a best-seller. In many ways, Madonna changed music history forever.

Madonna was automatically impervious to criticism for selling out because she was one of the first icons to become famous because of her music videos. It’s hard to imagine life before the music video and before the image took precedence over the music.

She was a trend-setter from the beginning. The entire country was wearing black lace gloves and floppy headbands because of the videos for “Borderline” and “Lucky Star.” As she told Dick Clark on an episode of “American Bandstand,” in the ’80s, she wanted to rule the world.

I was introduced to Madonna at the tender age of four, when my mom gave me the Like a Virgin cassette. I can’t remember life before her, partly because I was born in 1981, a week after MTV made its debut.

Critics and conservatives shunned Madonna after the controversial MTV Video Music Awards performance in 1984 when she performed “Like a Virgin” in a white wedding dress. The incident is still talked about 20 years later, even though it is tame compared to the “Like a Prayer” video, the “Sex” book, and the emergence of Madonna as a mother and wife.

Part of the ongoing criticism of Madonna comes from her calculated and ongoing quest for reinvention. In the 1980s, she was criticized for a lack of substance and being too upfront with her sexuality. This escalated all the way through the decade and into the next. Many people say she went too far with the video for “Justify My Love,” the first video ever banned by MTV. She followed with the release of “Sex.” What was next? Could she shock us even after releasing a book depicting her and other popular icons in sexually explicit photos?

In many ways, Madonna’s next adventure was her most surprising. She became a mother and a serious actress. Her big release after “Erotica” was the movie and soundtrack to “Evita.” She was panned previously for her movie roles and bad acting in movies such as “Shanghai Surprise” and “Who’s That Girl.” She has continued in the good girl role, giving birth to a second child and getting married to Guy Ritchie. Her releases during this time seemed to be more serious as she discovered the Kabbalah religion and life as a housewife. She was stretching her role as the Pop Princess.

Confessions on a Dance Floor continued the collaboration between Madonna and Mirwais Ahmadzai, who produced American Life. It contains a new and more distinctive sound because of Stuart Price, who co-produced and co-wrote most of the songs with Madonna.

Confessions shows that Madonna is still a dancer and pop star at heart. She isn’t the Material Girl or Boy Toy anymore, nor is she the daring and insecure person shown in “Truth or Dare.”

She is at her most challenging role yet: Madonna the Woman.