Released in the summer of 1983, Madonna’s debut album was a snapshot of the dance music that had gone back underground in the early ’80s through most of America, but was still omnipresent on the streets and radios of New York City. It’s disco that is far leaner than its ’70s incarnation, but not yet thoroughly electronic, and still rooted in R&B forms. Current yet classic, Madonna has aged the best of the singer’s early albums because it’s her most focused and insistent. Six of its eight tracks rightly became pop hits, club anthems, or both.
Reggie Lucas — a guitarist for Miles Davis who helped create sleek smashes for sophisticated soul divas Stephanie Mills and Phyllis Hyman — produced much of the album and co-writes key cuts “Borderline” and “Physical Attraction.” DJ Mark Kamins also contributed production while Madonna’s DJ boyfriend John “Jellybean” Benitez remixed tracks; Fred Zarr, whose synth sound defined countless NY ’80s jams, contributes keys; Curtis Hudson and Lisa Stevens of disco group Pure Energy pens the transcendent “Holiday,” and the rising lucky star writes the rest herself. No ballads interrupt the steady flow of Linn drum beats, synth basslines, staccato guitar licks, and churchy background vocals, and Madonna’s growling, yearning presence is already fully formed. She’s not polished, though, and that’s exactly as it should be; she’s alternately tough and yielding in a way that totally suits this material. You can feel her hunger in every utterly engaged moment.