Madonna The Idol

It’s been said that you achieve true fame if the world knows you by just one name. Madonna Louise Cicccone, or else Madonna, kept just one name but reinvented her image countless times, becoming one of the most successful performers of all times. Educated in Catholic schools as a child, Madonna danced her way to a four year scholarship at the University of Michigan and then New York’s Alvin Ailey School. After recording her debut album in 1983, her rise was meteoric, aided by the popularity of MTV, as she shocked and dared the public with her visible black lacy brassieres, bare midriff, outspokenness about virginity, abortion and out-of-wedlock births.

Madonna was born in Bay City, Michigan, the eldest of eight children (surely an error here as she is the eldest daughter, but third eldest child). Her father, Tony, was an engineer at Chrysler, her mother, whose name she was given, a housewife. Later, the family was to move south to Pontiac where she shared a room with two sisters. As a girl, Madonna spent her summers working in her father’s vegetable garden weeding and spraying insecticide, or she was sent to her grandparents’ house in Pennsylvania where she would be expected to work on the house and garden. The regime was rooted in instilling ethical work.

The family was devoutly Catholic. On Good Friday, her mother would place a purple cloth over all the religious pictures and statues in the house. This was before she fell ill with breast cancer, which would take her life when Madonna was six. Like many children who lose a parent, Madonna expected her mother to return. But nobody talked about it. For years it seemed that way. Three years later, her father married again, this time to the family housekeeper who never acknowledged Madonna as her mother did. Going t church before school, doing housework that was assigned by dad’s chore chart, and no TV. This, incidentally, is her top tip for successful parenthood; no TV. Madonna was expected to defrost the freezer, wash the dishes, baby sit, and vacuum. She was a voracious reader and loved the stories her mother told her about a garden involving vegetables and a rabbit.

Like many teenagers, she knew that she would leave for the big city as quickly as she could. She says that she knew she wanted to leave Michigan from the age of five. She lasted one term at her Home-state University on a dance scholarship. Her heart wasn’t in it. Even though she’d never visited, there was really only one place for her: New York, the true home of the ambitious. She arrived, in her late teens, at La Guardia airport and took a taxi to Times Square. She had no money or connections and lived hand to mouth, eventually settling in a tenement on the Lower East Side at 4th and Avenue B. Every weekend she went dubbing in search of A&R personnel and DJs who might be able to assist her career. She recalls dancing to ‘Don’t You Want Me’ by the Human League at New York’s famous Danceteria club. With her first royalty paycheck, she bought a synthesizer and a bike which she had to carry up all six flights to her new apartment, a loft on Broome and West Broadway. Deep down she also carried much resentment about her family, was often unhappy and relied greatly on music, which she has written was ‘a vehicle for transcending misery (the story of my life)’ to get her through thin times.

Anyway, it is a pretty strange thing to sit and think about the fact that Madonna is one of the most famous women in the world. Fame is the defining aspect of her life, even more than her music, style, or the movies. Madonna will be remembered for being one of the most relentlessly self-realized people of the century. Along with Monroe and Ali, Madonna will be remembered for defining the times by inventing and changing and promoting herself with ambition and, in so doing, providing us with a way of understanding ourselves and remembering what we used to dance to, who we used to be.

The Justin Timberlake Story

Justin Timberlake was born on January 31, 1981 and is a Grammy Award winning singer. He first became famous as the lead singer of the 1990’s pop band ‘N Sync and later released a solo album in 2002 entitled Justified, selling over seven million copies worldwide.

Timberlake was born in Memphis, TN and began his entertainment career as a child, performing on Star Search and having a role in the Disney Channel variety show, The New Mickey Mouse Club. In 1996, Timberlake joined ‘N Sync, a five-part boy band that released four platinum albums in the U.S. and holds the record for the highest first week sales in music history, thanks to the strong debut of the group’s No Strings Attached album. In 2002, the group went on hiatus and Timberlake decided to launch a solo career.

In 2002, Timberlake released his debut solo album, Justified with lead single, “Like I Love You”, a song he performed at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards. The album, which had more of an R&B feel to it as opposed to just pop, claimed the #2 spot on the Billboard Top 200, selling an estimated 439,000 copies in its first week of release. The album would go on to sell 3.5 million units in the U.S. and over 7 million worldwide. From 2002 to 2003, Timberlake would tour with Christina Aguilera on her Stripped tour.

Justin Timberlake has recently made an effort to trade his squeaky clean boy band teenage image for more of an edgy, sexualized persona. Since going solo, Timberlake as also collaborated with the Black Eyed Peas, Nelly, and Snoop Dogg. Timberlake’s biggest run-in with controversy came during the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII in February of 2004. Performing with Janet Jackson in front of a TV audience of over 140 million viewers, Timberlake ripped off a part of Jackson’s black leather costume in a “costume reveal” meant to go along with a portion of his song’s (“Rock Your Body”) lyrics, “better have you naked by the end of this song”. The incident, referred to as the “wardrobe malfunction” was replayed countless times by the media.

In 2004, both Timberlake and Jackson were banned from the 2004 Grammy Awards, unless they consented to apologize for the “wardrobe malfunction” at the event. While Jackson declined, Timberlake attended and issued a scripted apology. That very night, Timberlake would take home two Grammy Awards, one for Best Pop Vocal Album for Justified and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for “Cry Me a River”. In the following year, Timberlake took a break from singing for a couple months to recover from an operation that removed nodules from his throat. In the summer of 2005, he founded his own record company, JayTee records. Timberlake also co-owns his own clothing line, William Rast, along with his close friend, Trace Ayala. Timberlake is currently dating popular actress, Cameron Diaz.

Timberlake is also an aspiring actor. He played a model in the 2000 made-for-TV film, Model Behavior, and in the following year, made an appearance in the film, On the Line, which starred fellow ‘N Sync member, Lance Bass. Timberlake will appear in several films in the near future, including Alpha Dog, Black Snake Moan, Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales, Edison Force, and will also be the voice of a young King Arthur in the popular animated film, Shrek 3, scheduled to be released in 2007. Timberlake’s sophomore solo album, FutureSex/Love Sounds, is scheduled to be released on September 12 2006. The album, produced by Timbaland, Will.i.am, Rick Rubin, and Timberlake himself, includes guest vocals by Nelly Furtado and Snoop Dogg. The album’s lead single, SexyBack, first started to receive radio play in early July of 2006.

Eminem: The Real Slim Shady

Marshall Bruce Mathers III was born on October 17, 1972, in St. Joseph, Missouri. His stage name is Eminem (both of his initials put together) and has established himself as one of the most talented, but also one of the most controversial, rappers of this era. Mathers is both a Grammy and Oscar award-winner.

Mathers was raised in Warren, Michigan, and his early years in that city inspired his film, titled 8 Mile. The majority of his childhood was spent moving back and forth between St. Joseph, Missouri and Detroit, Michigan. His father deserted the family when Mathers was 15 months old, which did not help his family’s financial situation. Thus, Mathers and his family were forced to move constantly from home to home and community to community, which conceivably left him finding himself to be an outcast in new neighborhoods and schools.

Mathers had a shaky relationship with his mother, Debbie Mathers. In multiple interviews, he has stated that his mother abused drugs, in addition to accusing her of having Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a disorder in which the sufferer feigns or exaggerates symptoms of illnesses to gain attention, treatment, or sympathy. Though he did not have very affectionate feelings for his mother, he was especially close to his uncle, Ronald Dean “Ronnie” Polkingharn, who would become Mathers’s best friend. It was Polkingharn, who first introduced Mathers to hip hop. In 1991, Polkingharn committed suicide, which would leave Mathers devastated, so much so that he would abandon his musical aspirations for a year.

Upon failing ninth grade for his third time, Mathers would drop out of Lincoln High School at the age of 17, but not before meeting his future ex-wife Kimberly Ann “Kim” Scott and befriending the late rapper Proof, who would become his best friend. In 1995, Kim gave birth to Hailie Jade Scott, Mathers’ first and only child. Hailie is mentioned in several of Mathers’ hit singles, including “Hailie’s Song,” “Mockingbird,” and “When I’m Gone”.

Mathers, began performing at the young age of 13 and would make a name for himself as a young adult in the hip-hop underground, thanks in part to his unique style, lyrical content, as well as being white in a predominantly black genre. With his underground status gaining momentum thanks to countless rap battles and the release of his first independent album, Infinite, Mathers would eventually be discovered by rapper-producer Dr. Dre. With Dr. Dre in his corner as producer, Mathers would release his debut studio album, The Slim Shady LP, in 1999. At the end of the year, the album reached triple platinum status, thanks to hit singles such as, “My Name Is,” “97 Bonnie and Clyde,” and “Guilty Conscience.” Mathers’ album would also win Best Rap Album at the 2000 Grammy Awards, including Best Rap Solo Performance for “My Name Is”.

Mathers would follow up his successful debut, with The Marshall Mathers LP, which would go on to become an even bigger success debuting at the top of U.S. and U.K. album charts and achieving Diamond status (10 million copies sold) in the U.S. and selling 21 million worldwide. The album, which includes hit singles, “The Real Slim Shady,” “The Way I Am”, and “Stan,” would also win Best Rap Album, in addition to Best Rap Solo Performance for “The Real Slim Shady” honors at the 2001 Grammy Awards.

Mather’s next album, The Eminem Show, which includes hit singles, “Without Me,” “Cleanin’ Out My Closet,” and “Sing for the Moment,” also topped U.S. and U.K. music charts during its debut release in the summer of 2002, selling about 19 million copies worldwide. The album would be Mather’s second album to be nominated for the coveted Grammy Award, Album of the Year (the other album being The Marshall Mathers LP). While failing to win Album of the Year honors, Mathers would take home Best Rap Album for the third year in a row.

In November 2002, Mathers made his acting debut with the semi-autobiographical 8 Mile, which would open at the top of the box office its opening weekend and go on to gross over $215,300,000 worldwide and another $130,000,000 in US home video sales. Mathers would also release a soundtrack for the film, 8 Mile Soundtrack, which would also debut at the top of U.S. and U.K. album charts. The album’s lead single, “Lose Yourself” would become an instant hit, winning Best Rap Song at the Grammy Awards, as well as an Oscar for Best Song at the 2002 Academy Awards.

In 2004, Mathers would release Encore, an album that would debut at #1 in both the U.S. and U.K. markets and eventually sell over 11 million copies worldwide. The album has produced hit singles including “Just Lose It,” “Like Toy Soldiers,” and “Mosh.” One year later, Mathers would release a greatest hits collection, Curtain Call: The Hits, which would also debut at the top of music charts in both the U.S. and U.K. The album, which also includes new hit singles, “Shake That” and “When I’m Gone,” to date has sold over 6 million units worldwide.

Till this day, Mathers is revered for his unique ability to change his rap pace and style multiple times within a song, while keeping pace with the beat. Furthermore, his ability to write creative lyrics has earned him much praise from both his fans and music critics alike. However, not everyone appreciates his lyrical content. Some critics like GLAAD have denounced many of his lyrics as being homophobic, misogynistic, and too violent. Despite the public outcries, Mathers has won several Grammy awards, an Oscar, and is revered as one of the top rappers in the industry. He has announced that he is taking a break from his solo career, but not retiring. Mathers continues to produce and collaborate with Shady/Aftermath and G-Unit artists.

Rap Is More than Music

This is a style that stays aside all the other music trends. Not aside, but somewhat deeper. The reason is it is a reflection of the race, the plurality of people united by roots and origin. Rap is the culture of Afro-Americans, the continuation of their language and traditions. Rap is a mixture of speech and music, actually it is speech laid on music or beat it’s better to say. And when we claim that people are united through music, meaning every single human being on this planet, rap unites the ones close to blood by music and then everybody else, either welcoming or being hostile to a newcomer. What attracts people in rap? Is it catchy? Maybe. Those non-natives to rap often state the flow of speech is too quick and it is difficult to differentiate the words. Sometimes it seems rap music is only for those from the cradle. Foreigners are not invited.

Rap is classified as urban poetry of lyrical resistance. Thus it is not the music for village like country music. It is the gathering power of those united by music in big cities. The aim is to resist the grieves because misfortunes are more dramatic and numerous in urban areas.

Rap does not only speak to the mind and emotions, but speaks to the society all around people, for people. If the words or courage to say those words are not there, the subconscious takes over and the Rap lyrics kick in.

But once captured by the beat, most people – mainly younger ones – begin to hear the words, and the words may describe just how they are feeling that day. If the boss came to work with an agenda to screw everyone, some people will “feel” the words and the beat, especially when enclosed in a car doing 70 on the freeway. It’s something about riding with the music turned full-blast that has a way of absorbing the mind and supplying a means of temporal escape.

Some songs have innocent words that impress upon the mind to be released later at the water cooler. Some choruses are catchy and when sung by certain artist will stay within the subconscious long after. Various rappers have unique voices that some people find attractive or along the same vocal tone as their own voice, which it makes it easier to sing along.

First goes the beat, and then goes the lyrics! It is not as smooth and tender as classical music, not as glossy as pop, but it has the scream of pain of real emotion of the world’s harshness. One may even state that rap is the most pain expressing music style. Those who sing it or it is better to say read it revive their feelings not only concerning love, as most of the other styles do. Their message is about life and the problems, especially the ones of the Afro-American people. The music of pain and oppression, rap is a remedy to the latter. Let all the pills be like that!

U2: Legends of Rock

U2 was founded in 1976 and features Bono (Paul David Hewson) on vocals, The Edge (David Howell Evans) on lead guitar, keyboards, and background vocals, Adam Clayton on bass guitar, and Larry Mullen, Jr. on drums and background vocals. The band found popularity in the mid 1980’s and is still wildly popular today. They have sold about 50.5 million albums in the United States alone, and approximately 170 million across the globe.

Six of U2 albums were #1 in the U.S., and the band has won more Grammy Awards than any living or past recording artists, with 22 under their belt. In its April 2004 issue, Rolling Stone magazine, named U2 in its 50 “greatest rock & roll artists of all time” and in the following year, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility. Arguably, one of the most successful bands of all time, the band continues to top music charts and sell out stadiums and arenas all around the globe.

U2 was initially formed in Dublin, Ireland in the fall of 1976. Mullen, Jr., posted a notice on his secondary school’s bulletin board seeking musicians to form a new band. Seven boys would attend the band’s first ever practice, but only Mullen, Jr., Clayton, Evans, and Hewson would be left by the time the band was performing at a talent show in Limerick, Ireland on March 17, 1978. The band won the top prize at the top show and impressed Jackie Hayden, one of the judges for the show, who also worked for CBS Records. Hayden would provide the band with studio time to record their first demo. Before releasing their first single, the band went through multiple band names, starting with The Larry Mullen Band, then changed it to Feedback, and then to The Hype, and then finally settled on U2. Under the CBS label, U2 would release their first two singles in the Irish market. Neither singles generated much attention from audiences and critics.

In March of 1980, U2 signed with Island Records and released their first international single “11 O’ Clock Tick Tock,” and their first album, Boy. The album included their first hit single, “I Will Follow.” The album, along with the band’s first tour outside of Ireland and the U.K., were well received amongst music critics and their fans. In the following year, U2 released October, an album that exhibited strong spiritual, Christian overtones. In 1983, U2 released their third album, War, which included the band’s first international hit single, “New Year’s Day”. The song would peak at the #10 position on UK charts and climb just under the top 50 on US music charts. MTV placed the “New Year’s Day” music video into heavy rotation, which helped introduce mainstream America to U2. From that point on, performing at sold-out concerts in Europe and the U.S. was nothing out of the norm.

In 1984, U2 released The Unforgettable Fire, which included hit single, “Pride (In the Name of Love).” The album contained a new sound from the band that was more atmospheric, effects-driven, and symphonic. The single, about civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., would penetrate the U.S. Top 40 and U.K. Top 5. The album also included “Bad,” a song that would go on to become a fan favorite, particular at live concerts. In 1987, the band released The Joshua Tree, which would debut at #1 on UK charts and also peak at #1 on U.S. charts. The album, which included hit single “Where the Streets Have No Name” and #1 hit singles “With or Without You,” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” would go on to win the coveted Grammy Award for Album of the Year. The album to date, has sold an estimated 25 million copies. Later that year, U2 was featured on the cover of Time magazine, with the headline reading, “Rock’s Hottest Ticket”. The band’s Joshua Tree Tour was a commercial success, as the band consistently played in front of sold out arenas and stadiums. In 1988, U2 released a double album entitled Rattle and Hum. The album, which featured tracks performed with Bob Dylan and B.B. King was well received by fans, but with lukewarm reviews from music critics. In the following year, U2 announced they would take some time off from touring.

In 1991, the band reentered the music scene with the release of Achtung Baby, which included smash hit single, “One”. The album was well received by both fans and critics. To date, it has sold over 17 million copies. In 1993, U2 released Zooropa, an album that infused techno style and electronic effects to U2’s traditional alternative guitar rock sound. The album, which included tracks, “Zooropa,” “Stay (Faraway, So Close!)” and “The Wanderer,” featuring country and rock legend, Johnny Cash, expanded the band’s reach and sustained their popularity going into the 90s and beyond.

In 1997, the band released Pop, an album that would debut at #1 in 28 countries. The album was also noted for mixing elements of popular 90s techno with traditional US alternative guitar rock. Critics were mixed on the album, which despite being an early commercial success, has lifetime sales that are among the lowest in U2’s catalogue. On September 20, 2007, U2 would set a new European record at that time for the largest attendance at a concert for a single band, thanks to the 150,000 Italians that went to see them at the “Campovolo” in Reggio Emilia. In 1999, U2 released All That You Can’t Leave Behind, which included several hit singles, such as: “Beautiful Day,” “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out of” and “Elevation”. In 2001, the band would highlight the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVI, set in New Orleans, Louisiana.

In November 2004, U2 released How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, which would debut at #1 in 32 countries. The album, featuring hit singles “Vertigo” and “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own” would sell an estimated 840,000 copies in the U.S. in its first week, a record for the band. U2 would go on to make a huge splash at the 2005-2006 Grammy Awards, taking home five Grammy’s including: Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, Best Rock Song, and Best Rock Album.

U2 is also well-known for their active participation in the cause for human rights, particularly in Africa. Most recently they have been encouraging fans and the general public to take part in the ONE campaign, even taking time during their concerts to talk about the cause. Frontman Bono was named as one of TIME magazine’s Persons of the Year in December of 2005 for his participation in worldwide humanitarian efforts. Their most recent album, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, has sparked a hugely popular worldwide tour. Recent singles include “One” with Mary J. Blige, “All Because of You,” “City of Blinding Lights,” and “Vertigo.”