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Music

Madonna’s sexiest and most scandalous moments as the Material Girl hits 60

From her graphic coffee-table photo book Sex to that kiss with Britney Spears, the Material Girl has provided the world with plenty to talk about in her 60 years

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2018, 8:01pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2018, 8:17pm

Madonna remains one of the most controversial artists of all time, with the Material Girl refusing to hold back with age from the unbridled sexuality that helped make her a superstar.

With the pop star turning 60 on Thursday, here is a look back at some of her more scandalous moments.

Bringing sex to MTV

When MTV threw its first Video Music Awards in 1984, the young network quickly shattered the staid formula of established shows such as the Grammys and the Oscars with a sensational performance by Madonna.

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The pop star emerged from a five-metre-high cake to sing Like a Virgin in a wedding gown and a belt buckle that said “boy toy”, before rolling about on the floor to reveal her undergarments. Her reputation was sealed – and she repeatedly turned to music videos to cause a sensation.

Like a Prayer

Debuting the title track off her fourth album Like a Prayer in 1989, Madonna could barely have hoped for a bigger audience. Pepsi teased the video in a commercial broadcast around the world, including during The Cosby Show, one of the most popular shows on television at the time.

The video itself, debuting on MTV, stunned viewers with its incorporation of sex with religious iconography. Addressing interracial romance, a topic then still controversial in parts of the United States, Madonna makes love to the statue of a black saint and dances in front of burning crosses, the symbol of the racist Ku Klux Klan.

The Vatican protested and religious groups threatened to boycott Pepsi, which bowed to pressure and cancelled its advertising campaign with Madonna.

Too hot for MTV

A year later, Madonna became too controversial even for MTV, which banned her video for Justify My Love.

Shot by the French fashion photographer Jean-Baptiste Mondino in stylised black-and-white that evoked 1950s cinema, Justify My Love depicts bondage and other kinky sex in a hotel. The actors later said that the lines between performance and reality were blurred during filming.

Cashing in on the controversy, Madonna released Justify My Love as a video single on VHS (a format that has vanished in the age of YouTube). It is the bestselling VHS music video of all time.

Taking controversy on road

Madonna’s antics were not only in her music videos. She injected a new sensationalism into her tours, several of which have grossed her more than US$100 million.

Her “Blond Ambition” world tour in 1990 took on a revolutionary feel with its celebration of sex and, through the dancers, homosexuality – which was much less widely accepted at the time.

The dancers pretended to masturbate Madonna as she sang Like a Prayer, a scene that led police in Toronto to threaten to arrest her, although they ultimately backed down.

The “Blond Ambition” tour also gave birth to one of Madonna’s enduring fashion statements – the pointed cone bra worn on the outside, designed by Jean Paul Gaultier.

Sex, the book

Even some Madonna fans thought she had gone too far in 1992 when she released a coffee-table book simply titled Sex that featured her posing in made-to-shock positions, including sexually straddling a dog.

The book became a bestseller and remains the fastest-selling coffee table book of all time, but overshadowed the simultaneous release of her comparatively subdued album Erotica.

Madonna has insisted that she has no regrets over the book and Sex has gradually won over some fans, who say she was at the forefront of the new proliferation of pornography.

Kissing as a statement

Madonna has in recent years become a musical elder, but one still able to generate headlines.

At the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards, Madonna locked lips with two younger stars eager to shed their innocent images: Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears, the latter of whom’s kiss with the Material Girl was especially passionate.

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Madonna made a surprise appearance in 2015 at the Coachella festival in California, where she again provoked shock by giving a wet kiss to headliner Drake.