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Flamboyant female pop stars have Madonna to thank

| Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, 8:58 p.m.
FILE - This Oct. 10, 2012 file photo shows Madonna performing on the 'MDNA' tour at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Some Colorado fans are upset after music superstar Madonna used guns during a performance. Madonna started her show Thursday, Oct. 18, at the Pepsi Center in Denver with a gun scene, which she has used in previous performances. TV station KUSA received several calls Friday from concert-goers saying they were offended she used guns and violence as part of her show in light of recent events in the state that included a mass shooting at a theater during a Batman movie on July 20 that left 12 people dead. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP, file)
Pop singer Madonna dances on stage during her performance in Miami, Fla., on June 28, 1987. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Madonna in the early 1980s. (Gannett News Service)
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OFFENBURG, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 27: Singer Britney Spears performs during the Bambi Awards 2008 Show on November 27, 2008 in Offenburg, Germany. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Britney Spears
FILE - In this Jan. 20, 2010 file photo, singer Lady Gaga performs in concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini, file)
Madonna: wearing her sexuality -- and lingerie -- on the outside. Illustrates FASHION-POP-STARS (category l) by Booth Moore (c) 2009, Los Angeles Times. Moved Tuesday, June 30, 2009. (MUST CREDIT: Los Angeles Times file photo.)
Madonna in her Material Girl music video in 1985.
Madonna in her Like A Prayer music video in 1989.
Madonna sings 'You Must Love Me,' during her performance at the 69th Academy Awards in Los Angeles Monday night, March 24, 1997. The song, from the movie, 'Evita,' won an Oscar for best song. (AP Photo/Long Photography)
Madonna in her Vogue music video in 1990.
Madonna poses at the Ninth annual Fire and Ice Ball in this Dec. 9, 1998 file photo. The analogy isn't quite accurate, but Madonna characterizes her frustration over a career with just one Grammy award by saying, ``I'm the Susan Lucci of the music industry.'' She'll be up for five Grammys Feb. 24, 1999. (AP Photo/ Victoria Arocho/File)-
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390363 30: Madonna performs on stage during the first day of her new concert tour 'The Drowned World Tour' June 9, 2001 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)
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LONDON, United Kingdom: A handout picture obtained 30 November 2006 shows a black bustier worn by Madonna on her 'Who's That Girl' tour. The bustier was one of 160 lots sold at the 'It's More Than Rock 'n' Roll' auction at the Sound venue in London's Leicester Square on 29 November 2006, fetching GBP5,000 (7,400 euros/9,700 USD). AFP PHOTO/Magnum Communications /NO SALES/EDITORIAL USE ONLY (Photo credit should read MAGNUM COMMUNICATIONS/AFP/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK - AUGUST 28: (U.S. TABLOIDS OUT) Singers Britney Spears(L), Madonna, and Christina Aguilera perform onstage during the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on August 28, 2003 in New York City. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)
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LONDON - SEPTEMBER 01: (UK TABLOID NEWSPAPERS OUT) Guy Ritchie and Madonna arrive at the world premiere of 'RocknRolla' at the Odeon cinema, Leicester Square on September 1, 2008 in London, England. (Photo by Dave Hogan/Getty Images)
** FILE **** FILE ** Madonna holds David Banda in her arms, in this April 19, 2007, file photo at Consol Homes, a day care center that she is funding in the village of Masekese, Malawi. Officials say Madonna is to travel to Malawi to try to adopt a second child from the impoverished African country. An official at the Malawi welfare department said Thursday, March 26, 2009 that the pop star has filed adoption papers. (AP Photo/Karel Prinsloo, File)
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TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 12: Director Madonna arrives at 'W.E.' Premiere at Roy Thomson Hall during the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival on September 12, 2011 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
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INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 05: Madonna performs during the Bridgestone Super Bowl XLVI Halftime Show at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)
Madonna's self titled album, Madonna
Madonna single Everybody
Madonna Like a Virgin
Madonna in the movie 'A League of their own'
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PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 28: Madonna performs at the MDNA North America Tour Opener at the Wells Fargo Center August 28, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Fusco/Getty Images)
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LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 17: Madonna performs live during the MDNA tour at Hyde Park on July 17, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)
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US singer Madonna (C) performs on stage with dancers at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, a Paris suburb, on July 14, 2012, during her MDNA world tour. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/GettyImages)
Madonna H&M
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BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 15: Singer Madonna poses in the press room with the Best Original Song - Motion Picture for 'W.E.' at the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 15, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Madonnna performing on the Blond Ambition Tour in Tokyo, Japan, 4/4/90. Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images.

When provocative, sexualized pop stars like Britney Spears, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry perform, they can tip their hats to Madonna — the original Material Girl who busted boundaries for future young women performers, industry observers say.

Today's more-flamboyant female pop stars enjoy the freedom to make music and perform the way they do, but they didn't create that freedom, says Howard Kramer, curatorial director of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Madonna — who is performing Tuesday at Consol Energy Center in Uptown — did the moving and shaking when she burst onto the pop-music charts in the early '80s, he says, and followed with hit after hit.

“Madonna and the career she carved out for herself made possible virtually every other female pop singer to follow,” Kramer says. “She certainly raised the standards of all of them.

“She redefined what the parameters were for female performers,” he says about Madonna. “She is, without question, the most important female artist, and one of the most important artists of the last half-century.”

M. Tye Comer, editor of, agrees.

“You could argue that Lady Gaga wouldn't exist if it weren't for Madonna,” he says. “Certainly, she made life easier for the (female artists) to be a little more provocative and a little more sexual. ... She's already shocked everybody with the things she's done onstage.”

Although Madonna had her influences, such as David Bowie, she created her own unmistakable style. Madonna is ... well, Madonna. There was no one like her before, and though some singers from the past two decades show a style reminiscent of Madonna, there never will be another artist quite like Madge, Kramer says.

“She wrote her own ticket; she didn't have to follow anybody's formula,” he says. “She declared who she was ... and took possession of her music.”

Madonna's biggest hits include the perky, happy dance jigs like “True Blue,” “Material Girl,” “Into the Groove,” “Cherish” and “Lucky Star;” the ballads “Crazy For You” and “Live to Tell;” the intense “Like a Prayer” and “Like a Virgin;” and the sultry, seductive “Justify My Love.”

Her music continues in this generation with this year's dance-heavy “MDNA,” and other recent albums such as “Hard Candy” from 2008 and “Confessions on a Dance Floor” from 2005. Madonna has earned her fame not just for the prolific hit-making, but for her live shows known for visual spectacles, dancing, sensuality and theatrics, Kramer says.

“She's exactly what she wanted to be: She wanted to be the biggest thing in the world, and she succeeded,” he says. “Very few people get there. … Everybody who auditions for ‘American Idol' wants that.”

Madonna, who is 54, makes no apologies for her boldness that often offends people, and proudly and abrasively shares her liberal viewpoints. At a recent concert, she admonished the audience to “vote for (bleep) Obama!” At the recent concert in the Denver area, still reeling from “The Dark Knight” shooting in July, Madonna upset many concertgoers with her fake guns on stage.

“She still raises eyebrows. ... People were a little taken aback by it,” Comer says. “It's a very provocative show, but ... that's who Madonna is. She continues to push buttons.”

And, Madonna's Pittsburgh concert is Tuesday, which is election night. This ought to be interesting, Comer says.

“It doesn't really matter who you see; there's going to be that sort of anticipation in the air,” he says. “The final results will come out when the show is still happening, especially with Madonna being so political.”

Comer is a longtime Madge fan, and has been to at least a half dozen of her concerts. He says that the current “MDNA” Tour, which has been selling out, is one of the best he's seen.

“You expect to see a spectacle on stage,” Comer says. “Beyond that, she herself is just an amazing performer. ... She could be a dancer in her own right.

“She continues to ... push her own boundaries as a performer in an effort just to give the audience something different and something new,” he says.

Madonna was someone different and new in the early '80s, and somehow, no female pop star has seemed quite as new and different since, says Chip DiMonick, singer of his self-titled Pittsburgh-based rock band. “Bad girl” pop stars follow a well-defined formula, and may have the “copycat virus,” he says.

“Female pop artists don't have to look too far or work too hard to find a template on how to be that bad girl,” says DiMonick, of Moon, in an email. “But, for as titillating as these pop stars' personas are, things are feeling a little contrived to many like me.

“Madonna was the original bad-girl pop star,” he says. “There was no template. She broke new ground. ... One can argue that today's style is simply a current manifestation of what Madonna was doing in the early '80s.”

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