Lucky Star (Madonna song)
Cover art of the German 7" vinyl pressing, distributed in Europe, and also used for 1984 UK reissue
|Single by Madonna|
|from the album Madonna|
|B-side||"I Know It"|
|Released||September 8, 1983|
|Studio||Sigma Sound Studios|
(New York City, New York)
|Madonna singles chronology|
"Lucky Star" is a song written and recorded by American singer Madonna and Dean Gant (uncredited) for her eponymous debut album Madonna (1983). Sire Records released it as the fourth single from the album on September 8, 1983. The song was produced by Reggie Lucas, but Madonna was not impressed by his final version. She called her then-boyfriend John "Jellybean" Benitez to remix the track according to her ideas. "Lucky Star" is a medium-paced dance track and combines the heavy beats of a drum with the sounds of a guitar played in a high riff. The lyrics juxtapose the male body with the heavenly stars in the sky.
Music critics praised the song, heralding it as the introduction to upbeat dance music. In the United States, "Lucky Star" was released after the success of "Borderline". It peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the first single in her record-breaking string of 16 consecutive top-five hits. It also topped the Dance Club Songs chart with "Holiday". Internationally, "Lucky Star" reached the top ten in Canada, and the top twenty in Ireland and the United Kingdom.
The music video portrayed Madonna dancing in front of a white background, accompanied by her dancers. After the video was released, Madonna's style and mannerisms became a fashion trend among the younger generation. Scholars noted that in the video, Madonna portrayed herself as narcissistic and an ambiguous character. She referred to herself as the lucky star, unlike the lyrical meaning of the song. Madonna has performed the song in a number of live appearances, most recently at the Rebel Heart Tour (2015–16). It has also been covered by a number of artists.
In 1983, Madonna was recording her first studio album with Warner Music producer Reggie Lucas and her then boyfriend John "Jellybean" Benitez. However, she did not have enough new material to ensure a full LP album. Lucas produced a number of songs for the album, namely "Borderline", "Burning Up", "Physical Attraction", "I Know It", "Think of Me" and lastly "Lucky Star". The song was written by Madonna for DJ Mark Kamins, who previously promised to play the track at his club Danceteria, where he worked as a DJ. However, the track was instead used by Madonna for her debut album, which she planned to call Lucky Star. She believed that "Lucky Star" song, along with "Borderline", were the perfect foundation for her album. According to Dean Gant, a three-note bass line idea and the vocal hook were written by Madonna, and many of the remaining instrumental parts were written by him at Lucas' request. But problems arose after recording the song. Madonna was unhappy with the way the final version turned out. According to her, Lucas used too many instruments and did not consider her ideas for the songs. This led to a dispute between the two and after finishing the album, Lucas left the project without altering the songs to Madonna's specifications. Hence, Madonna brought Benitez to remix "Borderline" and "Lucky Star", along with some of the other recorded tracks. In a later interview, Benitez reflected back on the recording sessions and commented,
"She was unhappy with the whole damn thing, so I went in and sweetened up a lot of music for her, adding some guitars to 'Lucky Star', some voices, some magic. [...] I just wanted to do the best job I could do for her. When we would play back 'Holiday' or 'Lucky Star', you could see that she was overwhelmed by how great it all sounded. You wanted to help her, you know? As much as she could be a bitch, when you were in groove with her, it was very cool, very creative."
Release and composition
"Lucky Star" was initially decided to be released as the third single from the album, but "Holiday" had already become a dance-hit in the United States. Hence it was released as the fourth single from the album. Music executive Jeff Ayeroff, who was instrumental in green-lighting Madonna's career, recalled how Madonna initially didn't want to release "Lucky Star" as a single. He says that around that time Madonna was getting sued and needed money, so he told her "Let me release 'Lucky Star', and I guarantee that you'll sell enough records to pay that off." According to Ayeroff, he was right because "'Lucky Star' broke the first album wide open."
Musically a medium-paced dance track, "Lucky Star" starts off with a sparkle of synth note and is followed by heavy beats of electronic drum and handclaps. A guitar is played in high riff and a bubbling bass synth is produced to accompany the guitar sound. The song revolves around the "star light, star bright" hook for more than a minute, before going to the chorus. According to author Rikky Rooksby, the lyrics are repetitive and inane and revolves around the transparent ambiguity of the stars and juxtaposition of the male character with being a heavenly body in the sky. "Lucky Star" is set in the time signature of common time with a moderate dance tempo of 108 beats per minute. It is set in the key of G major with Madonna's voice spanning from the tonal nodes of G3 to F♯5. The song has a basic sequence of G–A–B♭–D–E♭–F♯ as its basic chord progression.
Author J. Randy Taraborrelli, in his biography of Madonna, called the song as "fluffy, dance-able, but forgettable." However he noted the song's ingenuity which he credited to come from its simplicity and dance-music nature. Author Rikky Rooksby noted that Madonna had a "cutesy" voice in the song and compared her vocals with those of Cyndi Lauper. Author Simon Gage of the book Queer noted that the song was a "happy disco number". The song was appreciated by authors Santiago Fouz-Hernández and Freya Jarman-Ivens, who complimented it in their book Madonna's Drowned Worlds. They noted that with songs like "Lucky Star" and "Burning Up" (1983), Madonna introduced a "style of upbeat dance music that would prove particularly appealing to future gay audiences."
English tenor and academic John Potter, in his book The Cambridge companion to singing, commented that "Lucky Star" is a soft-soul, disco-influenced style song but criticized the song's reverb and double tracking which he believed made the song "de-personalized". Sal Cinquemani from Slant Magazine commented that the track had "unknowingly prefaced her recent foray into the glittery halls of electronic-pop." Bill Lamb from About.com described the song, along with "Holiday" and "Borderline," as "state of the art dance-pop." While reviewing Madonna's 1990 compilation The Immaculate Collection, David Browne from Entertainment Weekly complimented the remixed version of the song. Rock critic Robert Christgau, while reviewing The Immaculate Collection, called the song "blessed". Stephen Thomas Erlewine from Allmusic described the song as effervescent.
"Lucky Star" was released as the album's final single in the United States after "Borderline" had become her first top-ten hit. It debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 chart at 49, on the week of August 25, 1984. It finally reached a peak of four, and was present for a total of 18 weeks. It was able to enter other Billboard charts, such as Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Hot Adult Contemporary, where it peaked at 42 and 19 respectively. Prior to its release, the song had already reached the top of the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart along with "Holiday". In Canada, the song debuted at number 89 of the RPM Singles chart, reaching a peak of number eight in November 1984, and it was present on the chart for 19 weeks. It placed at number 72 on the RPM year-end chart for 1984.
In the United Kingdom, "Lucky Star" was originally released as the album's second single in September 1983, simultaneously with "Holiday" in the United States. However, like its predecessor, the single failed to chart in the country. In March 1984, it was re-issued and then debuted on the UK Singles Chart at number 47, and reached a peak of number 14 after three weeks. The song was present on the chart for nine weeks. According to the Official Charts Company, "Lucky Star" has sold 117,470 copies in the United Kingdom, as of August 2008. In Ireland, the song was able to reach 19 on the Irish official charts. In Australia, the song made the top 40 of the Kent Music Report chart and peaked at 36.
The music video was directed by Arthur Pierson, and was produced by Glenn Goodwin, while Wayne Isham was in charge of photography. At the time of the song's release, Madonna's style of dress was catching on as a fashion statement among club kids and her fans. The most prominent among her fashion accessories were the crucifixes she wore as earrings, necklaces and bangles. Madonna commented that wearing a rosary and a crucifix is "kind of offbeat and interesting. I mean, everything I do is sort of tongue-in-cheeks. Besides, the crucifixes seem to go with my name." In reality, she was trying to find a separate image for herself, being inspired by then artists like Boy George, Cyndi Lauper and David Bowie, and their constantly shifting image and persona. Madonna realized the importance of her music videos and its popularity via MTV—launched in 1981—was instrumental in popularizing her image.
The sign for Madonna's fashion started with the music video for "Lucky Star". In the video, Madonna wore an all-black outfit with leggings, ankle boots, and bare midriff, with her messy hair tied in a floppy black ribbon. This was coupled with a shiny black miniskirt, an earring on her right ear, cut-off gloves and rubber bangles. Madonna's friend Erika Belle was credited with designing the outfit, although biographer Mary Cross noted that Madonna was after all wearing her day-to-day outfit. Mary Lambert, then a Rhode Island School of Design graduate, was decided for directing the video. However, Arthur Pierson replaced her as the director. Warner Bros. gave Pierson a small budget to make the video, shot in an afternoon. Madonna's real-life brother, Christopher Ciccone, is a backup dancer in the video. In his book Life with My Sister Madonna he says that although he was only paid $200 to dance in the video, at the time he was "just happy to be part of it." The video starts with the close-up of Madonna's face, as she slides her sunglasses down her nose. This scene was a reference to the character of Lolita in Stanley Kubrick's 1962 film of the same name, and Audrey Hepburn in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961). The image then fades to white, denoting the celestial stars dazzle, and then resumes itself in color. Madonna is shown dancing against a plain white background, along with closeups of her mesmerized gaze. She is accompanied by Belle and brother Christopher, as backup dancers. The video ends with the initial black-and-white image repeated, but in retrograde, as Madonna puts back on the sunglasses. The taking down and putting up of those sunglasses provided a frame to contain the song, functioning like a curtain that marks the opening and closing of a stage performance.
Dance historian Sally Banes, in her book Before, between, and beyond: three decades of dance writing, noted that the video portrayed Madonna as both the subject and the object of the song. She believed that in the video, Madonna taking off her sunglasses symbolized herself as a movie star, thus creating an ambiguous characterization of herself, and a narcissistic theme. Author Peter Goodwin, in his book Television under the Tories: Broadcasting Policy 1979–1997, commented that although "Lucky Star" is not a narrative video, in the clip Madonna plays at least four characters:—the person in sunglasses looking; a break-dancing girl; an androgynous social dancer; and a seductress. The juxtaposition of all these characterizations portray Madonna as a narcissistic self-lover. Images of Madonna's body writhing against the white background generates the question whether she is addressing her lover or herself in the song. According to Goodman, Madonna created an eroticized woman for her own pleasure only. Cathy Smith from Time magazine noted that "[s]he's sexy, but she doesn't need men [...] she's kind of there all by herself."
Madonna's brother Christopher Ciccone wrote about the video shoot in his tell all book Life With My Sister Madonna. He added: "At the beginning of February, Madonna asks us (Erika Belle) to dance in her “LuckyStar” video, to be shot in L.A., and Erika and I fly there together. This is my first trip out there since I was a teenager. I have never seen so many palm trees, so much sun, and so many tanned and perfectly stretched faces in my life. We shoot the video at the old Charlie Chaplin studio, which is pretty much the same as when it was originally built in the thirties. I get paid just $200 for dancing in the “Lucky Star” video and don’t get any royalties either. However, at the time, I am happy just to be a part of it. The camaraderie between Madonna, Erika, Martin, and me is enough for me. After we shoot the video, we all go to Studio One, above Rose Tattoo, and dance the night away."
"Lucky Star" has been a setlist staple on four of Madonna's concert tours: The Virgin Tour (1985), the Who's That Girl World Tour (1987), the Confessions Tour (2006), and the Rebel Heart Tour (2015–16). On The Virgin Tour, Madonna performed the song wearing an entirely black costume, consisting of a crop top worn beneath a vest, fringed elbow length gloves, a fringed miniskirt, leggings, and low heel leather boots. She also wore a crucifix earring in one ear and a silver cross pattée was pinned to the right shoulder of her vest. Madonna sang the original version of the song, and pranced around the stage while showing her midriff. The performance was included in the Madonna Live: The Virgin Tour VHS, released in 1985. At the Who's That Girl World Tour, "Lucky Star" was performed as the second song of the set list. Madonna wore a black bustier like the music video to her single "Open Your Heart" (1987). Her hair was platinum blond and in a big bushy shape. The performance of "Lucky Star" included a disco ball spinning above the stage, as Madonna and her dancers moved around it as the light from the ball flickered on them like a star. Two different performances are found in Ciao Italia: Live from Italy tour video filmed at Stadio Communale in Turin, Italy on September 4, 1987 and the Who's That Girl: Live in Japan tour video filmed at Korakuen Stadium in Tokyo, Japan on June 22, 1987.
On the Confessions Tour, "Lucky Star" was performed with Madonna dressed in a purple and white leotard, designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier. Following the performance of "La Isla Bonita" Madonna lies face-down on the stage. Her dancers wrap a cape around her that proclaim the word "Dancing Queen" at the back. The intro to "Lucky Star" is heard, Madonna gets up and faces the audience. The lights go off and Madonna opens the cape to reveal the inside of the cape to be lit. Her backup singers join her and together they move around the stage, while singing the song. Towards the end of the song, Madonna also sings the chorus of the next performance, "Hung Up". The performance was included on both the CD and the DVD version of The Confessions Tour, released in 2007. Ed Gonzalez of Slant Magazine compared Madonna's performance of "Lucky Star" as "a soul butterfly fluttering to the disco heavens during a remix of [the song] that actually makes [it] sound good." Thomas Inskeep from Stylus called the performance fresh. Christian John Wikane from PopMatters was not impressed with the performance; he felt that singing the song over the newly arranged chord progression, is cold and pairing the original arrangement with the ABBA sample is "[a] match not made in heaven, though Madonna's skin-tight, ABBA-esque jump suit is an amusing intertextualization."
On the Rebel Heart Tour, "Lucky Star" was performed in a flamenco-style medley with "Dress You Up", "Into the Groove" and "Everybody". During the sequence the singer dressed by in a Latin and gypsy inspired dress, created by Alessandro Michele for Gucci consisting off a shawl, flamenco hat, lace, skirts and jacquard bodysuit.
Covers and media appearances
The 2000 album Virgin Voices: A Tribute To Madonna, Vol. 2 included a trip hop cover of the song by Switchblade Symphony. Heather Phares of Allmusic called it as one of the album's finest moments. A folk music cover of the song by Alexandra Hope was included on the 2007 Madonna tribute compilation Through the Wilderness.
"Lucky Star" was featured in the 1988 movie Running on Empty in the scene where River Phoenix's character is in music class. It was used in the 2000 British movie Snatch, directed by Guy Ritchie who fathered a child with Madonna during the making of the film. The music video of "Lucky Star" was referenced in the 1994 film Pulp Fiction in the scene where Fabienne (played by Maria de Medeiros) tells her boyfriend (played by Bruce Willis) that she wants a pot belly "like Madonna when she did 'Lucky Star'."
Track listing and formats
Credits and personnel
- Madonna – vocals, writer
- Reggie Lucas – producer, drum programming, Oberheim DX claps
- John "Jellybean" Benitez – audio mixing
- Fred Zarr – synthesizers, electric and acoustic piano
- Dean Gant – synthesizers, electric and acoustic piano
- Ira Siegal – guitars
- Leslie Ming – drum arrangement
- Bobby Malach – tenor saxophone
Credits adapted from the Madonna album liner notes.
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