Desperately Faking Madonna

After Madonna became a pop sensation in fall 1984, a lot of artists copped her style. Some used her sound as an influence, but others went whole hog and cooked up copycat records that sounded uncannily like the Material Girl.

Four “imitation Madonna” records were chart hits and all of them have been virtually forgotten. Until now. What follows is a chronological list o’ discs, with their peak chart position listed first and the date they hit the charts second. If you’ve never heard these, finding them now will give you some new “old Madonna.” Sort of. Anyway, without further adieu, we present Desperately Faking Madonna:

 

1. Jellybean – “Sidewalk Talk” (#18, 11/16/85). Club DJ and remix artist Jellybean Benitez was Madonna’s boyfriend around the time of her first album. He eventually cut his own records, and this was his first chart hit. To be fair, this funky, synthesizer-fueled anti-gossip rant was penned by Madonna, who sings the choruses. But since she went uncredited and a vocal doppleganger named Catherine Buchanan sang the lead vocal, it’s listed here. Tuneful but cloying after a while. Available now on the “Flawless” movie soundtrack.

 

2. Regina – “Baby Love” (#10, 6/21/86). Regina Richards was a true one-hit wonder and never charted at all outside of this record. Madonna collaborator Stephen Bray co-wrote it with her, and it sounds a bit like some of his other Madonna tunes (“Think of Me,” “Into the Groove”). The lyric is a boldly Madonna-esque assertion of female sexuality (“Boy, there’s no one home tonight…Why should we pretend to be just friends?”). Yet the melody is sentimental, giving the song an interesting ambiguous quality. Out of print.

 

3. Tia – Boy Toy (#87, 3/7/87). Maybe forgotten singer Long Island singer-songwriter Tia didn’t have success with this record because she was too way derivative. Besides using Madonna’s trademark phrase for a title, she starts the disc by quoting her first hit, “Burning Up.” The thunderous drums and synthetic handclaps make this production sound like it was meant for the dance floor, and that’s probably where it’s best heard. Shame we can't make a time machine and go back to an 1980s club. Oh well. Very out of print!

 

4. Elisa Fiorello and Jellybean – “Who Found Who” (#16, 7/11/87). Sounding uncannily like “Live to Tell”-era Madge, 17-year-old Fiorello sings this pleading love song like she really means it. Jellybean’s production kicks a cool ’80s groove, with thwacking electric guitar and bell-like synth tones. It’s hard to imagine that back in the Reagan Era, this music sounded bold and daring and was an affront to the established rock sounds. It now comes off as positively sweet and innocent! Available on “1987: 20 Original Chart Hits.” Or try YouTube.