The Material Girl won the battle, but the Boss won the war.
Or was it vice versa?
No doubt about one thing: Madonna and Bruce Springsteen were the year's dominant pop artists, according to Billboard magazine, the leading record industry trade publication.
But the matter of exactly who was the most successful artist is a bit sticky--a reminder that determining who's hot and who's not in the record business is partially a guessing game.
The reason for the confusion is that the record industry does not follow the film community's lead of putting its financial cards on the table. Studios routinely report film grosses to the press, but record companies don't customarily announce album sales.
In this vacuum, the industry turns to the Billboard charts for perspective. The magazine's year-end survey of its weekly album and singles sales charts has been for years the industry's standard for crowning its sales champion.
The winner this year: Madonna, thanks to the hit album, "Like a Virgin," and a series of smash singles, including "Material Girl" and "Crazy for You."
But Billboard overrules its own chart summary by declaring on Page 1 of its Dec. 28 issue, "Bruce was the Boss in '85."
The problem with relying solely on the charts is (a) they don't include concert grosses, which are an increasingly important part of the pop world, and (b) they are merely an approximation of sales because they measure only relative sales performance each week.
While a No. 1 record one week might sell three times as many copies as the No. 1 record the next week, they both get the same number of points in Billboard's year-end tally for their weeks at No. 1.
Though Madonna may have earned more points in Billboard's charts, Springsteen was apparently tallying more "points" in the real world. He had the biggest album of 1985 ("Born in the U.S.A" has sold more than 10 million since its mid-1984 release) and he turned in what was by far the most successful tour. His four Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum concerts alone grossed $5.6 million.
For all its problems, however, Billboard's year-end chart survey does give an approximation of how things went in 1985. Besides, the winners don't care about the fine print--and the losers can point to the imperfections to rationalize their poor showings.
Based on Billboard's ranking of albums and singles, here are the 10 artists who did the best on the pop charts during 1985: Madonna, Springsteen, Prince, Phil Collins, Bryan Adams, Wham!, Tears for Fears, Tina Turner, Billy Ocean and the Pointer Sisters.
They were followed by Hall & Oates, U2, Kool & the Gang, Don Henley, Survivor, REO Speedwagon, Billy Joel, Foreigner, John Fogerty and Huey Lewis & the News.
The most successful pop albums, as measured by Billboard:
1--Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A."
2--Bryan Adams' "Reckless."
3--Madonna's "Like a Virgin."
4--Wham!'s "Make It Big."
5--Tina Turner's "Private Dancer."
6--Phil Collins' "No Jacket Required."
7--"Beverly Hills Cop" sound track.
8--Billy Ocean's "Suddenly."
9--Prince's "Purple Rain."
10--Tears for Fears' "Songs From the Big Chair."
Billboard's top singles:
1. Wham!'s "Careless Whisper."
2. Madonna's "Like a Virgin."
3. Wham!'s "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go."
4. Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love Is."
5. Chaka Khan's "I Feel for You."
6. Hall & Oates' "Out of Touch."
7. Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World."
8. Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing."
9. Madonna's "Crazy for You."
10. A-Ha's "Take on Me."
Alabama's "40-Hour Week" was declared the most popular country album, followed by the Judds' "Why Not Me," George Strait's "Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind," Ricky Skaggs' "Country Boy" and Ray Charles' "Friendship."
The leading country singles: Ronnie Milsap's "Lost in the Fifties Tonight," Lee Greenwood's "Dixie Road," Dolly Parton/Kenny Rogers' "Real Love," Charly McClain's "Radio Heart," and Waylon Jennings/Willie Nelson/Johnny Cash/Kris Kristofferson's "Highwayman."
Kool & the Gang's "Emergency" was followed on the black-music album charts by Tina Turner's "Private Dancer," New Edition's "New Edition," Whitney Houston's "Whitney Houston" and Luther Vandross' "The Night I Fell in Love."
The black-music singles chart was topped by Freddie Jackson's "Rock Me Tonight," followed by Whitney Houston's "You Give Good Love," Diana Ross' "Missing You," the Commodores' "Nightshift" and Whitney Houston's "Saving All My Love for You."
Among jazz albums, Wynton Marsalis' "Hot House Flowers" outscored Stanley Jordan's "Magic Touch," the Pat Metheny Group's "First Circle," David Sanborn's "Straight to the Heart" and George Benson's "20/20."
The disco/dance best sellers: Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam with Full Force's "I Wonder If I Take You Home," Patti LaBelle's "New Attitude" coupled with Harold Faltermeyer's "Axel F.," Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Round," Madonna's "Angel" and Colonel Abrams' "Trapped."