Even with the money, fame and sycophants it can’t always be easy being Madonna. The headstrong and uncompromising performer spent decades at the top only for the inevitable to happen: younger, fresher stars took her mould, broke it and began trading on their own terms.
The charts have been littered with megastars over the years. Britney, Xtina, Gaga, Nicki Minaj and many others supplanted her at the top of the charts, on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, everywhere. You can’t stay on top forever, it depends how you wind your career down and whether or not you want to go out with dignity.
True to form, Madonna has put her head down and charged at the Matador. Whether it’s lipstick lesbianism, pot shots at the leader of France’s most prominent right-wing party or working with whichever act is hot right now, Madonna isn’t going quietly. She even went through the wholly transparent ‘oh no somebody has leaked my brand new tracks without my knowledge!’ routine; the music equivalent of having a decoy make a diversion while another picks your pocket.
2015 is beginning to represent something of an annus horribilis for the woman born Madonna Louise Ciccone. After catching a load of flak re: the promo campaign for new album Rebel Heart (using iconic images of people like Nelson Mandela for her own ends), Madonna appeared to brighten up everybody else’s lives by taking a tumble down some stairs at the BRIT Awards last month:
Maybe people like to rag on Madonna too much. People may shout out that some of us feel threatened by a powerful, rich and successful woman trying to maintain a career. But then, Bono and U2 get a lot more vitriol for not actually doing any real Bad Things. Their most recent album dropped in our laps like a massive turd filled with snakes but Bono has never pissed on the Alamo a la Ozzy Osbourne. He’s kissed Nelson Mandela’s face instead of trying to spice it up with bondage. Yet he still really sets our teeth on edge. Sometimes it just works that way.
Madonna’s ‘crimes’, as they are, include some disastrous turns in front of and behind the camera in Hollywood, pissing loads of different people off in general as if Sinead O’Connor decided to hit the gym a lot more and all the stuff mentioned above. All for the publicity or just an individual’s true colors when in the public eye and barely questioned? The lines are blurred.
Madonna, the Cybernetic Death Hawk Matriarch of modern music, can walk the walk, but can she sing the song? If Rebel Heart, as a commercial product of the crowning jewel of the Ciccone Empire, is to be seen as a State Of The Union address then the verdict is a fittingly limp ‘not really’.
Opener Living For Love is not exactly the heart transplant we required, while Devil Pray finds Madge imploring us to “sniff glue, take ecstasy and drop acid with me”. Well, erm… maybe. Actually, yeah… go on then. I’ll join in. Could be fun after all. Illuminati actually offers a decent modern spin on her exercise in cultural name dropping displayed in Vogue and is A Good Song:
It’s not Jay-Z and Beyoncé. It’s not Nicki or Lil Wayne. It’s not Oprah and Obama, the Pope and Rihanna, Queen Elizabeth or Kanye. It’s not pentagrams or witchcraft. It’s not triangles or stacks of cash, black magic or Gaga, Gucci or Prada riding on the Golden Calf
No doubt it will drive the conspiracy theorists nuts too. Tinfoil hats at the ready, folks. By the way, WHAT IS IT with musicians, rappers in particular, and the Illuminati? They can’t get enough of it!
Speaking of the Illuminati and martyrs (not really and it IS tenuous but stay with me), Madonna’s own Martyr Complex shines brightly on Rebel Heart. Five twelfths of the album’s titles are: Unapologetic Bitch, Bitch I’m Madonna, Joan Of Arc, Iconic and Holy Water. Phew! Get down from that cross, Madonna! It’s starting to get a little too warm out there!
… and then everybody’s favorite scattergun Barbie doll Nicki Minaj joins in for Bitch I’m Madonna too with a typical social media-referencing verse about absolutely nothing at all. Untangling Minaj’s words is akin to trying to pull apart cables while screaming children throw octopus tentacles and spaghetti at you in a dark room. She says she doesn’t follow back, at least. That’s fine by us.
Christ, even Mike Tyson makes an appearance, this time alongside Chance The Rapper, on Iconic. There must have been some tense hours in the studio as a frustrated Tyson tried shouting at doors to open them instead of using the handle and smashing toilets to pieces instead of flushing them. Donchajustlovehim?
Madonna – the person, the brand, the representation – tumbled down the same hole as the Rolling Stones and plenty more before and after them: they began following the trends instead of setting them. In vaguely similar terms, look at the splatter of up-to-date guest stars on Eminem’s latter albums.
Madonna probably doesn’t need this crap anymore. The release-and-tour cycle is a pain in the ass at the best of times. Again, like U2 and the Stones, why bother anymore? Starting out and being desperate to prove that you can usurp the older generation morphs into the opposite, which is a lot harder and nastier. Credit for sticking it out to the final innings, but popular music is a demeaning industry. Witness the cackles of glee over that fall for a measure of how people want to view and consume you.
Madonna will probably end up like the Mr. Burns of the future from the Simpsons episode, Rosebud. Half-human, half-machine but still knocking around and getting ready to tour Neptune. Imagine that.