The controversy in recent days over Madonna's first concert here — sparked by the Catholic Church's advice to congregants to skip the show — did not carry over into her performance at the National Stadium last night, as she kept to her word to observe cultural sensitivities.
The pop diva's 90-minute gig, which was rated R18 for sexual references, was attended by around 25,000 fans, a fraction of whom were moved to better seats so that other fans' view would not be blocked.
Other than the last-minute shuffle of seats, the show went without incident.
Over the past week, the Catholic Church and other religious organisations expressed their concerns over the American pop superstar's concert. Archbishop William Goh had reminded Catholics and the Christian community of their moral obligation not to support "the 'pseudo arts' that promote sensuality, rebellion, disrespect, pornography, contamination of the mind of the young, abusive freedom, individualism at the expense of the common good, vulgarity, lies and half-truths".
Responding in a statement on Thursday, a spokesperson from Madonna's Rebel Heart Tour said they are "aware of the cultural sensitivities, and Madonna is excited to share her celebration of art and music with her fans in Singapore". Earlier, the Media Development Authority had reiterated that content that is offensive racially or to religions would be in breach of licensing conditions, with the singer told not to perform her controversial song Holy Water in her concert here.
The Philippines, her last stop before her Singapore show, wants to ban the singer after she "disrespected" the country's flag by draping it on her during her concert there last week, AFP reported.
Mr James Lee, chief executive of Kinglun International Holdings, an investor in the concert, said the shuffling in the seats was because of a category of seats priced at S$388 that would have affected the view of some of those who had paid S$188. As a result, around 600 to 700 concert goers got an SMS Sunday morning informing them they would be moved around, including some lucky fans who held S$288 tickets but got bumped up to S$588 seats.
"Some of the S$188 ticket holders wanted to know why there were people standing in front of them. Because of this, we asked for all those holding S$388 standing tickets to be upgraded so they can move to the empty seats up front," said Mr Lee ahead of the show.
Fans who got an upgrade were pleasantly surprised, noting the tickets were pricey.
Mr Gary Sim, 28, who works in human resources, said: "It was quite a nice surprise. We wanted to come because it's her first time, and we don't know if she would come again."
Noting the concerns flagged by the Catholic and Christian community here, he said: "It's not a surprise, everyone has the right to express their views. (Even with changes in the line-up), I think it will still be a good show."
Ms Michelle Chng, 47, who is in the spa business, added: "Everyone has been focusing on the controversy, but she's also done a lot of good work. We really wanted to come because this is her first time here and it could be her last."
Photos from one of her two concerts last week published in local media showed the 57-year-old American mega-star draped in the Philippine flag.
While press reports said the audience roared its approval at the music icon, who was in the country as part of her global Rebel Heart Tour, Filipino authorities were less amused.
"Our flag law is strict as we want to instill respect for the Philippine flag," presidential spokesman Herminio Coloma said in a statement.
"This should he made clear to organisers and performers in concerts so that there will be no repetition of the incident."
Coloma said in an earlier statement to AFP that the government was "keen" on banning the Queen of Pop from performing in the Philippines because of the controversy.
However Coloma later said the government did not want to ban her, and that the initial statement that it did was based on a wrong interpretation of comments by another presidential aide.
A 1998 law prescribes a one-year jail term, as well as a token fine, for wearing the Philippine flag "in whole or in part as a costume or uniform".
The flag flap was the second controversy provoked by Madonna's visit to the devoutly Catholic Asian nation.
A Catholic bishop last week called on the faithful to stay away from Madonna's sexually charged concerts, which often encompass religious themes, calling them the devil's work.
"Pinoys (Filipinos) and all God-loving people should avoid sin and occasions of sin," Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said in a statement posted on the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines' official website.
Arguelles said the concerts, Madonna's first in the Philippines, were among "subtle attacks of the evil one".
During her Manila shows Madonna gyrated around a stripper pole shaped like a crucifix, accompanied by dancers dressed as scantily clad nuns.
The controversial star did not forget the less fortunate on her Philippine trip, however, tweeting photos showing her visiting children at a Manila orphanage run by nuns.
The star, now touring in Singapore, has yet to comment publicly on the flag furore.
Officials of Music Management International, which produced Madonna's Manila concert, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Her 2008 Sticky & Sweet Tour and 2012's MDNA Tour netted US$408 million (S$573m) and US$305 million, respectively; making her the only female artiste ever to score the top-two highest grossing concert tours of all time.
Her latest, Rebel Heart Tour, which the pop diva will strut out at the National Stadium on Sunday, has already raked in US$88 million from its European and North American legs, with the Asian and Oceania stops yet to be included.
Yet, this could be the last time we will get to see the megastar in big-scale spectaculars. Her 10-year deal with live-events promoter Live Nation ends in 2017; and according to industry watchers, the unprecedented US$120 million contract is unlikely to be renewed.
So, the singer with a net worth of US$520 million could easily bankroll the production of her future albums and tours, but in case she does not want to, TODAY has a few options for the Iconic One…
VIVA LAS VEGAS?
Talk that Madonna was offered a US$1 billion contract to do a five-year headlining residency in Las Vegas has been bubbling since 2010. Her contemporaries such as Celine Dion, Elton John and Jennifer Lopez have already ventured down this route. With her undeniable stage presence, rich catalogue of hits and ardent fan base, Madonna is more than capable of drawing the crowds night after night, while making new music along the way. The only snag is that she has famously declared she hates the place: "I couldn't bear it for five minutes!" Then again, Las Vegas has always been a stop on all her world tours, so, never say never.
While a Guitar and a Microphone tour a la Prince's Piano and a Microphone stint is quite unlikely, Madonna could do mini concerts such as the one she did in 2012 in the middle of the MDNA World Tour. Billed as an intimate event, La M played a 45-minute set at Paris' Olympia Club, and fans paid between EUR80 (S$124) and EUR280 to see her. Despite some controversy — some ticket holders were expecting the entire MDNA show (duh) — the one-time-only gig was generally well-received, asserting that Madonna can most certainly thrill with less frills.
In 2015, Madonna told BBC Radio 2 that she would write her memoirs one day. "I've so many stories to tell," she said. Books bode well for the singer. To date, her 1992 limited edition coffee-table book Sex remains the best- and fastest-selling coffee table book of all-time and is among the top 100-most sought-after out-of-print titles in the United States. What's more, the woman has range: In 2003, the then-mother-of-two released a successful series of beautifully-illustrated children's books. The first, The English Roses, was launched simultaneously in more than 100 countries and in 30 languages. So Memoirs of The Material Girl? It is a guaranteed best-seller.
Truth be told, the best chance of Madonna ever winning an Oscar is via the Best Original Song route. Yet, she could not even get nominated with past gems such as Beautiful Stranger and This Used To Be My Playground. How about directing then? Well, 2008's Filth And Wisdom was barely seen, but 2011's W.E., about England's King Edward VIII and American Wallis Simpson, was lauded for its exquisite costumes and won Madge a Golden Globe for Best Original Song (Masterpiece). Can her next project, The Impossible Lives Of Greta Wells, strike Oscar gold?
Forbes magazine once called Madonna "America's smartest business woman". If she were to leave showbiz altogether, the megastar has a string of lifestyle brands to fall back on.
These include: Material Girl, a trendy juniors' clothing line which she runs with daughter Lourdes Leon and it is now into its fifth year; Truth Or Dare by Madonna which offers fragrances, footwear and lingerie to an older audience; skincare range MDNA Skin (which will be available in Singapore later this year); and gym chain Hard Candy Fitness, which now has locations in eight major cities, from Moscow to Sydney.
If all else fails, Madonna can always just live off her music royalties a la Hugh Grant's character in About A Boy. Knowing the notorious workaholic however, that is an unlikely scenario for quite some time to come.
Her tour was underway when her managers, promoters and Madonna herself realised that the venues they were playing in would not be able to sustain the demand for her live shows. That was when she drastically switched from playing at small clubs to huge sporting arenas mid-way through the tour, as her phenomenal rise to fame shot through the roof.
Since then, the "mid-western girl with a bustier" has never ever done any "small" concert; and the current 82-show Rebel Heart Tour, the pop icon's 10th world tour, is no exception. Since it kicked off in Montreal, Canada on September 9, 2015, audiences worldwide have been mesmerised by the extravagant stage show with its stunning sets, sizzling dance numbers, glitzy costumes and, of course, by the scintillating Queen of Pop herself.
As the S$14 million (RM42 million) show rolls into Singapore for the very first time, the 74th stop of her tour, tomorrow, we dish out the numbers on what makes a juggernaut show of this size tick.
180: Approximately the number of people who work and travel on this tour depending on the location.
4: Cargo planes required to carry all the tour equipment and other items to the first Asian stop of the tour: Taipei. The stage in Singapore will have to be set up in a little less than a day.
6.3: Tonnes of lights, sound and video equipment used each night; with 2.5 tonnes of that weight being the moveable stage ramp, specially constructed for the main stage.
2,150,400: LEDs lighting up the rear screens on the Rebel Heart stage; and 22 videos are played on the rear screens during the concert. One of the videos — Rebel Heart — consists entirely of digital artwork submitted by fans.
500: Pairs of shoes — custom-made for the entire troupe of performers, including musicians, back-up vocalists and dancers. More than 1,000 costumes were also designed and made for all of them
20: Hand-picked dancers who spent three months putting in 14-hour days, six days a week, to prepare for the show.
2,500,000: Swarovski crystals used on Madonna's various costumes; Madonna makes at least eight costume changes during the two-hour. Speaking of costumes, Madonna would have worn more than 200 pair of fishnets by the time the tour wraps in Sydney, Australia on March 20.
17: Make-up brushes used to get Madonna's face ready every night. The Material Girl also goes through five powder puffs a night.
2: The number of times Madonna plays the ukulele (yes, she does!). 25 string instruments are also featured during the show.
1: Stage designed to "flow through the audience" and actually comprises a main stage, with an extended catwalk that has a circular stage in the centre and a heart-shaped stage at the end.
Depending on which side of the divide you are on, Madonna's first concert in Singapore will be a cause for rapturous celebration or an ominous sign that Singapore has lost its moral compass to a marauding she-devil in hot pants.
Before the historic Singapore concert date was announced, many of her fans here had already, over the decades, fanned out across the seven seas to catch her concerts in foreign lands. In recent months, her fans have seen her perform in Bangkok, Hong Kong and Macau on her current Rebel Heart Tour.
But such is the measure of the woman that many of these fans will probably be packing the National Stadium on Sunday to finally see her in Singapore.
Such is a sign of our times that 34 years after Madonna unleashed herself onto the public consciousness, she is still considered shocking, controversial and ban-worthy.
Even The Rolling Stones, with their legendary associations with drug-fuelled orgies and Satanism, have played four concerts in Singapore to date. And this is a band whose infamous concert in Altamont, California, in the United States in 1969 saw the murder of a fan.
Madonna's biggest offences so far have been going against conservative and religious mores. She arrives here at a time when we are very much at a cultural crossroads in our evolution not only as Singaporeans, but also as global citizens.
The Media Development Authority has banned the performance of the song, Holy Water, because the segment contains "religiously sensitive content which breaches our guidelines".
Singapore's OB markers are clear in that respect and the country resolutely sings a different tune from the rest of the world on issues such as freedom of speech and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, another cause which Madonna champions.
Much of the rest of the world has seemingly moved beyond these issues. But it is a world that is no less divided. In fact, it is a world that is, arguably, more fractured than it was when Madonna first burst onto the music scene in 1982 with her first single, Everybody.
Immigration, religion, racism and women's and minority rights are very much at the core of widening fissures in society today.
Madonna has played a part in stoking the conversation. When Like A Virgin was released in 1984, she raised eyebrows simply because the song title contained the word "virgin". Plus, the irresistible ditty, sung in a little-girl voice, was an unabashed celebration of the joys of sex.
Papa Don't Preach (1986) caused a stir with its lyrics about an unmarried girl who chooses to keep her baby. Interestingly, it earned her rebuke from some feminists even as it garnered praise from some religious pro-life groups for its apparent anti-abortion stance.
In the music video for Like A Prayer (1989), she is seen praying in front of a cross from which a black Jesus descends.
And on it goes. Madonna has always tested the limits of what society deems acceptable. She doesn't push the envelope as much as rip it to shreds.
Her biggest impact has been on young girls and women. She showed the world what female power looked like - yes, a feminist can wear skimpy clothes and be a sexual being - with a lot of hard work and sacrifice thrown in.
After all, she didn't become the world's best-selling female recording artist, according to Guinness World Records, by sipping pina coladas in the Bahamas. The woman works hard for the money.
While women have made great inroads, there is still much that has not changed in people's attitudes. Just ask Hillary Clinton, running for the Democratic nomination in the American Presidential election, who still faces criticisms based on her gender. Do You Know What It Feels Like For A Girl?
Madonna is not infallible, of course. As much as she tried, she could never make it big in the movies. And she has made questionable forays into endeavours such as the Sex book of 1992, a pictorial journey of naughty snaps which, let's say, basically left no part uncovered in her body of work.
But for all the things she has done right, she has secured a place as one of pop music's top artists of all time - not only in terms of album sales - she has sold more than 300 million records worldwide - but also in cultural impact and influence.
Universities offer cultural studies courses on Madonna, assessing her multimedia appeal across the disciplines of music, fashion, movies and TV.
She has paved the way for countless artists; in particular, Lady Gaga, who has been accused of apeing Madonna's style. She has also stayed relevant by working with new artists. Her latest album, Rebel Heart, sees her collaborating with top songwriters and producers, including Diplo and Avicii.
We don't know what she will be doing 10 years from now. Maybe she will become an anti-ageism poster child because there is no reason to doubt that she will still be wearing hot pants at the age of 67.
But that's neither a relevant thought, nor is it in our hands.
As the world today appears to slide into brutality, ugliness and divisiveness, maybe we could, as she sings, just open our hearts on Sunday.
After all, when all is said and done, Madonna has really always been about love, whether it be sticky and sweet, a confession on the dance floor or simply, a rebel heart.
MADONNA'S LONGEST RUN AT NO. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 didn't take place until more than 11 years after her first chart hit.
On Feb. 25, 1995, her romantic R&B-flavored ballad "Take A Bow" began a seven-week reign atop the ranking. Co-written with Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, the track vaulted to No. 1 in the wake of the pair's performance of the song at the American Music Awards.
"Take A Bow," which was the second single from then-36-year-old Madge's 1994 Bedtime Stories album, showcased a kinder, gentler Queen of Pop following a few years of boundary-smashing, she-did-what? exhibitionism that no contemporary pop star of her stature has topped. In 1992, she released the album Erotica and its controversial Sex picture book tie-in, followed by the lurid 1993 movie flop Body of Evidence. An F-bomb-filled appearance on CBS' Late Show With David Letterman in 1994 also made headlines.
Bedtime Stories was a much more commercial release that, in addition to "Take a Bow," spawned three Hot 100 entries: "Secret" (the set's No. 3-peaking lead single), "Bedtime Story" and "Human Nature." It also outsold Erotica in the United States — 2.3 million vs. 1.9 million, according to Nielsen Music — and was nominated for a best pop album Grammy Award, Madonna's first nod for an LP.
"Take a Bow" also topped Billboard's Radio Songs, Pop Songs and Adult Contemporary charts (and crossed to a No. 40 peak on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs), but, despite its success, Madonna, now 57, didn't perform the song in concert until just recently: Feb. 4 on her Rebel Heart Tour in Taipei, Taiwan. She introduced the number by saying, "I'd like to sing a song especially for Taiwan — a song that I have never sung before ever, ever, ever in concert."
Afterward, she told the cheering crowd, "A few bad notes, but it felt good to sing it. Finally."
A day before her scheduled concert on Wednesday night, pop culture icon Madonna spent her time visiting welfare institutions for children in Manila on Tuesday afternoon.
Catherine Scerri, deputy director of the nongovernmental children's rights organization Bahay Tuluyan, said the American singer-songwriter dropped by at their headquarters at 2 p.m. and stayed for close to an hour.
"She watched a little dance number prepared by the children, and then ended up dancing with them, too," Scerri told the Inquirer in a phone interview. "The children were very happy and enjoyed their time with Madonna," Scerri said.
On her Instagram account, Madonna posted a photo of her with three children under the organization's care. "Chillin' with my homies at the Bahay Tuluyan Foundation, giving shelter to orphans street children trafficking abuse victims in Manila," Madonna wrote.
Scerri described the meeting "private and casual," with Madonna being accompanied by around 20 people, including some of her dancers.
"They reached out to us yesterday. Initially, we thought it was only her dancers who will go. We found out that Madonna was also coming only today," Scerri said, adding that Madonna asked her about how the foundation works.
"We discussed the situation of the children and how we help them," she said.
Also on Instagram, Madonna shared with her 6.2 million followers photos of her playing with babies at the orphanage Hospicio de San Jose. "Everyone needs a tickle!" she wrote in another post.
Madonna, one of the bestselling artists of all time, is currently in the country for a two-night show at SM Mall of Asia Arena, on Feb. 24 and 25, as part of her ongoing "Rebel Heart" world tour.
The Manila leg is presented by promoter Music Management International.
Singapore Catholics who have bought tickets for American pop singer Madonna's concert on Sunday should "act according to their informed conscience" on whether to attend the show, said the Catholic Church on Tuesday, making it clear it is not instructing them not to go.
The Church also said it was not imposing its views about Madonna on non-believers.
Its statement on Tuesday comes a day after a Straits Times report of the Archbishop William Goh expressing grave concern about the concert.
He also reminded Catholics of their moral obligation "not to support those who denigrate and insult religions".
Leaders of other Christian churches have since come out to support the Archbishop's position.
Among them are the National Council of Churches Singapore, representing more than 250 churches, the LoveSingapore network of about 100 churches, and the Assemblies of God of Singapore, with about 45 churches.
The Archbishop had, in his message, been unequivocal in criticising Madonna.
"There is no neutrality in faith; one is either for or against. Being present (at these events) in itself is a counter witness," he had said.
Following queries from The Straits Times on Tuesday, the office of the Archbishop said he was "not issuing any new instructions but simply recalling and stating the fact of the need to be true to their faith in Christ".
In response to criticisms of the Archbishop's message on social media, it said the Church "does not impose her faith and values on non-believers but nevertheless she has a moral duty to enlighten and speak the truth on moral issues unflinchingly for the good of humanity".
Other church leaders contacted on Tuesday shared the sentiments of the Archbishop.
The general superintendent of the Assemblies of God of Singapore, Reverend Dominic Yeo, urged Christians to remember that choices made, including the entertainment consumed, should be "honourable, right, and pure".
"It is imperative that we make choices that display our Christian convictions and demonstrate to our impressionable youth what it means to stand up for our faith," he said.
NCCS' general secretary, Rev Dr Ngoei Foong Nghian, told The Straits Times on Tuesday that the council had told the authorities of its concerns about the concert since December.
He said church members "would likely not wish to be subjected to songs and lyrics which may not be edifying to the Christian faith".
The singer's North American and European shows had her performing the song while scantily clad dancers looking like Catholic nuns pole-dance on cross-shaped stripper poles.
Pastor Lawrence Khong, who chairs the LoveSingapore network, praised the Archbishop for taking a stand against Madonna, adding that he was inspired by his "good example as Shepherd".
In a letter addressed to Archbishop Goh and posted on his Facebook, Pastor Khong said: "Not only have you made a public stand, but you have also given your flock sound counsel on the right response to 'anti-Christian and immoral values promoted by the secular world'."
This is not the first time churches have taken issue with a pop concert in Singapore.
In 2012, the Media Development Authority met the NCCS and LoveSingapore about Lady Gaga's concert. The churches were concerned over how she may have insulted Christians and promoted homosexuality at her concert.
A spokesman from the Islamic religious scholars' association Pergas told The Straits Times it was vital for anyone invited to Singapore to "recognise and respect both cultural and religious sensitivities of the local community".
Dr Mathew Mathews, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies, said religious leaders would weigh in on issues to safeguard the sanctity of these beliefs.
They need to be careful that the stand they encourage their flock to take "does not regress into uncivil behaviour towards those who don't necessarily embrace such a stand, whether in or outside the respective faith community".
Catholics interviewed supported the Archbishop. Retired foreign exchange broker James Galvin Loh, 61, said: "The singer uses religious articles and mocks practices that are disrespectful to my religion. My association with Madonna is a blessed name - the Virgin Mary."
Kanye West's The Life of Pablo —now available as a "Tidal exclusive," and the far-more-popular "illegal download"— includes songs that are great enough to keep fans coming back for more, even as they struggle with his increasingly unfortunate tweets. One thing it doesn't include is a Madonna feature, as her vocals on album track "Highlights" were replaced with those of Young Thug, with backup vocals by The-Dream, R&B/gospel singer Kelly Price and R&B/pop veteran El DeBarge. But the earlier version has surfaced online, so Madge devotees can hear what might have been.
The Madonna version comes courtesy of Joel Miles, aka rapper Bobby James, who says he was also called by Kanye to work on T.L.O.P. And while Miles' recorded vocals also ended up on the cutting room floor, he's shared their studio session on Facebook. Madonna's voice comes in at the top of the clip, and sounds like it's AutoTuned within an inch of its life (in other words, as manipulated as Young Thug's are). Listen below.
Madonna's upcoming Rebel Heart concert at the National Stadium on Feb 28 is costing its Taiwanese investors US$10 million (S$14 million).
The cost for her first concert here includes air freight for the pop star's 27 containers holding the stage, lighting and wardrobe set-ups.
One of the concert's two investors, Mr James Lee, 53, the chief executive of Kinglun International Holdings - a Taiwan-based property company - revealed the entire cost of the concert in an interview with The Straits Times on Tuesday (Feb 16). The other investor is also Taiwanese but Mr Lee and Mediacorp declined to reveal his identity.
The property magnate also fancies himself as a concert promoter, having brought Western acts such as Mariah Carey and Air Supply to Taiwan over the last three years. He is usually a fan of the acts he brings in, saying that "music culture is an important trend that's upcoming, which is one of the reasons why we have decided to invest in it".
The Madonna concert marks his first time investing in a concert in Singapore. He did not invest in Madonna's Taiwanese concerts, which took place on Feb 4 and 6.
While he did try to get on board for those shows, he was unsuccessful as most of her shows during the Asian leg of her tour are handled by subsidiaries of international concert promoter Live Nation.
Since there was no investor for the Singapore show at the time, Mr Lee decided to step in.
By bringing the Rebel Heart Tour here, he hopes that people from neighbouring countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia will fly in to see her. "It'd be a waste if people in this part of the world don't get to see her show," he said, adding that "it's a show not to be missed, she's such a legendary queen of pop".
He says the biggest challenge for the show was getting the government on board, explaining that no other shows on her tour had to be "curated" beforehand.
According to a statement from the Media Development Authority (MDA) last month, Madonna is not allowed to perform the song Holy Water and the show has been given an R18 rating.
The statement added: "In determining the rating, MDA had carefully reviewed the proposed setlist and consulted the Arts Consultative Panel. Religiously sensitive content which breach our guidelines, such as the song Holy Water, will thus not be performed in Singapore."
Mr Lee admits that they were worried when the government "had some conditions for approval for the show". They were equally concerned that Madonna would say no to performing in Singapore.
"But surprisingly, she not only agreed to come, but she is willing to change the content just for the Singapore audience," Mr Lee explains.
The current Asian stops on her worldwide tour - namely Taipei, Bangkok and Tokyo - include a segment in which she performs a medley of Holy Water, a song from her latest album Rebel Heart, and 1990 hit Vogue while scantily clad nuns pole-dance on cross-shaped stripper poles.
When asked if that segment would be removed, Mr Lee says: "From our understanding, it will not be removed, instead it will amended."
While he is not entirely certain of the changes for the rest of the show, he says: "What I can tell the Singapore audience is that they will not lose any part of the experience, but I think they should be happy because they're going to see something different from other parts of the world."
This will also be the first concert at the National Stadium that will require a reconfiguration of the seating to accommodate the show.
According to Mr Lee, the seating will be pulled out to cover the running track of the stadium so that the seats located at the sides are closer to the stage. The entire process will take 10 days and comes at an additional cost.
"We are willing to spend this money just to make it more viable and to bring people closer to the stage," he says.
Some 80 to 90 per cent of tickets have been sold, but after some negotiations, Mr Lee says that more Category 4 tickets priced at $388 will be released. However these will be tickets in a newly created section in the standing pen. These additional tickets will go on sale on Wednesday morning (Feb 17) at 10am via Sports Hub Tix.
He insists that his participation as investor in the concert "is not for profit" and that he is fulfilling a promise to his friends in Singpore. Mr Lee and his wife come to Singapore three or four times a year.
It was 30 years ago, in January 1986, when Madonna first came to Hong Kong.
She arrived here to shoot the film Shanghai Surprise, and quickly found herself sought after by fans keen to get her autograph.
Married at the time to actor and Shanghai Surprise co-star Sean Penn, the couple refused all interviews and photograph requests, but intrepid SCMP photographer Sam Chan managed to snap shots of the pair dining in the legendary Godown restaurant in Central.
She may have rejected requests for the media's attention, but Madonna was far more gracious to her fans, who dutifully staked our her hotel and film locations in their search for sightings and an elusive autograph from the material girl.
The photo, along with a framed signature from 'Madonna Louise Ciccone' were hung on the walls of the Godown for some years until thieves unceremoniously pinched them in 1990, never to be seen again, despite the posting of a HK$1,000 reward for their return by the venue's owners.
It was the same year Madonna had indicated interest in performing at Hong Kong's Freedom Festival concert at the Sha Tin race course as part of the global celebration to mark the fall of the Berlin Wall and reunification of Germany.
Who's that girl: Madonna's movie life
Dancing through the South China Morning Post archive, we find much mention of Madonna's movie life and her embrace of cinema as an extension of her identity beyond the stage.
Madonna's next major starring role was in Who's That Girl, which arrived in Hong Kong in early 1988. In the movie she plays a tough, streetwise girl, just out of jail and bent on finding out who was responsible for framing her for murder. The SCMP's Young Post wrote that although her last film Shanghai Surprise, filmed in Hong Kong and Macau, was something of a flop, fans would be keen to see if she could recapture the magic of her performance in Desperately Seeking Susan.
Madonna's singing and performing ability has been unassailable; her acting ability has been argued about for years. In 1988, it had bought war between critics. The Daily News wrote "No, She Can't Act." in the headline and The Washington Post said "Can Madonna act? No, not particularly well." WCBS-TV drama critic Dennis Cunningham said, "We could have got anyone out of the audience who could have read it better than she did."
In contrast, New York Times critic Frank Rich liked Madonna's performance in Speed the Plough. He described her performance as "intelligent, scrupulously disciplined comic acting". But this made Cunningham furious and demanded Rich apologise to every actor he gave a bad review.
Madonna was reported to be considering quitting her acting career after her film Bloodhounds On Broadway was considered so bad it should not be released.
Nevertheless, the dawn of the Nineties found the superstar negotiating a deal to launch her career to even greater heights of stardom. She landed the role of Eva Peron in the film bio-pic Evita. She was backed by Disney Studios after playing the impressive Breathless Mahony in Dick Tracy. It was to be her most successful role, winning her a Golden Globe award.
In bed with Madonna: in trouble with the censors
Madonna aimed to show her "real" life in the documentary, In Bed with Madonna (Truth or Dare). It was shot behind the scenes of her 1990 "Blonde Ambition" world tour. From the SCMP archive in 1991, reviewer Fionnuala Halligan described it as '… a commercial product designed to separate punters from their hard-earned money, and perpetuate her position at the top of the headline league'. She also described it as "a strange experience… [of] outrage, shock and vulgarity."
In the documentary, there are sexual scenes of faked masturbation on stage, simulated oral sex with a water bottle, gay dancers French-kissing, topless shots and coarse language, but also poignant scenes about her family and lover.
Halligan wrote "Despite all the shock-till-you-drop and blatant mugging, she's still a riveting presence and it's hard not to be impressed".
Halligan then asked would Madonna have a life if the camera wasn't switched on. To Halligan, it seems that the only buddies of Madonna are her largely gay dancers who receive her genuine feelings.
Though the documentary's one major flaw is it's slightly rambling, it's enough to show that Madonna loved all attention rolled onto her and loves living under her fame. The review ends with a fairly spiky question about her longevity: "Cursed with a whiney little-girl speaking voice, Madonna minces her way through the piece, simply revelling in the attention. Here's one star who will never complain about the price of fame. Madonna will happily carry on pushing those buttons as long as we allow her to do so. The real question is why?"
Into the groove: Madonna's musical life
The South China Morning Post archives of the 1980s recall a decade when Madonna ruled the charts and her live shows commanded tremendous attention.
Despite beginning her relationship with Hong Kong some 30 years ago, it is only this year that she will perform live in the city; as part of her Rebel Heart world tour, Madonna will stage two concerts in Hong Kong on 17 and 18 February. It has been a long wait for her local fans, who for years have read reports of her previous world tours with envy.
During her Who's That Girl World Tour in July 1987, fans were camping outside her hotels in Japan and the United Kingdom; banner headlines were seen in every country she visited, and her merchandise enjoyed rocketing sales. SCMP's Young Post said it "demonstrates the unique position that she commands in the world of pop music."
In 1987, Madonna Louise Ciccone had sold more records in the US than any female artist and was third in overall records for her latest film and album Who's That Girl. She played to a total of 320,000 fans in Japan and 200,000 in England and hundreds of thousands more in Europe and the US. Although she did not stop in Hong Kong, her soundtrack album from the film was available and the video of Causing a Commotion had appeared on music TV shows.
Still producing energetic pop music, Madonna had changed drastically in her appearance from the buxom, curvaceous coquette of her Like a Virgin days to a lean and muscular shape. Because of the demands of all-action stage shows and her enthusiasm for keeping fit, she had undergone a strict regime in exercise.
Her daily routine in preparation for the concerts included a six-mile jog, a work out on an exercise bike, then 100 lengths of her swimming pool and three hours of aerobic exercises.
Young Post then wrote: "Apart from her obvious physical attraction, the key to her immense popularity boils down to a combination of her outrageousness and her appreciation of street values – the things that make the average man or woman in the street tick."
She was quoted as saying "There are about a million opposites living inside me."
This may be one of the reasons why she continues to fascinate her audience.
The sexual elements in Madonna's music had always been controversial, but this time she managed to outrage even more people. Her music video Erotica was banned on the Asian satellite channel in 1992. The channel chief said: "When you're dealing with a wide range of religions, cultures and beliefs, it's hard to see this not offending someone and we're very conscious of this."
The decision was taken on the channel's own standards and practices without an approach to Hong Kong censors, or the Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority. People in Asia who wanted to see the music video could buy the book or the video itself. Though, another single Justify My Love was included in her book, Sex, released later in Hong Kong.
The saucy video for Justify My Love also sparked controversy in sexual content, suggesting bisexuality and oral sex. It was banned by US pop channel MTV. "This is my art", Madonna said in a statement, "This is my interpretation of the song. I'm practising freedom of speech and expression." Critic John Owen said Madonna has "put the knife into some deserving patriarchal values and morals…" Whilst, Critic Gloria Wu believed "Madonna is using her considerable talent to exploit the male-dominated entertainment industry for all it is worth."
Madonna challenges people's perception about themselves and sex, such as telling women not to be embarrassed being female. Her marketing skills and chameleon-like ability of changing image and have led to remarkable career success.
Madonna is currently touring Asia but she has more than just concerts on her itinerary. After playing two shows in Tokyo as a part of her Rebel Heart tour, the Material Girl put in an after-hours appearance at Tokyo's Ginza Mitsukoshi store to promote her skin-care line, MDNA Skin.
The superstar arrived at the basement of the department store at 10:30 p.m. an hour behind schedule for a five-minute photo shoot with Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings president Hiroshi Onishi and Tsuyoshi Matsushita, president of Japanese beauty company MTG, which makes the skin-care line.
Wearing a sheer black dress and a silver cross necklace, Madonna signed an advertisement board promoting her line but declined to give a speech or take questions from the dozens of reporters assembled. When asked by the photographers to smile bigger for their cameras, she replied softly, "I can't," before blowing a kiss and making a quick exit.
MDNA Skin was launched in 2014 in Japan and it is now being expanded and rolled out to select Asian markets. The line is produced by MTG and was developed with the singer herself and her aesthetician, Michelle Peck. The brand made its debut with a device called the "skin rejuvenator," which is designed to be used with a clay mask, as well as a serum. Products being launched now include a face wash, a rose mist, an eye mask and another device conceived specifically for removing the clay mask. Prices range from 4,500 yen, about $37, for the face wash to 58,000 yen, or $481, for a set including the skin rejuvenator and clay mask.
MTG's Matsushita said he plans to introduce MDNA Skin to the U.S. and European markets in the future, although no dates have been set.
The MDNA Skin line utilizes ingredients including thermal water, clay and olives from the Italian town of Montecatini Terme in Tuscany. MTG has plans to add even more products to the line in order to offer a total skin-care solution, but development and approval takes time when one is working with one of the world's most famous perfectionists.
"All these products had to get by Madonna," Peck said. "We're not going to rush something just to make a launch. If it's not ready, it's not going to be here, because it's not approved because there's still things that need to be done to it to get in ready for the public. Which means it didn't get by Madonna, it didn't get by me and we're still working on it. And that's what I love about her. We would rather have it be ready than have it be presented in a way that's not authentic."
STRIKE A POSE! Madonna na divulgação da sua linha de cosméticos MDNA Skin em Tóquio. #lindonna http://madonnaonline.com.br/2016/02/15/madonna-divulga-a-sua-linha-de-cosmeticos-no-japao/Posted by MadonnaOnline on Monday, 15 February 2016
#MadonnaLovers! To celebrate the Japanese stop of the #RebelHeartTour, we have 20 copies of the brand new Japan-only CD+DVD edition of the #RebelHeart album to give away. What would be your Valentine's Day message to Madonna? Leave it as a comment below before February 15 and let's see what happens ;)
The new album edition celebrates Madonna's return to Japan.
The CD will feature the 19 tracks of the Deluxe edition plus the Dirty Pop Remix of Living For Love.
The DVD features the music videos for the singles Living For Love, Ghosttown and Bitch I'm Madonna as well as the Sander Kleinenberg Remix video of Bitch I'm Madonna.
Kanye West has set the hype train into overdrive after sharing the name and cover art for his upcoming seventh studio album this week, but it appears the self-styled "God" may have sought some pointers from another musical icon's work.
Kanye released the cover art for upcoming record The Life of Pablo last night (February 11), designed by Belgian artist Peter De Potter, but eagle-eyed Madonna fans were quick to point out its similarity to the artwork for the Queen of Pop's 2003 single 'Nothing Fails'.
From the orange background, over-lapping text and similarly-sized picture inserts, it's certainly not hard to see why some have accused the 'Gold Digger' star was – at the very least – "inspired" by Madonna's work.
Madonna fans have also been left unimpressed after it was revealed that Kanye has removed the Queen of Pop's feature spot on new track 'Highlights' and replaced her with US rap star Young Thug.
In her weekly column, Liz Smith comments on the custody battle between Madonna and Guy Ritchie over their son Rocco.
I have refrained until now from commenting on the matter of Madonna and her 15-year-old son, Rocco, who has recently declined to return to the United States and live with his mother, preferring the more lackadaisical lifestyle of his father, director Guy Ritchie. (Madonna married Ritchie in 2000. They divorced in 2008 and he — already a wealthy man — took the pop icon for about $75 million bucks.)
I have no inside information, other than the fact that Madonna is crushed by this turn of events. I know her quite well. I have seen her with all four of her children. I have heard her speak privately about them in the most glowing — and intelligent — terms. She is a stickler for education, self-discipline and motivation.
Despite the professional image and stage persona she often embodies, Madonna is a very good mother, and not, appearances to the contrary, a hedonist or self-destructive. No drugs, no drinking, no dissipation. The male company she has kept since her divorce from Ritchie are separate from her role as a mother. She is not given to wild or inappropriate behavior in front of her children, or anyone else, for that matter.
(I, along with others, might roll my eyes at some of the things she wears, or how she presents herself in photo shoots or on Instagram. But that's not her daily life. She marches to her own drummer and refuses to be categorized or held back by what others think is "suitable" for a woman of 57. She enjoys making us crazy.)
I am fairly certain that continuing with her current Rebel Heart Tour has been agonizing, but it would be out of character for Madonna to cave, give in, give up. And what would it gain her? Bad press, enraged fans, and her son would still be in England.
This unhappy situation will likely sort itself out, but that the situation exists doesn't surprise me. I wondered what was going on in Guy Ritchie's head when he put Madonna in a film short as a movie star abused by her driver, and then starred her in "Swept Away," as a wealthy woman abused by one of her servants.
Madonna entered her marriage to Ritchie fully committed. To such an extent that photos of the wedding were never made public. Her nuptials were not grist for the PR mill. Madonna's two "I do's" — to Sean and then to Ritchie were absolutely sincere. That Catholic girl from Michigan always lurks beneath the "outrageous" star.
I don't think Madonna regrets her marriage to Penn. They have remained friends. I believe she regrets most of her marriage to Ritchie, except for their son, Rocco.
Good luck with all this, honey. You are a good girl.
It's 25 years since seven male dancers were picked out by Madonna for her Blond Ambition tour. They became gay role models and celebrities in their own right but inevitably the bubble burst, as a new film reveals.
The seven dancers she chose from open auditions in LA and New York accompanied Madonna during her 1990 Blond Ambition world tour, celebrated in the Truth Or Dare (aka In Bed with Madonna) documentary. They were all in their early twenties. Six were gay. They became celebrities in their own right as they travelled the world with the biggest pop star of the era. The dancers were wildly flamboyant. Most were classically trained.
"They are still very intriguing characters, all of them," says Reijer Zwaan, whose new documentary about them, Strike a Pose (co-directed with Ester Gould) screens at the Berlin festival next week. Five of the dancers will be in Berlin for the world premiere. "To this day, they are great, inspiring and bold characters. These guys, when they were 20, were having the time of their lives. They were travelling the world. They were well known. They were performing in front of 50,000 people." The dancers and the singers became a very close-knit group. Madonna talked about "feeling like a mother" toward them.
As a kid growing up in the Netherlands in the early 1990s, Zwaan, now a respected current affairs journalist with Dutch public TV, had been obsessed by Madonna and the dancers. He first saw Truth Or Dare when he was 11 years old.
"At the time, I was just fascinated by the tour, by the concert footage but also by the backstage material – the larger-than-life reality that they were all in. I saw it (the film) many times afterwards for the simple reason that my stepmother had bought the VHS." What, Zwaan wondered, had happened to all the dancers in the intervening years? He decided to find out.
Thanks to social media, the dancers weren't hard to track down. The trick was to convince them all to appear in the film. Zwaan and his co-director, Gould, wrote them all "a beautiful letter", asking them to appear in the film.
Some responded immediately and agreed to appear in the film. Others were more cautious. "It's not the same story for each dancer but in general, they were interested in what we were talking about… they were flattered and wary at the same time," Gould suggests.
It was clear to the dancers that this wasn't just a gossipy, nostalgic film with Madonna at the centre. The real intention was to explore just how these dancers reinvented their lives once their time in the limelight was over. The dancers are acknowledged to have had a considerable influence on gay culture. Truth Or Dare was considered groundbreaking – a mainstream film that turned into a huge box office hit and featured a scene of two gay men kissing.
As one fan puts it, "I remember watching this movie in middle school. It was before the internet. I rented it from the video store. It was the first time I saw gay people talking uncensored, being themselves, with this amazing woman."
Twenty-five years on, the dancers are still stopped in the street. "People will say to them, 'Thanks to you, I dared to come out to my family,'" says co-director Gould. "Every week, they get a letter or message from somebody thanking them. They know they have had an impact. At the same time, they have had to move on."
Strike a Pose includes scenes in which the dancers read some of their fan letters. These message are often very poignant. "You guys were and still are my heroes. You gave me hope when there was none," reads one typical message. "
The dancers may have been role models and a source of inspiration to fans but they have experienced chequered lives. They were all from very different backgrounds. One of them, Gabriel Trupin (whose mother appears in the film), died of an Aids-related illness in 1995.
Not long before his death, Trupin, together with two of the other dancers, had launched a lawsuit against Madonna (which was later settled), claiming that the film had invaded their privacy. It highlighted a paradox that Strike a Pose now attempts to unravel. Trupin has been an inspiration for many young, gay kids. He and the other dancers gave the impression on screen and on stage that they didn't care what the outside world thought about them. They were reckless and very creative. As it turned out, though, they were far more vulnerable than they appeared. Trupin was horrified that the scene of him French-kissing another man had been included in Truth Or Dare.
"That paradox was very interesting to us and something we talked about a lot to the dancers and to Gabriel's mother," says Zwaan. "So many people have pointed out to us that that scene (of the gay kiss) helped them to accept themselves and to dare to come out. Then, at the same time, one of the kissers had a whole different feeling about it." During their time with Madonna, the dancers had been living in "a bubble" and inevitably that bubble burst. There were struggles with alcoholism, illness, professional disappointment, personal rifts.
"They all have dealt with self-doubt, shame and losing their own identity," says Zwaan.
These proud dancers became defined in the public eye for what they had done with Madonna. "It's one of the themes of this film – how do you get over this highlight? If you have this highlight when you're 20 or 21, or for Jose and Luis, I think they were 18 or 19. There comes a point where they think, do I have to do another interview about Madonna? It keeps on following you throughout your life. Of course, they're trying to move on," Gould remarks.
Gazette Review lists the top 10 of Richest Female Singers. Naturally, Madonna comes in at #1.
#1 – Madonna
Net Worth 2016 – $1 Billion
Singer, actress, songwriter and entrepreneur Madonna has done it all. And it has paid dividends. Her true net worth is a whopping $1 Billion, this makes her not only the richest female singer in the world, but the richest of all singers, regardless of gender. She is known for her reinvention on the stage and a genre spanning back catalog of music.
Beginning in the 1980's and remaining popular to this day. Her business ventures outside of music include a wide variety of branded merchandise, clothes, books, makeup, fragrances, you name it she sells it. She owns a chain of fitness stores, Hard Candy Fitness, founded an entertainment company, Maverick, and has made appearances in film and television. Madonna has leveraged a successful singing career into a multimedia empire that spans the globe.
It's not breaking news that Madonna is an opinionated lady. And even though she loves her fans —bringing back wonderful standards "True Blue" and "Who's That Girl" to her set list for the first time in almost 30 years during herRebel Heart Tour — there are a bevy of mid-'90s tracks that she has, to date, flatly ignored.
The one at the top of everybody's list, obviously, is "Take A Bow," which closes her most artful album, 1994's Bedtime Stories. The ballad's iconic music video first introduced Madge's image as a stately Spanish maven, and serves as a direct influence on her recent vid for "Living for Love," the first single off Rebel Heart. (In "Take A Bow" she attends a bullfight; in "Living For Love" she is the bullfighter.)
Surprisingly, "Take A Bow" is also Madonna's longest-running No.1 single, according to Billboard.
But, the Material Girl had never performed it on tour — until last night in Taiwan. The singer, on stage in Taipei, brought the house down with her first live rendition of the song in more than 20 years (she performed it last at the 1995 American Music Awards, with Babyface).
At the end of the song, she told the audience: "That was fun, first time ever. Hit a few bad notes, but it felt good to sing it. Finally!"
Don't worry, Madge, we've always been in love with you... and now we have another reason.
Earthquake here in Taipei.. 4 am.. We are all ok.. Hope that was the end of it..
The singer has managed to alienate fans in both of the two rival nations by her use of symbols and flags on the latest stage of her 'Rebel Heart' tour.
On Thursday as the singer prepared to play her first ever shows in Taiwan, she posted a picture of herself at the centre of a blue star design - which somebody in her organisation presumably believed to be a national emblem. The image appeared on both Madonna's Instagram and Facebook accounts with the greeting "Take a bow Tai-Pei".
Unfortunately that design is actually an old badge of the Taiwanese political party the Kuomintang (KMT). For many Taiwanese it is strongly associated with the 'White Terror'', one of the bloodiest times in the country's history.
It refers to a period in the 1950s and 60s when an estimated 18,000-30,000 of the island's elite were executed by the KMT as they tried to exert their control over Taiwan after the party's forces fled there to escape the Communist takeover of mainland China.
It wasn't until 2008 that President Ma Ying-jeou made an official apology for the deaths. So when Taiwanese social media users spotted Madonna had appropriated the old KMT symbol - so synonymous with historical oppression - they made clear their displeasure in the comments on the picture.
To make things even worse the current incarnation of the KMT has also fallen out of favour with many Taiwanese. In elections last month the party was thrown out of power by the Democratic Progressive Party.
However, despite all this Madonna's KMT-referencing image remains - at time of writing - on both her Facebook and Instagram pages alongside scores of furious comments, some of which have been liked thousands of times.
The singer has yet to comment publicly on the row, but has continued to post pictures from the first of her Taiwan concerts thanking the audience for their "electric and amazing" energy.
Part of that more positive reaction was inspired by an onstage gesture which may have partially made amends to offended Taiwanese nationalists. As she has done elsewhere on the tour, Madonna performed her iconic hit "Holiday" wrapped in the flag of the country she was performing in. Clad in the actual Taiwanese flag she shouted at the crowd "I love China" and "I love Taiwan".
Although this delighted many Taiwanese people it has had the opposite effect in China.
China still views Taiwan as a break-away province rather than a separate country. And the Taiwanese flag is seen as a direct mark of defiance to any thought of reunification with the mainland.
Chinese fans were unforgiving on social media with one post on micro blogging platform Weibo saying, "Is Taiwan a country? I am laughing to death…you are just a region." Others joined in by writing, "Disgraceful act, what kind of message are you sending to China?" and "What a cheap way to get attention from the mainland. Your music isn't very welcome or known in our country anyway."
Most memorable of all perhaps was the Weibo user whose message to Madonna was: "Did you run out of your cone-shaped bras and had nothing better to wear?! Stupid western woman with no modesty."↑ Back to top of page