Violence has been a surprisingly consistent theme throughout Madonna's music video canon, from "Like a Prayer" to "What It Feels like for a Girl" to, most recently, "Dark Ballet", in which Mykki Blanco is burned at the stake. But the video for "God Control," from her latest album, Madame X, is shockingly graphic in its depiction of gun violence.
The video, which premiered on Wednesday, was directed by Jonas Åkerlund, who also helmed the clip for 2003's "American Life," the original version of was scrapped in the lead-up to the Iraq War. Parallels between the two videos are inevitable: "American Life" is a satire of modern society's consumption of war as popular entertainment, while "God Control" depicts the carnage weapons of war can wreak here at home. Like "American Life," the new video features a wealth of Easter eggs, hidden meanings, and cameos.
The brunette Madonna (we'll call her Madame X) has framed photos of Frida Kahlo, Nina Simone, and Patti Smith hanging on the walls around her desk. Also visible are portraits of choreographer Martha Graham—who, according to Madonna, christened her with the nickname "Madame X" in the late 1970s because she was constantly changing her appearance—and political activist Angela Davis, a quote from whom is a featured at the end of the video: "I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept."
The record Madame X listens to while writing is titled "We Need to Wake Up," printed in a '70s-style typeface. The credits, unfortunately, are too small to make out:
Early in "God Control," a statue of Christ is seen weeping blood, echoing a similar shot in Madonna's video for "Like a Prayer," in which a black saint cries tears of blood:
A brief close-up of Madame X's typewriter pulls focus on the letters "D" and "C," an obvious reference to Washington D.C.'s inaction:
Later in the clip, Madonna punches the "Power Return" button, an obvious allusion to the people reclaiming their power, which is followed by a montage of gun-control demonstrations:
Though the opening shot of "God Control" establishes New York City as the location of the story, the club scenes were filmed at downtown Los Angeles's historic Globe Theatre, where the marquee reads "We Need To Wake Up":
Blink and you'll miss cameos from RuPaul's Drag Race alum Monét X Change, YouTuber Gigi Gorgeous, and actress Sofia Boutella, who's danced for Madonna on tour:
Surveillance footage featured throughout the video is dated "16/05/12," which some fans have speculated refers to a passage from the New Testament:
In another possible reference to "Like a Prayer," Madonna is thrown against a wall and attacked, similar to a scene in the 1989 video in which she witnesses a young woman being sexually assaulted by a group of men:
While Madonna gets ready for a night on the town, a poster in the background reads “Straight White Men Rule Everything Around Me”:
Theories abound over whether the two Madonnas featured in the video are the same person, if they're neighbors, or if the blond Madonna is a fictional creation of Madame X. One clue could be right at our fingertips—or, rather, Madonna's. Both characters appear to be wearing the same glittery nail polish:
Madonna will launch an exclusive limited-run SiriusXM music channel, "Madonna's Madame X Radio," July 1, a SiriusXM spokesperson tells CNN.
The channel will showcase music from Madonna's legendary career, including her latest album, "Madame X."
Besides her extensive catalogue of songs, the channel will also feature exclusive stories from Madonna about her life and legacy, the making of her songs, and her love of art and music.
"This channel brings you into the intricate world of Madame X," says Madonna. "You'll learn more about the creative process behind my latest album and gain a deeper understanding of what drives me as an artist and a performer."
The channel will launch following Madonna's Pride Island appearance in New York City. It will run 24 hours a day through Wednesday, July 31 on SiriusXM radios (ch. 4), the SiriusXM app and web player.
"Madonna is an artist who is the very definition of a musical and cultural icon. Her voice, songwriting, performances, and life's work has made her a universal force. Along the way she has created some of the most creative and biggest-selling albums of all time. Our exclusive channel celebrating Madonna is a truly comprehensive deep dive into the music of one of the world's most legendary artists," said Scott Greenstein, President and Chief Content Officer, SiriusXM.
As expected, the video for God Control caused many reactions in the press. Here's a selection.
BBC: Madonna defends 'disturbing' gun massacre video
Billboard: Madonna's 'God Control' video delivers blood-stained wake-up call about gun violence
Billboard: Madonna's 9 most controversial videos, from 'Papa Don't Preach' to 'God Control'
CNN: Madonna makes powerful statement against gun violence in 'God Control' video
Entertainment Weekly: Madonna features shocking mass shooting scene in 'God Control' music video
The Guardian: Madonna calls for gun control in violent video that depicts nightclub shooting
NME: Madonna rallies against gun violence in powerful 'God Control' video
People: Madonna releases new video to spotlight issue of gun violence: 'I can't take it anymore'
Pitchfork: Madonna shares disturbing 'God Control' video to protest gun violence
Rolling Stone: Madonna protests gun violence in disturbing 'God Control' video
W Magazine: Madonna is taking a stand against gun violence in her music video for 'God Control'
After many days of anticipation, fueled by teasers on her social media channels, Madonna has premiered the video for God Control, which was directed by Jonas Akerlund. Set to a background of a disco club that reminds us of Studio 54, it takes a strong stand against gun violence in the USA. The very graphic video doesn't beat around the bush and will surely cause a stir in the coming days.
During this Pride month, Madonna teams up with Pelotn to support the LGBT Community Center in New York. This was posted on her Facebook:
Celebrating the power of love and inclusivity with Peloton Madonna Artist Series classes across Bike, Tread and Digital Thursday, June 27th through Sunday, June 30th. For every live or on demand class completed during this time we will be donating $1 to The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. Choose from any of the classes throughout the weekend to spread the love alongside this amazing community. #onepeloton #pride
Madonna has posted several more teasers for the upcoming music video of God Control. Looks like it will be released in the coming days.
With 10 shows already announced and due to overwhelming demand, Madonna, Maverick and Live Nation have just announced 2 additional Madame X shows at the Grand Rex in Paris on 3rd and 4th of March!
Tickets to these newly added shows will be released for general sale Friday, 28 June at 10:00am CEST at ticketmaster.fr
Lifetime Legacy members of ICON and Citi card holders will be eligible for a special presale starting Wed. 26 June (10am CEST) – Thursday, 27 June (6pm CEST).
Find the full tour schedule here.
Madonna had a lot on her mind when she stopped by The Tonight Show on Thursday night (June 20), from her affection for host Jimmy Fallon to revealing her serious nerves when she met Pres. Obama on Fallon's show years ago. But first, the Madame X star indulged Fallon in a neon dance battle, during which they took turns lighting up the stage while wearing full-body neon suits as house band The Roots played them a funky beat.
Never one to hold her tongue, Madonna started off the couch chat by jokingly putting Roots drummer Questlove on the spot, asking him if he was mad at her during the dance segment and then forcing him to reveal whether she or Fallon were the better dancer.
"Your physical comedy is unparalleled," she told Fallon. "That's what you call my dancing? Physical comedy?" Fallon snapped back. "A good comedian has to be able to dance. You do need a new hairstylist, but that's another story," she zinged. The pair's chemistry was clearly on view, with Madonna also teasing Fallon about his "manly" beard and his powder blue tie, which led to to a spontaneous duet on Gershwin's "Summertime."
Wearing a bedazzled short dress accented by a black hat with a veil featuring the word "art" embroidered in red, the singer indulged Fallon in a cha-cha lesson, inviting the entire studio audience to have a dance with Madonna. And, as it turns out, Madonna was wearing her veil because the two decided they are going to get married. "I gotta talk to my wife and figure this out," Fallon said. "The more marriage I have the shorter my veil gets," she shot back.
She also talked about how anxious she was when Fallon invited her to join former Pres. Barack Obama on a June 2016 broadcast. "Oh, my God. That is probably the most nervous I've ever been in my life. I had butterflies in my stomach. I was completely and utterly starstruck. I was gagging," she told Fallon. "He's so hot, sorry!" Fallon recalled that Madonna was kind of quiet and a bit flirty when he brought the commander in chief over, while he was all business. "You're the only reason I'm doing this show," Fallon recalled Madonna telling Obama. "I go, 'I can hear you!' I was right there!'" Fallon joked.
X marks the No. 1 spot.
Madonna lands her ninth No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart as Madame X enters atop the tally. The set, released via Interscope Records on June 14, launches with 95,000 equivalent album units earned in the U.S. in the week ending June 20, according to Nielsen Music. Of that sum, 90,000 were in album sales.
The Billboard 200 chart ranks the most popular albums of the week in the U.S. based on multi-metric consumption as measured in equivalent album units. Units are comprised of traditional album sales, track equivalent albums (TEA) and streaming equivalent albums (SEA). The new June 29-dated chart, where Madame X bows at No. 1, will be posted in full on Billboard's websites on June 25.
Overall, Madame X's debut sum of 95,000 equivalent album units is comprised of 90,000 in album sales, 1,000 in TEA units and 4,000 in SEA units.
Madame X grants Madonna her ninth leader on the Billboard 200. She last led the list in 2012, with MDNA. Here's a look at all of Madonna's No. 1 albums: Madame X, MDNA (2012), Hard Candy (2008), Confessions on a Dance Floor (2005), American Life (2003), Music (2000), Like a Prayer (1989), True Blue (1986) and Like a Virgin (1985).
Madonna continues to have the second-most No. 1 albums among female artists, trailing only Barbra Streisand, who has 11. Among all acts, The Beatles have the most No. 1s, with 19. They are followed by Jay-Z (14), Streisand and Bruce Springsteen (both with 11), Elvis Presley (10), Eminem, Garth Brooks, Madonna and The Rolling Stones (all with nine).
Madonna is a frequent visitor to the top 10 of the Billboard 200, having notched at least four top 10 albums in each of the last four decades ('80s, '90s, '00s and '10s). Madame X marks her 22nd top 10, and fourth of the '10s. Earlier in the decade, she reached the region with her last studio effort, Rebel Heart (No. 2 in 2015), MDNA (No. 1, 2012) and the live album Sticky & Sweet Tour (No. 10, 2010).
Madonna's first top 10 came nearly 35 years ago, when her self-titled debut album climbed 12-10 on the Oct. 6, 1984-dated chart. It eventually peaked at No. 8 two weeks later (Oct. 20). The diva would place five top 10s in the '80s, seven in the '90s, six in the '00s and now four in the '10s.
The Rolling Stones have the most top 10s in the history of the Billboard 200, with 37. They are followed by Streisand (34), The Beatles (32), Frank Sinatra (32), Presley (27), Bob Dylan (22), Madonna (22), George Strait (21), Elton John (20), Paul McCartney/Wings (20) and Springsteen (20).
Madame X's debut week was comprised of 90,000 in album sales, which is the fourth-largest sales week for an album in 2019 by a woman. The album's sales were bolstered by a concert ticket/album sale redemption offer with the Queen of Pop's upcoming theater tour (starting on Sept. 12 in New York at Brooklyn's Howard Gilman Opera House), as well as an array of merchandise/album bundles sold via her official website.
Madame X was led by the track "Medellín," with Maluma, which climbs 2-1 on the Dance Club Songs chart dated June 29, marking Madonna's 47th leader on the tally. (The chart, like the Billboard 200, will refresh on Billboard's website on Tuesday, June 25.) "Medellín" also reached the top 20 on the Hot Latin Songs chart.
Before Madame X dropped, four more preview cuts were issued: "I Rise," "Future," with Quavo, "Crave," with Swae Lee, and "Dark Ballet." "Crave" recently debuted on the Adult Contemporary airplay chart, and holds at No. 15 on the most recently published list (dated June 22).
At No. 2 on the new Billboard 200, Springsteen's Western Stars debuts, marking his 20th top 10 effort. The set begins with 66,000 equivalent album units (of which 62,000 were in album sales). Springsteen first hit the top 10 back in 1975, when Born to Run sprinted 84-8 in its second week on the list (dated Sept. 20, 1975). The Boss last hit the top 10 in 2016 with the retrospective compilation release Chapter and Verse (debuting and peaking at No. 5).
Western Stars was led by the radio-promoted single "Hello Sunshine," which has peaked at No. 23 on the Adult Alternative Songs airplay chart.
Fun fact for chart watchers: With Madonna and Springsteen at Nos. 1 and 2 on the new Billboard 200, it's the first time the Queen of Pop and The Boss have been in the top two together since 1985. The last time they were buddies in the top two (and the only time before this week) was for four weeks in January and February that year. On the charts dated Jan. 26 and Feb. 2, 1985, Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A. and Madonna's Like a Virgin were Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. Then, the titles flipped ranks on Feb. 9 and Feb. 16. (Born spent a total of seven weeks at No. 1 and Virgin ruled for three weeks.)
One of the most famous people on the planet yet an enigma of sorts for 36 years, the restlessly creative Madonna sat down at the iHeartRadio Theater in New York City on Thursday evening (June 20) for a wide-ranging interview with iHeartRadio's 103.5 KTU hosts Cubby and Christine. The 45-minute chat, which streams on LiveXLive.com and on iHeartMedia's AC and Hot AC stations on Friday (June 21), covers a range of topics, from the dance teacher who created the moniker 'Madame X' (the title of Madonna's 14th studio album) to why she ended up with Maluma's toe in her mouth in the "Medellin" video (shout-out to an audience heckler for asking that question).
Here are 13 things we learned about Madonna and her latest album during the broadcast of iHeartRadio Icons with Madonna: In Celebration of Madame X.
What She's Drinking These Days
Prior to Madonna's entrance, Cubby and Christine told the crowd they shared a backstage champagne toast with her -- and flute in hand, Madonna kept the bubbly flowing during her interview. As per the title of her Quavo/Cardi B collab, rosé champagne is what she's imbibing these days -- "it's Dutch courage," she told the crowd.
The Music of Lisbon Reminded Her of Another Famous Moment In Her Life
Madame X is heavily inspired by the local music she heard while living in Lisbon, where she's been for nearly two years as a soccer mom to her son, David Banda. Madonna said aside from Lisbon, New York is the only other city that ever inspired her to write. "Living in New York always makes me feel... turnt," she deadpanned. In fact, encountering fado and morna in Lisbon reminded her of another watershed moment in her life: "'Vogue' was inspired by seeing the Xtravaganza crew vogueing -- I was like WHOA. What the hell is that?" For her, Lisbon was the same.
She Dresses the Soccer Mom Part… Sort Of
"I went to soccer matches on Sunday. I didn't meet any other soccer moms," Madonna says of watching her son play. "No one gave a shit about me there." She says the Sunday matches are bereft of bleachers, so she watches perched on a cement ledge. "I wear a hoodie and sneakers. Normal clothes. Maybe designed by Gucci, I don't know."
Her Dance Teacher Inspired Madame X
When she arrived in New York City in the late '70s, Madonna studied movement at the school of Martha Graham, who reshaped modern choreography and was an idol to the aspiring dancer. Unfortunately, Madge's refusal to comply with the school's strict dress code got her sent to Graham's office regularly. Eventually, Graham whimsically decided Madonna was "a spy, a secret agent" in her school named "Madame X." Madonna recalls Graham telling her, "Every time you come here, you look like a different person." Even pre-fame, Madonna was the queen of reinvention.
Her Favorite Songs on Madame X Are...
"God Control" and "Extreme Occident," the latter of which was the second song she wrote on the album. Influenced by morna, she calls it "indicative and reflective" of her time in Lisbon.
The Lost/Not Lost Lyric Is Extremely Personal
In "Extreme Occident," Madonna sings, "I guess I'm lost / I paid the handsome cost / The thing that hurt the most / Was that I wasn't lost." While she admitted the lyric sounds like a nonsense "riddle," she explained it was in reference to having the right intuition but letting naysayers throw you off your course. Looking back on the times she beat herself up over others' critiques, she says it "hurts" her to think "I wasted all that time caring what people think."
Swae Lee Is a 'Pigeon Whisperer'
The video for her collab with Rae Sremmurd's Swae Lee, "Crave," shows the two of them releasing pigeons into the sky from a rooftop in NYC. She says Swae held sway over the flock: "He tamed them, got them to be calm, chill. He's a pigeon whisperer." She wasn't so lucky. "It's amazing how strong they are," she noted. "That bird almost ripped my skin off."
Here's Who She Wants to Work With Next
"I'm intrigued by Spanish flamenco singer Rosalía," Madonna said, noting she asked Rosalía to sing at her birthday a year and a half ago but it didn't pan out. "I like that she takes the folk music of Spain and brings it to the pop arena."
She Doesn't' Mind Hearing Her Own Music In Public, Except When…
"Some people think I WANT to get into the groove while I'm eating spaghetti, but I don't. I just don't," she says of restaurants playing her music.
What Do 1986 Madonna and 2019 Madonna Have In Common?
Speaking on the controversy her "Papa Don't Preach" song and video created, Madonna quipped, "Nothing has changed -- I'm still in trouble," obliquely referencing her recent Eurovision performance and New York Times interview.
Her Sleep Schedule Is Crazy
A self-professed insomniac, Madonna says 4-11am "is my window of sleep," the time frame when she gets shut-eye if she's lucky. From 2-4am is the window she describes as "magic" for writing.
Her Daughters Are Featured On Madame X
She says her kids Stella and Estere are the ones making the wind noises at the end of "Dark Ballet," which signifies blowing into the fire that consumed Joan of Arc.
Toeing the Company Line
Thanks to a heckler shouting out a question, we finally learned why Madonna licks Maluma's toe in the "Medellin" video… kind of. "I never planned to lick his toe. Shit just happens," she said. "He's a beautiful man, head to toe. If he had ugly feet, I wouldn't have."
The first week's results are in. Madame X had to compete with Bruce Springsteen's new album Western Stars.
Helped by Father's Day, Bruce managed to get to #1 in the UK album chart with a total of 45.400 copies sold in its first week. Madonna has to settle for 2nd place.
The album also scored #2 in Belgium, The Netherlands and Italy.
Madonna scores her record-extending 47th No. 1 on Billboard's Dance Club Songs chart, as "Medellín," with Maluma, rises 2-1 on the June 29-dated survey.
Latin charts titan Maluma, meanwhile, notches his first Dance Club Songs No. 1.
The chart (and all rankings dated June 29) will refresh on Billboard.com on Tuesday, June 25.
With her latest coronation on Dance Club Songs, which measures reports submitted by a national sample of club DJs, Madonna pulls further ahead of runner-up Rihanna, who boasts 33 No. 1s. (The chart launched as a national survey in the Billboard issue dated Aug. 28, 1976.)
"Medellín" was released, in its ballad form, on Madonna's new album, Madame X, released June 14. "Medellín" was remixed for clubs by Offer Nissim, LA95 and Robbie Rivera, among others.
In honor of Madonna's latest achievement, here is an updated look at her historic 47 Dance Club Songs No. 1s, beginning with the double-sided single "Holiday"/"Lucky Star," which reached the top the week dated Sept. 24, 1983. You'll notice that one of her No. 1s is an entire album: You Can Dance (1988), a collection of mostly remixes of previously-released songs (and one then-new cut, "Spotlight"). Prior to Feb. 23, 1991, the chart wasn't always song-specific and full albums were, at various points, allowed to chart. (For titles that spent multiple weeks at No. 1, total frames in the lead are noted in parentheses.)
Madonna's 47 Dance Club Songs No. 1s
1983, "Holiday"/"Lucky Star" (five weeks at No. 1)
1984, "Like a Virgin" (four)
1985, "Material Girl"
1985, "Angel"/"Into the Groove"
1987, "Open Your Heart"
1987, "Causing a Commotion (Remix)"
1988, "You Can Dance (LP Cuts)"
1989, "Like a Prayer" (two)
1989, "Express Yourself" (three)
1990, "Keep It Together"
1990, "Vogue" (two)
1991, "Justify My Love" (two)
1993, "Deeper and Deeper"
1994, "Secret" (two)
1995, "Bedtime Story"
1997, "Don't Cry for Me Argentina"
1998, "Frozen" (two)
1998, "Ray of Light" (four)
1999, "Nothing Really Matters" (two)
1999, "Beautiful Stranger" (two)
2000, "American Pie"
2000, "Music" (five)
2001, "Don't Tell Me"
2001, "What It Feels Like for a Girl"
2001, "Impressive Instant" (two)
2002, "Die Another Day" (two)
2003, "American Life"
2003, "Me Against the Music," Britney Spears featuring Madonna (two)
2004, "Nothing Fails"
2004, "Love Profusion"
2005, "Hung Up" (four)
2006, "Sorry" (two)
2006, "Get Together"
2006, "Jump" (two)
2008, "4 Minutes," Madonna featuring Justin Timberlake & Timbaland (two)
2008, "Give It 2 Me"
2012, "Give Me All Your Luvin'," Madonna featuring Nicki Minaj & M.I.A.
2012, "Girl Gone Wild"
2012, "Turn Up the Radio"
2015, "Living for Love"
2015, "Bitch I'm Madonna," Madonna featuring Nicki Minaj
2019, "Medellín," Madonna & Maluma
In an interview with Rylan Clark-Neal, Madonna talks about collaborating with Maluma on Medellin ("I think he looks cuter than me!"), and with Mykki Blanco on Dark Ballet ("He told me about his life and his struggles, and I thought it worked really well with the lyrics.").
They discussed family life and the upcoming theater tour: "I really love a small room, where I can hear people heckling me or talking back to me and I can talk back to them, I can tell jokes."
"Freedom," sings Madonna, "is what you choose to do with what's been done to you." This lyric from the artist's new song "I Rise," off her 14th studio album Madame X, is a tribute to the resilience of the human spirit. A new video inspired by the song, created by Madonna and TIME Studios, weaves together footage of the survivors of the Parkland shooting, supporters of LGBTQ equality, Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman's powerful testimony about sexual abuse, first responders to natural disasters and other social justice movements. The video, directed by Peter Matkiwsky, tells the story of a global population fighting for rights, recognition and survival. TIME Studios recently released its first feature film, "Amazing Grace."
The next single will be for the fan favourite God Control.
In a small preview clip, posted on Madonna's social media channels, we can see the disco banger that we've been craving: the upcoming music video directed by Jonas Akerlund reminds us of 70s disco in Studio 54 and especially the music video of Deeper and Deeper.
But there will also be a dark part, referring to the theme of the song's lyrics...
Madonna has spoken of how a lot of "influential" people within the music industry would ask her for sexual favours in exchange for helping her out in her early career.
The iconic singer, who this week releases her acclaimed new album 'Madame X', was speaking to NME for this week's Big Read when she opened up about how music industry people would approach her inappropriately when she was first starting her career – but she stuck to her principles.
"I would say there were plenty of situations where men were wanting to abuse their power," Madonna told NME. "I was the starting-out artist begging for help and I would go to people who ran labels or influential DJs saying: 'Can you help me out? Can you listen to this song? Can you hook me up?' Can you sign me to your record label?' and, a lot of people said: 'Yeah, if you'll do this,' and usually it was a sexual favour."
On if they asked explicitly, Madonna replied: "Oh yeah, for sure. And there was one time where I was so broke and I was so sick of being broke I thought, 'Wait, could I do it?' But I didn't do it in the end. I couldn't.
"I couldn't bring myself to do it because I knew I couldn't look myself in the mirror if I did, so I just kept going on as I had, being a starving artist and waiting for my ship to come in and – ironically – I was signed by a gay man who didn't want anything to do with me in that way and he just really appreciated my music."
Read the NME's full Big Read cover feature with Madonna here.
On its first day of release, Madame X debuted at #1 in the iTunes album chart of 58 countries, and counting.
#1 United States
#1 United Kingdom
#1 Costa Rica
#1 Czech Republic
#1 Dominican Republic
#1 El Salvador
#1 Trinidad and Tobago
#1 United Arab Emirates
Harry Smith from NBC's TODAY Show sat down with Madonna for an interview on Madame X.
They discussed how the album and collaborations with Maluma came to be, who Madame X is and why she wears an eye patch, how she can be both fierce and vulnerable, and how she will perform at Pride Island.
Madonna appeared on the Graham Norton show, broadcast yesterday on the day of the Madame X release. She shared the coach with Sir Ian McKellen, director Danny Boyle, actors Lily James and Himesh Patel, and Sheryl Crow.
After the show, which was recorded on Thursday, Graham joined Madonna for an evening at Alexandra Palace in London for a Q&A session with fans.
Watch some parts of the Graham Norton interview below.
Madonna about being a soccer mom
Madonna's Instagram history gets raided and she calls out ex Jellybean
Madonna Reflects on Touring & Water Gun Fights With The Beastie Boys
Graham Norton presents Madonna at the fan event at Ally Pally
Madame X is a cha cha instructor
In 1994, Madonna journeyed to Ronda, Spain to film the torero-inspired music video for "Take a Bow." During the shoot, she half-cheekily informed MTV's Kurt Loder that she was "Spanish in another life." It's the kind of claim that might raise some eyebrows today, but 25 years later, the influence of Latin culture on Madonna's music is undeniable (and something we've written about before). If Madonna caught any flack for "Take a Bow" – which would go on to become her longest-running No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 – it was for the video's supposed glamorization of bullfighting, not cultural appropriation.
Ronda is situated in the mountains of Spain, a few hundred kilometers south of Lisbon, Portugal, where Madonna has lived for the last two years. She credits her time there – prompted by her son's desire to train as a professional soccer player – for inspiring the multicultural sound of her new album, Madame X, due this Friday (June 14). Lisbon is one of Europe's major economic and cultural capitals, with a rich, complicated history, and though she may have moved there to be a soccer mom, the Queen of Pop left with a renewed appreciation of music as a universal language.
Some were quick to accuse Madonna of attempting to cash in on the increasing popularity of Latin pop with the album's first single, "Medellín," featuring Colombian reggaeton star Maluma. But she's been incorporating Latin culture into her music as far back as 1986's "La Isla Bonita." That song was co-written by her longtime collaborator Patrick Leonard, who originally pitched an instrumental demo to Michael Jackson. When Jackson rejected it, Madonna shrewdly snatched it up, and the song became one of her most enduring hits, peaking at No. 4 on the Hot 100.
Throughout the song, she plays a humble observer, captured by the rhythm of an imagined island, her effortless vocals emphasized on the downbeat: "Tropical the island breeze/All of nature wild and free/This is where I long to be."
Last year, I chatted with Leonard about his decades-long professional relationship with Madonna. I was curious about how certain songs – specifically "La Isla Bonita" and the similarly Latin-inspired "Who's That Girl" and "Spanish Eyes" – came to be. "What I always believed was good about our collaborations is that the spirit of the composition was always very closely reflected in the sentiment of the lyric," Leonard replied.
During the recording sessions for Madonna's landmark album Like a Prayer, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in March, Leonard composed a piano melody, which he told me was titled simply "Tango." When the singer arrived at the studio the next morning, she immediately sat down to write the lyrics – a searing account of gang violence. The track, "Spanish Eyes," is one of the album's standouts, due in large part to Madonna's gritty, impassioned performance.
That might explain why Madonna Louise Ciccone, an Italian girl from Michigan, has been so fervently embraced by Latin audiences over the years, who perhaps see her as a kindred spirit in the fight against Catholicism's entrenched patriarchy.
As a rebellious but studious teenager growing up in the suburbs of Detroit, Madonna learned about Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and political figures like Eva Perón, whom she would famously go on to portray in the 1996 film Evita. Peronists initially protested Madonna being cast as the First Lady of Argentina, but their objections had less to do with her cultural background than her sexually provocative image.
Throughout the 1990s, Madonna sneaked references to Latin music into the unlikeliest of places, like the tongue-in-cheek salsa song "I'm Going Bananas" on her album inspired by the film Dick Tracy, and the flamenco guitar on her top 10 house track "Deeper and Deeper." Even when her focus shifted to the musical trends emanating from the U.K. and France – namely trip-hop and electronica – Madonna still found ways to incorporate Latin influences into her work. The video for her 1995 club hit "Bedtime Story" was inspired by the works of Mexican surrealist Leonora Carrington and Spanish painter Remedios Varo Uranga.
Madonna's postmodern approach to pop borrows from myriad cultures. In Lisbon, a melting pot of cultural styles and influences, she reportedly discovered fado and morna music. French producer Mirwais Ahmadzaï, who previously worked with Madonna on her albums Music and American Life, has called Madame X a "global futuristic album." She sings in Spanish on "Medéllin" and "Bitch I'm Loca," and in Portuguese on "Faz Gostoso," "Crazy" and "Killers Who Are Partying."
There will inevitably be critics who will once again accuse her of mining exoticism for commercial gain. That is, of course, a sign of the times. In 1987, when both "La Isla Bonita" and "Who's That Girl" reached the upper echelon of the Billboard charts, the top single of the year was the Bangles' "Walk Like an Egyptian" – a song that would undoubtedly prompt a thousand think pieces if it were released today.
Whether Madonna can count cha-cha instructor or samba singer among her past lives, her enduring passion for Latin music and art is exceeded only by her commitment to evolving as an artist. It would be easy for her to set up shop on the Vegas Strip on the strength of her immense catalog of hits, or spend her remaining years churning out disco albums à la 2005's Confessions on a Dance Floor. Instead, she restlessly charges forward, in this case consummating her love affair with a culture that has been one of the most consistent musical influences of her 36-year career.
Madonna will perform tracks from Madame X during iHeartRadio ICONS, an intimate show for fans in New York City on June 21. She will talk about her new album and answer questions during a Q&A session.
The show can be streamed live on www.livexlive.com, starting at 6:30pm ET.
BOLD experimentation, controversial political comment and downright epic pop.
That's why Madonna's highly anticipated new album marks yet another phase of her groundbreaking chart career.
For the creator of some of the biggest pop choruses in history to throw caution to the wind and create some of her most daring music ever, at the age of 60, is a welcome reminder of why Madonna has remained at the cutting edge of music for four decades.
It's further proof that none of her young rivals are coming anywhere close to making pop music this exciting and boundary-pushing.
Here's my track by track rundown of what you can expect from Madame X, a global trip of an album, out next Friday.
MEDELLIN: From track one, it's clear Madonna's new home on the Iberian peninsula has provided the inspiration for the Spanish sound that runs through the album. The chemistry with Colombian rapper Maluma is sizzling. Slow down papi, indeed.
DARK BALLET: One of Madonna's most experimental and thrilling tracks, this is the album's mission statement as she sings: "I can dress like a boy, I can dress like a girl. Cos your world's obsessed with fame, cos your world's in so much pain, cos your world's in flames."
The intro is reminiscent of the title-track of American Life, which makes sense as Madame X is her first major collaboration on a studio album with French producer Mirwais since their divisive 2003 record.
But beyond the intro of the Joan Of Arc-inspired song, things really get creative, as a sparse piano is introduced and the track slowly reveals itself to be an exhilarating multi-genre experience. Imagine Madonna making a 2019 version of Bohemian Rhapsody.
Between edgy beats and random sounds, we're treated to the kind of heavy breathing, blowing and airy gasps not heard since Erotica, although rather than sounding orgasmic, here we're entering a desolate, altogether more disturbing territory.
Key lyric: "People tell me to shut your mouth – keep your beautiful lies because I'm not concerned."
GOD CONTROL: A strong one-two punch of edgy Madonna tracks. Long rumoured, Madonna takes on the issue of gun control in the US with this heady six-minute plus track where powerful lyrics and gun shots run under a swirly electric beat that becomes euphoric. There's a Vogue-style rap for good measure too.
Key lyric: "People think that I'm insane, insane people think I'm mad."
FUTURE: Performed at Eurovision with the rapper Quavo, the reggae-infused track is a message of hope following the bleak God Control. It's a Sunday afternoon in the park vibe, very of the moment.
BATUKA: This features Portuguese instruments and Madonna recorded it with locals.
The powerful chanting chorus became a family affair with her daughters contributing some vocals. And I'm told son David Banda is even credited as one of the writers.
The song feels like the beginning of a revolution. Queen Madonna is rallying her troops, ready for battle. It's empowering and – helpfully – feels like you can actually dance to it.
KILLERS WHO ARE PARTYING: Here Madonna invokes many minority groups – full list: gay, African, poor, children, Islamic, Israeli, Native American – and a woman, in one of the more controversial moments on the album.
Key lyric: "I'll be a woman if she's raped and her heart is breaking."
CRAVE: Already released, this sweet grower of a song sees Madonna layer her vocals to great effect as she sings of the risk of her cravings, presumably romantic or sexual, "getting dangerous". The closest we get to a Madonna love song on the album.
CRAZY: My highlight track, this is a soaring, stripped-back pop masterpiece. The chorus is musically joyous but the lyrics are full of the pain of being let down by a lover or family member. It's the "last time I wake up for you", she insists. Her Eighties prowess is still in full effect when she wishes to access it.
Key lyric: "If you think I've been foolish then I'll only let you fool me once, so baby shame on you."
COME ALIVE: Another moment of spectacular pop, smack bang in the middle of the album. The ethereal song has no traditional chorus, but great use of Auto-Tune and a fabulous choir.
EXTREME OCCIDENT: Middle Eastern beats power another experimental moment where Madonna examines her place in the world and decides "life is a circle". She remains defiant, with the ongoing theme being her unwillingness to bend to the way society tries to mould her: "I don't want to blend in, why do you want me to?"
This has been an ongoing thread throughout Madonna's career. When will her detractors get the message?
Key lyric: "I guess I'm lost, I paid a handsome cost."
It was a relatively regular day for Mykki Blanco: last year, the rapper was walking around an IKEA in Lisbon, Portugal, attempting to find a couch to furnish his new apartment. All of a sudden, his phone buzzed as a text message came in saying, "Hello, is this Mykki?" When the star confirmed and questioned back, asking who was texting him, he received the reply, "Hi, this is M, Madonna."
It wasn't a total shock for Blanco — producer extraordinaire Mike Dean had reached out two weeks prior asking if he could give Madonna his contact information. But what started as a simple text conversation turned into an elongated phone call within the confines of the Lisbon IKEA. "I was hiding in a staged kitchenette set in an IKEA with the curtains closed, and we're talking on the phone for the first time," he tells Billboard. "So you can imagine how surreal this was for me."
A whirlwind transpired over the next few months — Blanco met with Madonna in her London home, heard a finished version of her album Madame X (which he calls "a manifestation of Madonna's imagination"), and was asked to play a role in one of her new music videos.
But Blanco wasn't offered just any role. Madonna chose him to portray the legendary French heroine Joan of Arc in her video for 'Dark Ballet,' believing that the rapper could properly relate to the saint's struggle. "She tells me, 'Based on some of the things that you've told me you experienced in this industry and in this society, I feel that some of those things could be a modern day analogy for Joan,'" he says. "'Because think about if you had existed as you in her time — you would have been burned at the stake as well.'"
In the new video (out today), Blanco, as Joan, is seen being held in a prison, praying for salvation before being brought before a tribunal. Ultimately, Joan is found guilty of her crimes, sentenced to death and burned at the stake. Blanco, stripped down and head shaved, wails in pain while a group of mourning nuns (including Madonna) looks on.
But the video takes a cerebral turn, as Blanco's Joan appears in a strange dream sequence, once again before her tribunal, performing an erratic dance to Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Reed Flutes" from The Nutcracker Suite. "God is on my side and I'll be fine/ I am not afraid 'cause I have faith in him," Madonna sings through a vocoder as Blanco thrashes around a circle of judges, newly dressed in saintly garb.
While the video was directed by up-and-coming talent Emmanuel Adjei, Blanco says that Madonna basically served as an uncredited co-director for the project, advising on acting, choreography, cinematography, and even the costuming of the background extras. "She's so invested in every detail of what she does, and when someone's been doing this for 30 years, especially a pop icon like her, I guess you would expect that," he says. "Intention is very important to her, that's what I took away."
In one particular exchange, according to Blanco, Madonna even took over a choreography rehearsal, saying that she wanted to try something different for a section of the video. "Within an hour and a half, we had new choreography directly from Madonna," he says with a laugh. "Madonna's a hell of a dancer."
The rapper says he understands that the video is surreal and strange, but adds that everything Madonna does has purpose and meaning outside of simple shock value. "We don't just shoot something or move or flail our arms just for the hell of it," he says with a laugh. "There's always a deeper, inner intention."
But Blanco feels that Madonna's current innovations in her music are largely overlooked thanks to her age. Madonna would certainly agree with that statement — in an Instagram post on Thursday (June 6), the singer criticized the New York Times Magazine's cover story on her, saying that the writer was primarily focused on her age rather than her artistry.
In our interview, Blanco says he has not had an opportunity to read the story, but he agrees with Madonna that many in the industry overlook Madonna's creativity in favor of her age. "When people are making these comments that are so ageist, it's not only tacky, but it's so disgusting to me," he says. "It's so misogynist, because you're saying an artistic being shouldn't continue to play and manifest their imagination however they see fit."
It's no surprise that Blanco identifies with Madonna's alleged plights — the star revealed his positive HIV status in 2015 and says he thought it would be the end of his career. But seeing an artist of Madonna's caliber celebrate him in her work has meant that he no longer has to worry about the status of his career.
"She's not doing me any favors," he clarifies. "But for her to reach her hand out and lift me up creatively to her level … that does mean something to me. This project has exposed me to an audience that might not have been within my reach."
Madonna has unveiled her new video for 'Dark Ballet.' It's the fifth and final preview that will be released from her forthcoming Madame X, due June 14th. The cinematic clip stars Mykki Blanco, who portrays Joan of Arc.
In the visually arresting Emmanuel Adjei-directed video, Mykki Blanco is seen bravely facing adversity from various religious figures and onlookers and dancing despite the impending, inescapable doom to come.
The star mouths along to Madonna's lyrics, "'Cause your world is such a shame/'Cause your world's obsessed with fame," Madonna sings on the chorus. "'Cause your world's in so much pain/'Cause your world is/'Cause your world is up in flames."
"She fought the English and she won, still the French were not happy," Madonna says of the inspiration behind the video and song, Joan of Arc. "Still they judged her. They said she was a man, they said she was a lesbian, they said she was a witch, and, in the end, they burned her at the stake, and she feared nothing. I admire that."
The clip closes with inspiring words from Mykki Blanco: "I have walked this earth, Black, Queer and HIV positive, but no transgression against me has been as powerful as the hope I hold within."
Dark Ballet' follows the previously released Madame X songs,'Future' featuring Quavo, 'Crave' with Rae Sremmurd's Swae Lee, 'I Rise' and the Maluma featuring 'Medellín.'
The New York Times Magazine has posted a long article with an interview and pictures by JR. However, Madonna has made it clear in an Instagram post that she is far from happy with the result.
Madame ❌ on the cover of N.Y.T. Magazine photographed by my dear friend @jr Also sharing my fav photo that never made it in, along with pre-shoot chat and a celebratory glass of wine 🍷 after many hours of work! To say that I was disappointed in the article would be an understatement it seems. You cant fix society and its endless need to diminish, Disparage or degrade that which they know is good. Especially strong independent women.
The journalist who wrote this article spent days and hours and months with me and was invited into a world which many people dont get to see, but chose to focus on trivial and superficial matters such as the ethnicity of my stand in or the fabric of my curtains and never ending comments about my age which would never have been mentioned had I been a MAN! Women have a really hard time being the champions of other women even if. they are posing as intellectual feminists.
Im sorry i spent 5 minutes with her. It makes me feel raped. And yes I'm allowed to use that analogy having been raped at the age of 19. Further proof that the venerable N.Y.T. Is one of the founding fathers of the Patriarchy. And I say—-DEATH TO THE PATRIARCHY woven deep into the fabric of Society. I will never stop fighting to eradicate it. 💔
Dit bericht bekijken op Instagram
Madame ❌ on the cover of N.Y.T. Magazine photographed by my dear friend @jr..........Also sharing my fav photo that never made it in, along with pre-shoot chat and a celebratory glass of wine 🍷 after many hours of work! To say that I was disappointed in the article would be an understatement- It seems. You cant fix society And its endless need to diminish, Disparage or degrade that which they know is good. Especially strong independent women. The journalist who wrote this article spent days and hours and months with me and was invited into a world which many people dont get to see, but chose to focus on trivial and superficial matters such as the ethnicity of my stand in or the fabric of my curtains and never ending comments about my age which would never have been mentioned had I been a MAN! Women have a really hard time being the champions of other women even if. they are posing as intellectual feminists. Im sorry i spent 5 minutes with her. It makes me feel raped. And yes I’m allowed to use that analogy having been raped at the age of 19. Further proof that the venerable N.Y.T. Is one of the founding fathers of the Patriarchy. And I say—-DEATH TO THE PATRIARCHY woven deep into the fabric of Society. I will never stop fighting to eradicate it. 💔
You can read the (very long) article here. Or you can find the most interesting excerpts below. Though it contains some interesting insights, the journalist found no better title than "Madonna at sixty". We are not surprised this would disappoint M.
About the leak of Rebel Heart
She told me she wasn't yet over the release of her last album, "Rebel Heart," in 2015, which sold less than her others. The songs had leaked online several months early, far from perfection. "There are no words to describe how devastated I was," she said. "It took me a while to recover, and put such a bad taste in my mouth I wasn't really interested in making music." She added, "I felt raped."
About finding inspiration in Lisbon
One night, she visited a Frenchman's crumbling home on the sea for an improv session, mostly of fado musicians. "There was a vibration there that was magical and palpable, and suddenly musicians started playing," she said. They rose from couches to sing, from chairs to pluck a guitar. Listening to the variety of musicians, from Brazilian samba players and jazz quartets to a singer from Guinea-Bissau performing in Mandinka, she fell into a trance.
About how she feels about hearing her old songs
"If I'm in a car or I go into a restaurant, I'm out somewhere, and one of my songs starts playing, I just go, 'Ugh,' " she said, "probably because I've had to hear it five billion times already, and I want to escape that."
About moving from one era to another
Guy Oseary, her charismatic manager of many years, said that once she completes an artistic vision, she moves on fully. "Every time we finish a project, it's a clean slate," he said. "I don't know what happens next."
About Harvey Weinstein, who distributed Truth or Dare
"Harvey crossed lines and boundaries and was incredibly sexually flirtatious and forward with me when we were working together; he was married at the time, and I certainly wasn't interested," she said. She added: "I was aware that he did the same with a lot of other women that I knew in the business. And we were all, 'Harvey gets to do that because he's got so much power and he's so successful and his movies do so well and everybody wants to work with him, so you have to put up with it.' So that was it. So when it happened, I was really like, 'Finally.'
About being confronted with harsh criticism on social media
"It's not that I engage with it, but it ends up going in front of your eyes, and then when it goes in front of your eyes, it's inside your head," she said. "It comes up in your feed, and then you get pulled into it whether you like it or not. So it's a challenge to rise above it, to not be affected by it, to not get frustrated, to not compare, to not feel judged, to not be hurt. You know, it's a test. Yeah." She added, "I preferred life before phone."
Madonna's latest persona 'Madame X' borrows her name from the historical figure Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau: a socialite and occasional muse who scandalised genteel French society when she bared naked flesh – her entire shoulder, would you believe it – in a portrait. And while Madge's own eye-patch wearing interpretation prefers taking a more enterprising approach to the current job market (Madame X is a mother, a child, a teacher, a nun, a singer, and a saint many among other things) it's a fitting moniker for a record that restlessly explores all sides of contemporary pop at full divisive pelt: visiting Latin pop, all-out Eurotrash, gloomily percussive trap, NYC disco, house, and reggaeton.
During its most reckless moments, 'Madame X' is bold, bizarre, and unlike anything Madonna has ever done before. The frantic 'Dark Ballet' harnesses gloomily spun strings and robotic overlord vocals; it's as villainous and foreboding as 'Ray of Light's darkest moments, or her 'Die Another Day' Bond theme. Then, quite out of nowhere, an extended piano interlude morphs into a mangled, glitching excerpt of 'Dance of the Reed Pipes' from Tchaikovsky's ballet 'The Nutcracker' – it's brilliant, overblown ridiculousness. "I want to tell you about love…. and loneliness," Madonna husks dramatically.
Touching heavily on both these things, 'Madame X' explores the state of the world (spoiler: it's not doing great) at large – as well as Madonna's place within it – from her new base in Lisbon. 'Madame X' isn't flawless in its vision: at times, Madonna's attempts to lead the future revolution can come off as ham-fisted. 'Killers Who Are Partying' features some absolute clanging missteps: booming lines like "I'll be Islam if Islam is hated" and "I'll be Native Indian if the Indian has been taken" seem like tone-deaf expressions of solidarity, especially from a wealthy white woman who seems to be planting herself at the centre of multiple minority narratives. And moments like 'I Rise's rehashed quote from the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre – "Freedom's what you choose to do with what's been done to you" – can border on inspirational fridge magnet territory, too broad to establish real connection.
'Madame X' is a far more interesting prospect when the focus moves back onto Madonna herself. 'Crazy' – produced by Jason Evigan and Kanye West collaborator Mike Dean – is a self-referential accordion bop: "I bend my knees for you like a prayer," she sings, pointedly name-checking her 1989 album, and flipping from the original's religious innuendo, towards doomed, dead-end infatuation "oh god, look at me now". Elsewhere, the rhythmic whisper of "cha cha cha" on opener and lead single 'Medellín' recalls 'Hard Candy's 'Give It 2 Me'.
'Bitch I'm Loca', meanwhile, is the sort of swaggering anthem that campy Disney villain Ursula might belt out from the depths: Maluma (who also appears on lead single 'Medellín') the ideal sidekick. "Where do you want me to put this?" he drawls with a comedy wink. "You can put it inside" she replies. It's like Madonna's diva sketch at the end of 'Act Of Contrition' turned Carry On… Madame X. Her cover of 'Faz Gostoso' – originally by Brazilian pop star Blaya – is equally great fun. And the House-inflected standout 'I Don't Search I Find' – bringing to mind Shep Pettibone's production on 'Vogue', and repurposing a quote from Pablo Picasso for its title – is just as playful. "Finally, enough love," Madonna announces.
Throughout her 40-year career, outrage has always tailed Madonna closely; a point which is referenced on the likes of 'Extreme Occident' and the vulnerable admissions of 'Looking For Mercy' ("flawed by design, please sympathise," she pleads) . "People have always been trying to silence me for one reason or another, whether it's that I'm not pretty enough, I don't sing well enough, I'm not talented enough, I'm not married enough, and now it's that I'm not young enough," Madonna recently told Vogue.
In reality, if age wasn't the chosen topic of the moment, the star would be "too much" of something – anything – else: too sexual, too attention-seeking, too weird, too controversial, too outspoken, too unwilling to disappear quietly into the good night. Instead, Madonna will do no such thing, happiest dancing said night away to the beat of her own creative drum.
For the first time since 'Confessions on a Dance Floor', perhaps, there's a glint in Madonna's eye; her visible, un-eyepatched one, at least. Sonically restless, 'Madame X' doesn't imitate current pop trends as much as it mangles them into new shapes. A record that grapples with being "just way too much", ultimately, it refuses to tone things down.
When the carping over Madonna's age began in earnest, the focus wasn't on her singing, or songwriting, or even her stagecraft. The problem, according to certain sections of the press, lay with her hands. "Why do Madonna's hands look older than her face?" asked the Daily Mail in 2006. Such was the paper's concern over the then 47-year-old's apparently awful paws, a plastic surgeon was drafted in to provide professional analysis. "As a person ages [the] plumpness goes, making the hand look bonier and more veiny … less elastic," he said sagely. Since then, close-ups of Madonna's hands have been as much a tabloid staple as Victoria Beckham's scowl or Amanda Holden's sideboob.
Music critics tend not to pass comment on a musician's appearance – to do so would undermine the seriousness of their endeavour. But the assessments of Madonna's 14th album, Madame X, have nonetheless brought more subtle kind of disparagement. "Perhaps the erstwhile Queen of Pop should be content with the role of Queen Mother of Pop now," said the Daily Telegraph's critic, going on to note that a woman who has shifted 350m units and broken every record for a female artist going hasn't had a Top 10 hit in a decade. Even in the Guardian's review, which was mostly positive, the theme of her age was never far away.
Madonna is not alone in being seen through the prism of age. In 2014, looking ahead to Kate Bush's live shows at Hammersmith Apollo, a (male) critic at the Independent cringed at the idea that she might start dancing. "However beneficial any yoga regime she might follow," he said, "it's simply unbecoming for a woman of a certain age to be prancing about, and certainly not in the leotard and leg-warmers of the 1979 shows."
In fighting to do her job at 60, Madonna is, as ever, blazing a trail. Do we really think that Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift will simply down tools when they reach 45 and take up knitting? The fact she is still annoying people by doing the job she has been doing for 35 years would suggest she's a long way from being irrelevant. In the minds of her most vicious detractors – the ones that jeered with hilarity as "grandma" fell off the stage at the 2015 Brits – she would be better off binning the fishnets, putting on a nice cardie and waiting for death.
Even the more moderate language used in relation to her is revealing. "Dignity" crops up a lot, as does "appropriate" and "growing old gracefully". When men talk about women ageing gracefully, they are not acting out of concern. They're telling them to know their station, to sit down and shut up. "People have always been trying to silence me for one reason or another, whether it's that I'm not pretty enough, I don't sing well enough, I'm not talented enough, I'm not married enough – and now it's that I'm not young enough," Madonna told Vogue recently. "Now I'm being punished for turning 60."
Tracey Thorn, the Everything but the Girl singer-turned-solo artist and author, last year shared her objections to being described as "a 55-year-old wife and mother" in a review by the American music writer Robert Christgau. "The more I think about it the crosser I'm getting," she said on Twitter. "'55-year-old husband and father.' I'm trying to imagine it as a description in an album review. Nope. Can't do it." I have no right to throw stones here. In 2003 I interviewed Siouxsie Sioux, an artist I'd admired for as long as I could remember. Near the end of our chat I asked blithely if musical retirement was on the cards. She was 45. She gave me a proper bollocking, and pointed out – rightly – that I would never have asked a man that question.
Ultimately it all boils down to what society deems alluring and acceptable. Older men, with their silver hair and laughter lines, are seen as stately and wise. Women of the same age are past it and embarrassing. Today, Iggy Pop (72) gets to run around shirtless during live performances. Nick Cave (61) dyes his hair and wears his shirts slashed to the waist; Elton John (72), who this year spoils us with a film, a memoir and a farewell tour, gads about in shades and diamante-encrusted suits. What links them, beyond their occupation, is that they get to decide how they conduct themselves and, crucially, when they stop working. And they get to do this without fear of criticism or vitriol. It's high time female artists enjoyed the same privilege.
Madonna achieves her highest debut on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart, as 'Crave,' with Swae Lee, launches at No. 19 on the June 8-dated tally. The song arrives as Madonna's 37th AC entry, dating to her first, 'Borderline,' in 1984.
The Queen of Pop logged her prior best AC start in her most recent visit before 'Crave,' when 'Ghosttown' opened at No. 21 in April 2015. As the latter song peaked at No. 18, Madonna boasts back-to-back top 20 AC hits for the first time in 20 years, since 'Frozen' (No. 8 peak) and 'The Power of Good-Bye' (No. 14) charted consecutively in 1998-99.
The AC chart ranks titles by weekly plays on a panel of 85 adult contemporary stations monitored by Nielsen Music. (The survey has contracted from 50 positions in the '80s to its current 30-rung depth.)
'Crave' is from Madonna's album Madame X, due June 14. The first taste of the set, 'Medellín,' with Maluma, reached No. 18 on the Hot Latin Songs chart, Madonna's best career rank on the survey, and became her record-extending 61st top 10 on Dance Club Songs.
Ever since she emerged from New York in the early 1980s, Madonna's moderate abilities in music, singing and dancing have been more than made up for in searing ambition, an ability to work with the right people at the right time and a brittle form of bravery, with outer toughness masking inner frailty. Now comes probably her boldest, certainly her strangest, album yet. Madame X veers between pop, Latin and clubby dance music, jumps from the personal to the political and is bound together by an exotic, breezy mood that feels strangely intimate, as if she is revealing a hitherto hidden part of her soul. She isn't really, of course, but she does a good job of pretending she is.
'Dark Ballet', recorded with the French producer Mirwais, throws all of these qualities into one three-part experimental epic. Over piano-led, minor-key pop, Madonna variously tells us that she can dress like a boy or a girl as she wishes, castigates the world for being obsessed with fame and concludes by saying that some unnamed people, at a guess Donald Trump and his team, are naive to think that we aren't aware of their crimes. At one point she says something indecipherable in a half robot, half Disney princess voice. It is quite a trip.
Madame X is "a secret agent, travelling around the world, changing identities fighting for freedom, bringing light to dark places"... but all that can get pretty lonely.
On her new album Madame X, which a select few have been treated to a sneak preview of, Madonna opens up about feeling isolated.
The singer has admitted she felt lonely after moving to Portugal to become a "soccer mum" to her Benfica academy football player son David.
On the track 'Dark Ballet', which she performed at Eurovision, she sings: "I want to tell you about love and loneliness."
In another track, 'Killers Who Are Partying', she says: "Wild as the world. Loneliness is the path to come to you."
She laments her lack of friends in 'God Control', singing: "People think I am insane and the only friend is in my brain."
Madonna previously revealed how much she struggled with being alone while living in Lisbon last year and her 14th studio album was born out of her being "depressed".
On track 'Crave', the American alludes to being homesick while living in Europe saying: "I'm tired of being so far away" while on 'Extreme Occident', she sings: "I guess I'm lost. I had to pay the cost.
"The thing that hurt me most was that I wasn't lost."
Thankfully, while making the much anticipated new album, she collaborated with longtime producer Mirwais as well as pal Diplo.
She even made some new friends in the process, including Maluma, who will now help keep her company.
Madame X is out on June 14, and Madonna plays 15 shows at the London Palladium next year.
We all get old, but never at the same age. Some of us are old when we're children, bringing briefcases to school and talking to adults at family parties; others leave uni with the thrill that they never have to go clubbing again. Most of us think we're doing pretty well, then we find ourselves nodding appreciatively at something in a Boden catalogue and suddenly death is real.
For years, Madonna outpaced all of this. In 1996, Evita looked like ushering in her middle age, but she did an about turn, delivering convincing, idiosyncratic trip-hop on Ray of Light (1998) and convincing, idiosyncratic electro on Music (2000). Confessions on a Dance Floor (2005) was even better, its Abba samples and smooth deep house a way for her to stay out past 4am with dignity, rather than trying to score ketamine off teenage fashion influencers at the afters, musically speaking.
But she couldn't run forever. Perhaps it began pre-Confessions, when she kissed Britney Spears as if to parasitically extract her youth. Certainly by Hard Candy in 2008 she was playing catch-up, spurring Timbaland and the Neptunes to some of their tamest work, a good five years after their pomp. MDNA (2012) tried to keep pace with stadium EDM, while Rebel Heart (2015) struggled to get its head around a newly global, musically cosmopolitan pop market, and just randomly glued hip collaborators together. The woman who had once led was following, and sluggishly.
To her credit, she has not done what many in her position would then do: lick their wounds and sell a jazz standards album to Radio 2 listeners. With Madame X, Madonna instead grits her teeth, puts on a glitter-encrusted eyepatch, looks in the mirror with seriously reduced depth perception and says: "Bitch, I'm Madonna." And by drawing on the Latin influence of not just reggaeton-crazed recent pop but also her new home base of Lisbon, she has, at 60, produced her most natural-feeling, progressive and original record since Confessions.
It's also one of her most bizarre and sprawling, and features some of her worst ever music. 'Killers Who Are Playing' finds this American multimillionaire – already not shy of white saviourhood – play empath to the world's huddled masses: "I'll be Africa if Africa is shut down. I will be poor if the poor are humiliated. I'll be a child if the children are exploited …" We pause for presumably more of the same, this time in Portuguese, and then: "I'll be Islam if Islam is hated. I'll be Israel if they're incarcerated. I'll be Native Indian if the Indian has been taken. I'll be a woman if she's raped and her heart is breaking." It's well intended but fails to read the room – the room here being the entire planet.
The dog's dinner of 'Dark Ballet', aired in part at Eurovision, features vocodered vocals sung to a melody from the Nutcracker, and irritatingly gnomic pronouncements about commerce blinding us to reality. 'Extreme Occident', only available on the deluxe version for a very good reason, sees Madonna trying to "recover my centre of gravity" in a politically polarised world – a really worthwhile topic, but expressed in witless lyrics. "I guess I'm lost / I had to pay the cost / The thing that hurt me most …" (at this point you're ready to bet your house on the final line being about a ghost, but no) "… Was that I wasn't lost." Tablas arrive with stupid kneejerk exoticism. It ends with her asserting "life is a circle" about 20 times.
These shockers are suitable only for schadenfreude lovers or scholars of extreme camp, but another of these wildly messy tracks actually matches its vaulting ambition. 'God Control' was presumably made after an all-nighter on Reddit – a rambling "Wake up sheeple!" screed that confronts gun reform, disenfranchised youth, democracy and the man upstairs. One section has her rap "Each new birthday gives me hope / that's why I don't smoke that dope", and that her only friend is her brain – all with the peppy naivety of Tom Tom Club's Wordy Rappinghood. And all of it set to hi-NRG disco with cascading strings and Daft Punk vocoders, for over six minutes. It is – only just – brilliant, and will become an equally beloved and despised curio among fans.
All this baroque weirdness knocks the album off its axis, but most of its 64 minutes are actually full of very decent pop songcraft. 'Future' is her go at pop's next big trend, roots reggae, and while there is a slight, perhaps unconscious but audible white-person Jamaican accent, it is catchy and full-bodied, producer Diplo shamelessly ripping off the brass from Outkast's SpottieOttieDopaliscious. She returns to 'Deeper and Deeper'-style house on 'I Don't Search I Find', its strings and fingerclicks a clear nod to 'Vogue'. 'Crazy' is beautiful and brilliantly catchy, a midtempo soul ballad that you could imagine Ariana Grande singing, but which has clever detailing like an accordion that has surely been influenced by Lisbon's fado scene. The most emphatically Latin tracks are all strong, particularly 'Faz Gostoso' with Brazilian superstar Anitta, whose frenetic beat is somewhere between baile funk and Angolan kuduro – another Lisbon-influenced rhythm that also flits through the polyrhythmic 'Come Alive'. 'Bitch I'm Loca', the second track to feature Colombian star Maluma after lead single 'Medellín', is reggaeton roughage, but will be satisfying enough booming out of a club system. Perhaps there isn't an absolutely diamond pop chorus on Madame X, but the singles 'I Rise', 'Crave', and 'Medellín' all have elegant, sinewy melodies that twine around you rather than jabbing you into submission.
Throughout, there is more density and musical adventure than at almost any other point in her career (perhaps this is the influence of Mirwais, who produces numerous tracks here and gave Music its fiendish intricacy). Her voice is remarkably plastic, pitched down one minute and up the next, into a Sia-like bleat and out into robotic polyphony. Often, around the seabed of the mix, is a swirl of aqueous psychedelic sound, profoundly different and much more interesting than her earlier R&B and EDM minimalism.
'Killers Who Are Partying' ends with the questions: "Do you know who you are? Will we know when to stop?" The untamed, batshit Madame X suggests that Madonna doesn't have the answer to either – and that her strength is in never knowing.
Hot on the heels of performing for 200 million people during the grand final of the Eurovision Song Contest last month, pop legend Madonna is set to join the line-up of an upcoming star-studded episode of The Graham Norton Show.
The BAFTA award-winning show had already promised galactic levels of stardom with its guests for the June 14 show, with cult director Danny Boyle and Lord of the Rings star Sir Ian McKellen dropping by for a chat.
And now Madonna has also been confirmed to feature on the episode, where she'll be discussing her new album Madame X as well as with her upcoming shows at the London Palladium.
Rounding out the guests for the night are actors Lily James and Himesh Patel, who'll be talking about their new film Yesterday, while singer Sheryl Crow will perform her new single 'Still the Good Old Days'.
Madonna announced that she would be headlining Pride Island's Sunday, June 30 show via a video on the TODAY Show Monday (June 3).
Prancing around a beach with a rainbow flag draped around her neck and a hat sporting the title of one of her latest singles, "Crave," Madonna playfully confirmed the rumors that she would be appearing at the event. "I hear you," she said. "I will be on Pride Island, where I was born."
Other stars set to perform at the event include Saturday headliner Grace Jones, Teyana Taylor, Pabllo Vittar, Kim Petras and Amara La Negra.
Pride Island is only one of a number of huge events for this year's NYC Pride, which will simultaneously be hosting WorldPride for the first time on American soil. Along with the city's iconic Pride parade, which will also take place on June 30, this year's festivities will include a three-day film festival called OutCinema, an opening and closing ceremony for WorldPride, and a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots.
Throughout her decades-long career, the pop icon has made it a priority to uplift and support her LGBTQ fans through her music and activism. Earlier this year, Madonna was honored at the 2019 GLAAD Media Awards with the Advocate for Change award, celebrating her many years of service and activism on behalf of the LGBTQ community. "Fighting for all marginalized people was a duty and an honor I could not turn my back on, nor will I ever," she said during her acceptance speech.
Tickets for Pride Island 2019 are currently sold out.
As the singer/songwriter begins promoting her forthcoming Madame X album and tour, Apple has revealed that Madonna is going to appear in Apple Stores —or at least she will on video. The company's Today at Apple series of workshops is to include a new Music Lab which will take customers through the process of deconstructing the song "Crave" by Madonna and Swae Lee.
Reportedly, Madonna has recorded a video where she talks about the origins of the song and the specifics of how it was produced.
"In this session, you'll deconstruct Madonna's song Crave, find out what inspired her, and create your own version of the song using GarageBand on iPhone," says Apple's new Music Lab page. "Devices will be provided."
There's no detail over which Apple Stores will feature the sessions as the official page is currently listing it as not being available. However, it's likely to be offered in every Store and the page has been rolling out across the US, Europe and Australia.
Madonna herself has not officially commented on the collaboration, but her Twitter account has begun including references to @AppleMusic and #applemusic on tweets to do with the Madame X album.
The Madame X album is due to be launched on June 14 and online speculation amongst Madonna fans is that this will be tied to Apple's reported breakup of iTunes into separate apps. They note that this news comes a day ahead of WWDC and suggest that she will be present to promote a new Music app. They further suggest that this means Apple's new apps won't launch until June 14, but there is no source for the speculation that she will be doing anything beyond the Today at Apple project.
Plus, the same fans claim that Madonna launched the iTunes Store in 2005, when really that was when she agreed to put her catalog on the then two-year-old service.
Apple's breaking up of iTunes is one of very many announcements expected to be made about macOS 10.15 and iOS 13 at the 2019 WWDC which begins Monday, June 3.↑ Back to top of page