Hark! Celestial trumpets are sounding from the clouds hovering near the heavens! It can only mean one thing: Her Madgesty, the Queen Of Pop, has new material on the way.
Let's reign it in a bit, though. With all due respect, we're still waiting for Madonna to release a great album this decade. But the good news is that her 14th LP is on its way, and she's absolutely got it in her to give us a batch of tunes to be reckoned with. After all, you don't become the queen without capturing lightning in a bottle multiple times over.
Her unrivaled string of hit releases in the 1980s seemed to all be building toward the golden -- actually, make that quadruple-Platinum -- Like A Prayer in 1989, an album that would have been an enviable career best for any other artist if they'd simply stopped there. But this is Madonna! She proceeded to triumphantly march forward by eschewing the big, glossy sound that helped make her famous and stripping down -- both the music and, um, herself -- and giving us 1992's brilliant, confessional house-pop hybrid Erotica. The Queen of Pop would end the second decade of her reign with her pièce de résistance, 1998's reflective Ray of Light. Her seventh studio album, it saw her pick up a staggering 10 statues between the Grammys and the MTV Video Music Awards alone.
Subsequent years have seen tireless Madge raise her kids, direct films, open schools, launch a chain of gyms and launch clothing and skincare lines. Those consistently fantastic full length releases, meanwhile, tapered off after 2005's Confessions on a Dance Floor, a bumping, peak-hour trek through clubland that earned the singer yet another Grammy. That's not to say Madonna's post-Confessions studio albums are all bad by any means -- the urban thump of 2008's Hard Candy remains a mostly satisfying experience, thanks to the focus of collaborators Timbaland, Justin Timberlake and Pharrell Williams; while 2015's Rebel Heart, though spotty, contains about seven playlist-worthy tracks throughout.
Looking on the bright side, the best could very well still be to come with Madonna's 14th studio release. What do we want from it? Nothing short of everything, of course. But we'd settle for any (or all!) of the following.
Let Madonna Sing
You know what needs to be hung up? Auto-Tune. At least in the Queen of Pop's case. This is Madonna, and she's amassed a loyal army of fans, sold hundreds of millions of records and inspired countless Gwens, Britneys, Katys and Gagas by simply being herself.
Cuts from the last decade like "Ghosttown" and "Messiah" off Rebel Heart, MDNA's "Masterpiece" and Hard Candy single "Miles Away" seem, for the most part, to be devoid of too much technical wizardry affecting her voice. And she sounds great on each one! Alas, for every one of those, there's been a "Bitch I'm Madonna," "Girl Gone Wild" or "Give It 2 Me" -- performances that find the singer coming off like she downed a vocoder smoothie before stepping to the mic.
Madonna, voice included, is a national treasure. Also, she kicked ass performing live at the Met Gala in New York three months ago. Just give it to us plain and simple going forward.
Stick With One or Two Producers, Rather Than Ten
This is something we all want, including Madonna! In February, upon her manager Guy Oseary commemorating the 20-year anniversary of Ray of Light on Instagram, the pop legend lamented the following in the comments: "Can you help me now please! Remember when i made records with other artists from beginning to end and I was allowed to be a visionary and not to have to go to song writing camps where No one can sit still for more than 15 minutes…"
Well, damn. That's quite to the point. Think of Madonna's work with Patrick Leonard and Stephen Bray on Like a Prayer; Shep Pettibone and Andre Betts on Erotica; William Orbit on Ray of Light; or Stuart Price on Confessions on a Dance Floor. They were cohesive, ahead-of-the-curve albums, one and all. Now try to count the writers and producers she was thrown together with for her two most recent LPs, MDNA and Rebel Heart. There aren't enough fingers and toes.
What's promising is the fact that Madonna appears to be collaborating once more with French "Disco God" Mirwais Ahmadzai, the lone producer behind her 2003 fan-favorite release American Life. Like the above-mentioned albums, American Life is noteworthy for its singular sound and vision.
A European Influence
Who doesn't love hip-hop, right? But okay, let's try this: Who wants to hear Madonna rapping? Exactly.
From the role Spanish music has played in classic cuts like "La Isla Bonita," "Who's That Girl" and "Deeper And Deeper" to her work with European collaborators like Orbit, Ahmadzai and Price, Madonna has typically been strongest with she aims for a more global vibe. Let's hope her current status as a resident of Lisbon -- and, again, her hitting the studio with Ahmadzai -- has the superstar singer brewing some cutting edge beats once more, a la when she cranked out Confessions during her years spent living in London.
No Features Necessary
When was the last time you shot up out of bed and said, "I really can't imagine how hollow 'Give Me All Your Luvin'' might have been if LMFAO hadn't lent their angelic pipes to the 'Party Rock Remix'"? Never, that's when. Likewise, who in the world was asking for Mike Tyson to pop up on Rebel Heart track "Iconic"? Madonna probably doesn't even remember the fact that M.I.A. appears on ridiculously unnecessary MDNA bonus cut "B-Day Song."
One of Madonna's impressive feats is that for the first 25 years of her career, she largely managed to avoid recording a duet with another artist. When the Justin Timberlake-featuring "4 Minutes" came along as Hard Candy's lead single in 2008, sure, it went on to become one of her biggest hits in the digital era. But it played, vocally, like Timberlake had hijacked Madonna's own song from her.
Fans have shown up to the Madonna party for four decades now. They'll likely keep doing so even if Nicki Minaj isn't in the credits.
A Return to Upbeat, Escapist Pop
Yes, artists evolve and mature. But you know what would be revolutionary 35 years into the Queen of Pop's truly remarkable story? Getting back to her roots! We don't need her to save the planet. Nor are we looking to her to fix the political system. Upon the release of Confessions on a Dance Floor 14 years ago, Madonna stated, "I feel that I just want to have fun; I want to dance; I want to feel buoyant. And I want to give other people the same feeling. There's a lot of madness in the world around us, and I want people to be happy." That's a distraction we'll still gladly accept from her.
In the end, all we really want from Madonna is to put the current state of the world on a shelf for a bit, and get into her groove as we have so many times before.
To celebrate Madonna's 60th birthday, Belgian newspaper De Morgen asked four Belgian artists to make a cover of a Madonna song of their choice. The result is an extraordinary take on the chosen tracks.
Jonas Steurs, frontman of the band Yusuf, went for La Isla Bonita: "I've slowed it down, but I still wanted to bring it as an ode to happiness and life. I feel a warm glow when I play the song."
Synthpoptrio Fortress choose to cover Jump: "The song comes very close to our electronic synthesizer style. But we still heard enough elements that we could make ours. When you cover a song, you need to ask yourself: how can I build up this song from my own musical background? Jump already has a good beat and it's very catchy. It's a strong melodic track with a clear vocal line."
Hydrogen Sea surprisingly goes for an album track: Voices. Singer Birsen Uçar: "To me it seems like Madonna's music has always been there. And I think it always will be. So many generations know her hits and the younger generation gets to know it even now. It's a heritage that just can't be denied."
Ivy Falls made a more melancholic and minimalistic version of Beautiful Stranger. With her 24 years, singer Fien Deman missed the 80s glory days of Madonna but "When I think of Madonna, I remember her many extravagant music videos, they made quite the impact!"
Listen to the covers on Spotify:
Nearly two years ago, a Madonna biopic earned top honors on the Black List, a roster of the best unproduced scripts in Hollywood. Last year, that script—Blond Ambition, by Alejandro G. Iñérritu's former assistant Elyse Hollander—was picked up by Universal. Madonna swiftly caught wind of the news, posting on Instagram that "nobody knows what I know and what I have seen. Only I can tell my story." Suffice it to say, she was not thrilled about the idea of a biopic.
But a documentary? On Monday, the first trailer for Madonna and the Breakfast Club, a documentary about the same early period of the Queen of Pop's life as Blond Ambition, was released. Despite apparently treading some of the same territory, this is not the same film that so inflamed Madonna last year. Described as a "docudrama feature film about Madonna's pre-fame days in New York with her first band"—the titular Breakfast Club—the documentary features interviews with Madonna's collaborators from the era as well as what look to be pretty substantial reenactments of key scenes with actor Jamie Auld, perfectly cast in her first role, playing the musician. (A quick browse of Auld's Instagram only confirms what's in the trailer: The actor is a definite doppelgänger for the now-60-year-old soccer mom.)
Let's set the scene. It's 1979, in Corona, Queens. In the first scene in the trailer, Auld, as Madonna, wears a twee butterfly-print dress during band practice, singing lead. It would have been a rare moment out front for the young singer, as interviews with her Breakfast Club bandmates reveal—for at the time, she played drums, while the two boys stood out front with their guitars. When her moment came, she'd emerge from behind her kit to play her two songs.
As the trailer progresses—and as Madonna hones her image—she undergoes a visible sartorial transformation (accompanying the sonic one from Breakfast Club to solo star). "She looked like Bowie and Elvis, to me," a voice narrates off camera. She goes from butterfly prints to pink-and-black stripes to leather crop tops and denim separates as she gets closer to signing a record deal. It's not Blond Ambition, but the ambition is clear. See the trailer, below.
Madonna is no stranger to controversy, and she stirred it again last night when she showed up to the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) on Monday night wearing jewelry and garb from North Africa's Amazigh people.
Her ensemble included a horned headdress, heavy silver necklaces and a colorful tunic, all of which can be found in shops in Morocco, where she celebrated her 60th birthday last week.
Fashion critics had a field day. They condemned her for cultural appropriation and mocked her stylistic choices.
"It's a little insulting how people are just saying, 'What is she wearing?' and making fun of it without trying to find out about it," says Cynthia Becker, an associate professor of African art at Boston University, who specializes in Amazigh (pronounced ah-ma-ZEER) art. She's the author of Amazigh Arts in Morocco: Women Shaping Berber Identity.
The clothing and jewelry reflect the fashion of the Imazighen (pronounced ee-ma-ZEERen, the plural form of Amazigh), who live in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania, Western Sahara, the Canary Islands, as well as parts of Mali, Egypt and Niger. They're often referred to as Berbers but many Imazighen consider the term derogatory – it's derived from the Greek word "barbaria," meaning barbarians.
Imazighen, from their language Tamazight, means "free people."
In Morocco, an estimated 40 percent to 60 percent of the population is of Amazigh descent, but only in the last couple decades has their language and culture been officially recognized and promoted by the government. That's why markets are now full of pieces like the ones Madonna was wearing.
Traditionally, Becker says, an Amazigh man would give this kind of jewelry and textiles to their bride before the wedding. The bride wore the gifts during the ceremony and afterward in their day-to-day life as a sign of her marital status. Becker says the jewelry also served as a type of "portable bank account" that a woman could cash in if her husband passed away or the family experienced financial hardship.
In addition to being "portable wealth," writes Courtney Stewart, senior research assistant, department of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, "coins make a great noise when the wearer moves. So a group of women wearing the jewelry "would have a significant auditory component."
In an email to NPR, Stewart also notes that the color red, in the coral in the headband "is sometimes associated with feminity and fertility." And the gemstones in the headband, including coral, are thought to provide baraka – blessings.
Sahar Amarir, 25, is a Moroccan Amazigh graduate student who is studying Middle Eastern politics at Harvard University. She says she recognized Madonna's headdress as one worn by the Ait Baamrane tribe, which had fiercely resisted colonization.
Although many Amazigh headdresses have cones, she says that only those worn by women in the Ait Baamrane tribe have such prominent horns.
Becker says that women in southeastern Morocco have told her that they wore bracelets with large points as weapons in the past. Some women also say the horns are a symbol of fertility, and silver is believed to have protective properties against the evil eye.
Becker says the aesthetic of a strong Amazigh woman is conveyed through the jewelry. "A beautiful Amazigh woman is one that is fierce and strong and powerful and can work hard," she says.
Amazigh women haven't worn this kind of jewelry and garb in their daily life since the 1960s, according to Becker. As Morocco continues to develop, they're opting for Western styles, although brides may still take wedding photos in traditional dress.
"I often see in many of the shops in Marrakech, they'll take many of the old Amazigh pieces and put them together to create something more modern, and I think that's largely what [Madonna's] wearing," Becker says.
It's sad, she says, because Moroccan museums have very few old silver pieces now, since most of them have been taken apart, reconstituted and sold. "But who am I to decide? I think it's ultimately up to people to decide what they want to preserve."
As for Madonna co-opting the style for herself? Becker says she's not wearing a traditional outfit anyway. The pieces themselves are "an amalgamation of styles from different parts of southwestern Morocco," her braids are very common in the area of Guelmim, in southern Morocco, and at least one of her bracelets is South African beadwork.
As for the issue of cultural appropriation: Becker's husband, Addi Ouadderrou, a Moroccan Amazigh, says he understands the concern but it doesn't bother him.
"I think it's fine what Madonna did," says Ouadderrou. "If someone comes to Morocco and wants to wear our clothes, to me, that's an honor; that's not an insult."
Madonna Tuesday weighed in on the controversial speech she made about Aretha Franklin at the MTV Video Music Awards, explaining that critics misinterpreted what she was trying to do.
She took the Radio City Music Hall stage during the second half of the Monday show for what appeared to be the night's big tribute to Franklin, but her speech appeared to be more about Madonna than the soul singer, who died late last week.
In an Instagram post Tuesday, however, Madonna clarified that she was merely supposed to present the award for Video of the Year, and was later asked to share any anecdotes that connected her to the "Queen of Soul."
"I shared a part of my journey and thanked Aretha for inspiring me along the way," she wrote. "I did not intend to do a tribute to her! That would be impossible in 2 minutes with all the noise and tinsel of an award show. I could never do her justice in this context or environment.
"Unfortunately most people have short attention spans, and are so quick to judge. I love Aretha! R.E.S.P.E.C.T."
Im with the Winner!! The beautiful @camila_cabello ! So proud of her! 🌈💕🎉. And just to clarify: I was asked to present video of the year by MTV! And then they asked me to share any anecdotes I had in my career connected to Aretha Franklin! I shared a part of my journey and thanked Aretha for inspiring me along the way. I did not intend to do a tribute to her! That would be impossible in 2 minutes with all the noise and tinsel of an award show. I could never do her justice in this context or environment. Unfortunately most people have short attention spans, and are so quick to judge. I love Aretha! R.E.S.P.E.C.T. 🙏🏼. I Love Camilla! Congrats! I LOVE my dress! AND. I love-L O V E!! ♥️ and there is nothing anyone can say or do that will change that. #vmas #postivevibes
During the awards show, Madonna spoke against a backdrop of a large black and white image of a young Franklin and noted that the late singer "changed the course of my life."
"I left Detroit when I was 18," she said. "Thirty-five dollars in my pocket. My dream was to make it as a professional dancer. After years of struggling and being broke, I decided to go to audition for musical theater. I heard the pay was better. I had no training or dreams of ever becoming a singer, but I went for it. I got cut, and rejected from every audition."
The pop star -- donning shoulder-length braids, a thorn-like headpiece and a long flowing black poncho -- went on to tell a story about a time when she performed an impromptu version of Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" at an audition, which was one of the few mentions of Franklin.
Madonna said "Aretha" four times during the seven-minute speech but uttered the words "I" and "me" more than 50 times.
She also managed to squeeze in a quick reference to her legendary performance of "Like a Virgin" at the 1984 VMAs, where she rolled around on the stage in a white wedding dress and bared her backside.
"After the show, my manager said my career was over," she said with a sinister smirk. "Well. Hello, sir. I would now like to present the nominees for the Video of the Year."
The tribute didn't sit well with many of Franklin's fans, some of whom took to social media to call her out.
"No to this Aretha tribute. How Madonna making this about her," one Twitter user said.
"You do not disrespect an ICON like that. This is a jovial kiki about Madonna's broken a-- journey. You honor a legend by telling their story or SHUT UP. The AUDACITY," another fan noted.
Some Franklin fans took to Madonna's own Twitter page to protest the tribute. Madonna's VMAs posts, including one that mentioned the hashtags "respect" and "arethafranklin," racked up hundreds of comments after the awards show.
"Love you Madonna, but what was supposed to be a tribute to the "Queen of Soul", you made it all about you. You and @MTV should be ashamed. Very disappointing," one user wrote.
"Wha....what is going on here?!?? Who approved this," another said.
A few of the star's die-hard fans managed to shine a ray of light on the situation, though, including one who called the tribute a "Great speech! Thanks for paying homage and personalizing it to your life. I'm surprised no other artists mentioned her tonight."
"I love you ty for amazing us with your beautiful and powerful speech you're amazing," another fan added.
Madonna announced that she will be presenting the award for Video of the Year at tonight's Video Music Awards. MTV's annual award show takes place at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The most important category is expected to be announced at the end of the show.
This year, the category's nominees include Ariana Grande ("No Tears Left to Cry"), Bruno Mars ft. Cardi B ("Finesse (Remix)"), Camila Cabello ft. Young Thug ("Havana"), The Carters ("APES**T"), Childish Gambino ("This Is America") and Drake ("God's Plan").
Madonna may have turned 60 years old, but she partied the night away in Marrakech like she wasn't a day over 25.
The birthday celebrations—which included traditional Moroccan dancing and musical performances, appearances from her children, and plenty of food—took place after the singer and her friends found their way through a medina in the city and made it to a large space in the desert, seating themselves around a giant table.
She's also been loving the head jewelry lately (which she considers to be an homage to the Berber culture of North Africa), and adorned herself for her "nomadic" birthday bash in the desert.
Aside from her six children (Lourdes Leon could be seen guiding her mother through the medina on one of Madonna's Instagram Stories before the evening celebrations were under way), the guest list was stacked with some of the singer's closest friends, as well as other directors and performers. The singer was joined in Marrakech by her longtime friend Debi Mazar (the two have been pals since bumping into each other at Danceteria in the 1980s), Nico 1988's Sandor Funtek, choreographer Marvin Gofin, the mysterious French photographer JR, and Atomic Blonde's Sofia Boutella, a former backup dancer for Madonna who entertained for the crowd near the end of the night, according to the various Instagram Stories taken throughout the evening.
Madonna used her 60th revolution around the sun as an excuse to give a little gift to her fans, too, as a thank you for raising money for her birthday fundraiser, which benefited her foundation Raising Malawi. She finally released the full version of her surprise performance of "Like a Prayer" from the 2018 Met Gala (where the theme was "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination"), so even if you didn't snag an invite to her birthday celebration in Marrakech, you could still celebrate from afar with the queen.
Imagine being 26-years-old and announcing on TV that your ultimate goal is to "rule the world." Arrogance, Vanity, Self-Obsession? Absolutely. But that kind of unabashed, optimistic ambition is exactly what young women need more of right now.
When Madonna made that statement in 1984 she was one of the first women I'd heard name and claim her ambition—not soft pedal it to be more well-liked. And she didn't want to just top the pop music charts, or be famous in Hollywood, she wanted Total World Domination.
I have spent my career as the ultimate champion of millennial women. It's my mission to help them own their power—and to make the world recognize it too.
Not a small goal, but I was raised on Madonna's rule-the-world ethos. For me, a GenXer, I am continually inspired by the way she has reinvented herself at every turn—but never forgetting—or letting anyone else forget—that she is the Queen (see her own Birthday Instagram Post).
In fact, Madonna, even at 60, is the ultimate millennial icon—defining success and power on her own terms.
She refused to be crushed by the pressure to be perfect: She flaunted a soft tummy when most stars were aerobics-tight all over. She had messy, public make-outs, and break ups. She let her insecurities and neediness show all over the ground-breaking Truth or Dare documentary.
She didn't adhere to a strict time line for her family life—like so many young women who tell me they feel 30 is their deadline to have the big job, the big relationship and the baby plan. Madonna's daughter Lourdes was born when Madonna was 38, son Rocco came when she was 42, she adopted son David when she was 48, and adopted twin girls last year. She's been married and not married and didn't define herself through those relationships.
And she didn't stay in her lane or follow the well-worn path laid out by a generation of women ahead of her. She ruled music, movies, and fashion. She wrote books and launched a makeup and skincare line too. A 1990 Forbes Cover story asked if she was "The Smartest Woman in Business?" Although, let's be honest, she didn't need that question mark.
When you're 26, it's hard to imagine that you'll ever not be as young and hungry and ambitious as you are now—and with Madonna paving the way, you may never have to.
Here's what some other powerful women who grew up with Madonna as their icon of success and strength want you to know about her legacy of ambition for women.
Your Money Is Your Power
I woke up thinking, "Madonna was right." Women need to be in control and we need more money if we're ever going to end the patriarchy. I was seven years old when Like a Virgin came out and I remember my sister and I used to dance to it in sparkly tank tops (appropriate 80's parenting, thanks Mom).
She knew we couldn't depend on men to lift us up. She took on institutions of the patriarchy and put them in flames—the Church, the business suit. She told us to Express Ourselves. She interpreted trend—she took Vogueing out of the clubs and into middle America. In Truth or Dare, Warren Beatty mocked her for not wanting to live out of view the camera and she shrugged and let the camera into even more intimate moments.
"We learned from Madonna how to control our own narrative and invent our own path, with edge and commercial appeal. It has pluses and minuses but it was prescient."
– Morra Aarons-Mele, author of Hiding in the Bathroom
"As a woman seven years behind her in age I look to her as a model of continued reinvention, perseverance and inspiration. Not only has she always been a marketing genius, but a creative visionary and probably most importantly, has never been afraid to stand up for what she believed in."
– Susan McPherson, founder of McPherson Strategies
Give Zero F*cks
"Anyone who has ever been coached by me has probably heard me tell of Madonna's reaction when confronted by reporters with news that years-old nude shots of her had been obtained for publication just at the height of her explosion onto the scene: 'So?' That is what I advise people to say about a lot of situations about which they are angsting. 'So?' The nude photos thing turned out okay for Madonna and most things will turn out okay for most people who say, 'So?' And if you don't like how it turns out say, 'So, what's next?'"
— Ruth Ann Harnisch, investor, philanthropist and coach
Break Down Barriers of Culture and Race
"I love that she's adopted African children. I loved how she had a gospel choir in Like A Prayerand made Jesus black. She's tapped into Indian and Asian culture as well. I know people were upset and some would call it appropriation, but to me it is beautiful that she takes the risk."
— Bea Arthur, licensed mental health counselor and host of Women@Forbes' Office Hours
You Do You
"For those of us in our 40s and 50s, we've brought Madonna along for the ride of our lives - and she provided the soundtrack, the raunchy stunts, the wardrobe and the idea that anything is fair game in love, life and fashion. Tear up that sweatshirt, wear your pointy bra on the outside and pile on the rubber bracelets. Express yourself.
We want to shame Madonna for not acting her age, for talking politics at the women's march, for being oversexed, for having overly sinewy arms, for trying to be a comedian when she should stick to music, for dating younger men. She gets it harder because she constantly puts herself in the spotlight. She won't go quietly.
People tell Madonna to chill out and just be a role model, but why can't we just let her be? She proves that we don't have to grow old gracefully or fit into a certain decorum with a quieter voice and a more tasteful, sweater-set-filled wardrobe.
The overwhelming message Madonna sends is to be yourself, whatever that means, and as old as you are. It might be cobbled from a few lives, influences and reinventions — and that's just fine. She's going to be Madonna. Whether you like it or not."
– Margit Detweiler, founder of TueNight.com
"Madonna's quote at the end of the song Human Natureis "absolutely no regrets." This is something I think about a lot in my professional work. I have a tendency to spend a ton of time looking backward and worrying if I should have done this instead of that or made X decision instead of Y. When I catch myself getting too hung up on worrying about what's already happened instead of looking forward, I just think of Madonna staring into the camera saying: 'absolutely no regrets.'"
— Bridget Todd, the host of podcast Stuff Mom Never Told You
Be The Boss
"Madonna transcended icon and became a boss with her 1990 Blonde Ambition tour and the release of film that followed it, Truth or Dare. The Blonde Ambition tour was the first of its kind—every megastar performs a choreographed, lit up, grandiose spectacle today, but Madonna was first. Truth or Dare, the behind-the-scenes documentary following the global tour was perhaps the first time the public was granted such unmitigated access to a pop idol in all of her rawness and vulnerability. And she was so clearly not only the star of the show, but the boss. Everyone answered to her—the crew, the backup dancers, makeup artists, managers, audio engineers, and even law enforcement. She is an incredible performer, sure, but to see a woman wield so much power is as breathtaking to watch today as it was then."
— Allison Yarrow, author of 90s Bitch
Forget Being The Best, Be The Star
"I remember a conversation when I was a sophomore in high school, sitting around with a bunch of other musical theatre nerds/Madonna cult worshippers. People's "50 Most Beautiful People" issue had come out and Julia Roberts was on the cover. Everyone on the list was described along a single dimension—actress, musician, philanthropist. Madonna? She was just "superstar". She could do everything—and yet, she wasn't necessarily the greatest singer in the world, the best dancer on the block, and definitely not the most talented actress who came across the screen. But the thing was, she made you believe that she was all of those things. That's what made her so mesmerizing and inspiring to me…that was her magic."
—Tara Abrahams, women and girls' advocate
Madonna has made her impact on earth known in countless ways in the 60 years that she's been here. But not all of her impacts are so obvious. And this includes her influence on the art world: Beyond pioneering the crossover between pop and art by hanging with the likes of Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, and her former flame Jean-Michel Basquiat in New York in the '80s, Madonna's art world impact has been made almost entirely behind the scenes.
Take for example, Basquiat, whom Madonna dated in the early '80s, when they were both on the brink of fame. Now one of the most popular artists on the market, Basquiat died in 1988, at just 28 years old, meaning that there's only so much of his work out there to be bought and put on display (which is partly why his work continues to break records at auction). And, as Madonna revealed to Howard Stern in 2015, there's even less of it because of his reaction to their breakup in 1984.
Since it wasn't out of the ordinary for Madonna to wake up in the middle of the night and find that Basquiat wasn't lying in bed but was on his feet painting, it's only natural that over the course of a couple of years Madonna came to own quite a few pieces of Basquiat's art. Those, however, will never be seen. "When I broke up with him, he made me give [the paintings he gave me] back to him, and then he painted over them black," she told Stern.
It's unclear just how many Basquiats we lost to spite—Madonna was hardly the only notable woman he dated, although certainly the most notable—but we do know there's only a single Frida Kahlo that Madonna has been keeping from the public eye, thankfully. Unfortunately, it happens to be arguably one of the most amazing works Kahlo ever produced. Painted in 1932, My Birth is true to its title: It's a self-portrait, but Kahlo's head isn't in its usual place, atop her shoulders—instead, it is in the process of emerging from the womb. It's quite a sight to see, and quite a privilege to see it, given that Madonna turned down the Detroit Institute of Arts' many pleas to feature it in a 2015 exhibition of the works that Kahlo made while she and Diego Rivera lived in Detroit. ("You have no idea what we went through," the institute's adjunct curator said at the time.)
Madonna had, in fact, loaned the painting to the Tate back in 2005, and wouldn't have exactly been artless without it; as Vanity Fair reported in 1990, back then, at least, she also owned works by Diego Rivera, Man Ray, Weegee, Tina Modotti, Herb Ritts, and even Fernand Léger. To be fair, her appreciation for the work seems to be the reason behind her unwillingness to share it: "If somebody doesn't like this painting," Madonna told the magazine, "then I know they can't be my friend."
For all the great art Madonna has effectively kept from us, she's also gone out of her way to bring art to the mainstream—not exactly surprising, given that she's a fan of artists like Banksy and JR, who remind her of Basquiat and Haring. "You can see Banksy's work driving by it on the street, and JR's work—the way he takes photographs of people and turns them into heroes in their communities and makes people proud of who they are," she told David Blaine in 2014, adding that her son was even interning for JR.
Madonna has brought art to the streets herself in a way too, like when she used the video Green Pink Caviar by the provocative New York–based artist Marilyn Minter, with whom she's friends, as the backdrop for a portion of her Sticky and Sweet tour, preceding its stint as part of a public art project in Los Angeles. More recently, Madonna also fundraised for her nonprofit Raising Malawi by launching a contest that would give two "art world virgins" the chance to accompany her to Art Basel Miami Beach for an ultra-exclusive, up-close look at a plethora of blue chip art (and, as it turned out, at her twerking with Ariana Grande, which has likely only appreciated in market value since).
Madonna celebrated her 60th birthday in Marrakesh, Marocco with family and friends, including her longtime friend Debi Mazar, her manager Guy Oseary and many of her tour crew and dancers.
It's Madonna's birthday but it's the fans who receive a birthday gift from her!
To celebrate her 60th birthday, Madonna has shared a professional recording of her amazing performance at the 2018 Met Gala. During the event in May, Madonna performed Like A Prayer (with a Girl Gone Wild intro similar to the MDNA Tour) and a cover of Hallelujah. She also premiered a small part of the new song Beautiful Game.
Madonna turns 60 on Thursday. To celebrate, we're taking a look back at her 35 years in the industry.
This has earned her a spot in the Guinness World Records as the best-selling female recording artist of all time.
What else can a look at the numbers tell us about the Queen of Pop?
Twelve of Madonna's albums have hit the number one spot. Only the Beatles and Elvis Presley can boast more.
Greatest hits album The Immaculate Collection spent a 338 weeks in the charts after its release in 1990 - including more than two months at number one.
Like A Virgin your favourite Madonna tune? Join the crowd: Spotify data ranks this 1984 classic as her most popular song.
In fact, only one song in the top five is not from the 80s: Hung Up from 2005.
Madonna's had 46 singles make the top five in the UK charts - only Elvis has had more.
Obviously, Google wasn't around to tell us what people were curious about back in the 1980s.
But since 2010, global searches for Madonna reached their highest point in March 2012, when she was the Super Bowl's first female headline act since Janet Jackson had her "wardrobe malfunction" in 2004.
In 2012, Madonna set a record for the highest viewing audience of a Super Bowl halftime show - which lasted until 2015 when it was smashed by Katy Perry and 'Left Shark'.
Most streaming services give songs a numeric value to determine if it's a "happy" or "sad" song, based on its key, tempo and other factors.
It only measures how the music sounds - and ignores the lyrical content - but uses this information to auto-recommend new music to us.
So looking at how Spotify's computers "hear" her work, they would classify it as getting "sadder" over time, with slower songs and more minor keys being used.
Clearly this is far from the whole story - machines can't (currently) understand the words and "feel" songs in the way we do.
Some of Madonna's deepest, most emotional work is actually on her early albums, despite those records sounding more "happy" overall.
True Blue from 1986 ranks among the "happiest" sounding, despite songs covering teenage pregnancy, deceit and parental estrangement.
So streaming services have a way to go before they can reveal more to us about a song than just its sound.
Madonna's studio albums feature songs in 24 different keys - but G major is the most common, with 17 songs employing it.
Looks like she really is a Material Girl.
Forbes estimated Madonna's net worth at $580m (£454m) last year, making her the richest female artist based in America, comfortably $200m (£157m) ahead of runner-up Celine Dion.
To celebrate Madonna's 60th birthday in style, you need some good Madonna playlists. We've got just the thing.
As we celebrate Madonna turning 60 this week, let us remember that this is a woman who has no interest in nostalgia. In a recent interview with Vogue Italia, she said she would talk only about the present, which, to me, is the key aspect of who Madonna is: resolutely forward-driving. This is why she is so able to manage to a global, decade-spanning career.
When she collected her woman of the year prize at Billboard's Women in Music awards in 2016, she said she stood before the crowd "as a doormat". "Thank you for acknowledging my ability to continue my career for 34 years in the face of blatant sexism and misogyny and constant bullying and relentless abuse." This is genuine, rightful anger and ferocity. The level of ageism and sexism directed at her is femicidal, even matricidal, visceral loathing. When people say they want Madonna to age gracefully, what they really mean is: become beige, shut up and go into a corner. And she refuses to do that. Instead, she continues to produce brilliant, captivating and thought-provoking work.
We so often do not let women take credit for their own genius. Madonna has resisted that, mainly because she always overshadows the men with whom she chooses to collaborate. Nobody ever says Mirwais or Timbaland or Stuart Price made Madonna. Only Madonna could have made Madonna. But this is also from where the misogyny stems. She is bigger than any man she has ever encountered, professionally or personally. And people hate that.
She has outlived her contemporaries: Madonna, Michael Jackson and Prince were the triumvirate of 80s stars. She has outlasted them artistically, too. Her 2015 album Rebel Heart was excellent. Her quality of work has never dropped. Many artists Madonna's age, particularly male artists, are doing victory tours: people such as Bruce Springsteen. Madonna, instead, is not creating to prove a point about how long she can keep doing so.
It is impossible to talk about Madonna without talking about power. She is an athlete. I once read an interview where her trainer said she is so strong that he has to invent new exercises for her because she can't feel exercises for mere mortals. Her muscularity is not about appearance; it is an indication of her mental strength and resilience. She is indestructible. But she has survived so long not just because of her talent, and not just because of her physical and mental strength. It is also that she is intelligent, professional and always engaged – she has seen the world, brought up children, worked in multiple fields. She is mentally alive and this is what keeps her searching, moving and creating.
So let us not reward Madonna for continuing to survive; let us appreciate her as an incredibly talented artist: a musician, songwriter, a dancer and a performer, a brilliant film-maker (W.E. is a beautiful, intelligent piece of feminist cinema). She sees herself as a creative artist, and we owe her the respect of seeing her that way, too.
Madonna will celebrate her 60th birthday on Thursday, Aug. 16, and Apple Music's Beats 1 is marking the milestone by speaking with an array of music artists about her influence on modern music and her enduring legacy.
Among the artists offering praise is Adele. "There's a reason there's only one Madonna," says the "Hello" singer. "For me, she's the complete definition of evolving, and evolving, and evolving each time."
Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers, who produced the Like a Virgin album, recalls working with Madonna on what proved to be her breakthrough record.
"I have never worked with the person that I respected more, that had such focus and such determination and such a work ethic," he says. "There was no amount of takes of a song that I could ask Madonna to do that she would not do. She was tireless."
However, he recalls their collaboration getting off to a rocky start. "My first formal meeting with her at my apartment, she comes in and she plays essentially what's the Like a Virgin album, because she had collected all these demos and stuff. She said to me, in a very matter of fact kind of tone, 'Nile, if you don't like all these songs, I can't work with you.' And I said, 'Well Madonna, I don't like all the songs, but let me tell you this. By the time I get finished with them, I'm gonna love them.' This must have been the right answer, because I didn't get fired."
Decades later, Diplo worked with Madonna on her Rebel Heart album. "As far as musicians I've ever worked with, she's the #1. For history and what she's accomplished, and how she works and how serious she takes her own music, it pushed me to really work even harder than I do — which is hard, I thought, but I can always do more," he states.
"Madonna is going to be relevant forever," Diplo adds. "Madonna invented what we all have as a pop star. There wasn't anything before her, in that capacity, of all encompassing. To keep it going for 30 years and also, to be so in touch with the underground… She's an icon. You're always relevant if you're an icon like that."
All-female rock band HAIM were influenced by Madonna, and not just music from one particular stage in her career. "With Madonna, every era of hers was iconic. Just with 'Like a Virgin' — her performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, and then her performance 15 years later with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. I mean, so iconic," the band tells Beats 1. "No one was doing anything like that at that point. It was a time and a place and she kind of personified what was going on at the time. She's had an amazing career that has entailed about seven or eight different careers. She's a chameleon, this one, and there have been so many different vibes that she's kind of explored as an artist, and I think that's really inspiring."
To get into the groove for celebrating Madonna's 60th, enjoy this "essentials" playlist from Apple Music.
The Queen of Pop is joining forces with the Prince of Monaco for a very important cause. Madonna has been named one of the event chairs at the Monte Carlo Gala for the Global Ocean, a glitzy soiree being presided over by Prince Albert. The Monegasque royal and the musical icon has both put environmental causes at the forefront of their charity work and activism, so this seems like a match made in fundraising heaven!
"Taking care of the planet is incredibly important to me, so I am delighted to be supporting HSH Prince Albert of Monaco and his foundation," said Madonna, who released the charity track "Hey You" for the Live Earth campaign in 2007. "The serenity and life of the oceans are under threat - we can make a difference now and should do everything possible to preserve it. The Monte Carlo Gala in September couldn't be more needed to raise the money to help save our oceans."
Madonna, who marks her milestone 60th birthday on Aug. 16, joins a star-studded roster of event chairs that includes Orlando Bloom, Goldie Hawn, Adrien Brody, Eva Longoria, Pierce Brosnan, Hugh Grant, Diane Lane, Robert F Kennedy, Andy Garcia, Olga Kurylenko and Chris Tucker. The evening's co-chairs are some of the most beautiful women in the world, like models Karolina Kurkova, Sara Sampaio, Shanina Shaik, Karlie Kloss and Adriana Lima.
Prince Albert, 60, has long been an advocate for saving the sea, which he calls "our lifeblood," and launched this gala last year to raise money for the cause. "Our living standards, economy and even our health depends on it. However, pressures from climate change and marine pollution are putting our ocean under severe stress," he explained, adding that we can still turn it around. "I believe that there is hope, if we work hand-in-hand."
Last year's gala honoured Oscar winner and fierce environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio with The Award of the Albert Monaco Foundation and raised enough money to put in place 37 new marine conservation programs in different parts of the world, plus two programs to fight plastic pollution. The actor was also responsible for Madonna and Prince Albert crossing paths last year at the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation's fundraiser in St Tropez, where Her Madgesty performed a surprise series of hits to help raise $30 million for the planet.
A key part of Madonna's wide-ranging career has been her eye-catching, conversation-sparking music videos, which have been as impactful and memorable as the hit songs themselves. A master of reinvention, these videos serve as a reminder of her famous array of looks, always referencing the latest trends while staying true to central themes of sex, religion and female empowerment.
'Like A Virgin' (1984)
The first example of the kind of strong imagery Madonna could present in her videos came with 'Like A Virgin'. The clip cuts between her dancing on a Venetian gondola in her original punk-style look – already being copied at that point by young girls across America – and a more demure scene where she dons a full wedding dress (albeit a more demure choice than the one she would sport on the album cover). Her ambition is on full display. As the camera cuts between her eyes and those of a lion, it's hard to tell who looks hungrier.
Best bit: 2.26 – A handful of tourists watching her pass under the bridge unwittingly earn a cameo in one of pop's most famous music videos.
'Material Girl' (1985)
Madonna began a recurring theme of Marilyn Monroe tributes with this full-blown homage to her performance of 'Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend' in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. At the dawn of the 1980s, Madonna's career was born alongside the arrival of MTV, and this marked the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship which set the bar for her contemporaries. She delivered the goods, and MTV broadcast it on heavy rotation around the world. It was on the set of this video that Madonna met Sean Penn, whom she married later that year.
Best bit: 3.55 – When she throws herself backwards onto the army of adoring, suited backing dancers.
'Papa Don't Preach' (1986)
Tackling the subject of an unplanned pregnancy, this video was heavy on storyline, and set Madonna out as an artist who could do serious as well as sexy and fun. It is a testament to her stardom at this point that the video brought much excitement simply because she had dyed her hair blonde. The look she cultivated here paid equal tribute to her Italian roots, and the girl groups of the 1950s. She showed her marketing savvy by threading it through the entire True Blue album campaign.
Best bit: 1.07 – When she catches sight of her love interest while wearing the 'Italians Do It Better' t-shirt.
'Like A Prayer' (1989)
Most people remember this controversial video for Madonna's steamy kiss with a black Jesus – but he was in fact supposed to be Martin de Porres, the patron saint of mixed-race people. This was fitting as race was a major theme explored in the video alongside sex and religion, all climaxing in a blistering scene where she dances in a field of burning crosses. The video angered the Vatican, and more importantly Pepsi, who immediately pulled a major $5 million ad campaign with Madonna which was to feature the song. Her response? "I do what I want."
Best Bit: 2.15 – Surely the first and last appearance of stigmata in a pop video?
'Express Yourself' (1989)
At the time of release, this was the most expensive music video ever made, with its $5 million budget being spent on an extensive homage to the influential 1927 silent film Metropolis. In another theme she has explored widely through her career, Madonna presents herself simultaneously as feminine and masculine, appearing as a sex symbol to factory workers before donning a man's suit and appearing to exert power over them. Her then-boyfriend Warren Beatty turned down the offer to play her love interest in the video.
Best bit: 1.58 – A brilliant solo dance routine with just a hint of Michael Jackson.
Arguably her most iconic moment, Madonna took the Vogue dance that emerged in the African-American LGBT community in 1980s New York, packaged it up, and made it a worldwide phenomenon in the summer of 1990. From the famous dance routine to the appearance of that cone bra, it is laden with memorable moments. Shot in black and white by acclaimed Fight Club director David Fincher, it pays homage to the classic era of Hollywood but in turn its own imagery is now firmly embedded in pop culture history.
Best Bit: 0.34 – That very first 'Strike a pose' will never get old.
'Justify My Love' (1990)
If Marilyn Monroe had ever starred in some French noir porn, it might have looked something like this. Madonna sparked perhaps her biggest controversy with this steamy video in which she visits a hotel corridor filled with half-naked women, cross-dressers, BDSM participants and a gimp, before quite naturally getting stuck in for a bit of fun herself. Outright banned by her friends at MTV, Madonna responded by releasing it on VHS as the first ever 'video single', turning it into a major commercial success. Still NSFW to this day.
Best bit: 4.43 – She runs off down the hallway, giggling at what she's just been up to – but it's almost anticipating the scandal of the video itself too.
'Take A Bow' (1994)
One of her most beautifully shot videos, Madonna appears as the neglected lover of a matador, with traditional themes of religion and female sexuality being explored. Cinematic bullfighting scenes and stunning close-ups complement the orchestrated track by Babyface. At this time, Madonna was lobbying for the title role in Evita and wanted a Spanish themed, period style video that would portray her in the correct fashion. She sent a copy of the video to director Alan Parker as part of her campaign to win the role – and it worked.
Best bit: 1.55 – When the door to the arena opens up revealing Madonna on one side and the gathered crowd on the other.
'Ray Of Light' (1998)
A major comeback moment for Madonna, 'Ray of Light' presented the new mum with a Mother Earth look, as she approached her 40th birthday. The album presented a mature style, with a contemporary 90s sound that reaffirmed her relevance, and the video once again got her on heavy TV rotation. Shot in Los Angeles, New York, London, Las Vegas and Stockholm by Swedish director Jonas Åkerlund, it was a major technical feat. The time lapse effect was the result of weeks of meticulous filming, taking half an hour to get just five seconds of footage.
Best bit: 3.16 – When the breakdown ends and she throws her head at the camera: "And I feel!"
'Hung Up' (2005)
Arguably the last Madonna video that had everyone talking, this enjoyed its own prime-time premiere slot on Channel 4. Serving up a glorious mixture of Saturday Night Fever imagery with contemporary street dancing and freerunning, the video was as instantly attention-grabbing as the ABBA sample that pulsed through the song. Filmed just two months after she broke three ribs and a collarbone in a horse riding accident, there's no sign of the pain as she demonstrates her famous flexibility. And who could forget that pink leotard?
Best Bit: 1.50 – Her entire solo routine in the ballet studio is brilliant but this impressive high kick is a highlight.
To enjoy more Madonna tracks, listen to The Independent's Spotify playlist of her 60 greatest songs.
Interestingly Madonna and the Billboard Hot 100 chart are both turning 60 this month and the industry Bible has announced she's the all-time chart queen with 57 entries and 12 no. 1 hits (Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson are in second and third place respectively).
The numbers are impressive — Madonna holds the record for most top 10 hits of all acts with 38 and she's had 46 no. 1 hits on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart, more chart toppers than any act has ever accumulated on any Billboard chart.
That's the good news. The bad news is that despite consistently putting out solid material in the last 10-15 years, her chart dominance has waned considerably with only one of her last seven singles even cracking the Hot 100 ("Bitch I'm Madonna" made it to no. 84 in 2015), an unthinkable track record compared to her '80s and '90s heyday. Her last U.S. top-10 hit was "Give Me All Your Luvin" in 2012; her last no. 1 was "Music" in 2000.
But how much of it is — as Madonna has claimed — ageism? Do the men (Springsteen, Paul McCartney, U2) with new material fare any better than women (Stevie Nicks, Cher, etc.)? The short answer is not really. The only time McCartney has had hits in the last 30 years were his high-charting collaborations with Kanye West, Rihanna, et. al. ("FourFiveSeconds made it to no. 4 and "All Day" to no. 15, both in 2015.)
And are the numbers even relevant, as the Washington Post has suggested, now that Billboard records are constantly being broken as the agency continues shuffling its methodology to factor streaming into the popularity equation?
One particularly eyebrow-raising shattered record happened last year when Nicki Minaj passed Aretha Franklin for most Billboard Hot 100 entries of any female artist, amassing 73 since 2010 alone. She pulled off this astounding feat because she's such a ubiquitous guest artist (occasionally with Madonna): 32 of her entries are as lead artist; she's "featured" on the other 44. Just based on number of entries among women, Madonna comes in fifth behind Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Franklin and Minaj. She ranks higher overall based on her actual numbers (i.e. Madonna's singles haver generally charted higher than Franklin's, Minaj's etc. so she has more overall chart heft despite fewer entries).
Fans have been concerned as far back as 2006 when they launched an "End the Madonna on U.S. radio Boycott" aimed at Clear Channel Communications after her "Confessions" singles failed to generate much interest. It hasn't improved. Madonna herself cried foul in 2015 when Great Britain's BBC Radio 1 declined to play her then-new single "Living for Love." And in a 2016 speech in which she was named Woman of the Year at a Billboard Women in Music awards ceremony, she said in the world of music, "To age is a sin. You will be criticized, you will be vilified and you will definitely not be played on the radio."
That pop music and the Hot 100 has always pretty much been a young person's game is a fairly accepted music industry truism. Look at any female pop singer going back to the days of Connie Francis (53 Hot 100 entries), Brenda Lee (48) or Dionne Warwick (56) — none of them were having major hits into their 50s and 60s. Despite a major comeback in her 40s, Tina Turner's chart power slipped as she got older. Even Cher's 1998 hit "Believe," often cited as an example of what's possible for older women artists, was a bit of a fluke. When it hit no. 1 on the Hot 100 in 1999, she was 52 and became the oldest woman to have a no. 1 hit. But that was 20 years ago and only two of the 16 singles she's released since then have even cracked the Hot 100, the highest ("Strong Enough") at no. 57. Like Madonna, she's fared much better on the dance chart.
Pink, 38, told the New York Times last year while promoting her latest release "Beautiful Trauma" she knew her days on the chart were limited (she's had 23 top 40 hits).
"I had the whole sit-down, you know: 'Just be prepared — they don't play girls over 35 on top 40 radio,'" she told the Times. "There are exceptions but they're songs, not artists — unless you're Beyonce."
Thus far Madonna appears fairly undeterred. With "MDNA" in 2012 and "Rebel Heart" in 2015, she's kept to a fairly regular release schedule. She's teased new material on social media and appears to still enjoy making new music and live performance. She wowed the crowd in May with an elaborate performance at the Met Gala performing "Like a Prayer" at the "Fashion and the Catholic Imagination" event (right up her alley thematically).
But how long will Madonna feel like going back to the well if this law of diminishing returns continues as it's likely to? Sure, Madonna does lots of things — she writes, acts (not so much anymore) and directs, but what is she supposed to do when the thing she clearly does best no longer has a place in pop culture? One might argue we don't expect our sports legends to keep up the pace and records they set in their prime but writing, recording and releasing a hit single doesn't require one to be at peak physical ability. It could — in theory — happen at any age.
Her tours are still massive extravaganzas that sell out all around the world (she's the top-grossing female touring artist of all time) but she'll never expand her considerable fan base into younger generations with zero radio support. Outside of touring, there's nothing comparable in pop music for the way actresses like Jessica Lange, Jodie Foster, Kathleen Turner and Glenn Close (Meryl is, of course, in a league of her own, no pun intended) have managed to keep the creative fires burning with TV, directing and stage work. Younger audiences still have ways to discover them.
It will be interesting to see how Madonna — and the Pinks and Beyonces of the world after her, for their time will surely come as well — tackles this conundrum in the years to come.
Madonna's interview with Vogue Italia arrived early last week, but is only going viral now after Stan Twitter detected a little shade. After talking about her life as a soccer mom in Portugal and the European nation's rich musical heritage, the 59-year-old fired off a thinly-veiled bard about the state of pop. "It's also such a nice antidote to what's going on in the music business now where everything's so formulaic, and every song has 20 guest artists on it, and everyone sounds the same," she muses. "Something's gotta give."
While some commentators feel that this is a bit rich after the collaboration-heavy, trend-chasing pop of Rebel Heart and MDNA, the Queen of Pop has already distanced herself from those projects and that process. "Remember when I made records with other artists from beginning to end and I was allowed to be a visionary and not have to go to song writing camps where no one can sit still for more than 15 minutes," Madonna commented on an Instagram post by manager Guy Oseary earlier this year. It looks like she's doing things (very) differently this time around. Bring on album 14!
For over 35 years Madonna has touched the lives of people all over the world - among the stories of how the Queen of Pop changed their life, we selected the story of backup singer Donna DeLory
Donna De Lory, 53, is a singer who lives in California with husband Robert, 46, a physician, and daughters Sofia, 15, and Luciana, nine.
"I'll never forget the first time I met Madonna. I was auditioning for her Who's That Girl tour in 1987 with what felt like every other female singer in LA, and the pressure was intense.
We were looking around for her, and at first I couldn't see her, but then I did a double-take at a very petite person in a brown suit with short hair and glasses. It was Madonna!
She'd changed her look, but as soon as she started to speak we knew it was her. She was very serious – I felt she just wanted to get the auditions finished so she could continue rehearsals, as one of the singers had not worked out and they needed to replace her right away.
We sang the bridge of La Isla Bonita together and Pat Leonard, her musical director, said our voices blended perfectly. But it wasn't until a few days later that I knew I had the job – I was ecstatic!
I'd been singing professionally since I was eight and I'd grown up with my musician/producer father, Al De Lory. After my mother Mary died of breast cancer when I was 16, we moved to Nashville, where I worked at a restaurant and sang in my spare time.
I was being paid to sing for various TV ads and films after I moved back to LA to pursue my dreams at 18. Then suddenly, I found was going on tour with one of the biggest stars in the world.
A few days after I got the job, we sat doing our make-up together in front of the mirror at the rehearsal studio and had girl talk. My life had changed overnight.
That night, as I rode in her limo to watch Billy Idol at his concert, her music came on the radio. It was a moment I'll never forget.
Getting the gig proved to be a turning point in my career. I was noticed a lot more by the music industry and I earned over £1,000 a week on tour. Working with Madonna gave me the chance to be part of so many legendary performances and great recordings.
All I wanted to do was travel, sing, dance and explore the world. When I got the job with Madonna, it was a dream come true. I felt it was the recognition I deserved after years of studying dance.
My favourite tour was probably Who's That Girl, as it was my first. But I loved the Blond Ambition and Girlie Show tours, too, as I had a big role and really got to showcase my talent. I travelled everywhere, from Japan to Holland.
Madonna was strong, intelligent and a very disciplined role model. I saw first-hand how hard you had to work to be great. She inspired all of us to be our best.
I do believe touring with her made me a better performer. I think what impressed Madonna most was how I could harmonise with her voice. That's why I sang with her for so many years.
I have so many exciting memories from touring. After one show in 1990 we had to run to get on our bus and make a getaway after the encore, before people started to leave the stadium.
But the very high security gate had not been opened. I was the first one to climb over and everyone, including Madonna, followed. We got to the bus just in time.
I stopped working with Madonna after the Live Earth concert in London in 2007, mainly as by then I had my daughter Sofia. I also wanted to start working on my own music, though I'd love to sing with her again in the future.
We are no longer close friends, but I have so much love and respect for her. I last saw her two years ago at one of her shows in LA. At an after-party, I told her how much I enjoyed the show.
She looks happy with her family now and I admire the amazing humanitarian work she continues to do. To see Madonna still thriving at 60 is a huge inspiration to me."
SHE might be more senior citizen than virgin these days, but as Madonna nears 60, she's still managing to shock — by refusing to stop being sexy.
That's three and a half decades since the crispy-haired crucifix-wearing pop star with lace gloves burst into our consciousness. It's almost laughable to remember she caused offence at the time for wearing — and burning — crosses. Watch the Like A Virgin video now and the only thing that makes you gasp is how close she comes to bonking her head on a bridge on that gondola in Venice.
Compared to today's pop stars she has so many clothes on — even a jacket at one point. Perhaps there was a light breeze. And it is comical the conical Jean Paul Gaultier bra she sported for her Blonde Ambition tour in 1990 was thought racy. Now it's shocking to see a female singer wearing anything other than a leotard.
She was also the first to get nudey-rudey with her Sex book in 1992, for which she was vilified. "Everything I read about myself was damning. I was called a whore and a witch," she said in her Billboard Woman of the Year speech in 2016. "One headline compared me to Satan. I said, 'Wait a minute, isn't Prince running around with fishnets and high heels and lipstick with his butt hanging out?' Yes, he was. But he was a man.
"This was the first time I truly understood women do not have the same freedom as men."
Fast forward to today and the only way an emerging female artist could surprise us now would be if she wore a poloneck sweater and rain coat, with every social media wannabe in the world freeing the nipple and whacking out the crack.
But despite our boob and butt fatigue, Madonna is still finding a way to outrage — mainly because she won't cover up or go away. This week a UK newspaper ran the headline, "Look who's still desperately seeking attention … at 60!" because she posed for the cover of Vogue Italia in some thick black stockings.
Madonna: *lays down on grass for a photoshoot*— Brady (@BradySpears) August 1, 2018
The media: pic.twitter.com/38ajuejBWx
She was slated for her see-through Givenchy outfit at the Met Gala in 2016 — the message being it's OK for the Kardashians, but not for the original Material Girl, because she's too old. Similarly, she was harangued by Piers Morgan over a video of her twerking, which the presenter said made him feel "physically sick," because she was old and a mum.
"Do not age. Because to age is a sin," Madonna concluded in her speech. "You will be criticised and vilified and definitely not played on the radio."
As it happens, Madge is having a quiet time at the moment anyway, living in Portugal while her 12-year-old son David Banda trains with Benfica youth football team. And so, at 60, she has morphed into a "soccer mom" telling Vogue Italia "it kind of requires you to have no life".
I really hope she drives the team to matches in a mini-van. While wearing a conical bra. And singing Express Yourself.
Happy birthday Madonna, and may you shock on until the end.
Just shy of a month ago, the newest addition to Ryan Murphy's armada of television shows, Pose, was renewed for a second season. And at a Television Critics' Association preview this past Friday, Murphy gave a hint of what was to come in the next installment of the series. The first season closed in 1988; season two will pick up the following year and conclude with the release of Madonna's "Vogue" in March 1990.
"Vogue" describes the ballroom culture that is also the subject of Pose; its release, on March 27, 1990, was one factor that helped the ballroom community achieve some mainstream recognition. (Murphy described it as putting the scene "on display" to the wider world.) Though it's not clear if Murphy has yet acquired the rights to the track, he explained that he has "a very good relationship with Madonna thus far," adding that the Queen of Pop offered up several songs for the series' first season (though none of them made their way onto the soundtrack, which has featured everything from Janet Jackson to Ryuichi Sakamoto). Madonna was also the subject of an episode of Glee entitled, fittingly, "The Power of Madonna."
Looming over the announcement was the idea that Madonna might make a cameo in the next season, given that her song is its centerpiece. Murphy didn't dismiss the idea outright, but he noted that Pose, unlike some of his previous shows (American Horror Story: Coven, for example, featured Stevie Nicks in a season that also included a Stevie Nicks-obsessed witch), has foregone his frequent stunt casting. Instead, its focus remains on its core cast, largely made up of trans women of color, placing queer and trans talent at the center of their own stories.
Madonna has cemented her position as the Queen of Pop after she was named the all-time top female artist in the 60-year history of America's Billboard Hot 100.
Madonna has racked up 57 entries and 12 number ones on the pop chart, while she also holds the record for the most top 10 mentions among all acts with 38.
Interestingly, the Billboard countdown was first published on 4 August, 1958 – just 12 days before Madonna was born. She will celebrate her 60th birthday on 16 August (18).
She tops Mariah Carey, who takes second place among the top-performing female solo artists with 18 Hot 100 chart-toppers – the most for any solo act – while she also boasts the most cumulative weeks in first place of any act with 79.
Rounding out the top five are Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Rihanna, who made her chart debut in 2005 and already has the third-best track record when it comes to Hot 100 number ones with 14.
Olivia Newton-John, Aretha Franklin, pop rivals Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, and Diana Ross complete the top 10.
The list of the all-time top female artists on the Hot 100 emerges shortly after Sir Elton John was named the most successful male solo act with nine number ones, 27 top 10s, and a total of 67 entries, according to Billboard.
He beat Elvis Presley and Stevie Wonder to pole position, while Michael Jackson, and Paul McCartney also scored spots in the top five, with Usher, Prince, Rod Stewart, Drake, and Marvin Gaye making up the rest of the top 10.
The Greatest of All-Time 60th Anniversary Billboard Hot 100 Songs & Artists rankings are based on weekly performance on the Hot 100 (from its Aug. 4, 1958 inception through July 21, 2018). Songs are ranked based on an inverse point system, with weeks at No. 1 earning the greatest value and weeks at lower spots earning the least. Due to changes in chart methodology over the years, eras are weighted differently to account for chart turnover rates over various periods. Artists are ranked based on a formula blending performance, as outlined above, of all their Hot 100 chart entries.
Madonnahas confirmed that her new album will be released by the end of this year. The LP will follow 2015's 'Rebel Heart'.
The singer has been teasing new material for the past few months. Back in May, she posted what appeared to be cover art for a single or project which carries the title 'Beautiful Game'.
Now in a new interview, the star says fans can expect the new material in the next few months. "I've just met lots of really amazing musicians, and I've ended up working with a lot of these musicians on my new record, so Lisbon has influenced my music and my work," she told Vogue Italia.
"How could it not? I don't see how I could have gone through that year without being informed by all this input of culture."
The singer recently moved to Lisbon so her 12-year-old son, David Banda could chase his dream of becoming a professional football player. She says her new hometown created a culture shift that inspired the direction for the new album.
This music "will be collected in an album that will be released by the end of the year," she confirmed.
On July 27th, 1983, a scrappy singer from Detroit named Madonna released her self-titled debut album. The album peaked at number eight, but by the end of the year, it had produced its first hit single, "Holiday." In January of 1984, while promoting that song, Madonna appeared on American Bandstand. When Dick Clark asked what her future plans were, her answer was simple, but prophetic: "to rule the world."
Thirty five years later, we know Madonna made good on her word. She remains the highest earning female musician in the world, with more top ten singles than any other artist in history. She may not have had a top ten hit since 2008, but that last entry capped off a 25-year run of hits, which is unprecedented in a musical landscape that remains infinitely more unforgiving to women than men. In fact, she's the fourth biggest selling musical act ever. She's the Queen of Pop, and it's unlikely anyone will take that crown from her anytime soon.
But perhaps most importantly, for me and for an entire generation, Madonna is the biggest musical LGBTQ icon of all time. Yes, I realize that she's a heterosexual woman–it doesn't matter to me. During the '80s, when gay pop stars (even Boy George, who was a drag queen!) all hid their sexual orientation from the wrath of a homophobic public, Madonna grabbed a bullhorn and shouted from the rooftops that she was not only a strong ally of the gay community, but that she also owed her gay mentors and friends for the person she had become. Her dance teacher who encouraged her to follow her dreams and move to New York? A gay man. Her costume designers? The same. And on went that list of influential people in her life.
When our own government was ignoring the thousands of mostly gay men dying of AIDS, Madonna was a champion for AIDS activism. Of course, she wasn't the only star to do this, but she was the biggest and most relevant among young people. Not many 15-year-olds in 1986 cared what Elizabeth Taylor had to say on the subject, but we did listen to Madonna. Her 1989 album "Like A Prayer," included a pamphlet about AIDS awareness. Many of her concerts were fundraisers for people living with the disease.
Of course, gay men and boys in particular would have idolized her anyway–even without her cultural consciousness and empathy–because her music and videos were grounded in queer sensibility. Madonna made tons of songs and accompanying music videos where the men were the sex objects. How could a young gay man not project themselves into the "Material Girl" video? And in "Justify My Love" and "Erotica," she made out with gorgeous female models, endearing herself to lesbian and queer fans all around the world and reliably enraging the Reagan/Bush era conservatives. For a gay kid, who was keenly aware the world at large mostly hated him, it meant everything to have the world's biggest music star on your side.
Her peak moment as a queer icon came in the early '90s, when two of her dancers, Jose and Luis Xtravaganza from the Harlem "House Ball" scene, (popularized in the documentary Paris is Burning and the current FX series Pose) introduced Madonna to a dance called "Voguing." Madonna turned that dance into a one of her most iconic songs, and when it came time film the video, she made sure to put those same dancers in the spotlight. When her documentary Truth or Dare was released, she highlighted moments about LGBTQ Pride parades. A scene in which two of her dancers made out was the first time I'd ever seen two guys kiss in a mainstream film before. For a queer kid like me in 1991, this was like stepping into an alternate reality where being gay was something to be celebrated, not demonized.
Today, outside the LGBTQ community, Madonna is not as revered as much as her other '80s contemporaries, many of whom have been memorialized after tragic deaths. Among many reasons for this, Madonna refuses to "act her age," and still sees herself as a sexual being as she approaches 60. For refusing to act like a grandma, she is vilified. But the things that are off-putting about Madonna to heteronormative culture only strengthen her relationship to queer fans. Madonna didn't only change pop culture with her art, she changed the lives of millions of her young, LGBTQ fans. And hopefully, when grocery stores and Walmarts have stopped playing her old hits and straight society has nearly forgotten her, there will be a gay bar somewhere celebrating her 100th anniversary with a Madonna drag show.
Madonna today announced a partnership with Facebook and global payments company Ripple to activate her fans, kick off a month-long celebration of her 60th birthday, and raise funds for orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi. The fundraiser, which benefits Madonna's foundation Raising Malawi, is hosted on her Facebook page and will run from July 30 through August 31. Fans can choose to donate directly to Madonna's fundraiser and/or start Facebook Fundraisers of their own to mobilize their social networks in support of the cause.
The fundraiser utilizes Facebook's charitable giving tools, which charge no processing fees, meaning 100% of every contribution goes directly to Raising Malawi's work at Home of Hope orphanage, located in a rural, high-need area of Malawi.
As a company that cares deeply about giving back and eliminating barriers that keep marginalized populations from fully participating in our global digital economy, Ripple has announced it will be matching all donations to Madonna's fundraiser.
"I have an unwavering commitment to providing vulnerable children with a loving home. For my birthday, I can think of no better gift than connecting my global family with this beautiful country and the children who need our help most," said Madonna. "Every dollar raised will go directly to meals, schools, uniforms and healthcare. I want to come together with my friends, fans and supporters to change the lives of Malawian children and let them know they are nurtured, protected and loved. Through their generous match, Ripple is doubling the impact each individual can make."
"We're honored to be a part of Madonna's amazing work with some of the world's most underserved children and are grateful to our investors at Sound Ventures for making the introduction to us and this important cause," said Eric van Miltenburg, SVP of Business Operations at Ripple.
In her 10+ years of working in Malawi, Madonna – through her foundation – has served 10,000+ children with schools and education, provided scholarship funding for high-potential youth, launched Malawi's first paediatric surgery and intensive care unit, and supported 750+ vulernable children annually at Home of Hope.
Nearly one million children in Malawi have lost one or both parents to HIV. Life for these orphans and vulnerable children is about day-to-day survival. Inspired by a belief that orphans and vulnerable children deserve more than to "just survive," Raising Malawi works with local partners to create opportunities for kids to learn, grow and transform their futures.
Madonna's fundraiser will run through the month of August to mark the musician and philanthropist's birthday on August 16.
In just a couple of weeks, Madonna will be hitting a major milestone and turning 60. She'll also be even further to the year in which she promised to return to music without, um, returning to music. Neither of these major topics, though, appears to be mentioned Madonna's upcoming Vogue Italia cover story; instead, according to People's preview of the issue, it's all about soccer moms—a subculture that Madonna officially joined last year, when she moved to Lisbon with the sole goal of supporting her 12-year-old son, David Banda's burgeoning career in soccer.
In case you're unfamiliar with her newfound lifestyle, allow Madonna to explain: "Any woman who is a soccer mom could say it kind of requires you to have no life in a way, because things change from week to week and games change from weekend to weekend—sometimes they're in the city, sometimes they're not, and we would never know until Thursday night whether they're on Saturday or Sunday, if at 12:00 or later," she told Vogue Italia. "It's impossible to make plans, and then you feel like you're not being fair to your other kids, or being fair to me!"
To make matters more complicated, Madonna has also been encouraging her 5-year-old twins, Estere and Stella, to get in on the game. Along with Banda and their 12-year-old sister, Mercy James, they live with Madge in Portugal, where the whole family has apparently "embraced all things, especially music, dance, soccer, and sports," while also learning how to speak Portuguese. (Madonna's other children, Lourdes Leon, 21, and Rocco Ritchie, 17, on the other hand, have not, having moved on from living with mom.)
From the sound of it, Madonna has forgotten about her previous promise to Anderson Cooper in December—that "2017 was soccer mom in Portugal, 2018 I'm coming back, baby, and I'm coming for you!" We can't blame her for not wanting to give up her new Count of Monte Cristo–inspired mansion, though to be fair it sounds like she's hasn't entirely forgotten about her 14th LP; she's apparently been working on it with "lots of really amazing musicians" she's recently met in Lisbon, in between soccer practices (and Migos concerts).
In true supportive soccer-mom form, however, she insisted she's not putting any pressure on her kids to match her productivity: "I just want them to be good human beings that treat other human beings with dignity and respect, regardless of skin color, religion, gender," she said. (And while she may have framed it as the "icing on the cake," she hasn't ruled out the possibility that they'll "happen to be the next Picasso or Cristiano Ronaldo.")
In her interview with Vogue Italia, Madonna has confirmed that her 14th studio album will be released before the end of the year.
Speaking about the inspiration for the album, she talks about the different music she heard in Lisbon, such as Fado, Kuduro and jazz. "It is impossible to spend a year here without being conditioned by all the culture that surrounded me," she added. Madonna also met several local musicians, many of which ended up collaborating on the album.↑ Back to top of page