‘The history of women in popular music can, pretty much, be divided into before and after Madonna.’, once said Susan Sarandon. And it doesn’t look like it’s just matter of personal preference but sheer fact.
You probably have heard that Madonna released her 13th studio album, ‘Rebel Heart’, last Friday (March the 6th). You might have also heard that it leaked weeks before that date. And you surely couldn’t avoid the news of the famous accident at the Brit Awards where Madonna fell down and carried on performing with her first single of the album ‘Living For Love’.
You probably have but I won’t discuss it much on here. Not only because I am not overly excited about the new material. I’ll probably buy the album out of curiosity and for the collection. But with every album Madonna records, we like to debate whether she’s still the Queen of Pop or the dethroned one? Or maybe she’s never been on top?
Let me prove the fact that ‘the bitch’ is not back, she’s never left. And yes, still on top.
Why Madonna, then?
1) She always had to confront real ‘haters’. Back then, it had a completely different meaning than just ‘ugly comments on Instagram’. Madonna really had to answer uncomfortable questions from journalist and fight for her position as an artists. Nowadays, whoever appears on a talk show, it’s all wrapped in a bubble of a perfect world, where everyone is beautiful and talented. It took years of a perfect strategy and bright mind to stand in the position where she is now. And the truth is, you’d crap yourself saying anything negative to Madonna’s face. Sorry….
2) She talks business. And it is show business, after all. Madonna really takes big decisions in her career and she’s doing it very effectively. Robert Kozyra, president and program director of one the polish radios, met Madonna in 2004 regarding a new campaign. In an interview given years after, he said that despite of being in the middle of a world tour, Madonna met him face-to-face and, most importantly, talked real business. With a few people around making notes down, and working their asses off afterwords, Madonna was the bossy one. What does it prove? She’s too aware of business to get fucked over by people around She learned how to be a businesswoman as much as an artist and that combination led her to the top.
3) She can’t sing, they say… Why is she famous then, they ask? Exactly! She’s definitely well business orientated but it doesn’t mean her vocal skills go along with the lack of music knowledge. She might be musically conscious of new trends and talent than any other diva with five octaves. Kylie Minogue, for instance, started with very similar vocal techniques but took more singing classes than Madonna. The results are clear. Kylie is still not considered as a good singer and we still can’t get over the fact how untalented Madonna is. And that’s usually discussed on first pages.
4) She’s, of course, controversial. And no matter if you like it or not, the world needs controversial artists. Leonardo Da Vinci was also controversial back then. They push boundaries, ‘stimulate’ others to think, even if in outrage. Almost every pop artist admits that Madonna has always been a big inspiration. Why? Because she created a line which they try to cross now. We have Whitney Houston who’s an unrivalled authority for vocalist and Madonna who’s same for performers. And no, it’s not just about ‘who puts more fingers between legs, Miley or Rihanna’ kind of battle. In fact, I discussed Madonna in one of my previous posts. It’s worth a read. http://hatersky.com/2014/10/29/sinead-vs-miley-again/
5) She really is unapologetic. She’s taken many actions in her career which turned it into different pathways but it doesn’t seem like she regrets anything. People truly hate her for different reasons around the globe but she carries on. It is more than saying ‘I love gay people, they’re all my friends’. She loved them when it wasn’t cool AT ALL. Her unapologetic nature comes with a really aggressive attitude towards everything she hates. If people protest against her concert, she will perform anyway. In worst case scenario, she’ll cancel but never change it to make others happy.
6) ‘Rebel Heart’ is her very first album where she fights with ageism on a big scale. She’s been probably hearing it since her 40th birthday but only now she has to stand up and say loudly ‘SO WHAT’. She is going to reach that number of sixty in three years and I am pretty much sure she has prepared her career well for that. It will be hard but not harder than becoming the most famous singer without good vocal skills. That lesson has been learnt, time for more.
7) Tours. Madonna is a great entertainer and has money to bring the best entertainment people to help her with it. She is the only female in the ranking of highest grossing tours in the history (and fifth, to show it off). And speaking of females, she’s scored first two best selling tours in that category as well. Let’s not forget that Madonna goes around the globe with each released album. Celine Dion scored number three but you can see her once in twenty years, unless you make a fancy trip to Las Vegas
8) Legendary videos. Yes, the history of music videography can’t miss Madonna. It’s not just controversy (‘Like a Prayer’). It’s the whole image of Madonna which has been changing throughout her whole career. She created many trends and her videos are a perfect journey to see it. Very educational if you still haven’t had a chance to comprehend how the pop culture has been changing. ‘Vogue’ is probably one of most important videos in the pop industry (and the choreography, especially) while ‘Frozen’ shocked Madonna’s fans with her darker and more mature image. Oh, and ‘Justify My Love’. I won’t even mention, I might blush…
9) And finally, her music. Thirteen studio albums and I don’t even know how many hits. If you don’t like her work, fine. If you do, then probably you have your favourite era. And they’re all different, as we got used to it. People loved ‘Ray of Light’ from the late nineties. sensual ‘Bed Time Stories’, old school ‘Like a Virgin’, dancy ‘Confessions on a Dance Floor’, or politically controversial ‘American Life’. It’s an output every pop artist dreams of while kicking their careers off. And that’s what mainly makes Madonna a living legend.