The birthday — a time for celebration, reflection or a bit of both.
For Queen of Pop Madonna, who turns 54 on Thursday, despite her age-defying face and figure screaming otherwise, it’s been a pretty turbulent year from the outside looking in.
Three decades of controversy-laced concerts, albums, music videos and of course, the songs, Madonna is easily considered one of the greatest figures in music and one of the most influential women in history.
It’s not something she’s ever been shy about — her 1990 revelation on the Blond Ambition tour bragging, “I know that I’m not the best singer and I know that I’m not the best dancer. But, I can [expletive] push people’s buttons and be as provocative as I want” — and it hasn’t diminished with age.
She’s long been a voice for equality, standing strong on the global music scene and has spent much of her career fighting for society’s underdogs, whether political or otherwise. “The tour’s goal is to break useless taboos,” she announces on almost every tour she embarks.
Since turning 53, Madge has directed feature film, W.E., a biopic about the affair between King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, composed a movie soundtrack song which picked up a Golden Globe allowing her to continue her on-going battle with Sir Elton John, signed a three-album deal with Interscope Records, released her twelfth studio album, MDNA, performed at the Super Bowl, a show which became the most-watched Super Bowl halftime show in history with 114 million viewers, higher than the game itself, and set out on a global tour, which broke records from the second tickets went on sale.
While the list of credits speaks volumes of an uber-successful career still on track, the media attention surrounding her latest MDNA Tour has been less than positive.
Toting fake guns, exposing herself on stage, blood-spattered visuals, the pop icon’s world tour has run into criticism and rarely for the music. We take a look at what she’s done so far:
Abu Dhabi: In her UAE debut, the clothes stayed on (just about) but a double-bill of performances started more than 90 minutes later than expected, much to the annoyance of the du Arena crowds.
Paris: Fans at an intimate show at Paris’ l’Olympia club booed and chanted “refund” when Madonna left the stage after just 45 minutes. Madonna said the angry reaction was from thugs who were not fans. “Playing the Olympia was a magical moment for me,” she said in a statement on her website. “Unfortunately at the end of the show, after I left the stage, a few thugs who were not my fans rushed the stage... pretending to be angry fans,” she said. It’s more likely however, the reaction was in response to an insult to National Front leader, Marine Le Pen, who is now in the process of suing the pop icon. Part of the concert shows a video briefly showing Le Pen with a swastika imposed on her face, and though the video has been used throughout her tour, this was its first use in France. The National Front stated that it was “unacceptable” to associate their leader with fascism and that they needed to defend their supporters.
St Petersburg: Madonna pledged support for Russian all-woman punk band Pussy Riot, just the next in a long line of political acts that have enraged the religious community. Pussy Riot is currently on trial facing charges of hooliganism after playing a song attacking Russian President Vladimir Putin at the altar of Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral. Madonna voiced her support of them, saying: “I know there are many sides to every story and I mean no disrespect to the Church or the government, but I think these three girls have done something courageous. I think they have paid the price for this act and I pray for their freedom. I know everyone in this auditorium, if you’re here as my fan, feels they deserve the right to be free.”
Edinburgh: Madonna ignored warnings from local police in Scotland to not use the dummy weapons in her show because of the country’s strict gun laws, which were put in place following the 1996 Dunblane school massacre, which left 16 schoolchildren and one adult dead. She didn’t listen, and as the concert came just a day after the shooting in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theatre that left 12 dead and another 59 injured, Madonna was also slapped with being insensitive as well as defying a foreign country’s laws.
Istanbul: She caused a stir in mid-June when she flashed her breast at the audience during a sold-out show at Turk Telekom Arena.
Rome: She revealed her bare backside at the Stadio Olimpico just days after her “breast flash” in Turkey and the shock flesh reveals have now remained almost a staple in many of her shows. What started as an in-the-moment surprise meant to shock fans has since turned into a nearly every-show occurrence.
Gaga: Before the tour even kicked off, Madonna stirred negative feelings with Lady Gaga, a woman who had always praised her from her early beginnings. Rehearsal footage surfaced of her singing a mash-up of Express Yourself with Gaga’s Born This Way, a song that has been criticised for having the same chord progression, melodic structure and thematic elements, which Madonna finishes with a refrain from her Hard Candy track, saying “She’s Not Me”. In a Brazilian TV interview, Madonna said, “I’m a really big fan of [Born This Way]. I’m glad that I helped Gaga write it.”