I haven’t been excited about the Brits for years, but on Wednesday morning in anticipation I queued up Madonna’s greatest hits and vogued my way into the office. If you’re in your 20’s or younger then you won’t remember exactly how controversial and revolutionary Madonna really was. It’s hard to appreciate her importance outside of the context of the time but she was the biggest thing on the planet. I can’t even tell you how many times my sister made me watch “Who’s That Girl?” but it was bordering on abuse at one point. She was outrageous, unfathomably cool and somehow at the same time hugely popular. It’s hard to explain how truly shocking Like A Virgin was when it was released but you can take my word that it was close to pornography. Her 1984 VMA performance of that song featured her writhing around in a wedding dress and veil in front of a giant wedding cake.
Years later she was still pushing boundaries when her Justify My Love video was banned by MTV. Her response was to release the single as a VHS, a shrewd and triumphant two fingers up at the establishment. Madonna has always had her detractors because people don’t like powerful women, they don’t like successful women and they don’t like outspoken, overtly sexual women. If you’re in any doubt about her socio-cultural relevance I’ll direct you towards this quote from Camille Paglia
“Madonna is the true feminist. She exposes the puritanism and suffocating ideology of American feminism, which is stuck in an adolescent whining mode. Madonna has taught young women to be fully female and sexual while still exercising total control over their lives. She shows girls how to be attractive, sensual, energetic, ambitious, aggressive and funny – all at the same time.”
There’s an episode of South Park which is based around a running joke that there is no story line they can do that hasn’t already been done by The Simpsons and in a way it’s a great analogy for any female singer today – there is nothing they can do that Madonna hasn’t already done. From Katy Perry’s mock lesbianism to Britney Spears sexy schoolgirl schtick – Madonna actually invented that. Years ago.
I was out to dinner last night and missed the Brit performance – when I left the restaurant I checked my phone and I had more messages that was normal. After a brief panic I scrolled through to see that pretty much everyone I knew had texted me about Madonna falling over during her performance. I felt sick, my stomach flipped over… It was a weird reaction. You see I want Madonna to be Madonna again. She’s been off her game for a while and that makes me sad because when Madonna is on top of her game there’s nothing like it.
Predictably twitter and facebook are full of the normal jokes. She’s old, It’s embarassing, She should retire blah blah blah. The mainstream press are no better – even female journalists are critcising her for the way she acts at her age. It’s blatant ageism – but the curious kind of sexist ageism that only applies to women. When I got round to seeing the actual performance I saw how Madonna got straight up from that fall and f*cking owned it. She’s 56 and you know what? She was awesome. It’s not sad or tragic or pathetic it’s inspiring and it’s amazing. So don’t bother watching the Brits performance, instead watch any of the other countless live performances in which Madonna is completely mind blowingly fantastic. I’d suggest the Vogue performance as it’s still completely flawless. We’ll all be old some day but none of us will be as great as Madonna.
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