The Ever-Evolving Pop Leader
IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify
but I am pretty well-versed when it comes to her music and world. 2019 is going to be a very big year for Madonna and, as I have recently mentioned, there is a lot going on! I am going to put together a separate piece before 21st March that celebrates thirty years of Like a Prayer. This is a huge album for the Queen of Pop and, as we look back at that landmark record, it gives fans the chance to connect with the amazing record that transformed Madonna’s career and saw her reach rare heights. I will try not to repeat myself – I know I have covered this ground before – but I am interested when we get a chance to look back at Madonna’s work. I can just about recall Like a Prayer coming out and the sort of attention it gained. It was a great way to end the 1980s and, after a series of incredible albums, this was the peak of Madonna’s career. Not only was the video for the title cut much-discussed and the reason for controversy – many feeling the images depicted blasphemy and there was controversial images of inter-racial love – but Madonna was showcasing what an amazing songwriter she was. The ‘scandal’ regarding her video seems tame by today’s standards but it was clear here was a Pop artist who was bold, fearless and a natural icon. The tracks on Like a Prayer are focused, personal and benefit from having few bodies in the pack – mainly Madonna and Patrick Leonard writing the songs.
There are many highlights but, aside from the title cut, Express Yourself, Cherish and Oh Father are the standouts. I hope the media reacts and plays proper tribute to the album. Later this year we will see Like a Virgin turn thirty-five and Bedtime Stories turn twenty-five. These are big albums and, again, the need to focus on them and understand their relevance is key. Today, there is nobody like Madonna out there and Pop albums are not being made in the same way. Madonna has recently buried the hatchet with Lady Gaga – whether the feud between them is as intense as the media makes out – and the two seem to be on a better footing. There is a feeling that, in ways, Lady Gaga is modelling herself on Madonna: the reinventions and type of Pop; her forays into acting and her imagery. Of course, the two are quite different but I can understand why Madonna would feel a little bit like there is copyright infringement. I have also mentioned the Madonna biopic/documentary, Madonna and the Breakfast Club, that stars Jamie Auld in the role of a young Madonna. It is good to see a rare glimpse into Madonna’s early life – when she moved to New York and was part of The Breakfast Club; it covers her period before she recorded her eponymous debut in 1983. This year is a great one in terms of looking back at her career and celebrating her legacy.
It is obvious, looking back at her big albums and projects involving her, there is still a big appetite for Madonna and we all know what an impact she has made. At this point in her career, there is that never-ending battle with ageism in the industry. One doubts any new music will be top of the playlists of BBC Radio 1. It is a shame that someone who pretty much pushed Pop to where it is is being denied airplay and will struggle to make it on the ‘hip’ stations. Many do not bother to listen to what a song sounds like and, instead, focus on age and whether someone is outside their demographic. Madonna has crafted thirteen albums and, since the early-1980s, she has revolutionised the game and inspired countless artists. I have written about Madonna’s 2019 before and how we will get a clash of the older-recorded material and some new stuff. It is, in fact, the new developments that led me to write this. Even at the age of sixty, Madonna is showing her cool and still the most important Pop artist out there. Look at her Twitter and Instagram feeds and she is keeping people updated professionally whilst letting them in personally. Maybe this is more of a personal love letter from a big fan of Madonna. I am not enamoured of her fashion and changing styles; her personal life and that side of things. It is part of her ethos and stature but, to me, it is the way she has survived and endured that is the most impressive.
IN THIS PHOTO: Madonna, Snoop Dogg (back) and Pharrell/PHOTO CREDIT: @Madonna
Many of her peers have either retired or died and how many Pop artists who started decades ago are still innovating and pushing forward?! Look at the latest news and it seems like something new from Madonna will be coming along. This article gives some insight into what the next Madonna single might be like:
“Not only did Monét X Change recently (jointly) win the latest series of All Stars 4, but now the super queen is set to appear in a music video for Madonna.
However, this did come at a slight cost, as Monét was forced to cancel the Haters Roast show she was set to appear at. Writing on Instagram, on a post with the comments turned off, the show said: “Yesterday @monetxchange arrived in Denver to appear on our show.
“Sometime during the afternoon, we’re told she received a phone call from @madonna with an offer to be in an upcoming music video. Monet asked MP if it would be ok to leave the tour to accept the offer. We said no because it was too short notice to replace her on Haters.
“Just hours before the show was to start and without telling anyone including the other queens on the Denver show, Monet left the venue and flew to LA to accept Madonna’s offer. Therefore, we have decided that Monet will no longer be on any upcoming Haters Roast dates”.
IN THIS PHOTO: Madonna during her Blond Ambition World Tour in 1990/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Madonna is filming a video with queens and, in terms of sounds, who knows. Maybe it will be Pop-cum-Disco or something more Hip-Hop-leaning. There have been some cryptic and interesting posts on social media that give a bit of insight into what the new album might be about. Many feel it will be called Magic – not the greatest title but it seems like the one she has gone with – and I have seen videos of her singing with African women and experimenting with different people. It seems a sense of the spiritual and magical will mix alongside the sort of sounds we hear on albums like MDNA and Rebel Heart. Madonna has posed with Pharrell and Snoop Dogg and one suspects there will be a bit of Rap and tough edges on the album. As it stands, there is no confirmed release date but discussion around a new music video suggests we will not have to wait too long. Her last album, Rebel Heart, came out in 2015 and was her best-reviewed record since 2005’s Confessions on a Dance Floor. Although a new Madonna album does not create the same buzz and excitement as back in the 1990s, it is never a boring thing and it is interesting to see how she has changed. There is always talk that women are circling her throne and she will be deposed as the Queen of Pop. Whether you mention Lady Gaga or Ariana Grande it seems, for many more years, Madonna is safe where she is.
IN THIS PHOTO: Madonna and Lady Gaga in a post-Oscars embrace/PHOTO CREDIT: @Madonna
I felt it important to mention Madonna again before Like a Prayer’s anniversary because a lot is happening and she has been busy the last couple of weeks. Her post-Oscar party was, apparently, quite the do and a must-go event. Many of her similarly-enduring peers might quiet down and not be so active but Madonna seems to be at her most ambitious and excited. I guess I wanted to revisit Madonna’s work because so much of today’s Pop seems formulaic and slavishly designed to fit into station playlists and this set formula. There is not a huge amount of movement and evolution and, at a time when we need fun and uplift, there is not too much of that! I do hope new Madonna material will bring some fire and intensity and, as many young Pop artists are finding their feet or not quite mature enough to command the scene, Madonna has the knowledge and experience to be able to deliver. In many ways, it seems like the peace with Lady Gaga and the old clashing with the new – album anniversaries and a new record – are part of a new phase. The post-sixty Madonna shows no sign of slowing and is always exploring new avenues. The next few weeks are exciting: many will be looking ahead to Like a Prayer at thirty and the arrival of a new album.
Even if you are not a mega-fan who knows her insides and every avenue, you have to admit the continuing juggernaut of Madonna’s career is just as exciting now as it has always been. There are so many young Pop artists coming through but they do not carry the same weight and lure. Apart from promising material from Ariana Grande – her new album, thank u, next, has won big praise – and a few artists here and there it seems 2019 will be about artists in other genres. I can see work from female artists in other genres and tell they have Madonna-sized ambitions. The original Madonna is fresh and busy on social media and always keen to make sure people are aware of her older work as they are the new. She is not this nostalgia-heavy artists and is always looking to create something masterful. Whether that is bringing in new sounds and voices to her music or planning her next video, there is never a dull moment. Many people will be anticipating something pretty cracking with the as-yet-unnamed next single but it seems like it will be pretty colourful! I will be sure to check back in to mark Like a Prayer but now seems like a busy and packed time when new music is about to come. No matter what is happening with the rest of the new Pop artists and those looking up to Madonna, it seems there years will not be as memorable as...
AS the authentic Queen of Pop.