Madonna Rocks On
- By Alex Brown
I distinctly remember Easter in 1989 when I—a 12-year-old—came downstairs to find my basket. Already past the age of believing in that magical bunny, I was in it mostly for the candy. But to my bewilderment there was indeed an “Easter egg” waiting for me—Madonna’s Like a Prayer album. It may seem like an odd present to celebrate a Christian holiday, but for many Madonna IS a religion. And her latest gospel, album Madame X, is set to drop from Live Nation, Interscope Records and Maverick on Friday, June 14th.
Madonna has spent the last year or so living abroad, in Portugal, as she has often done when she is writing new music. Inspired by her time there and as the press release reads, her life-long “affair with Latin music and culture,” her highly anticipated and astonishing 14th studio album features 15 new songs sung in Spanish, Portuguese and English, and is set to capture hearts across the globe. But as has been the case throughout her record-smashing career, Madonna is more than a musician—she is a global icon for something greater than even herself. Her first single of the album, “Medellin,” features Colombian superstar Maluma, and is titled as such after the city in the same country. And as her songs are oft to do, it has certainly gotten people talking. And that has always been the point—to make people think and talk. Madonna has been and remains a provocateur with the intent of moving the conversation forward. Whether it was religion and abuse in Like a Prayer, sexuality in Erotica and her photobook Sex, or ageism in her more recent work, she has consistently tackled the world’s most taboo subjects in an unapologetic and courageous manner. The release of this album has been no different.
Recorded in collaboration with her longtime producer Mirawais alongside more recent partners like Mike Dean, Diplo and others, Madame X is an album focused around an alter ego she has created. Who is Madame X exactly? Carrying on her self-proclaimed “revolution of love,” declared when she released her last album Rebel Heart, Madame X is a fighter for justice.
An iconoclast that breaks the rules forced upon all of us, she was one of, if not the first major global celebrity to recognize the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and ‘90s, quickly becoming a standard-bearing hero and defender the LGBTQI+ community. Madonna received the GLAAD Media “Advocate for Change” Award this spring, and in her acceptance speech recalled how the gay community has always welcomed her in a world where she never fit in. She recounted the first gay club she visited, remarking that it was there where she first felt at home, where she learned that it was OK to be different, and where she, “witnessed a kind of freedom, joy and happiness I had never seen before.” Flash forward to now and one single from Madame X, “I Rise,” is largely believed to be a love song to the gay community—fitting in the year that will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots that launched the modern gay rights movement.
A pop queen, and a tycoon in her own right, Madonna came from the suburbs of Detroit to the mean streets of New York in 1978 and has become a legend. With a net worth that dwarfs the GDP of some countries, she has grown from the material girl into something that is very much the polar opposite: a freedom fighter and a force for all that is good.
Selling more than 300 million records worldwide, Madonna is noted as the best-selling female recording artist of all time, one of Rolling Stones’ 100 Greatest Artists and Songwriters, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee in the first year she was eligible, and the highest-grossing touring solo artist ever. And lucky for all of us, our next chance to see her is just around the corner this fall at her Madame X Tour. It will cost audiences a pretty penny to see her live, but as Madonna learned herself, nothing worthwhile comes without its price.
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