Words: Paul Culshaw
Let’s be clear; I LOVE Madonna. However, I could write you a list of album tracks AND singles I don’t care for ('Gimme All Your Lovin’ & 'Bitch, I’m Madonna'). I could write you an extremely long list of songs by M that, for me, don’t land.
Today, under an intense campaign of ‘Madame X’, she released the first offering from her new opus. The wolves were out. Expectations were high.
And yet, if you think about it, she had nothing to prove. Her fans were willing for it to be life changing. Her critics were waiting to bite.
And so comes ‘Medellin’, named after the second biggest city of Columbia– Madonna goes reggaeton lento if you wish, despite her statement of absorbing Portuguese life in a sonic blast.
The comments I viewed were either raving about the full undisclosed identity of ‘Madame X’ – or they were brutally scathing. ‘Aww, the poor dear, is she still carrying on?’ said one. ‘Embarrassed for her’ said another. I challenged that guy and said ‘What were you expecting?’ – his answer- ‘a classic’
Facts: ‘Like A Prayer’ was not BORN a classic. Infact, people were in uproar. Pepsi cancelled her contract for using, at the time, a black Jesus and burning crucifixes. That was thirty years ago.
In 2005 when she released the triumphant ‘Confessions…’ my female friends made comments such as ‘Why can’t she put her fanny away?’ – given that she had a leotard on and was nearing 50 at the time.
Well, first off, she didn’t have her vagina out anyway. If that’s what you want to bitch about – go back to the 1992 era of the overlooked ‘Erotica’.
So I digged deeper – Madonna builds an orphanage in Malawi and begins to adopt children- it made BBC news and the media narrative seemed to say ‘what a bitch’.
It seems, whatever this lady does- by her fans she can do little wrong. Yet by her critics, can do no right.
Music is subjective so let’s not even try & get into that. If you like it or love it, you do. If you don’t, you don’t.
You only need to look at the meme’s of her infamous fall at The Brits performing ‘Living For Love’ to see how many people took glee in watching the Queen of Pop ‘fall down’.
Some even accused her of staging it, which she refuted, being a perfectionist. With retrospect, it didn’t help the single anyway.
Is that where we are now? Going through my newsfeed today it seemed Queens were happy bringing down a strong woman who has done so much for our community but wanted to bring her down a peg or two.
Is that what it’s about? Do we want to disarm and dethrone the Queens that have come before us to go forward?
There is the train of thought that M no longer creates trends but follows or taps into them – and, it being too early to say fully, it does seem like this Latin and European vibe would be a natural sonic place for her to move to, given that she currently resides in Lisbon. No one can say, based on the first single – that she isn’t experimenting something different.
It is her most under-stated subtle non-banger lead single since ‘Frozen’ (and look what that trailed - a career spike).
It is ambient, ethereal, transcendent and rich, her vocals (granted, annoying auto tune and vocoder aside) delicate, pure and truthful. It feels like chapter one of a rich new book.
A gentle introduction; not the main chapter. No, it probably won’t hit number one. It won’t be played on radio one.
But like Kylie’s country effort ‘Golden’, it is likely to hit number 1 in the album charts – and if it doesn’t- who cares? At this point, Madonna is clearly creating music for herself for others to enjoy. 300 million sales in, she has nada to prove.
A decade ago, most of the vitriol seemed to step from women. Over this single release, it seems to be from gay men – I mean she’s wearing clothes now so what angle can we get her from? ‘Aw bless her trying to keep up’ read one.
One direct message to me said ‘she should be ashamed of herself. And so should you for liking it’.
Let’s not get into the 35 bordering on 36 years history Madonna has for her forward thinking attitude to queer culture and gay men. It speaks for itself. Understood, for some it began with Gaga. But KNOW. YOUR. HISTORY.
How the rest of the album turns out? Who knows? But what it has boiled down to is a section of people don’t care if a) she releases a masterpiece or b) has a fanny fart and claps for three minutes- and it would still get the same reaction on spotify or iTunes.
The lady simply cannot win. Damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t. There are undertones of ageism and sexism – but beneath that – the media narrative – she created an orphanage in a third world country - the dialogue being negative and implying she’s an insincere selfish bitch.
We all love smiley Kylie though don’t we? Never one to offend or be overtly controversial. Perhaps La Cicconne’s problem is identity and authenticity.
People DON’T. LIKE. HER. And not just musically- they have problems with HER.
Madonna hasn’t managed this longevity of success through sheer good luck. Everyone has a Madonna song they love.
When she inevitably dies, tributes will be poured and songs remembered. How about celebrating an icon that truly stood up for us when it wasn’t trendy to be and pushed through glass ceilings on LGBT issues WHILST she’s still alive?
Whether the album turns out to be any good is anyone’s guess. But with her catalogue and legacy fans will flock to see her in stadiums and arenas nonetheless. Even when she tells them jokingly in Manchester to fuck off.
Suspect that even the haters seem hyper aware the Queen of popular music is back…..