It’s a crucial part of what makes her fascinating and exceptional in 2019.
Even more head-scratching, Madonna spent her late thirties and forties pioneering a mode of middle-aged pop stardom that flaunted maturity and leveraged honesty about aging to her advantage.
everything in that sense, but from a pop perspective Madonna also feels like everything because in a career spanning four decades she has attacked, absorbed, and conquered pop music from every possible angle.
Many of Madonna’s supposedly controversial songs (like ‘80s hit “Papa Don’t Preach,” with its subtext of abortion) are now more clearly identified as feminist statements or expressions of self, but that’s not to say Madonna has never deliberately courted outright controversy.
The aftermath was Madonna in excelsis: She didn’t block the performance’s upload to the Brits’ You Tube channel.
This is capital-P Pop music, after all, a medium that justly or unjustly is about fetishizing youth — the heightened emotions, the horniness, the athletic live performances — and isolating the fickle tastes of a teen-skewing, music-consuming public. It was true when a 25-year-old Madonna writhed around in a tattered wedding dress on MTV, electrifying teens, horrifying their parents, and blueprinting pop stardom as we know it.
And it remains so this year, with the ascent of the 17-year-old goth pop phenom Billie Eilish.
Light also gave Madonna’s career a second wind as pop’s reigning earth mother, able to compete on the charts with the Britneys and Christinas, less than half her age, but with music miles away from their featherweight teenybopper anthems.
She followed that album with three more containing some of her finest hits, each treading the line between innovation, pop’s youthful inclinations, and the wisdom of maturity to (mostly) critical acclaim and commercial success.
From 1998’s masterpiece Ray of Light through 2005’s Confessions on a Dance Floor, Madonna made music that was proudly older and wiser while sacrificing none of the sex appeal or fun we often associate with pop.
It’s in the years since then — during a curious pivot over the past decade toward less idiosyncratic and, at least conceptually, more radio-friendly material engineered to compete with the Gagas and Arianas of the world — that Madonna’s career has stalled.
Elsewhere on , Madonna sings, “I’m only human”—which is true, of course.
Madonna definitely is a human being—she just happens to be one whose remarkable longevity and multifaceted creativity justify her reputation as the Queen of Pop.
Contrary to her protestations, while ageism may be part of what’s stymieing Madonna — and it’s worth noting that she’s had seven top 10 singles since her 40th birthday, a herculean achievement in pop — the thing that’s most certainly holding her back is music unbefitting and unreflective of her status as pop’s Doyenne Supreme. In its very DNA, pop is music for young people, made primarily by young people, and that’s been true at least since Elvis swiveled his hips on The Ed Sullivan Show.