Top Ten Madonna Moments of 2012
In every meaning of the word.
First, "a notion or belief"? Nearly 5,000 kids will be served by schools co-built by Raising Malawi, with more schools on the way. Those kids will get the impression that there is good in the world and they could be summoned to a higher calling.
Second, "the effect produced by an agency or influence"? The Material Girl label thrived. Hard Candy fitness centers expanded. A workout tape arrived. Even without Madonna pressing the flesh and pushing product herself, her influence was pervasive. Joe Francis, the entrepreneur behind the low-brow "Girls Gone Wild" video franchise, decided, in a stroke of premature publicity-mindedness, to pick a battle with Madge over the preliminary title of "Girl Gone Wild" even though dozens of other songs share the title. Lame move but telling of Madonna's dominion.
Third, in ad-speak, an "impression" is the measure of the number of eyeballs (or eardrums) garnered. Consider that more than 14 million people had been exposed to "Give Me All Your Luvin'" before it had its debut at the Super Bowl a few days later. That historic game, by the way, was the most-watched U.S. television event ever. Madonna's performance in the middle of that show saw a spike of two million more viewers, making her 12-minute set the most-watched TV segment in history. One hundred fourteen million impressions. (She also set a tweet-per-second record, if we're drilling down into numbers.)
Fourth, "a strong effect produced on the intellect, feelings, conscience, etc."? Why, yes, the media blitzkrieg this year resulted in Madonna's placement as the sixth-most discussed public figure on Facebook and the highest ranking female.
All in a year's work for VH1's "Greatest Woman in Music."
Here are the top ten ways she impressed us in 2012, an astonishing 30 years since her breakout single "Everybody" was released:
10. Truth or Dare fragrance debuts with a Q&A session (April 12). At Macy's in New York to promote the launch of her signature perfume hot on the heels of a banned "racy" commercial, Madonna sat for a 15-minute journo-and-fan-filled presser. She led with token nods to shilling her newest product ("Smelling good has always been an important part of my life," etc.), which consists of essences of tuberose and gardenia (not hydrangea, of course!). Then PR maven Liz Rosenberg ran through randomly submitted questions that veered from Madge's ersatz birthmark ("It just faded over time, sorry. I can make it come back!") to the age-old "cut or uncut" debate ("That is a scandalous question! I refuse to answer it. Are you talking about my sandwiches? I like my sandwiches cut!"). Do you get the impression that Madonna is finally relaxing a bit and letting the looser Madonna of yesteryear shine through? A Jimmy Fallon-hosted Facebook livechat in March and an incredibly breezy, already-classic interview with Brazilian interviewer Luciano Huck in November (dubbed "In the Bathroom with Madonna" by fans) are providing a peek back behind the armor understandably constructed over the years. Not all is perfect in interview world, however: an hourlong appearance on Ellen in October - in full-on "Vogue" drag, no less - felt like a wasted opportunity.
8. Dick Clark passes away (April 18). "The World's Oldest Teenager" succumbed to a heart attack at 82, ending an unparalleled career in American radio and television. He was perhaps most famous for both his annual "New Year's Rockin' Eve" specials and the quintessential "American Bandstand" program. The latter started in 1954 as a Philadelphia-based showcase for emerging musical artists to sing to a teenage audience of generic in-studio dancers and huge television viewership across the country. Clark helped engender "safe" feelings about theretofore controversial "rock and roll" and introduced a slew of soon-to-become household names to the country, from Tina Turner to the Talking Heads. In early 1984, a 25-year-old Madonna, riding high on "Holiday" in the months before the earth-shattering Like a Virgin era, performed on the show and delivered one of her most famous quotes. When an obviously-charmed Clark asked her after the song, "We are a couple of weeks into the New Year. What do you hope will happen, not only in 1984 but for the rest of your professional life? What are your dreams? What's left?", the brazen young starlet, without missing a beat, exclaimed with a huge grin, "To rule the world." Obviously she wasn't kidding. Upon Clark's passing, Madonna posted this starmaking clip on her Facebook page and wrote, "Even though I told him in 1984 that I wanted to rule the world, it's Dick Clark who has ruled the world."
7. Electronic dance music community feud erupts over Madonna's remarks at the Ultra Music Festival (March 24). Madonna committed a big no-no at Miami's EDM-heavy Ultra Music Festival: her surprise cameo to introduce DJ-producer Avicii, two scant days before her EDM-imbued album dropped, included a not-so-subtle reference to the street name for pure MDMA, otherwise known as Ecstasy. "Have any of you seen molly?" she asked to uproarious cheers before Avicii launched into his brand new remix of "Girl Gone Wild." EDM champion Deadmau5 immediately took to Facebook to decry Madonna's glorification of the drug and association of the EDM world to illicit substances (Madge's discretion aside, "hur dur" right back at you, Mousy, because really?!). But instead of letting things lie, Madonna tried to backpedal and tweeted an "innocent" explanation - that she was only referencing a friend's song that employed that line in its title. But, wait, Madonna, that song to which you were supposedly referring is probably - nay, definitely - about molly the drug. And didn't you already tell Jay Leno on his show that your album name is a "triple entendre" and, in addition to meaning the "DNA of M" and a hyper-modern, abbreviated take on your name, alludes to MDMA (which is directly called out in "I'm Addicted")? Cue the backlash from EDM acolytes and beyond. Madonna had painted herself into a corner. Yeah, Madge, we're not buying it either. To borrow a phrase from the kids, "Mollygate fail." But these gloriously messy foot-in-mouth moments are part of why we love you.
4. MDNA becomes Madonna's eighth number one album (March 26). Madonna's fifth consecutive number one album, a streak begun with 2001's Music, plants her only one pole position album behind Barbra Streisand's record nine career number ones. Contributions from lead producers William Orbit, Martin Solveig, and Benny Benassi helped the club-friendly danceathon, Madge's twelfth studio album and her first under her LiveNation deal, boast a huge headstart with the biggest iTunes pre-sale day ever. While it opened strong with 359,000 copies sold its first week, any success was dimmed by both a controversy surrounding the concert ticket CD giveaway and, more tellingly, the steepest second-week drop-off in history. Critical reception was warmer than 2008's Hard Candy, and fans tended to compare the disc (favorably) to 2005's Confessions on a Dance Floor. "Give Me All Your Luvin'," most agree, didn't quite represent the album, and eventual tour opener "Girl Gone Wild," complete with clubby singalong chorus and button-pushing video, should have been that choice. As for the album itself: divorce-bruised "Love Spent" will enter the pantheon of Great Madonna Ballads; Lourdes-assisted "Superstar" got heavy play in promos for the Bravo network; nearly each track, from failed upbeat single "Turn Up the Radio" and techno-crunchy "Some Girls" to the contrite "I Fucked Up" and alternately defiant "I Don't Give A" had a strong contingency of fans rallying behind it; and, say what you will, but there has never been another Madonna song quite like "Gang Bang."
3. Madonna calls Lady Gaga "reductive" on Nightline (January 13). The Lady Gaga-Madonna tinderbox that had been simmering since the release of "Born This Way" got some gasoline dumped on it this year. Madonna, in a sit-down with Cynthia McFadden that was spread across several of ABC's news programs, responded to McFadden's question "that almost blew up the internet": what does she think of Lady Gaga? Forget the high road. "It feels ... reductive," our Queen said. When McFadden followed up with, "Is that good?", Madonna reached for her teacup and puckishly replied, "Look it up" before taking a perfectly-timed sip. When the MDNA Tour setlist was leaked, it was clear Madonna was going full-throttle: "Express Yourself" included a few bars from "Born This Way." Word from early rehearsals then reported that Madonna completed the seamless Gaga mash-up with a repetitious "She's Not Me" (from Hard Candy) thrown in for good measure. Would Madonna really go that far on the actual tour? Turns out, yes. The passive-aggressive performance was permanently incorporated into each and every show during Madonna's majorette segment. So juvenile and yet so delicious.
2. MDNA Tour ends as the highest-grossing tour of the year (December 22). At $296.1 million, Madonna's ninth tour, the biggest of the year, became the tenth highest-grossing of all-time and the highest-grossing solo female tour ever, second only to Madge's own Sticky & Sweet Tour at #4. The usual complaints about (very) late starts, not enough classics in the setlist, skipping Australia, and political preaching were to be expected. Also expected as Madonna criss-crossed the globe doing 88 shows in 67 cities was plenty of tried-and-true controversy: Gay rights (necessitating defiance and triumph). Gun violence (necessitating a manifesto). Nudity (necessitating more nudity). Fostering peace in the Middle East. That whole swastika thing. She told a gay Republican "I still love you" with a wink in San Francisco and heckled a smoker in Chile. She stumped for Hurricane Sandy victims, President Obama, Russian dissidents Pussy Riot, and Pakistani martyr Malala Yousafzai. Gratuitous headlines and mini-firestorms aside, this tour felt designed expressly for hard-core fans. Billboard readers agreed, naming MDNA the best tour of the year. Sure, she did "Like a Prayer" and "Open Your Heart" pretty earnestly, but almost everything felt tweaked to surprise and appease long-time followers: reviving the staling "Human Nature," "Candy Shop," and "Hung Up"; sliding "Cyber-Raga" into "I'm a Sinner"; bravely re-working "Like a Virgin" so sublimely and divisively. Fans were rewarded with plenty more, including selective performances of "Music," "Holiday," "Everybody," and "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" at just the right times; unprecedented access with generous Golden Triangle proximity; and, um, flash-in-the-pan Psy?
And that brings us back to another definition of impression: "a mark left by pressure." In 2012, Madonna surely left hers in our collective psyche. Touchdown for our lady!
Labels: ellen, elton john, endorsements, everybody, girl gone wild, give me all your luvin', hard candy, lady gaga, liz rosenberg, malawi, material girl, MDNA, super bowl, top ten madonna moments, truth or dare, w.e.