Friday, January 01, 2010

Top Ten Madonna Moments of 2009

Madonna fell off a horse.A nude shot of her caused a commotion.
Letterman engaged her in a fizzy chat.She was protested, boycotted, and booed while on tour.Quick: What year was it?The Madonna Meta Machine chugged along another year, and you're forgiven for losing a sense of regularity. Her rare gift of perennial resurrection and reinvention assured that, even in comparatively low-wattage 2009, fresh M news blended with Groundhog Day-ish stories familiar, creating a stream-of-consciousness media cocktail of Madonna lore.To keep us on track, and in furtherance of her various interests - music, fashion, charity, sexual politics - Madonna was of course at the reins. As she closed out another decade - her third in the superstar stratum - we were reminded of all the irons this lady's got in the fire.

10. Madonna purchases $40 million townhouse in Manhattan's Upper East Side (April 19). Recession? What recession? All but ditching her storied Central Park-adjacent Upper West Side digs, Madonna flexed her financial muscle and gobbled up a double-wide residence on East 81st Street in a record-shattering real estate deal. Why pine for an English manor when you can recreate one across town? Forget that the subway rumbles underneath or that the neighborhood is a smidge less glamorous. The garage! The garden! The wine cellar! The 26 (!!) rooms! You can take the girl out of London ...

9. "Celebration" video celebrates Madonna fans (September 11). The video for the Grammy-nominated title track off Madge's third greatest hits compilation was briefly of interest for its cameos by boytoy Jesus Luz and an eerily mini-me Lourdes ... and nothing else. The real innovation surfaced several days after its debut when the "fan version" of the official video premiered. Featuring cutaways to dozens of Madonna followers - gays, girls, trannies, et al. - who responded to Barcelona and Milan casting calls to don their best Madonna garb and bust out their favorite moves, the video represents Madonna's first true nod to her rabid base in all its tacky, silly, and, yes, joyous glory.

8. "Hung Up" and "Music" make Rolling Stone's 100 Best Songs of the Decade (December 10). End-of-annum lists are, ahem, nothing new, but in the special case of 2009 turning into 2010, we we were treated to a slew of millennial best-ofs ranking achievements since 2000. Considering the sheer number of tracks, genres, and artists jockeying for listeners' favor over the past ten years, it is no easy feat to land on the premiere populist music magazine's end-of-decade roll call of the aughties' greatest songs. It's then gratifying to see not one but two of Madonna's biggest recent hits and best-produced songs - "Music" (#66, released in 2000) and "Hung Up" (#76, 2005) - recognized as modern classics. Especially for a decade during which time and again the Queen of Pop's career was supposedly "over".

7. Madonna appears with Lady Gaga on "Saturday Night Live" (October 4). Well, at least she looked good. The overhyped "SNL" skit centered on a "Deep House Dish"-set feud between Madge and that week's musical performer Lady Gaga, who this year has indisputably surpassed Rihanna and Britney in the race to become the mythical "next Madonna". Leaked dress rehearsal footage suggests the live performance fell apart pretty early on, as the musicians' comic timings and line deliveries didn't connect at all, underscoring the fact they weren't given good material to work with. (As if Madonna doesn't know what a "disco stick" is!) But, hey, credit where credit is due: For the first time since 2003's drop-in on "Will & Grace", Madonna tried to show her sense of humor on network television ... while also demonstrating she's cool with the talent who's hot on her heels.

6. The second leg of Sticky & Sweet kicks off in London (July 4). The top solo concert tour of all time added over $220 million to Live Nation's coffers in the first-ever extension by Madonna of one of her (eight) tours. The slightly altered show - featuring some setlist changes ("Heartbeat", "Borderline", and "Hung Up" were replaced by a postmodern "Holiday", a rocking "Dress You Up", and an updated "Frozen", respectively), costume tweaks, and an ad hoc medley to honor recently-passed Michael Jackson - made 27 dates throughout Europe and culminated on September 2 in Tel Aviv, Israel. There were the expected slew of protests, as noted above, as well as a canceled show in Slovenia and true tragedy: a stage collapse in Marseilles, France that claimed two lives. Backstage drama aside, the mammoth undertaking will live forever on DVD, scheduled to be released in 2010.

5. Madonna delivers Michael Jackson tribute at VMAs (September 14). When Madonna is rumored to open the MTV Video Music Awards, there is cause for excitement. But with the sudden loss of Michael Jackson on June 25, this was no ordinary year, and Madonna's VMAs appearance was not met with the usual excitement as much as a melancholic realization that we were in for a downbeat yet cathartic lecture from a living legend regarding a fallen, sometimes misunderstood peer. [Chills!] Her look echoed that of her 1995 VMAs appearance, and the speech that of her Princess Diana statement in '97, but the self-penned words Madonna spoke about her friend and fellow icon were anything but stale. Sources at rehearsals earlier in the day confirmed that Madonna's rigid delivery was a defense mechanism to an emotional breakdown during her first run-through. R.I.P. MJ.

4. Malawi
judge rejects Madonna's adoption bid for Mercy (April 3). In June, Madonna ultimately won her second adoption of a child from Malawi, a three-year-old girl named Mercy James. So it's okay to look back in retrospect and gasp, "Holy cow! Can you believe someone actually said 'no' to Madonna?" Somehow, we all just knew it would work out, but the shocking denial, couched in language purported to protect the nation's children from possible trafficking, didn't instill confidence. It was also, of course, a sobering event for Madonna. She reportedly set aside a plot of land for a potential home in the nation (to refute the superficial reason for the initial denial: her lack of residency), and stepped up her philanthropic efforts, both in Malawi and in Italy. Cooler heads - and Madge's instant appeal - prevailed, and Mercy was Stateside before Sticky & Sweet returned over the summer.

3. "Revo
lver" single is released (December 14). While the title track from Celebration got the lion's share of the promotional rollout and became Madonna's 55th Top 100 hit and 40th #1 dance hit (breaking her own record), one of the other two new tracks on the compilation is poised to become an everlasting fan favorite akin to less-heralded fare of yore like "Impressive Instant", "Nothing Fails", and "Let It Will Be". And with all due respect to "Die Another Day", "Revolver" is like the Bond theme that could have been, a sexy and gritty song with a killer (sorry!) hook and chorus. Electrobeats and thumping bass ricochet (oops!) around innuendo-laden come-ons likening foreplay to gunplay. Even Lil Wayne's "duet" rap doesn't sound phoned in a la Kanye. Thanks to this, Madonna, we might not all die happy but at least we can enjoy one of your very best recent songs along the way.

2. Madonna wears, uh, something interesting to Met Costume Institute Gala (May 5). She rang the New Year in with a series of sumptuous Louis Vuitton ads for the spring and summer seasons. Everyone seemed excited by the corroboration, especially when word got out that a second set of ads would be released in June. But then Madonna appeared at the annual Met Costume Institute Gala benefit wearing ... that. (And the Photoshopped-to-the-hilt second set of ads followed suit.) Look, if the goal of outre fashion is to simply get people talking - even if that means securing a place on nearly every Worst Dressed list known to mankind - then, well done, Madge. No press is bad press, right?

1. Madonna stars with Jesus Luz in W photoshoot (Feb. 9). During her Brazilian leg of Sticky & Sweet in late '08, Madonna went and got herself a souvenir of the country. His name is Jesus Luz, and he has been her man-panion ever since. (Madonna and Jesus? It couldn't have been scripted better.) The cougarific Madonna, at 50, knew what folks would say when she hired the aspiring 22-year-old model to pose with her in a steamy spread shot by frequent collaborator Steven Klein. Before the issue was even released, tales of the new Mrs. Robinson and her protege were circulating madly. Throughout 2009, the couple(?) vacationed, attended kabbalah services, and withstood marriage rumors. Perhaps still smarting from her recent divorce, Madonna wasted no time in tacitly communicating to the world that she was desirable at any age. And as the decade drew to a close, the two were frequently spotted out together in NYC, where Jesus had relocated to, among other things, stoke his DJ career. Bless.

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