Monday, January 01, 2007

Top Ten Madonna Moments of 2006

The true Queen of All Media has had a busy twelve months: books, videos, live performances all over the world, endorsements, and more TV appearances than Milton Berle in his prime. Even though She debuted only one new song this year (the groovy B-side History), Madonna managed to stay in the headlines for a myriad of projects and newsworthy events.With so much going on - many undeniable hits (the Grammys! Confessions Tour!) and some debatable misses (sorry, H&M!, Boo, English Roses 2!) - it's difficult to catalog this year's highlights. But we'll sure try. Herewith, a rundown of Madge's finest moments of 2006 :

10. Madonna attends Vanity Fair's Academy Awards after-party (March 5). Hollywood's A-list regularly turns out for this glitzy annual post-ceremony photo op. Turning heads and wrenching the spotlight from, say, actual Oscar attendees, Madonna made a random appearance that had fashion critics divided: Was that hue of pink a good color on Her? Wasn't that hairdo already over last year? Should She lay off the bodybuilding routine? All could agree on one thing, however: Every single film actor in the room had been overshadowed by a major music icon. Sublimated revenge for that Evita snub is, apparently, a dish best served ice cold.

9. Madonna wins Best International Female Solo Artist at the Brit Awards (February 16). Up against formidable powerhouses Missy Elliott, Kelly Clarkson, Bjork, and reputed rival Mariah Carey, Madge took top female honors but bowed out of performing on England's major music awards show. She was recuperating from hernia surgery (see: the Grammys, below) and enduring another round of Guy break-up gossip, yet gracefully accepted Her trophy, acknowledging Her British inspirations, and later presented an honorary award to buddy and Live 8 organizer Bob Geldof. Class act.

8. Madonna accepts a TRL Lifetime Achievement Award (February 25). She had already long been considered elder stateswoman of the VMAs (for which She won the Video Vanguard Award ... in 1986), but Her staying power in the Totally Request Live era had been generally untested. When Hung Up was "retired"
by MTV - the first and only video of Hers to reach the landmark rotation quota, and one of only two videos in history to finish in the top spot - Madonna became the oldest artist to receive the honor. So, yeah, MTV acknowledged its debt to Her for all the Christinas, Britneys, and *NSYNCers dotting the retired video list by bestowing its "biggest award" to Her. In a pre-taped segment that was shot backstage at the Grammys weeks earlier, Madonna accepted the award and expressed thanks for MTV's devotion over the years and reminded us all that She "paved the way for other female singers to push the envelope, think outside the box."

7. The Jump wig goes public (September 19). During the Japanese leg of the Confessions Tour, Madonna decided to have some fun with the media. Instead of simply taking off the wig She had been wearing on the set of the Jump video (concurrently being shot in Tokyo), She wore it out to a few public appearances, including collaborator Steven Klein's X-STaTIC PRO=CeSS exhibition. The international press had a field day. Her "hair" had become a sensation, triggering countless stories about Her chameleonic looks over the years and reams of opinion pieces discussing whether the platinum bob was the new chic look. Oops - not real! Was it a colossal joke or an innocent night out for Madonna? Either way, tongues across the globe were wagging over a wig. P.S., world media: Her hair has been even shorter in previous incarnations.

6. I'm Going To Tell You a Secret is released on DVD (June 6). A coup for fans, the DVD/CD combo pack of the documentary chronicling Madonna's life during the Re-Invention Tour and Her metamorphosis in the fourteen years since Truth or Dare hit shelves at a time when prospects for a Re-Invention DVD looked bleakest. Although a straight concert film of the 2004 extravaganza might go the way of Blond Ambition and Virgin Tour before it (unavailable in predominant home video format), Madonnaphiles can make due with the sumptuously shot concert tidbits nestled amid this two-hour film. Bundled with the DVD was Madonna's first-ever live CD, an audio collection of selected pieces from the tour. What's that aphorism about beggars and choosers?

5. The Get Together video premieres on VH1 (June 14). It shouldn't have worked: No new Madonna footage. Ketamine-inspired graphics. And, wait, are those Twin Towers an homage to 9/11? Somehow, it gelled: a summertime clip for the favorite off 2005's Confessions on a Dance Floor. Sagging under the weight of subpar Hung Up and Sorry clips, with their high-gloss emphasis on Madonna as just one of the kids, the album demanded a video to put the focus on the music and, just perhaps, Madonna Herself. Though the single never took off, in keeping with the so-called "Confessions curse," perhaps not a few Grammy voters saw this funky video and helped get the song its deserved nomination for Best Dance Recording.

4. Madonna appears on The Oprah Winfrey Show to set the record straight regarding Her adoption of David Banda (October 25). So much had been said and written about Her journey to the impoverished African nation of Malawi and Her trip-defining adoption of a 13-month old boy. The story would prove to be one of the most covered entertainment industry news items of the year. Barely back home in London and adjusting to life with a new baby, Madonna brought Her case to Oprah to debunk inaccurate reporting, explain the adoption process and Her other charitable efforts, and describe David's acclimation to his new custodians. Oprah was egregiously supportive of Madonna and, with her softball questions, may not have conduced an unequivocally balanced perspective on the issue. Still, the grand arbiter of all things media circus, the audience, got to hear Madonna sincerely - or "sincerely," depending on your view of the proceedings - make Her plea for understanding. And despite a few lingering bumps in the road, the Queen of Pop's sit-down with the Queen of Talk (Her most earnest of the four such interviews this decade) pretty much swayed public opinion back into Her favor with respect to the case at hand.

3. Madonna performs at Coachella (April 30). Diehards who bought tickets and then waited in the desert heat amid mobs of sweaty, inebriated hipsters for Madge's mini-set at this otherwise alternative arts and music festival deserve utmost Madonna fan cred as rightful targets of envy. From the opening strains of Hung Up to the final chords of enduring classic Everybody, the tent in which Madonna performed was a constant rumble of screams and bass. Though someone of Her magnitude need not put on such an intimate showcase at the expense of many of the high-tech luxuries afforded to music megastars, Madonna's Coachella gig demonstrated that She didn't need Her usual over-the-top theatrics to blow the speakers. Because of an unparalleled proximity to the star and a strong run-through of six songs (also including Get Together, Ray of Light, Let It Will Be, and I Love New York) one scant month before the launch of the Confessions Tour, those lucky enough to make it were definitely part of something extremely special. Anyone who says otherwise sucks, plain and simple.

2. Madonna opens the 48th Annual Grammy Awards with the Gorillaz (February 8). Watching this performance gave us a hernia. Disregarding the need for a nomination (Confessions missed this year's eligibility cutoff), Madonna crashed music's biggest night and went for the largest number of eyeballs in an exuberant, crowd-rousing show warm-up. Those age-defying few minutes will surely go down in history as one of Madge's greatest live performances. The joyful, computer-enhanced mash-up of the Gorillaz's "Feel Good, Inc." and Hung Up inspired a gasping, fawning review that still stands up, over ten months later. Riding high on the worldwide success of Confessions and looking the part, Madonna stole the show - hell, She deserved a trophy for the opening alone - and then just as quickly disappeared from the limelight to work on the Confessions Tour. Ask anyone who opened the Grammys this past year and they will say, "Madonna." (The Gorillaz who?) Right before the telecast began, an announcer asked, "Which moment from tonight's Grammy Awards will everyone be talking about tomorrow?" No contest. The real question: Did you pinpoint the exact second Madge's intestinal wall burst?
1. The Confessions Tour rocks on Madonna's birthday in London (August 16). How to best summarize the most successful female-headlined tour of all-time after sixty performances in front of 1.2 million fans on three continents? As much as we'd like to claim shows at Los Angeles, New York, or Philadelphia should be the prime example, clearly Her birthday performance three-quarters into the tour was the sterling show. Nearly three months had passed since the first performance of the tour, so dance moves were fluid, costume changes were seamless, banter was provided down to a science. Undaunted by the religious protests in England and elsewhere, Madonna barrelled through the entire show, including Her controversial and woefully misinterpreted Live To Tell piece on the faux crucifix. Cameras rolling for the ill-received NBC special meant few, if any, technical glitches and a pitch-perfect performance. Madge got a huge (48th) birthday shout-out from Her crew and the crowd, including Her closest friends and family in attendance, lightening the mood and elevating this particular show from the rest of the pack. Taken broadly together or in parts, the Confessions Tour was an unrivaled success by any measure and was the crowning achievement of yet another banner year.

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