Monday, January 12, 2015

Top Ten Madonna Moments of 2014

As we rang in '14, did you hear Madonna shouting "Open the floodgates!" from the rooftop of her tony Manhattan compound?  As far as we know, she hasn't done that literally quite yet; check with her neighbors.  But she certainly screams it with her Instagram account, which has gone from active to hyperactive (worryingly so?).  We're witnessing the sun start to rise on a new Madonna era, with a slow-burn intensity that came to a boil towards the end of the year after months and months of leaks, teases, and enigmatic hashtags; a smattering of non-controversies; and a series of subdued, inessential public appearances.

Time goes by so slowly for those who wait, it's true.  So, 2014, you limbo year of pre-Rebel Heart suspense, no offense, we're not sad to see you go, despite some key Madge goings-on:

10. M.I.A. asks to borrow $16M from Madonna to pay fine for FingerGate (March 17). What's remarkable about the cheeky tweet for cash isn't the crazy-high $16.6M the NFL fined the agitpropper for flashing the bird during Madge's 2012 Super Bowl halftime show set, a gesture Madonna herself called "immature". (The claim was eventually settled on undisclosed terms in August.) No, the remarkable thing is that even after fellow megastars Beyonce and Bruno Mars headlined the halftime show in the intervening couple of years (Katy Perry is due in 2015), Madonna's memorable performance, still ranking as the most-watched television broadcast in U.S. history, is still evoked and remembered, silly controversy and all.

9. Madonna brings her trademark snark even when she thinks no one's listening (June 19). From US Weekly: "During [Madonna, Carlos Leon, and Lourdes'] Beauty & Essex feast ... [a]n onlooker at the restaurant spills to Us that the Material Girl was asked before they were served if she had any allergies or dietary restrictions. As only she could, Madonna reportedly answered simply, 'Ignorance.'"  She's baaaaaaack!

8. V Magazine premieres photo shoot with Katy Perry (May 19). In a piece entitled "The Power of Pop", Madonna and Katy Perry discuss touring and --- oh, come on, no one bought this issue for the articles! Accompanying the story was a BDSMy photo shoot starring Madonna and one of her Art for Freedom celebrity curators.  Long-time Madonna buds, photog Steven Klein and stylist Arianne Phillips, worked together to transform the divas into a pair of dominatrixes licking stilettos, employing leashes and ropes, and generally looking like a kinky boob-flashing power lesbian couple.  Passing of the fetish-lite torch?

7. The last surviving legend name-checked in "Vogue", Lauren Bacall, passes away (August 12).  When the screen siren - and former wife of Humphrey Bogart and Jason Robards - died from a stroke at the age 0f 89 this summer, all 16 icons called out in 1990's smash "Vogue", a tribute in part to Hollywood glamour, had left us.  Following are the stars, listed in order of their appearance in the song and with their death dates:

Greta Garbo (April 15, 1990) Marilyn Monroe (Aug. 5, 1962) Marlene Dietrich (May 6, 1992) Joe DiMaggio (March 8, 1999) Marlon Brando (July 1, 2004) James Dean (Sept. 30, 1955) Grace Kelly (Sept. 14, 1982) Jean Harlow (June 7, 1937) Gene Kelly (Feb. 2, 1996) Fred Astaire (June 2, 1987) Ginger Rogers (April 25, 1995) Rita Hayworth (May 14, 1987) Lauren Bacall (Aug. 12, 2014) Katharine Hepburn (June 29, 2003) Lana Turner (June 29, 1995) Bette Davis (Oct. 6, 1989)‚Äč
In a not altogether small way, Bacall's passing signifies the end of an era.  Not only 20th century Old Hollywood celebrity culture but as a sobering time marker for Madonna's discography.

6. Madonna performs with Miley Cyrus on the latter's "Unplugged" special (January 29). Has it come to this?  Has Madonna officially become only the queen-maker of pop, coronating the next generation of very established starlets, from Britney and Christina to now Katy Perry and Miley?  Not to say Madge has totally lost her own voice, but appearing with Miley (yet another Art for Freedom curator) on the MTV special to mash up the M classic "Don't Tell Me" with the Miley hit "We Can't Stop" felt like too little, too late.  Miley's shock value, cemented with her notorious VMAs performance in 2013, had already been on the wane for a few months.  Putting aside the reasoning behind - and potential embarrassment from the "surprise" duet - the performance itself was fun and catchy, and it gave Madge the chance to stick out her tongue, sending up Miley's trademark gesture.

5. Madonna meets with Malawi's new president (November 28). To say Madonna's relationship with Malawi's former president was fraught and awkward is an understatement.  The recently-elected Peter Mutharika on the other hand, refreshingly proved a more sympathetic ear than his predecessor, who publicly accused Madonna of a plethora of offenses in connection with her Raising Malawi charity.  Madonna's near-decade relationship with Malawi, the home country of two of her children, was on shaky ground after the death of Mutharika's brother, the leader of the country until his death in 2012.  Having broken bread with Mutharika (grateful Madge brought her kids back for a visit), hopefully Madonna can now get back to business down there without any undue governmental interference or malicious inferences.

4. Madonna ranks third on TIME's "Most Obsessed-Over People on the Internet" list (May 27). 1983: "No talent ... [o]ne-hit wonder." "Minnie Mouse on helium."  1989: The Anti-Christ.  1992: Her career is dead. 1994: " ... [R]educed to superficial media stunts."  2012: "Her career is over ... and it couldn't happen to a bigger c---."  2014: Third most prominent personality on the Internet, the highest-ranking woman and artist, behind only two U.S. Presidents.  The quantitative list of 100 was culled from a database of 600,000 living people.  Still the Queen.  Take that, Beyonce (hot on Madge's heels at number four).  All boasting aside, Madonna, girl, you in danger!

3. Madonna performs "Open Your Heart" and "Same Love" at the Grammys (January 26). A hyped Grammys-opening mass wedding, including many same-sex couples taking advantage of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down anti-equality bans in dozens of states, was officiated by Queen Latifah and then briefly serenaded by Madonna and her much-missed "Open Your Heart".  Madge, resplendent, in an oddly conservative white tuxedo, soon joined Mary Lambert and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis in their lovely equality anthem "One Love".  A previous dance injury required a cane, which she accessorized (alongside those damn grills) with both outfits  (black and white) she wore that evening.  The first tux matched that of her son David, escorting his mother in a blatant fit of damage control after she used a slur to describe other son Rocco on Instagram.  Eek.  We can forgive the outfits, the grills, and the weak vocals, but exploitation of kids is, to use a favorite Jennifer Aniston word, uncool.  Lucky we are so starved for live high-profile performances and the whole night was for such a good cause, M!

2. Rebel Heart leaks flood the internet (November 20). We Madonna fans are no strangers to fielding leaked tracks.  As far back as "Music" in 2000, Madonna has faced many instances of premature distribution, including huge chunks of every album since American Life.  Two tracks from the as-yet-untitled record flew around before Madonna cried "artistic rape" and terrorism in an obviously emotional if ill-advised choice of words.  Incidentally, one was the album's title track, which fast became a fan favorite in its early stage.  Guy Oseary lambasted critics who alleged it was an inside job done for promotion and said that his team is pursuing the culprit, much as he did when "Give Me All Your Luvin'" was similarly leaked in 2011.  Madonna said the tracks were in demo form and not the final mixes she wanted to be heard, but that didn't stop mass consumption of the tracks and the deluge of at least 13 (!) more since, the names of which explained many oft-used hashtags, like #unapologeticbitch and #livingforlove.  To those who held onto the demos, shame on you.  To those who leaked the tracks, you're evil.  The only good thing to come of all this is that ...

1. Madonna gives fans an "early Christmas present" with pre-release of Rebel Heart songs (December 20). In response to the insane amount of unauthorized music floating around, Madonna begrudgingly polished and then hastily delivered to iTunes six tracks from the album we now know will be entitled Rebel Heart.  In a pre-holiday rush, Madonna's team offered the songs with pre-order of the album, due for release on March 9, and originally intended to be dual albums, split into "Rebel" and "Heart".  But no more, you overzealous fans!  You'll have to settle for the abbreviated launch.  First single "Looking for Love" was among the first batch, and a radio push and video are promised for February, and there are hints of both another Grammys performance and a tour later in the year.  The sound of the album evokes American Life and Confessions on a Dance Floor taking Ecstasy at a club and making a baby while Madonna's ballads and MDNA play on shuffle.  Confirmed collaborators include Avicii, Diplo, Ryan Tedder, Nicki Minaj, Kanye West, and Alicia Keys, and to that list rumors add Natalia Kills, Mozella, and many, many others.

2015 will certainly be another big year for Madonna, on par with 2012.  Hopefully she'll find it in her #rebelheart to forgive the reason for her unprecedented album release and rise even higher on our Most Obsessed-Over list.

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