Madonna’s latest tour is an out-of-this-world spectacular. The high-energy, exciting show is yet another reminder to us all that the cultural groundbreaker is still the Queen of Pop.
On Oct.10, I had the incredible privilege of seeing the one and only Queen live at the Los Angeles Staples Center. As a die-hard fan, the experience was both visually stunning and one of the best times of my life. As soon as the lights went down, I joined the stadium in ecstatic cheers and calls of “Yeah! Madonna!”
Aside from seeing my favorite artist and performer, I was amazed at the amount of detail and energy that went into the show. The sets and screens pushed the technological envelope as did the 54-year-old superstar’s endless amount of energy and toned physique that puts women half her age to shame.
The show progressed through different themes, beginning in a gothic cathedral and ending in a Benny Benassi-mixed dance number.
It had everything: bare-chested, chanting monks… in heels, a Kill Bill-esque fight scene, vintage majorette uniforms, gender-bending models strutting their stuff to “Vogue,” and even a Joan of Arc-inspired outfit — all designed by long-time Madonna-collaborating designer Jean-Paul Gaultier (Madonna’s iconic coned bra and various tours).
Nobody puts on a show like Madonna. She is one of the great musical performers of our time, up there with both Michael and Janet Jackson and Prince.
She began touring in May and has been performing in sold-out arenas and stadiums all over Europe and North America since.
The MDNA Tour is the superstar’s ninth concert tour in her 30-year career and is on track to become one of the highest-grossing tours of all time. The last time she toured the world, four years ago, her Sticky & Sweet Tour raked in a record-breaking $408 million dollars, the highest-grossing tour by a solo artist and the fourth highest-grossing tour of all time.
Madonna also got political in the middle of the show and urged concert goers to register to vote and never “take [our] freedom for granted.”
She spoke of the human rights violations in Russia, where over 70 men were arrested for simply being gay, and a band was jailed for speaking out against the government. She even dedicated a heart-felt song to Malala Yousufzai, the 14-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head for blogging about the importance of education for women.
She told the audience:
“…support the people that support your freedom. Register to f***ing vote, OK?! Take responsibility for your future and your destiny. Support the people that support education and support the people that support women, and being gay, or being Muslim, or Christian, or a Jew. None of you have any business being complacent and all of you have a responsibility for the person standing next to you, and don’t you ever forget it!”
This take-charge-of-your-life-and-future idea is the very thing that has kept Madonna on top and relevant since the 1980s. Many artists have come and gone since then, some of whom many thought would outlive the “outrageous,” “one-hit-wonder” Madonna.
It is now 2012, and she has sold over 300 million albums worldwide. She is the top-selling female artist of all time. Billboard has her at the top of the “Top 10 Singles” list, ahead of Elvis, The Beatles, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson.
Her in-charge attitude has inspired a generation, including many of today’s leading artists like Lady GaGa, Beyoncé, Britney Spears and Katy Perry. We wouldn’t have “Mother Monster” or “Sasha Fierce,” or even the “California Gurl” had it not been for the trailblazing legacy of Madonna and her unapologetic style.
Sure, she stays with the times and is often slightly ahead of them; she collaborates with fresh, up-and-coming artists and producers. Her look and sound are routinely reinvented throughout a single decade. But catchy, dance-inducing music and style is not the only thing that has kept her relevant all these years.
This is the woman who spoke out for LGBT equality during the height of the AIDS crisis. This is the woman who broke sexual and cultural taboos during the conservative time of Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority.” The Catholic Church had a field day with her video for “Like a Prayer,” which depicted stigmata, burning crosses and romance with a saint. Her music video for “Justify My Love” was banned by MTV in the early 1990s because of its depictions of bisexuality, gay couples kissing and nudity.
Her reaction to the establishment’s outrage: in 1992, she released a tongue-in-cheek, soft-core pornographic coffee table book that sold out in a matter of days. Her provocative style spurred discussions on sexuality, censorship and the role tradition plays in society.
Throughout her career, the critics and culture warriors declared her “finished” and derided her as a bad influence. They scapegoated her and did their best to end her career. By the late 1990s, her image had softened – she had become a mother and embraced spirituality. But her feminist message of equality and inner strength have never ceased.
Her drive and bravery are still clearly seen today; in June, while performing her 1994 hit “Human Nature” in the predominantly Muslim, very conservative country of Turkey – where many women have to wear burqas – she briefly exposed her right breast. No apologies. No regrets (as the song says).
Madonna is a force of nature within the music industry. Her legacy and bold attitude have paved the way for many of the artists we consider “innovative” today.
At 54, she’s still vibrant, healthy, energetic and unapologetic. Seeing her perform in LA was a surreal experience for me and an experience I’ll never forget. In the vocally-morphed words of Nicki Minaj, “There’s only one queen, and that’s Madonna, b*tch!”
I’m pretty sure she will outlive us all.