Today in Madonna History: September 21, 2015

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On September 21 2o15, Sal Cinquemani (of Slant) published an article called, “10 Things I Learned at Madonna’s Rebel Heart Tour.”

Here’s Sal’s list:

Over 30 years into her career, Madonna is still acting like a virgin. “I’ve never performed in Brooklyn before,” she coyly told a sold-out crowd at the Barclays Center in Prospect Heights Saturday night. The Rebel Heart Tour, which kicked off in Montreal two weeks ago and landed in the borough for one night after two performances across the river at Madison Square Garden, is the singer’s 10th stage show. While she’s finally warmed up to her ’80s hits after years of ignoring all but a handful, she still insists on challenging her fans, who, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised to see, are still dressing up like her. Only now it’s the men. Here are 10 other things I learned at the show:

1. Yes, Madonna can sing.

As her shows have increasingly required her to be hoisted, flung, and swung around in the air for close to two hours every night, Madonna has in recent years relied, perhaps too heavily, on lip-synching. But she can carry a tune far better than she’s typically given credit for. Despite a mouthful of those pesky gold-and-diamond-encrusted grillz, she flawlessly serenaded old pal Debi Mazar, who stood in the audience singing along, with “True Blue,” and delivered an impassioned rendition of the blistering Rebel Heart ballad “HeartBreakCity.” Perched on the edge of a stage platform, playfully swinging her leg, she even belted out “La Vie En Rose” with relative ease.

2. Fifty-seven is the new 27.

At one point, Madonna dabbed her forehead with a towel and joked that sitting down to strum a ukulele was her favorite part of the show, but she barely missed a beat or broke a sweat throughout the 21-song setlist. With her dirty-blond extensions cascading around her shoulders, dark roots exposed, fingerless gloves, and jewel-encrusted blazer and ankle boots, she was the spitting image of the title character from Desperately Seeking Susan, in which she made her big-screen debut an astonishing three decades ago.

3. “Deeper and Deeper” belongs among Madonna’s classics.

With a catalogue as deep and wide as Madonna’s, it would be easy for gems like Erotica’s “Deeper and Deeper” to get lost to pop history. So it was a pleasant surprise to spot this one on the setlist and, aside from some amped-up EDM beats and a simplified flamenco guitar solo, hear it performed so faithfully.

4. Being Madonna (and working for her) is dangerous business.

As they say in Texas, everything is bigger on a Madonna tour…including the liability and personal injury insurance policy. Coverage must include, but isn’t limited to, performers being thrown off spiral staircases and tossed down giant LED screens, scaling and hanging precariously from poles, swinging back and forth from 10-foot stilts, and wearing capes with a recent history of violently yanking superstars to the ground from behind in front of an audience of millions.

5. Madonna really likes “Candy Shop.”

Though the Hard Candy opener was never released as a single, Madonna has a peculiar fondness for the track, having performed it during all of her last three tours. The singer’s tenacity and obvious enthusiasm for the song has practically willed it into becoming a staple, fitting inconspicuously between her signature hits “Music” and “Material Girl.”

6. Madonna really hates “Take a Bow.”

Madge dusted off her ’80s hits “True Blue” and “Who’s That Girl” for the first time in 28 years. But some of her biggest ’90s ballads, from “This Used to Be My Playground” to “I’ll Remember” to “Take a Bow” (her longest running #1 hit ever), have still, to this day, never been performed on tour. Sure, they don’t fit obviously into the pop star’s latter-day dance-floor-driven output, but if the queen of reinvention isn’t willing to find a way to put a new spin on these old chestnuts, there must be a good reason. With songs as timeless as these, it’s just hard to imagine what that could possibly be.

7. You’re never too old to take a “Holiday.”

The only song to be performed during all or part of every Madonna tour aside from one, “Holiday” reclaimed its rightful place as the closing number during the Rebel Heart Tour. Over the years, Madonna’s first bona fide smash has been reimagined as everything from a disco bauble to an ironic military march to an EDM banger, but while a Latin-style medley of “Dress You Up,” “Into the Groove,” and “Lucky Star” proves she isn’t exactly becoming a purist, she refreshingly played it straight for her perennial call for a little celebration.

8. Madonna is more comfortable on stage than ever.

Madonna is a self-proclaimed showgirl, but despite a show clearly choreographed down to each flick of a wrist, she’s never seemed more unscripted. From the call-and-response exchanges with the audience during an acoustic version of “Who’s That Girl” to the addition of a new song to the setlist (a stirring, if pitchy, rendition of shoulda-been-a-sleeper-hit “Ghosttown,” which brought seemingly genuine tears to her eyes, a development that seemed to surprise even her), the Queen of Pop never looked so unguarded and at ease.

9. Madonna might be running out of ideas.

You’d be forgiven for thinking Madonna had already staged a show with scantily clad nuns twerking on cross-shaped stripper poles. From that perhaps too on-the-nose provocation to the multimedia prologue and guitar-wielding riot-grrrl shtick, Madonna seems to be recycling themes and concepts in ways that, while her contemporaries remained dogged in their adherence to formula, she managed to successfully avoid for the first few decades of her career.

10. …But she’s still the greatest performer of our time.

“It’s lonely at the top, but it ain’t crowded,” Madonna quipped, tongue in cheek, during a jazz-infused version of “Music.” As far back as 1990’s iconic, game-changing Blond Ambition Tour, her shows have always been theatrical, blending traditional rock-concert tropes with narrative storytelling; Rebel Heart, though, takes it to another level, equal parts Cirque du Soleil, Broadway musical, and burlesque—an immersive experience that redefines the meaning of maximalism.

Today in Madonna History: August 25, 2015

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On August 25 2015, Madonna’s The Immaculate Collection re-entered the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart at #187 (143 weeks on the chart).  The greatest hits collection also re-entered the Top Pop Catalog at #38 (427 weeks on the chart).

Today in Madonna History: August 16, 2015

On August 16 2015, singer/songwriter Joe Henry shared a touching birthday tribute to his sister-in-law, Madonna:

This is the young woman I met shortly after our family’s move to Michigan in 1975 – as I entered my sophomore year of high school and, she, her senior one. Together, we were in the Thespian Society; and in that winter’s first production, we were cast as mother and son – the wife and child of Ralph Waldo Emerson – in a play about Thoreau.

She was whip-smart and short on patience; and to tell the truth, she scared me more than a little, but along with her sister Paula, her presence upon my landscape nudged open a door through which I would pass and find my life utterly and forever changed…that unusual and sprawling family becoming, years later, my own.

No one is more surprised than I by the way our lives have expanded; by the way that our journeys have diverged and become entangled. Like anyone, I can sometimes forget to see the flesh and blood/heart and mind behind the parade float that is her public persona. But then I will find myself across the kitchen table from her, sharing a martini, and be additionally shocked to recognize anew the compact, terse-yet-compassionate human at the switches.

I have told this tale before, but it bears repeating: when Elvis Presley died on this date in 1977, this upstart professed in real-time that she felt his spirit had passed out of his body and through her own in exodus.

I laughed at her then for such outrageous self-possession, at the arrogance that I assumed must allow her to declare such publicly.

Today, when there is laughter, it is the laugh of recognition I hear – and it begins somewhere high above me, where things that once seemed implausible play with wild abandon and in broad daylight.

Happy Birthday, Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone.

Today in Madonna History: June 26, 2015

On June 26 2015, Madonna joined the world in celebrating PRIDE with this Tweet:

Finally And at Last! The Revolution Of Love has Begun! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️#livingforlove ❤️#rebelheartsunite

You can read thousands of messages from Madonna’s fans thanking her for her support of the LGBT community throughout her entire career, even when it wasn’t popular to be supportive of the cause.

We love this one from James Davis: “Madonna…you helped all of this come together by standing up for gay rights back when no celebrities did…”

Today in Madonna History: June 24, 2015

On June 24 2015, Liz Rosenberg, Madonna’s publicist since the very beginning of her professional career, announced her retirement:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELIEF Liz Rosenberg Media will be closing our offices at the end of June. After more than two centuries of being in the publicity game, taking care of more than a few one-namers, a few thousand wanna-be’s, several not a chance in hell and lots in between, I’ve decided it’s time to take a very long, extended and well deserved break. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved all my adventures and I’ve had enough for many lifetimes. I’ve been unbelievably lucky to have a front row seat to some of the most incredible moments in music and pop-culture history. And let us not forget, I also had my share of begging, waiting, explaining, crying, juggling, keeping secrets, lying on very rare occasions – maybe twice tops, being punched by paparazzi, dancing on ceilings, scraping people off the floor – including myself and oh so much more. I send a huge, wet, juicy kiss from my lips to yours to all of the many people my heart beats for – you know who you are – a hug or warm handshake to those I don’t know as well and blessings to everybody. Shalom y’all. ^ ^ Liz Rosenberg

We’d like to send a huge, wet, juicy kiss and a long overdue tip of the hat to the incomparable, unbeatable and unstoppable Liz Rosenberg for her decades of hard work, guidance, dedication and loyalty – not only to Madonna and the many other artists she’s worked with, but also to us – Madonna’s fans. This fierce, firefighting wonder woman of “publicity” (to term it modestly) was instrumental in bringing Madonna’s music and message to the masses and keeping it there for the next thirty years and beyond. Cutting through mainstream media crap (not to mention paparazzi) like nobody’s business, Liz also took palpable pride in keeping fans informed of the real deal when the press got it wrong (which in Madonna’s case was more often than not), and she did it with style, smarts and a self-deprecating wit that allowed us – and we would suspect Madonna, too – to find levity during some brutally heavy shit-storms. While it clearly takes something extra special to not only survive but thrive in the eye of the unending judgement and scrutiny that such fame brings, the centre simply could not hold without the extra special support and mentorship of a grounding, stabilizing force. Don’t think for a second that we didn’t notice and appreciate all that you did, Liz. Thank you! This joint is for you! xx

Today in Madonna History: June 21, 2015

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On June 21 2015, Madonna and Live Nation announced that Madonna’s Rebel Heart Tour would take Madonna to Australia for the first time in two decades, and her first time ever in New Zealand.

Live Nation Australia and New Zealand:

Madonna will make a historic return to Australia performing live for the first time in 23 years as well as her first ever shows in New Zealand, with her Rebel Heart Tour.

The tour will kick off at Vector Arena on March 5th and 6th in Auckland, followed by the Australian dates presented by Telstra Thanks and including concerts on March 12th & 13th in Melbourne, March 19th & 20th in Sydney and March 26th & 27th in Brisbane.

Tickets and VIP Packages go on sale Monday, July 6th at 10am.

Tour dates:

Vector Arena, Auckland – March 5th
Vector Arena, Auckland – March 6th
Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne – March 12th
Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne – March 13th
Allphones Arena, Sydney – March 19th
Allphones Arena, Sydney – March 20th
Entertainment Centre, Brisbane – March 26th
Entertainment Centre, Brisbane – March 27th

Today in Madonna History: June 12, 2015

On June 12 2015, Madonna’s Bitch I’m Madonna music video teaser premiered.

The video was shot in New York City at the Standard Hotel and was directed by long-time fan-favourite director, Jonas Åkerlund.

Jonas explained how the video evolved:

Madonna called me about Ghosttown. We hadn’t worked for a while because of different circumstances so when I heard all the songs from Rebel Heart, I was very excited about Ghosttown. I connected to it creatively. And, yeah, we enjoyed working together. I was supposed to start something else right after and that got pushed [back] and she asked me to do Bitch I’m Madonna. I saw it being so completely different from Ghosttown, something a little bit less serious, just fun and crazy.

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