Today in Madonna History: July 20, 1990

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On July 20 1990, Madonna performed the first of three Blond Ambition Tour concerts at Wembley Stadium in London. She also performed on July 21 and 22.

BBC Radio 1 broadcast the full July 21 show, live from Wembley Stadium with no time delay, which led to controversy over the amount of swear words Madonna uttered live on air and the BBC had to issue an apology. Madonna said the F-word 24 times.

Highlights of the show were later aired after the 1992 interview with Madonna and Simon Bates.

Today in Madonna History: May 19, 2019

On May 19 2019, Madonna was scolded in the international press for “making a political statement” during her performance at the Eurovision Song Contest held the previous day, which ended with performers wearing Israeli and Palestinean flags on their backs with arms interlocked in embrace and the words “wake up” appearing on a stage screens.

Madonna’s camp responded with what should be (but is apparently not) obvious: “A message of peace is not a political statement.”

Here is the common definition of the term political statement:

The term political statement is used to refer to any act or non-verbal form of communication that is intended to influence a decision to be made for or by a political party. A political statement can vary from a mass demonstration to the wearing of a badge with a political slogan.

How exactly Madonna’s performance constitutes a political statement in the eyes of the media is puzzling. She did not endorse the political advancement or agenda of either side; she simply reiterated her longstanding and widely expressed wish for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

A more reasonable argument would be that had she not included this symbolic gesture in her performance, it may have been construed as muted political support for Israel’s position. By making the gesture she did, she instead reiterated her political neutrality and her wish for peace.

Equally telling was the network’s response that its desire was to broadcast an entertainment special that essentially whitewashed the realities of the conflict. Clearly, they would have us believe that ignoring the conflict is the acceptable, non-partisan stance, while acknowledging the conflict and expressing one’s hope for its peaceful resolution should be viewed as provocational or controversial.

The irony is that it is only those who are trying to frame Madonna’s actions as a political statement that are, in fact, making one.

Today in Madonna History: April 5, 2003

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On April 5 2003, an Australian interview aired that demonstrated Madonna’s quick change of heart regarding the American Life music video.

During the interview with Richard Wilkins, the following dialog takes place:

Wilkins: “You’re going to get all sorts of criticism I think.”

Madonna: “Why. Tell me why!”

W: “People are going to say it’s inappropriate to show bombs going off and planes bombing people.”

M: “Why? That’s on the news every five minutes! I’m just using news footage that’s already been seen by everyone.”

W: “I’m suggesting that some people are going to think maybe it’s ill-timed.”

M: “But in a way it’s perfect timing, because it’s what we are experiencing right now – so, it’s American life. It’s very current and appropriate I think.”

Wilkins may have convinced Madonna to go cold on the idea.

“Maybe I did, perhaps I caused her to think again,” he said. “She is very proud of the video, as she should be because it’s incredible.”

By the time the interview aired (a week later), Madonna had already pulled the American Life video and made a statement regarding her choice.

You can read the statement and watch the full music video here.

Today in Madonna History: April 4, 1989

On April 4 1989, Pepsi-Cola announced it had banned all future broadcasts of the Madonna/Pepsi-Cola commercial, cancelled her 1-year contract and the sponsorship of what would have been the Like A Prayer World Tour, due to the boycott threats from religious groups against her own Like A Prayer music video.

Here’s a snippet of an article from the New York Times (printed April 5, 1989):

”When you’ve got an ad that confuses people or concerns people, it just makes sense that that ad goes away,” said Tod MacKenzie, a spokesman for Pepsico Inc. He would not say whether Pepsico had canceled its sponsorship of Madonna’s tour.

Pepsico paid Madonna more than $5 million to appear in a two-minute commercial that first appeared on March 2. In it, Madonna traveled back to her 8th birthday.

Jay’s Thought: Had the Like A Prayer World Tour gone forward as planned, Madonna might not have participated in Dick Tracy or released I’m Breathless or Vogue for that matter. How different would the Like A Prayer World Tour set-list have been from Blond Ambition?

Today In Madonna History: February 24, 1996

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On February 24 1996, Madonna was at the centre of a controversy when animal-rights group PETA placed a full-page ad in Billboard magazine as an attack on her for promoting bullfighting in the Take A Bow and You’ll See music videos.

Today In Madonna History: February 22, 1991

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On February 22 1991, Madonna’s  Justify My Love VHS single was certified 4x platinum (400,000 units) in the USA.

Today in Madonna History: January 19, 1991

On January 19 1991, Billboard magazine reported on the controversy surrounding Madonna’s use of prose from the Book of Revelations in a remix featured on the maxi-single of Justify My Love, titled The Beast Within. The remix was created by Madonna & Lenny Kravitz during the recording session for Justify My Love.

While The Beast Within would later be featured prominently in 1993’s Girlie Show tour and as the opening sequence of 2004’s Re-Invention tour, in both cases the biblical verse that had sparked the controversy was excluded.

The article also mentions the song’s use of Public Enemy’s Security Of The First World as the basis of Justify My Love‘s rhythm track, with Public Enemy’s co-producer revealing an intent to sue Madonna & Kravitz over its use. Madonna had only received credit for “additional lyrics” on the song, while Kravitz was originally credited as composer and producer.

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