Today in Madonna History: July 14, 2008

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On July 14 2008, Madonna and Guy Ritchie were featured on the cover of People Magazine with the caption: “Madonna & Guy Ritchie – Is It Over?”

Here’s a snippet of the article inside by Joe Artolomeo:

For the past five months, it’s been the same story: While Madonna is on one continent making music, working on her Malawi documentary or planning her upcoming tour, her husband, Guy Ritchie, is in another part of the world tending to his own needs. Every few months they reunite—for a photo op, at least. The weekend of June 28 was no different. Madonna was in New York City taking a break from rehearsals to attend services at the Kabbalah Centre with her kids Lourdes, Rocco and David; meanwhile, in London Ritchie was also attending Kabbalah services and spending time with family friend Trudie Styler. On Monday, June 30, he boarded a flight bound for New York City—and his wife.   This time the reunion had a sense of urgency. The British press had spent the past five days reporting that Madonna, 49, and Ritchie, 39, had consulted separate divorce lawyers (she chose Fiona Shackleton, who represented Sir Paul McCartney, said The Times and the Daily Mirror), a story that had first surfaced in early June. They pointed out that neither was wearing a wedding band and noted that during their last public appearance at the Cannes Film Festival, the couple appeared unhappy. When asked if Madonna and Ritchie are breaking up or even just having problems, Madonna’s rep Liz Rosenberg—who only recently insisted the couple were still happily married—told PEOPLE, “No comment.”

Today in Madonna History: May 25, 2004

On May 25 2004, Rolling Stone magazine published a review of Madonna’s Re-Invention World Tour with the headline, “Madonna Reinvents herself. Amid images of war and peace, pop star shows she can sing.”

Here’s the review by Barry Walters:

After twenty years in the limelight, Madonna is expected to cause controversy and reinvent herself for every new tour. So for the May 24th Los Angeles opening of her Re-Invention world trek, Madonna did the most unexpected thing she could: She came back as a great concert singer.

Even the most diehard Madonna fan will concede that her live performances have almost without exception been plagued by a multitude of missed notes, breathy passages, and, as of late, fake British accents. But while Mariah and Whitney have of been losing the acrobatic vocal dexterity and lung power on which their reputations rest, forty-five-year-old Madonna, whom few have ever taken seriously as a musician, has never sounded better than she did during the first of several gigs in her adopted West Coast home. Whether rocking out with classic black Les Paul in hand during a metallic rendition of her early club hit “Burning Up,” or performing “Like a Prayer” behind a screen-projected gospel choir, Madonna belted, and did not once seemed strained. In the midst of a $1 million production festooned with a walkway that jutted out from the stage and over the audience, massive moving video screens, a dozen dancers, a bagpipe player, a stunt skateboarder and a whole lot of emotionally charged anti-war imagery, the focus was nevertheless on Madonna, and how she’s matured into a truly great pop singer.

Opening with a yoga-trained twist on her famous Louis XIV-inspired MTV Video Music Awards rendition of “Vogue” and ending on a kilt-wearing finale of “Holiday” against a video backdrop of national flags that eventually morphed into one, the show was thematically simpler and more focused than her last several productions.

The barbarism of war and the necessity of love were at the heart of the entire show, and both played off each other, sometimes for ironic and decidedly uneasy effect. The original military-themed video footage of “American Life” that the singer withheld at the start of the Iraq war was finally unveiled, and then expanded upon during “Express Yourself,” where Madonna sang her anthem of unbridled, intimate communication in front of dancers dressed as soldiers and goose-stepping with twirling rifles.

By contrast, Madonna closed an extended acoustic section of the show with a straightforward and thoroughly committed rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine” as images of war and poverty-ravaged children eventually gave way to footage of a Muslim boy and his Israeli counterpart smiling as they walked with their arms wrapped around each other.

The heaviness of much of the imagery was balanced by Madonna’s own presence, which seemed remarkably fun-loving and self-assured for the opening night of her most technically complex production. Only when she strapped on an acoustic or electric guitar during several songs and repeatedly glanced at her left hand to make sure it was playing the proper chords did she seem at all nervous. “How many people out there really think that I am the Material Girl?” she asked during a break in her most iconic early smash as she strummed with much deliberation.

For the last several songs, Madonna and her dancers donned black and white kilts, an apparent nod to husband Guy Ritchie’s Scottish heritage, and black T-shirts that read “Kabbalists Do It Better,” a cheeky reference to both her religious studies and the “Italians Do It Better” T-shirt she wore during her video for “Papa Don’t Preach,” a song that was performed without the “near-naked pregnant women” described in pre-tour reports of the show. In a number dedicated for the “fans that’ve stood by me for the last twenty years,” she sang her earliest hit ballad, “Crazy For You,” earnestly and without contrivance.

Madonna’s continued relevance was impressive, but it was even more striking that she’s putting more love and genuine passion into her spectacle than ever.

Today in Madonna History: March 22, 2001

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On March 22 2001, Madonna’s What It Feels Like For A Girl music video premiered.

The video was directed by Madonna’s then-husband, Guy Ritchie, and was deemed to be “Too Hot for TV” by MTV and VH1 because the video depicted gunplay, assault and suicide.

MTV released this statement about the video and their decision to ban it:

It’s been some time since Madonna ruffled the feathers of MTV or VH1 execs with a controversial video — perhaps not since 1992’s Erotica clip — so just under a decade later, the first lady of shock pop is out to prove she can still make ’em sweat.

Unlike the steamy segments of Erotica, 1990’s Justify My Love, and the one that started it all, Like a Prayer, it’s not the sexual content of What It Feels Like for a Girl that raises the red flag, it’s the violence — a concerted no-no in the post-Columbine, and more recently post-Santana, decision-making process.

The music in the video, it should be noted, is a dance remix of the version found on Madonna’s latest album, Music. The album cut will serve as the LP’s third single.

 Directed by her husband, British filmmaker Guy Ritchie (Snatch, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels), the clip depicts gunplay, violent assault and suicide — elements MTV and VH1 prohibit in any videos they air. In it, the pop diva portrays a self-described “nihilistic pissed-off chick” who cruises around town inflicting damage on any man that crosses her path.
After picking up Grandma at the “Ol Kuntz Guest Home,” Madonna crashes into a car full of men who wink at her, threatens male police officers with a squirt gun before sideswiping their vehicle, and mugs a man at an ATM with a stun gun before wrapping her stolen car around a lamppost in what appears to be an intentional act.

The video “shows my character acting out a fantasy and doing things girls are not allowed to do,” Madonna said in a written statement distributed by her record label, Warner Bros. “This is an angry song and I wanted a matching visual with an edgy dance mix.”
Although What It Feels Like for a Girl won’t be added to the music channel’s regular rotation, MTV and VH1 will air the clip just once.

Today in Madonna History: December 18, 2000

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On December 18 2000, Madonna appeared on the cover of People magazine:  Madonna and family: A burglar in the house.

In the predawn hours of Dec. 1, the unsettling sounds of an intruder downstairs awoke Madonna and her fiancé, British film director Guy Ritchie, 32, at their rented Victorian mansion in London’s Notting Hill. By the time help arrived, the thief, who police believe had targeted the house at random, had fled with a laptop computer in Ritchie’s year-old black Range Rover. The shock of the invasion aside, little harm was done. The couple’s 4-month-old son, Rocco, and Madonna’s daughter Lourdes, 4, slept right through the excitement, and the SUV was recovered later that day in London.

“On a scale of 1 to 10,” says Ritchie pal and publicist Kris Thykier, “it’s a 1.”   Yet security plainly rates a 10 in Madonna’s mind. Though she recently knocked L.A. by announcing “I feel safer” in London, she was burgled in the same house last June. After that theft, the star shelled out $280,000 to tighten security at the three-story house, which came equipped with a 5-ft. stone wall and iron railings.

Contrary to press reports that she purchased a $10.3 million Georgian property in nearby Belgravia, real estate agents say that Madonna—who has made a second career of shopping for London houses—is still on the prowl to buy a residence.   Meanwhile, jetting off to Rome 12 hours after the heist to promote her new Music album, Madonna, 42, put aside her burglary fears with a 90-minute shopping spree at the chichi Fendi boutique. Shop manager Mariano Manselli, who declines to confirm reports of a $15,000 tab, demurely labels the haul “Christmas shopping.”

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Today in Madonna History: October 9, 2002

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On October 9 2002, Entertainment Weekly published a review of Swept Away after screening the film at the Vista Theatre in Los Angeles on October 7.

Family and friends (and some celebrities) at the premiere included: Donna and Niki, Guy Oseary, Demi Moore, Claudia Schiffer, Matthew Vaughn, Debi Mazar, Herb Ritts, Joe Henry and Madonna’s sister Melanie.

Here’s a snippet of the review:

Drawn, lacquered, and just about as tanned as Goldmember, Madonna, in Swept Away, appears blowsy and middle-aged, and the hard character of experience does something for her. It allows her to leave vanity aside. (Either that, or her vanity now resides in her biceps, which are sinewy enough to strangle a panther.) Sound the trumpets: For the first time since Desperately Seeking Susan, Madonna doesn’t suck as an actress. In a movie career that is by now nearly as benighted as that of Linda Blair or Maria Montez, she comes through with a performance in which her line readings don’t clatter like broken plates, and she looks at least half as relaxed as she does on stage.

Today In Madonna History: March 16, 2001

On March 16 2001, MTV and VH1 networks announced that Madonna’s new video for What It Feels Like For A Girl would be broadcast only once on March 20 at 11:30 pm because of the controversy over its violent content.

Madonna later released What It Feels Like For A Girl as a DVD single.

Madonna biographer Andrew Morton had this to say about the video:

“The video is entirely consistent with the themes that she has been exploring for the last twenty years, namely the relationship between the sexes, the ambiguity of gender, and the unresolved conflict, for women in a patriarchal society of being fully female and sexual while exercising control over their lives.”

Today in Madonna History: January 30, 2020

On January 30 2020, glowing reviews of Madonna’s first Madame X show in London were published:

Music critic Neil McCormick (The Telegraph) had this to say: Anarchic and experimental – her best show ever? 5 STARS (out of 5)

I’m not sure who was having more fun at the opening of Madonna’s London residency, the audience or the star. She sang, she danced, she joked and she beamed with almost childlike glee at the crowd’s adoring response.

“How happy I am to have made it this far,” she declared, calling London “my second home”.

Madonna first played the city in 1983 to 1,500 early adopters at the Camden Palace. Her next London gig was Wembley Stadium. She was clearly delighted to be back in a venue where she could not just reach out and touch the audience, she could descend from the stage and sit in their laps. “It’s so intimate. It’s gorgeous and a thrill for me to be able to see all your faces.”

David Smyth of the Evening Standard gave the show 4 STARS (out of 5): Madame X is tireless, imaginative and powerfully intimate.

Such drama before Madonna could even take to the stage for her first theatre tour since 1985! Would she arrive drastically late? Would she cancel at the last minute? Tenterhooks all round.

Monday was supposed to be the first of a planned 15 nights at the Palladium, cancelled on doctor’s orders. It was the 10th dropped concert of the Madame X Tour, which began in New York in September and gathered complaints for its late start times.

But tonight at 8.45pm, there she was, dressed as a bloodstained, eyepatch-wearing revolutionary soldier. She was also a spy, a protest marcher and a Portuguese fado singer in the course of a tireless, imaginative show that was far from shrunken arena pop. Thanks especially to an extraordinary troupe of dancers, it was a spectacle that felt more powerful up close.

Like Bruce Springsteen, who showed a different side of himself in his recent Broadway run, and Kate Bush, whose live comeback was more theatre than concert, the 61-year-old has unearthed something new late in her career. The Madame X album may have plummeted out of the charts in an instant, but here its songs dominated and found their purpose.

Batuka, tuneless on record, was euphoric when performed with a mass of smiling, rump-shaking Batuque drummers from Cape Verde. I Rise was far more powerful when backed by footage of anti-gun protests and gay pride marches.

Alexis Petridis of The Guardian, also gave the show 4 STARS (out of 5) and noted: London residency short on hits but big on British banter.

She sings the bare minimum of big hits – Vogue, Like a Prayer, Human Nature – with Express Yourself and La Isla Bonita reduced to interstitial roles (the former performed as a sweet, but brief a cappella duet with her daughter Mercy), and American Life performed in full.

Still, it occasionally serves to remind you that some of Madame X is better than its relatively muted commercial response might suggest – Medellín sounds like the hit single it wasn’t, as does the gorgeous album track Crazy. This is presumably part of the point – the other part being a certain screw-you intransigence designed to underline that we are in the presence of an artiste, not a pop star.

And the BBC had a few fun notes to add in their review:

The audience were required to store mobile phones in sealed pouches as “an intervention for us all”. However, Madonna admitted that even she was getting anxious without a phone nearby.

“I’m having little panic attacks,” she joked. “I’m like, ‘Why is no-one taking my picture?'”

But the gambit worked: Freed from distractions, the audience gave the concert their undiluted attention; while Madonna seemed to relax and have fun without a phalanx of tiny cameras recording her every move.

At one point, she slipped into a British accent and recalled how she’d been ridiculed for developing similarly plummy vowels during her marriage to Guy Ritchie.

“I didn’t know what anyone was talking about until I heard old interviews of myself,” she said. “And then I was horrified and flabbergasted. Why did you let me do that to myself? I’m from Michigan!”

“It’s all Guy Ritchie’s fault,” she decided. “He made me to it.”

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