Radio 1 has responded to Madonna’s much-maligned antics at the Grammys by dropping her from its playlist. So has the bottom fallen out of her market? Not yet, says Emily Jupp
Madonna is having a bit of a bad-news week. The best-selling female recording artist of all time, boundary-pushing mistress of reinvention and courter of controversy, has seen her credentials come into question after her latest single, “Living for Love”, was pulled from Radio 1’s playlist. Apparently, it has been deemed irrelevant to the remit of the station, which aims to “reflect the lives and interests of 15–29-year-olds.”
So is the queen of pop losing her touch? Her Instagram and Twitter feeds suggest that she hasn’t been totally in sync with the prevailing mood after she likened the recent leak of her album, Rebel Heart, to a “form of terrorism” and then piggy-backed on the #jesuischarlie hashtag to promote it.
And it’s true that while the 56-year-old was once a trendsetter, in recent years she has been more of a trend-follower and taken to copying whatever it is that the young folk in her industry are doing.
Last year officially became the year of the rear, after it was bookmarked by two “asses”; at the start of the year, Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” sampled Sir-Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” while the video featured twerking dancers, and in December Kim Kardashian attempted to “break the internet” with her booty.
Madonna tried to jump on the booty bandwagon at the Grammy Awards earlier this month. Like a demented grandma at a school disco, she flashed her fishnet-clad buttocks, squished happily together in an upside-down thong, declaring, “It’s the age of ass, isn’t it?” Poor Madonna failed to realise that the tide had turned. It’s 2015, we’ve reached peak ass, and she was surrounded by women trying to cover up.
On the same night Madonna mooned, Rihanna, who wore her own skin and a blazer to the British Fashion Awards in 2014, was swamped by a dress resembling a giant pink pom-pom that covered her from toe to collarbone while the Australian eccentric Sia wore a wig that covered her whole face.
Musically, too, Madonna seems to be a few yards behind the cutting edge. She has just cottoned on to electronic dance music. On Rebel Heart there’s a tune called “Iconic”, which features an intro from Mike Tyson and a verse performed by the not terribly famous Chance the Rapper. It would have set the dancefloor alive at Heaven in 2013.
On the other hand, you could view her recent activity as simply playing to what is popular rather than trying to carve a new path. There is no shame in giving people what they want, and doing something that’s tried and tested. It’s only because we’re used to Madonna surprising us through the years (remember the black Jesus in “Like a Prayer”? Or the time she snogged Britney Spears at the Video Music Awards in 2003?) that we’re holding the star up to the standard of reinvention she set for herself. Maybe all she is doing is admitting – in her own flamboyant way – that it’s new musicians who set the trends. Her album also features collaborations with Nas, Diplo, Nicki Minaj and Kanye West. Surely that shows that she’s savvy, and generous, enough to recognise the power that they have to pull in audiences.
Speaking of which, when it was announced that Madonna would be performing at the Brit Awards, booking site Viagogo saw a 174 per cent per cent spike in demand overnight for tickets – a sign that the queen of pop hasn’t lost her relevance just yet.
As for the BBC snub, her single may have been dropped by Radio 1, but her songs are still finding relevance at the institution. The 1984 hit “Like a Virgin” will be heard in the background of an episode of EastEnders on 19 February while the Erick Morillo remix of “Looking for Love” was played on Radio 1’s Essential Mix on Valentine’s Day.
Just because one song has been dropped from the playlist, it doesn’t mean that we should give up on Her Madgesty just yet. Three decades after her Like a Virgin tour, Madonna is gearing up for another world tour this year and, judging by her sculpted behind, she’s fit enough to put on a spectacular show.
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