What we can expect from Madonna’s latest comeback
Underestimate the Queen of Pop at your peril.
History has taught the world, time and time again, that writing off Madonna always proves to be a mistake.
Proof? Well, in the mid 90’s the Material Girl was widely derided for being abhorrently smutty, past her 80s peak and, to boot, a terrible actress. So what did she do? Well, she released Ray of Light in1998, one of the most triumphant and celebrated pop records of the 21st century, and defiantly starred in Evita, proving many a naysayer wrong (a victory she would quickly undo two years later with The Next Best Thing, acting-wise, but let’s not dwell on that.)
Remember 2005? Reeling from a backlash, American Life had secured an unenviable spot as being the lowest selling album of her Madgesty’s career – although it still sold millions and gained a retrospective cult following, demonstrating that this superstar even ‘flops’ with class – and in the process, she also ferociously angered America with an anti-war stance that, back then, was not embraced by Americans. (See: the end of the Dixie Chicks career.) For the first time in her career, radio had turned its back on Madonna. And approaching 50 was also not helping matters.
Cut to: Confessions on a Dancefloor. Anyone still Hung Up on an anti-Madonna stance soon found themselves saying… sorry. One genius ABBA sample later, and the singer promptly found herself back on top, with one of the biggest hits of her career, and 12 million copies of COAD sold during a time when album sales were floundering.
And now, here we are again. Madonna, many would argue, finds herself backed into a corner. 2015’s Rebel Heart was plagued with struggles. While critically acclaimed and adored by fans, the album faced one of many high-profile leaks that the Queen of Pop has faced during her reign, this one resulting in a man being charged, and saw Madonna fall arse-over-tit during a promotional performance of lead single Living For Love at the BRIT Awards, a painful moment which went viral and became, itself, more iconic than the single that was performed that night. The album, ultimately, was considered an underperformance commercially, despite another blockbuster accompanying tour, causing many to brand Miss Ciccone a merely touring force these days, and an undeniably popular one at that, but not an act who’ll be bothering the charts again.
But oh… when will her critics learn?
These periods have always been the times when Madonna has traditionally most felt she has a point to prove, before taking delight in unleashing new material on the world that has us all, once again, bowing to her brilliance.
Last night, the undisputed musical monarch sent superfans globally into a frenzy by mysteriously beginning her new era. And she did it with just one letter: X.
Posted on Instagram, a red graphic of the letter with a black background. Sexy, right? And let’s face it. No one does sexy like Madonna. But X can mean so many things in the Madonna universe.
Ex, for one. Many, mistakenly, may consider her the ex Queen of Pop during a time when Ariana Grande rules the charts with a potent mix of RnB grooves and hip pop beats.
X-rated, perhaps, Madonna could mean. After all, no one has been more X rated than the Queen. (See: Justify my Love, Erotica and, of course, The Sex Book.)
X doesn’t mean 10 though. If, as many predict, she is on the eve of announcing a new era, this will mark Madonna album number 14, not ten.
So what does she mean?
Is X the title of her new album? Her new tour? Her new film? (Please, no.) Perfume? Child?
No one knows for definite, but it’s pretty safe to assume it is her album, as we already know Madonna has been busy working in the studio, and has filmed not one but potentially two music videos already. One we know about because the drag queen – and RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 4 winner – Monet XChange told all about being on a Madonna music video shoot in LA when explaining why she had to drop out of the Haters Roast tour earlier this year.
And insiders have told London X that Madonna has filmed another video at her UK residence, with a selection of skimpy outfits, suggesting that this era will be just as controversial as every other.
Excitingly, or should that be X-citingly -there have also been rumours of a duet with Lady Gaga, since the two former feuding pop stars put their beef to rest and made up after the Oscars this year – where Gaga won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for Shallow from A Star is Born – posing for a photograph together and posting it on social media to much hysteria from fans of both stars.
How amazing would it be to see them collaborate? Dare we even imagine?
Madonna has also hinted that the album will have Portuguese musical influences, after becoming heavily inspired by the country since living there.
Cohesion is also something she has promised. After previous album Rebel Heart, and its predecessor 2012’s MDNA, were criticised for being ‘all over the place,’ this seems to be an issue Madonna is addressing.
Last year she responded to an Instagram post from her manager Guy Oseary tributing the 20th anniversary of Ray of Light by writing: “Can you help me now please!! Remember when I made records with other artists from beginning to end and I was allowed to be a visionary and not have to go to songwriting camps where no one can sit still for more than 15 minutes.”
She then added fire emojis before saying: “Coming soon.”
Later that year at the MET Gala she performed on the stairs – which was a bold move for a woman still associated with the aforementioned high profile fall, but Madge is nothing if not bold – and gave fans a taster of one new song Beautiful Game with a live performance, which may or may not be on M14, we don’t know.
Since then, all has gone relatively quiet on the Madonna front. Apart from attracting much attention for her bum after a picture of her performing on New Year’s Eve went viral, showing her with a fuller derriere, sparking speculation that she had had bum implants, we’ve heard very little.
However, she’s also rumoured to be performing two songs at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, held in Tel Aviv, Israel, in May, bizarrely. Not a conventional move, but one that would certainly grant her a huge audience and platform to showcase new material.
It’s certainly shaping up to be an interesting year for the Queen of Pop, and fans are more than ready to be introduced to the latest incarnation from a woman who has kept pop culture on its toes for more than three decades and counting.
Because a new Madonna album is, undoubtedly, always an event.