Madonna’s new album comes out this month. Madame X will be her fourteenth studio album, released 36 years after her debut. In that time, Madonna has basically done it all, from being condemned by the Catholic Church to playing Eva Peron to getting banned from MTV to releasing an entire book about her sex life. If a pop star tries to be shocking today, the chances are they’re just doing something Madonna already did. Regardless of what you think of Madonna, she is an undeniably revolutionary force in pop music, and one whose impact lasts to this day. She’s also simply refused to go away, and that seems to bother a lot of people. Now aged 60, Madonna is still performing sexually explicit music with the stage performances to match. She’s muscled and tight-faced and decidedly un-60, which seems to be the prevailing concern of even the most encouraging reviews of her new music. Every tabloid columnist or talk show host seems to have an opinion on whether Madge is ‘over the hill’ or ‘embarrassing herself’, as if she’s ever cared about such things.
In a new profile from The New York Times, Madonna is suitably candid about issues of age and the public’s almost violent rejection of older women from the pop culture narrative, but is also as blunt on the topic as you would expect from Madonna. Vanessa Grigoriadis wrote:
‘When we talked about aging, I was surprised when she turned the issue back on me. “I think you think about growing old too much,” she said later. “I think you think about age too much. I think you should just stop thinking about it.” She went on: “Stop thinking, just live your life and don’t be influenced by society trying to make you feel some type of way about your age or what it is you’re supposed to be doing.” I told her that’s hard to do, and she agreed. “We are a marginalized group, women. And just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you stop fighting against it or defying it or refusing to be pigeonholed or put in a box or labeled or told you can and can’t do things.” I felt a little foolish for thinking that she would want to talk to me about my own concern about aging, like an older sister. She was an icon, not a shoulder to lean on.’
But Madonna has of course talked a lot about age. when she won Billboard Woman of the Year in 2016, she spoke tearfully on the double standards she’s faced throughout her career and how, as you reach a certain age, your music probably won’t get played on the radio, which happened with her last album, Rebel Heart (which is a great album, by the way).
The topic of those leaks come up in the profile, where she describes the emotional toll it took on her:
‘“There are no words to describe how devastated I was,” she said. “It took me a while to recover, and put such a bad taste in my mouth I wasn’t really interested in making music.” She added, “I felt raped.” It didn’t feel right to explain that women these days were trying not to use that word metaphorically.’
Yeah… Let’s not use that word like that, please? I understand the violation of trust that must have happened here, but it benefits nobody to use the term ‘raped’ so glibly.
Another topic that comes up in the piece is Harvey Weinstein. Miramax distributed Truth or Dare, the Madonna tour documentary that is perhaps the pinnacle of the genre in terms of showing a massively famous person in total control of their image. She describes her own experience with Weinstein:
‘“Harvey crossed lines and boundaries and was incredibly sexually flirtatious and forward with me when we were working together; he was married at the time, and I certainly wasn’t interested,” she said. She added: “I was aware that he did the same with a lot of other women that I knew in the business. And we were all, ‘Harvey gets to do that because he’s got so much power and he’s so successful and his movies do so well and everybody wants to work with him, so you have to put up with it.’ So that was it. So when it happened, I was really like, ‘Finally.’ I wasn’t cheering from the rafters because I’m never going to cheer for someone’s demise. I don’t think that’s good karma anyway. But it was good that somebody who had been abusing his power for so many years was called out and held accountable.”’
You know what, I think your karma’s good if you want to cheer on Weinstein’s downfall, to be honest. But Madonna’s quotes do highlight just how well known Harvey’s sh*tty behaviour was for decades, and how such things were just accepted because hey, that’s what powerful men do. It’s also worth noting that W.E., Madonna’s film about Wallis Simpson, received its US release via The Weinstein Company in 2011.
As with all things Madonna, the entire profile is worth reading. It is gripping and aggravating and perplexing and won’t do much to change whatever your pre-existing opinions on the Queen of Pop are. For now, let’s enjoy some classic Madonna.
Header Image Source: Getty Images.