Could Madonna’s career be at a crossroad ?


IF you believe some of what you’ve heard in the past week, Madonna’s first Australian tour in 23 years has been a trainwreck.

But reports of her wild and erratic behaviour have been greatly exaggerated. She’s not been drunk on stage — she sipped a cocktail. Yes, she’s kept fans waiting as she takes her time starting the show — but for better or worse, elastic concert times are as intrinsically Madonna at this stage as Like A Prayer and her conical bra.

Madonna takes to the stage at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena over the weekend. Picture: Yuri KoluzminSource:News Corp Australia
Madonna takes to the stage at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena over the weekend. Picture: Yuri KoluzminSource:News Corp Australia

And remember, those who waited for hours to see her Melbourne Forum show Tears Of A Clown last week were given their tickets for free — and rewarded with a two-hour show in an intimate setting.

Australians are notoriously hard to please concert-goers, particularly when it comes to the big touring acts who visit us infrequently – so expectations are high. Britney Spears has toured Australia just once, and attracted a fan backlash due to the fact she mimed her entire show. Whitney Houston’s 2010 final Australian tour was touted as a triumphant comeback, but met with audience walk outs and bad reviews as the toll her lifestyle had taken on her voice was laid bare.

In contrast, reviews for Madonna’s Rebel Heart tour have been glowing, with fans agreeing it’s been worth the 23-year wait to have the Queen of Pop back on our shores.

The tour leans heavily on Madonna’s most recent album, Rebel Heart, which is in itself an odd beast. Weighing in at a bloated 20 tracks, it combines classic Madonna balladry (Ghost Town, Joan of Arc), with flimsy party jams (Unapologetic Bitch, Bitch, I’m Madonna). It has sold 650,000 copies worldwide, a fraction of the multi-million sales figures she commanded only a few years ago (2005’s polishedConfessions On A Dance Floor sold 12 million worldwide).

Those sales figures don’t paint the whole picture, though: nowadays, Madonna makes music to tour it, with her worldwide jaunts raking in staggering box office figures (thanks in no small part to her eye-watering ticket prices). The real question is: What kind of music does Madonna want to make now?

Bitch I’m Madonna

Last week’s Tears Of A Clown concert — a relatively spur-of-the-moment and remarkably intimate gig — was a fascinatingly uncharacteristic moment for Madonna. So much of her career — particularly on stage — has been built around discipline and control, delivering spectacle so intense she’s at times seemed almost superhuman. From the groundbreaking Blonde Ambition tour onwards, Madonna has been locked in competition with herself, upping the stakes on each subsequent tour. This is a woman who, on her 2006 Confessions tour, emerged on stage from inside a giant disco ball and, a costume change later, rose above the audience strapped to a giant cross in crucifixion mode.

Madonna during her Confessions tour, crucified for ‘Live To Tell’. Picture: GettySource:Supplied
Madonna during her Confessions tour, crucified for ‘Live To Tell’. Picture: GettySource:Supplied

In stark contrast, last week Madonna arrived on stage at the Forum riding a children’s tricycle, then settled on to a stool, often with a guitar in hand, to sing a selection of the sort of career-best hidden gems so often forgotten about in the current rush to denigrate her talents. Fan-favourite album tracks from artistic high points Ray of Light and American Life filled the evening — each of them a world away from the trend-chasing songs frontloaded onto her last few albums.

Much has been made of the fact that Madonna is currently locked in a painful custody battle with ex-husband Guy Ritchie over her teenage son Rocco, for whom she’s clearly pining. The footage from her Forum show in which Madonna talks about her son is shocking, in that she’s visibly upset, and comfortable sharing her emotions with fans. This isn’t the confident, unassailable Madonna we’re used to seeing on stage.

Madonna dedicates a song to Rocco

But perhaps there’s more at play here. Madonna’s infamously reticent to look back on her career — it’s why her tours aren’t crowd-pleasing greatest hits sets, but it’s also why she continues to make new music some 33 years after the release of her debut album.

Madonna said she was devastated by the death of music icon David Bowie in January. Could his passing — and the subsequent rush to eulogise his incredible career – have something to do with her sudden urge to re-evaluate her musical output? Does Madonna have a new understanding that, at this point in her career, many have forgotten she’s still first and foremost a pop cultural innovator with a musical back catalogue of fantastic, boundary-pushing songs?

Madonna – Paradise (Not For Me)

Some of the songs she performed at last week’s show — Paradise (Not For Me), Mer Girl — could stand alongside Bowie’s most interesting and experimental work. Unlike, ahem, Bitch I’m Madonna, this was Madonna doing pop at its most daring. At 57, is Madonna finally starting to ‘look back’, to consider her legacy? Is she ready to remind people of her very best and most personal works?

On Sunday, Madonna finishes her 82-date Rebel Heart World Tour in Sydney. From there, she’s at a crossroads: She can stay on the pop diva merry-go-round if she likes — hell, by now it’s second nature. Or perhaps Tears Of A Clown could become the new normal: Maybe Madonna letting the imperious ‘Queen of Pop’ mantle slip could be the best thing to happen to her career right now. Whatever happens, it’s an exciting time to be a fan.

Courtesy of by Nick Bond

Christina Vixx

I was born and raised in Toronto Canada. I love writing, poetry and music. I'm a contributor for SocialMediaMorning. Make sure you follow me on Twitter and Facebook!

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