When it was first announced that Madonna would be honouring Prince at the Billboard Music Awards last night, people were pissed, understandably. Because Madonna, lately, has been too f-cking much. And Madonna, always, makes it about herself.
So the expectations, they weren’t high. And, perhaps, since they weren’t that high, I came out of her performance thinking… it could have been worse. Which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement. But still, it could have been worse. Stevie Wonder certainly helped legitimise the performance and, by Madonna standards, the Me Madonna Me Me-ness was low.
Many people have many reasons to be upset about Madonna’s suitability to tribute Prince. All of them are valid. For me though, growing up in the 80s, I didn’t hate that it was Madonna. Michael Jackson is gone. Whitney Houston is gone. Prince is now gone. They all rose during a certain time. And Madonna is the one who remains. Madonna might be one of the few people who can appreciate what it was like for them because she has lived it herself. And as I watched her on stage last night, I wondered whether or not she felt her mortality. Artists at that level aren’t supposed to acknowledge their mortality – or at least they pretend it doesn’t apply to them. So we pretend it doesn’t apply to them. Maybe that’s why it’s such an “earthquake”, as QuestLove said, when it turns out they can, indeed, leave. And do. Too often and too early.