Madonna made the announcement yesterday that everyone had already predicted: she’ll be performing at Pride Island at the end of this month for New York City’s World Pride. She posted it in a fun Instagram story where she twirls around in a pride flag singing the intro to “Medellin”.
I might get my gay membership card revoked for saying this, but I’m not actually all that excited about this news. Now before you all (Lainey included) send me inordinate amounts of hate mail about this position, I want to make it clear: I don’t hate Madonna. In fact, I love a lot of her music, especially “Music” from 2000. And while I might be ignorant and too young to appreciate many, many things, I am fully aware of Madonna’s importance to the LGBTQ+ community, both culturally and socio-politically. Just last month she received the Advocate for Change Award at the 2019 GLAAD Awards for her continued service and advocacy on behalf of the community. Plus, you can’t even go to a gay bar and not like Madonna because “Vogue” plays like every five minutes.
However, there’s something about recent Madonna that seems disconnected from the icon that we know and love. Madonna is the queen of reinvention, evolving herself for every new era and refusing to let age define her. As tastes and music have changed, so has Madonna adapted, a testament to her creative genius and versatility. But as Madonna approached 60, it seemed like reinvention became more like desperation to stay relevant.
I think Anne Helen Peterson puts it best in her book The Rise and Reign of Unruly Women which I quote a lot because it continues to blow my mind. AHP examines the way Madonna fights the toxic societal notion that women past a certain age should look and act a certain way (namely sexless and basically ignored). Obviously, these standards are bullsh-t, and she goes into much more intellectual depth about where they come from and how they relate back to Madonna. However, AHP brings up an interesting point right at the beginning of the chapter:
“In the past, her iconoclastic power stemmed from a constant looking forward – a devouring of the future in order to explode the past. Today, she’s increasingly obsessed with retreading her history – her past image, her past looks, her past body – in a manner that doesn’t feel liberating or unruly so much as self-obsessive.”
I don’t have a problem with Madonna performing at Pride Island. Obviously. She’s Madonna. What I’m worried about is that it’ll be an opportunity for yet another display of relevancy instead of the legendary tribute performance that we all want. A good example is her recent Billboard Awards performance where she performed with holograms of herself; her need to prove herself and push forward with the latest tech detracted from the sexiness and raw power of “Medellin”, a raw and sexy song (*eye emojis at Maluma*). Madonna has had a storied career, and I just want to see Madonna revel in all her glory and success, without all the other stuff.
Still, let me check my bias here. As a man, perhaps I’m leaning on the same societal norms that AHP describes, and that I simply want to box Madonna into a false category that apparently suits her age. If I am, call me out, please. Perhaps my lack of enthusiasm is partly because I don’t have a direct memory of the earlier Madonna days to draw upon, and partly because the cringiest thing known to young people is someone who isn’t young, trying to be young. (Lainey: um, hello. That’s me.) That may seem harsh, but it’s less of a criticism and more of a desire to appreciate the style, tastes, and work of another time. My generation is all about true retro (or at least the appearance of it). It’s why we love Stranger Things and 70s Fonts, but why we hate live action remakes of Disney Movies.
Madonna at Pride makes sense given her role and commitment to the LGBTQ community. At the same time, it also comes right after the release of Madame X on June 14th. Maybe I’m just an ignorant young person, but I’d much rather see old Madonna up there over Madame X.
Attached - Madonna performing in Tel Aviv a couple of weeks ago.