Category Archives: Madonna

The Madonna Timeline: Song #135 – ‘Queen’

{Note: The Madonna Timeline is an ongoing feature, where I put the iPod on shuffle, and write a little anecdote on whatever was going on in my life when that Madonna song was released and/or came to prominence in my mind.}

It will never rain, never rain

If the great sky falls down, no rain, no more rain

Blood’s pouring down, high alert, we watch it burn

It’s a world undeceived, sirens, sirens

Everyone’s whispering, the CIA, MI6

Hire the unknown

We’re at the end of days

For heaven’s sake

 

The queen’s been slain

She’ll never rule again

The queen’s been slain

She’ll never rule again

Your queen’s been slain

Queen’s been slain

This lackluster Madonna Timeline entry was one of the ‘Rebel Heart’ bonus tracks, and it probably should have been left off that hodge-podge too as it is a dirge-like bummer of a song. I suppose it holds a certain power and grace, offering a hint of royalty and a time of manners and honor and respect long gone. It was also reportedly written in honor of Princess Diana, which is neither here nor there.

I don’t much care for it, and that’s ok. The bridge is trying at best, echoing another sub-par work ‘Hey You’ (which is about as exciting as its title suggests). The rest is all gloom and doom, and we’ve had enough of that for the moment. Let’s fast-forward this – it’s one big meh…

Who will take her place?

It’s written on everyone’s face

The truth is slowly dawning

I hear tomorrow calling

Some things can’t be replaced

The realization of a new generation

On the eve of imitation

All gone, overthrown

 

The queen’s been slain

She’ll never rule again

The queen’s been slain

She’ll never rule again

Your queen’s been slain

Queen’s been slain

 

May God bless you all.

SONG #135 – ‘Queen’ 

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The Madonna Timeline: Song #134 – ‘Inside Out’

{Note: The Madonna Timeline is an ongoing feature, where I put the iPod on shuffle, and write a little anecdote on whatever was going on in my life when that Madonna song was released and/or came to prominence in my mind.}

HOLD ME CLOSER, FULL DISCLOSURE

LET IT OUT, LET ME IN

ON YOUR KNEES, CONFESS TO ME

EVERY DOUBT, EVERY SIN

THAT’S HOW LOVE’S SUPPOSED TO BE

Every work day begins with the same ritual: the walk from the car to the office building. Whether I’m being dropped off or parking on site, there is always The Walk. Throughout a decade and a half of state office work, I’ve had a number of variations on this theme, but The Walk has remained constant. From a parking lot where my Subaru would bake in the hot sun, to a comparatively luxurious covered-garage where the path to my desk was entirely shielded from the outside weather, The Walk was different for every location, but its essence was the same. These days I’m lucky enough to be driven to the side of my office building, where I make a brief but important fifty foot trek to the door. It’s short, but a lot happens in that small distance.

I WANNA KNOW WHAT YOU’RE ALL ABOUT

YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL WHEN YOU’RE BROKEN DOWN

LET YOUR WALLS CRUMBLE TO THE GROUND

LET ME LOVE YOU FROM THE INSIDE OUT

EVERY SCAR THAT YOU TRY TO HIDE

ALL THE DARK CORNERS OF YOUR MIND

SHOW ME YOURS AND I’LL SHOW YOU MINE

LET ME LOVE YOU FROM THE INSIDE OUT

It is here where I truly “dress” for the day. No matter what extravagance I’ve draped over my body, no matter which coat and bag I’ve chosen as armor, I’m not completely dressed until The Walk. You see, or you don’t see in this case, the most important thing a person can wear is not on the outside. It’s how you carry yourself. Do you believe enough in who you are to wear whatever you want? Or do you falter and waver, relying on a power suit or black dress to instill the confidence you lack? To me it depends on the day. Sometimes I am that strong, sometimes I’m not. No matter which it might be, I take a moment on The Walk to prepare myself for whatever may come. In the darkness of a winter morning or the bright emboldening sun of the summer, in the balmy humidity of August or the dry chill of February, I make The Walk, and try to decipher a little bit more of who we dare to be, and why.

LET’S DISCOVER ONE ANOTHER

KISS ME HERE, TOUCH ME THERE,

PUREST FORM OF ECSTASY

TRUTH OR DARE, DON’T BE SCARED

LET ME SOLVE YOUR MYSTERY

I summon the spirits of Miranda Priestley, Norma Desmond, and Margo Channing. I conjure the regal bearing of the kings and queens that history has worshipped and deified. I become imperious, haughty, untouchable and divine. With each step I inhale the brisk, blunt, bold persona I so desperately want to embody, and I build myself up to mythic stature through sheer force of will. If I believe it, they might believe it too. By the time I enter the building, I am, in my own mind and countenance, a formidable force. If only a fraction of that comes through, I might be all right. I might make it through the day.

I WANNA KNOW WHAT YOU’RE ALL ABOUT

YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL WHEN YOU’RE BROKEN DOWN

LET YOUR WALLS CRUMBLE TO THE GROUND

LET ME LOVE YOU FROM THE INSIDE OUT

EVERY SCAR THAT YOU TRY TO HIDE

ALL THE DARK CORNERS OF YOUR MIND

SHOW ME YOURS AND I’LL SHOW YOU MINE

LET ME LOVE YOU FROM THE INSIDE OUT

On most work days I take my lunch alone. I prefer it that way. In my line of work I have to deal with people all day – phone calls, meetings, discussions (even going to the bathroom can be a social booby trap) – so when I get a break I revel in whatever moments of solitude I can find. Yet even on my own, I’m keenly aware of how people react to me. I notice every furtive stare, every stolen glance, and I’m extremely, though inwardly, self-conscious about it. It’s a vicious little cycle – in paying attention to others, I’m deflected into paying attention to myself, which, contrary to all apparent evidence and popular belief, is not how I prefer to spend my time.

LET’S CROSS THE LINE

SO FAR WE WON’T COME BACK

CAN’T READ YOUR MIND

I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO ASK

CYNICAL SMILE

TIME TO TAKE OFF YOUR MASK

I’M ON YOUR SIDE

SO LET ME LOVE YOU

LET ME LOVE YOU

LET ME LOVE YOU FROM THE INSIDE OUT

Last week, for some unknown reason, I didn’t notice the people noticing me. A few surely were, I did catch one or two, mostly because I had a ridiculously over-the-top coat on. But then I looked down at the sidewalk, and then up at the buildings and storefronts, and when I stopped noticing them noticing me, I was overcome with a wild sense of relief, and a wonderful feeling of freedom. ‘When one’s mind is on one’s own business…’

Maybe it’s a sign of growing up. Maybe it’s a sign of authentic confidence. Maybe it’s a sign of genuinely not giving a shit what others think. When you play at something long enough, it tends to come true. 

I WANNA KNOW WHAT YOU’RE ALL ABOUT

YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL WHEN YOU’RE BROKEN DOWN

LET YOUR WALLS CRUMBLE TO THE GROUND

LET ME LOVE YOU FROM THE INSIDE OUT

What does this have to do with a Madonna song? I’m not entirely sure. Madonna has always been about self-reflection/self-obsession, and a song like ‘Inside Out’ can be read as a simple ode of love to another, or as a way of getting to know your own self better. It’s one of the more majestic cuts from the ‘Rebel Heart’ opus, a beautiful power ballad with a meandering bass line and magnificent bridge. Pop perfection in a world that has lost touch with melody and song structure. At a more risky and romantic time, I would have given myself to this song, and to whomever held my interest at the time. I’m older now, and yearnings have quieted into something resembling sense.

EVERY SCAR THAT YOU TRY TO HIDE

ALL THE DARK CORNERS OF YOUR MIND

SHOW ME YOURS AND I’LL SHOW YOU MINE

LET ME LOVE YOU FROM THE INSIDE OUT

I still make The Walk every morning I go to work, but some days I forget myself, not bothering to build up the image that I expect others have of me. I forget to channel Madonna and Miranda and Margo, and I walk in without artifice or attitude, content to study the air, seeking a hint of spring, searching for something bigger than myself.

SONG #134 – ‘Inside Out’ 

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A Hint of Madonna to Come

Tomorrow the next installment of the Madonna Timeline returns with a cut from her latest album ‘Rebel Heart’. When in doubt, I always come back to Madonna for inspiration and invigoration. This song proves no exception, but before we dive into the beauty of ‘Inside Out’ here is a quick look back at the last few timeline entries, as there was a bit of a stretch without them.

Easy Ride‘ ~ American Life

Devil Pray‘ ~ Rebel Heart

Pray for Spanish Eyes‘ ~ Like A Prayer

Messiah‘ ~ Rebel Heart

Spotlight‘ ~ You Can Dance

Jump‘ ~ Confessions on a Dancefloor

Survival‘ ~ Bedtime Stories

Wash All Over Me‘ ~ Rebel Heart

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That Stunning Madonna Layout

Yesterday’s return of the Madonna Timeline is fortuitously timed to coincide with her latest Harper’s Bazaar cover story. It’s easily her best photo shoot in years, reminiscent of her ‘Bedtime Stories’ period, with a lace-filled, bead-addled soft sensuality that revels in its own sumptuous beauty. This is the Madonna that many of us like best – gorgeous, sexy, and slightly provocative, with a feel that’s both new and nostalgic. It’s a tough hat trick to pull off, yet she’s been doing it for three decades. There are tantalizing hints of a new album, but the new movie she’s set to direct (‘Loved’) sounds like it will be her next creative endeavor.

There’s an exquisite video snippet of this photo shoot that Madonna recently posted as well, and it’s insanely beautiful. She remains, as ever, her own living work of art. I love when she embraces her glamorous side. There is enough ugliness in the world today. We need beauty. We need art. We need a government with a heart!

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The Madonna Timeline: Song #133 – ‘Easy Ride’

{Note: The Madonna Timeline is an ongoing feature, where I put the iPod on shuffle, and write a little anecdote on whatever was going on in my life when that Madonna song was released and/or came to prominence in my mind.}

It wasn’t starvation, it was simple hunger. The difference between a burnt bagel and a family torn apart and killed in the Holocaust. I do not lay claim to any sort of real suffering, not yet. But each of us has our own trials and tribulations, our own demons to be slain or worshipped. The longer we last, the more the world can wound us. The question is not who has suffered the most, but what we do with our pain if we are lucky enough to simply survive.

I WANT THE GOOD LIFE, BUT I DON’T WANT AN EASY RIDE
WHAT I WANT IS TO WORK FOR IT
FEEL THE BLOOD AND SWEAT ON MY FINGERTIPS
THAT’S WHAT I WANT FOR ME.

The rickety huts stood on stilts in the ocean off the coast of Manila. A glimpse of them seered itself into my memory bank as I visited the Philippines in 1997. We drove past the long rows of jumbled tin shacks, not much more than scrap pieces of metal propped up against each other, and groups of kids running and waving and smiling in the sun. Those smiles are what haunted me.

I WANT TO KNOW EVERYTHING, MAYBE SOME DAY I WILL
WHAT I WANT IS TO FIND MY PLACE
BREATHE THE AIR AND FEEL THE SUN ON MY CHILDREN’S FACE,
THAT’S WHAT I WANT.

The Westin Hotel in Manila is rich with dark wood. A pool extends behind it, and guards with conspicuous ear-pieces and sunglasses stand sentinel, lending a bit of tension to the most relaxing of moments. We take the elevator to our floor, and enter a spacious room. After a few days in the province with only a bucket for a shower, this is bliss. Then I think of those children again.

I GO ROUND AND ROUND JUST LIKE A CIRCLE
I CAN SEE A CLEARER PICTURE
WHEN I TOUCH THE GROUND I COME FULL CIRCLE TO MY PLACE AND I AM HOME,
I AM HOME.

Walking to the little balcony, I am dismayed to see the door has been left open a crack. Warily I suspect there will be mosquito bites in the morning. I walk onto the ledge and peer out onto the courtyard in front of the hotel. Half a world away from any home I’ve ever known, with an Uncle who left me to my own devices and a family I’d never met before, I’ve already done away with any shiver of loneliness. We’ve come to the end of our trip – my first to my Dad’s homeland – and in such a short time I’ve already grown up a little. For all the cock-fighting, beer-drinking, karaoke-singing craziness of the Philippines, it is the image of those kids that stays with me. They looked so happy, but they lived in such squalor. I’d never seen poverty like that. I couldn’t get my head around it, and knowing it was my own background and privilege that prevented me from understanding better didn’t make it any easier.

I WANT TO LET GO OF ALL DISAPPOINTMENT THAT’S WAITING FOR ME
WHAT I WANT IS TO LIVE FOREVER, NOT DEFINED BY TIME AND SPACE
IT’S A LONELY PLACE,
THAT’S WHAT I WANT

They lived in the extremes of dust and mud. It was caked on their faces and feet. Their clothes were torn and ragged, and their hair was matted and weighted down with dirt and oil. Most played in their dangerous terrain without shoes, and the ones I did see were worn flip-flops on the verge of disintegration. Yet they smiled, and laughed, and waved – and it was the most genuine and heartbreaking sort of joy I’ve seen in my forty-plus years: the utter bliss of being a child and having nothing to do but play the day away. I wondered what sort of terror they witnessed when a typhoon swept everything into the ocean, or disease and death stole parts of their family away.

I GO ROUND AND ROUND JUST LIKE A CIRCLE
I CAN SEE A CLEARER PICTURE
WHEN I TOUCH THE GROUND I COME FULL CIRCLE TO MY PLACE AND I AM HOME,
I AM HOME.

I’m sorry. I don’t know why I wrote all of this for a Madonna song. Maybe because one man’s supposed torture would be an easy ride for any one of those children. My life has certainly been easy in comparison, and I gratefully own up to living an enchanted and charmed existence. That doesn’t mean I haven’t seen things. It doesn’t mean I’m unaware. It simply signifies that everyone’s ride is different. Sometimes it’s difficult, sometimes it’s easy. Rarely is it one set thing. For the lucky, life can be long. The chance to be loved, the chance to run about and play on a sunny day – these pockets of salvation in the midst of hell are what get us through the journey.

In the darkest and most shameful part of my soul, I wondered if my discomfort at seeing such happiness in such seeming poverty made my misery mean so much less. There are ugly sides to almost all of us.

I GO ROUND AND ROUND JUST LIKE A CIRCLE
I CAN SEE A CLEARER PICTURE
WHEN I TOUCH THE GROUND I COME FULL CIRCLE TO MY PLACE AND I AM HOME,
I AM HOME.

As for this particular song on the timeline, it begins and ends with a flourish of strings, fitting bookends of elegance to Madonna’s ‘American Life’ electronic pastoral. This one is a down-tempo orchestral beauty that magically completes one of her most controversial, and therefore under-rated, albums. It’s also turning out to be one of the most ahead-of-its-time albums given the current state of political affairs.

I GO ROUND AND ROUND JUST
ROUND AND ROUND JUST

Being invincible doesn’t mean you haven’t been battered. In my experience, the most invincible among us are usually the most battered. But somehow, they get up again, they go on, they become invincible because of the battering the world gives them.

SONG #133 – ‘Easy Ride’ 
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Back on the Cover of a Magazine

Madonna has been on a ski holiday with her family, but in a few days she’ll be back where she belongs – on the cover of a magazine. This marks her umpteenth Harper’s Bazaar cover, the magazine that did one of her most stunning photo shoots (the premiere of her geisha look from 1999). I like the feel of this one, with its decadent 1920’s flapper look.

I’ll be returning to the Madonna Timeline entries very soon. The next selection is ‘Easy Ride’ so get ready to return to the scorching landscape of ‘American Life’ – and there’s never been a better time.

 

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A Madonna Holiday

Madonna has played an unlikely part in my holidays since I was a boy, even if the only official Christmas connection she’s ever fostered was her rather wretched version of ‘Santa Baby’ during the unfortunate ‘Who’s That Girl’ stretch. I won’t bother posting that rendition (it sounded like she had a cold during the recording) but I will post my own photos from her recent Rebel Heart Tour. This was the closest I’ve gotten to my idol, and Suzie and I squealed like we always do in the presence of such greatness.

The holiday connection comes during the period in which my fandom was at its zenith – the white-hot prime of the fall of 1991. She was on the precipice of the ‘Sex’ book/’Erotica’ album, but not quite there yet, so her star power had been growing steadily for about eight or nine years. Many of us consider this one of her most regal periods, when she had the eyes of the whole world, and some begrudging admiration to go along with it. Her ‘Like A Prayer’ album had earned her artistic worth, while her ‘Truth or Dare’ documentary had become one of the most successful documentaries at that time. After bring dismissed for years as a pop lightweight, she suddenly had the history and experience and success to assume her rightful place on the pop culture throne.

As the fall months led into the latter days of the year, and I was asked what I wanted for Christmas, I did not hesitate: a laser-disc player. It was being heralded as the next big thing, but I didn’t care so much for technological advances as I did about the fact that this was, and remains, the only format on which Madonna’s epic ‘Blond Ambition’ tour was officially available.

My Mom indulged me, and we brought home the Laserdisc player right before Christmas, and then I received the official Blond Ambition disc – three times the size of a CD – and set it all up in our basement. My Christmas memories were indelibly linked to the performances from that tour. Despite initial hesitation, I came to love this concert. With the pristine quality of the laserdisc, the impeccable sound system, and one of Madonna’s most amazing performances, it became emblematic of something special – something that resonates to this very day.

I’d study each dance move and vocal inflection, every nuanced wink and audience interaction, right down to the broken chair during the ‘Keep It Together’ finale, and I gained a little confidence with every little exhibition of power. It was what kept me going through the rocky path of adolescence.

During Christmas vacation, after the holiday obligations were done and the stretch of non-school days stretched gloriously out ahead of us, I’d pad down to the cellar and watch the Blond Ambition Tour. The time was golden. School vacation made memories more indelible. Madonna’s music added to the experience. The thrill of the Blond Ambition Tour set it all off. I fear I’m unable to fully convey what it all meant, but that’s all right.

Some memories don’t signify anything more than a marker of time. This one means a little more to me, but perhaps not anyone else. It was, after all, a memory of solitude, of loneliness, even if I would never admit it. It’s from a time in my life when I wasn’t quite sure of myself, when I didn’t really love myself, and when I was pretty sure no one else ever would. Yet there was the seed of something greater inside of me, and despite all my efforts at self-destruction, something helped me hang onto the hope that there was more to my story than hiding in the basement. Madonna shouted out in French the opening clarion call of the concert, “Do you believe in love?

My heart resounded, “Yes… Yes… Yes.”

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This Madonna Speech is Everything

As a lifelong Madonna fan who loves almost everything the woman has done, it should come as no surprise that I was completely enthralled by this speech. Give it a listen, as she is doing something she has never done before. Just when you think she can no longer surprise or stage a rebellion, think again.

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Hunk of the Day: Kupono Aweau

Fresh from his abs-worthy performance on Madonna’s recently-broadcast Rebel Heart Tour, this is Hunk of the Day Kupono Aweau. It’s been a while since we’ve showcased one of Madonna’s lucky dancers, and while I used to dream of being in their fabulous shoes, that has got to be one of the hardest, and most temporal, jobs to do. I’d be cut on day one, if we’re even indulging the fantasy of making it to day one. So hats, and shirts, off to Mr. Aweau for making it all the way through the love rebellion that was Madonna’s most recent touring extravaganza.

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A Night of Rebel Hearts

Madonna’s Rebel Heart Tour gets its premiere on Showtime tonight, and we’ll be watching the grand spectacle unfold from the comfort of the couch. This was one of the more enjoyable tours she’s put on of late, so I’ll be interested to see how it translates to television viewing. My review of her performance in Boston is here, and there have been a number of Madonna Timelines that came from the Rebel Heart album, as seen below.

Living For Love

Devil Pray

Ghosttown

Unapologetic Bitch

Hold Tight

Bitch I’m Madonna

Holy Water

S.E.X.

Best Night

Messiah

Wash All Over Me

Autotune Baby

Rebel Heart

For those who were unlucky enough to have missed out on seeing the Rebel Heart Tour, this is your chance. It’s a good one – one of her warmest tours ever – so hunker down and let our lady of perpetual provocation do her thing. No one does it better.

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Madonna on Carpool Karaoke

Finally, it happened.

And it was worth the wait.

Classics and new classics.

(‘Papa Don’t Preach‘, ‘Music‘, ‘Bitch I’m Madonna‘ and more.)

There was humor, there were laughs, and only one or two thuds.

There was even a ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina‘ duet.

Best of all, Madonna goes earnestly with the flow.

“You’re not gonna get me with red flannel, baby.”

Thus it was spoken.

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Madonna: The Rebel Heart Tour Review

Madonna: Rebel Heart Tour 

September 26, 2015 — TD Banknorth Boston

She stands there, resplendent in the Bob Mackie gown she wore to the 1991 Oscar ceremony, looking every inch the superstar, dripping in diamonds, her bright blond hair glowing like a halo around her. Those blue eyes twinkle as she shimmies and shakes, and only when the camera pulls away slightly do we see that she is caged. A metal screen holds her back, framing her legendary body. Bumping and grinding, she shakes her booty just as she did at the end of that legendary 1991 Oscar appearance.

But all is not well, as the stomping of soldiers and the brutality of actions results in a bruised and battered Madonna, her gown sullied and her diamonds encrusted with blood. Is this what the world has done to her, or what she has done to herself, her image, her entire history?

She is beaten down, bloodied and left for dead at the hands of masked soldiers.

She waits to be rescued but it’s not a knight in shining armor who comes to her aid, it’s Madonna herself in flowing ‘Ray of Light’ hair, suited up in black fight gear, racing and leading a group of soldiers to the start of a revolution. That’s always been her way – saving herself and not counting on a man, or a woman, or anyone other than her own multitude of selves.

The battle cry of the ‘Rebel Heart Tour’ has been sounded, and the clarion of ‘Iconic’ sees her descending and breaking out of a metal cage that deposits her in the center of the maelstrom. She begins as Woman Warrior, dispensing cross wielding samurai with assured ease. Her own bulky get-up of red streaked with black is also soon dispensed, revealing an elegant black brocade dress for the polarizing ‘Bitch I’m Madonna’ and early semi-hit ‘Burning Up’ (for which she also plays a mean electric guitar).

Costumes and choreography are the mainstay of any proper Madonna show, and this evening finds her making clever use of a multi-song strip-down that ends with a sheer nun-inspired look for ‘Holy Water’ – arguably the most controversial portion of the show. In all fairness, it’s pretty benign, even if it does find Madonna pole-dancing with scantily-clad nun figures. Getting beyond that, though, it also provides the evening’s seminal set-piece: a last supper brought to thrilling life. The image is an indelible one, and it fittingly segues into ‘Vogue’ because, well, didn’t Jesus Christ himself strike the most iconic pose of all? There are no such crucifixion scenes here, and after pushing the envelope (a phrase seemingly crafted for the sole purpose of Madonna) she comes to a new salvation in ‘Devil Pray’.

A ghostly interlude of ‘Messiah’ finds one of her back-up dancers working some serious performance art, and when Madonna returns things take a brighter, if bluer, turn with the 50’s garage-theme exuberance of ‘Body Shop’. As she did on her ‘Rebel Heart’ album, Madonna manages to reconcile her rebel and romantic sides for perhaps the first time in her career. Up until now it’s usually been one or the other, with varying results for each. (For every rebellious ‘Like A Prayer’ or ‘Erotica’ moment there was a softer ‘Evita’ or ‘Bedtime Stories.’) On this tour, she melds those often-opposing views into a cohesive look back (and, as ever, forward) on the duality that has made her such a transfixing icon.

The heart of the show may be her sweetly-earnest rendition of ‘True Blue’ on which she plays the ukulele. Many of us fans never thought we’d see the day she’d sing the title track of the album to which she dedicated and so generously doted on first husband Sean Penn, but here it was, transformed into an unsaid ode to those fans who have stood by her in the very truest of blue manners. Equally-pleasing was the racing performance of ‘Deeper and Deeper’ which finds her breaking things down in a West-Side-Story-meets-Michael-Jackson moment of choreographic bliss.

Madonna’s ambivalence of love has always been one of her most interesting features, and the arrival of the melancholy mash-up of ‘Heartbreak City’ and ‘Love Don’t Live Here Anymore’ is one of the more dramatic, and assuredly mature, moments of the whole show. Yet getting over heartbreak is what Madonna has done in repeatedly fine fashion; here she does so in an infectiously-retro romp through ‘Like A Virgin’ finding that shiny and new feeling for the umpteenth time. It’s a simple yet effective crown-pleaser, a throwback to the girl who giddily danced and sang all by her lonesome while the rest of the world watched in flummoxed fascination.

An immense cape seems to run the length of the entire extended stage, and Madonna throws it off before diving into an unfortunately choppy version of ‘Living For Love’. For those who recall her cape-inflicted fall from a stage, this is a triumphant return, indicative of what Madonna has espoused over and over: the ability to get right back up from any fall. It wouldn’t be a Madonna tour without a damn performance of ‘La Isla Bonita’, but this time it works as a lead-in for the flamenco-tinged outfits and musical slant of a majestic mash-up. This one runs through some of her earliest and most beloved hits – ‘Dress You Up’, ‘Lucky Star’, ‘Into the Groove’ – given a slowed down but still-smoldering flamenco spin.

It’s the perfect personification of this tour: a magical warm-hearted amalgamation of a multitude of countries – China, Japan, Mexico, Spain, France, and of course America. It’s a tour for the world, for a multi-generational cross section of humanity which Madonna has somehow always managed to unite – in adoration, in exasperation, in inspiration. When she dives into her 1987 #1 hit ‘Who’s That Girl’ (which most Madonna fans figured we’d never hear live) accompanied only by a guitar, it’s an astounding moment of introspection served up to the world. Standing near the edge of her heart-shaped stage, she moves into a joyously-nostalgic performance of ‘Rebel Heart’ while artwork by her fans plays on an enormous video behind her. Simple stuff, but powerful as hell when you listen to the lyrics and think about how far she has come – and how far all of us who have been on this journey have come.

For the final segment of the evening, an art-deco flapper send-off that finds Madonna dripping in sparkling crystals, all elegance and showgirl sexiness as she begins a slow-burn intro to the now-classic ‘Music’ – it soon revs up into a high-octane ‘Smooth Criminal’ scene. An unnecessary re-hash of one of her weaker songs, ‘Candy Shop’ gets some extra flapper attention here, but it’s a shimmering straight-up almost ballad-like rendition of ‘Material Girl’ that truly shines.

On this day, her son David turned ten, and he was the surprise ‘Unapologetic Bitch’ of the evening. As such, he showed some serious dance moves before Madonna paused in her usual banter, foregoing the usual litany of ‘fucks’ at that point, and, in charmingly awkward mother-son fashion, explained to him that sometimes it’s ok to swear if it’s in a song. Later she dedicates a vocally-precious version of ‘La Vie en Rose’ to him. It is a rare and thrilling unguarded moment where the mother kicked in, and it was both startling and heartwarming to see this woman whom we’ve watched kick ass and take no prisoners for sentimental bullshit taking off her armor. That’s what this Woman Warrior is doing with her Rebel Heart tour. She’s still an ass-kicking renegade, but underneath it all she’s human. It’s that Madonna – the only Madonna – who rules and slays and loves – whom I’ve adored for 30 years. It seems the rest of the world is finally catching on.

 

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The Rebel Heart Tour Set List

Tomorrow I will post my long-overdue review of Madonna’s ‘Rebel Heart Tour’ (from her September 26, 2015 Boston date) but before we get down to that serious business, here’s another preview: the set-list of that glorious tour. For those songs that have been featured on the Madonna Timeline, click the links and enjoy.

1)     Iconic

2)     Bitch I’m Madonna

3)     Burning Up

4)     Holy Water/Vogue

5)     Devil Pray

6)     Messiah

7)     Body Shop

8)     True Blue

9)     Deeper & Deeper

10)  Heartbreak City/Love Don’t Live Here Anymore

11)  Like A Virgin

12) S.E.X.

13) Living For Love

14) La Isla Bonita

15) Dress You Up/Into the Groove/Lucky Star

16) Who’s That Girl

17) Rebel Heart

18) Illuminati

19) Music

20) Candy Shop

21) Material Girl

22) La Vie En Rose

23) Unapologetic Bitch

24) Holiday

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Hunk of the Day: Tony Ward

Today marks the anniversary of when ‘Justify My Love’ was released, and if you’re my lofty old age, you distinctly remember the furor that arose with its accompanying video. Integral to that incendiary sexiness was Madonna’s paramour at the time, and co-star of the infamous video, Tony Ward. He finally takes his bow as Hunk of the Day, and of all Madonna’s loves he has arguably aged the best (and his beautiful bubble butt is still intact). In fact, I should be so lucky to age this well. Congrats Mr. Ward, not only on this honor, but on making it this far and still looking so smoking hot.

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Preamble of the Heart

I’m a woman.
“Come on, baby.”
“Shake it for us, baby.”
Do that dance you do so well for us, baby.”
Ok.
But I still want to start a revolution. Somebody’s got to.
 
There’s too much beauty in the world going to waste.
Too much talent going unnoticed.
Too much creativity being crushed beneath the wheel of corporate branding and what’s trending.
But it’s time to wake up.
 
I looked into the eyes of people and I saw helplessness.
I saw hopelessness.
I saw humans searching for a way out. 
 
Because when those Fascist dictators posing as righteous men come for you with their big leather boots to shut you up, to put a gag in your mouth, you better be prepared to fight for what you believe in.
You better be prepared to die for what you believe in.
I want to start a revolution.
Are you with me?
     ~ MADONNA, REBEL HEART TOUR INTRO

It’s been a long time coming, but soon I will post my review for Madonna’s Rebel Heart Tour, which will air on Showtime next month. This is a quick preview of that epic production, and a reminder of what can still inspire me.
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