Previous month:
March 2018

April 2018

Madonna's 'American Life': Revisiting the Divisive Album 15 Years Later

While American Life certainly wasn't the kiss of death for Madonna, her ninth studio album did end one of the winningest streaks in the history of pop. Although the LP - which was released 15 years ago on April 21, 2003 - did debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, it became the lowest-selling studio LP of her career up to that point. And the reviews were mixed at best.

But revisiting American Life 15 years later, it deserves more love than it has gotten - it's perhaps the most underappreciated album of Madonna’s catalog. Listening to it now, it certainly bests Rebel Heart and MDNA, and from a lyrical standpoint, it probably beats 2008’s Hard Candy and maybe even 2005’s beloved Confessions on a Dance Floor. In fact, with its confessional tone and commentary on the American Dream in the President George W. Bush era, American Life is easily one of Madonna’s better lyrical outings.

The strong lyrical perspective is complemented by the cohesive musical vision. Madonna worked with one producer, French electronic savant Mirwais Ahmadzaï, for the entire album - although there was additional production by Mark 'Spike' Spent on 'I’m So Stupid' and 'Nothing Fails' - and they expanded on the folktronica experimentation they did on 2000’s Music. Indeed, if there is one Music song that served as the biggest touchstone for American Life, it's 'Don’t Tell Me,' with its twangy trip-hop. Madonna and Mirwais - who are back in the studio working on new music together in 2018—also co-wrote all but three of 11 songs together. With such a tight team, not one of the songs feels out of place (although the dramatic “Die Another Day” from the James Bond film of the same name feels like it should have been sequenced earlier in the record).

In retrospect, American Life - the last truly ambitious album that Madonna has made - also marked the end of a very important phase of her career. Having achieved new artistic depth with 1998’s Ray of Light and continued that creative spirit with Music, she was very much still in risk-taking mode on American Life. You might say those three albums - starting from an electronica base but veering in different directions - amounted to her Berlin Trilogy. On an aesthetic level, this period was Madonna at her Bowie-est.

'Love Profusion,' 'Nobody Knows Me' and 'Nothing Fails' make for a thrilling three-song sequence that displays varied moods and styles. While glowing with its sweet strumminess, 'Love Profusion' faces some troubling uncertainties: 'There are too many questions/There is not one solution/There is no resurrection/There is so much confusion.' The zig-zagging 'Nobody Knows Me' packs a rock thump and a sense of disillusionment: 'This world is not so kind/People trap your mind/It’s so hard to find/Someone to admire.' And 'Nothing Fails' - the glorious, gospel-infused centerpiece of American Life - is nothing short of a latter-day 'Like a Prayer.'

Elsewhere, 'X-Static Process' - co-written by Stuart Price, who Madonna would go on to work with for much of Confessions on a Dance Floor - is a beautiful ballad rich in harmony and emotional directness. You can almost hear echoes of R.E.M. on that and the previous track, 'Intervention.' Meanwhile, the solemn, string-laden 'Easy Ride' may be one of the best album closers of Madonna’s career. The lyric nods to her notorious work ethic: '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.'

American Life - which still sounds very modern and, in some ways, seems eerily prescient of Trump-era despair - feels more like the Madonna album for now than her recent efforts. It’s not a perfect album - 'I’m So Stupid' is still irritating - but it’s the sound of Madonna challenging herself, and us.

From Billboard.com


Good Bye Dear Sweet Tim

Avicii, the Grammy-nominated electronic dance DJ who performed sold-out concerts for feverish fans around the world and also had massive success on U.S. pop radio, died Friday. He was 28.

Publicist Diana Baron said in a statement that the Swedish performer, born Tim Bergling, was found dead in Muscat, Oman.

'It is with profound sorrow that we announce the loss of Tim Bergling, also known as Avicii,' the statement read. 'The family is devastated and we ask everyone to please respect their need for privacy in this difficult time. No further statements will be given.'

No more details about the death were provided. Oman police and state media had no immediate report late Friday night on the artist's death.

From Associated Press


Madonna Teases Possible Reunion With Mirwais

Madonna took to Twitter on Tuesday (April 17) to share a clip of herself singing along to a poppy dance track, and one particular hashtag has fans thinking she's reunited with her longtime collaborator Mirwais.

'No This is NOT my new music. But I'm having fun in the studio in between takes! #music #mirwais #magic,' the singer wrote in the caption of the video.

The 'Ghosttown' singer confirmed in early 2018 that she has been in the studio working on her 14th record. She's remained cryptic about who she's working with, but by tagging the French record producer and songwriter, many fans are convinced that he's involved. 'Is this a hint Mirwais is back in the mix???' one tweeted. 'Are you working with #Mirwais again??? Yay!' another wrote.

Madonna and Mirwais previously worked together on three of her albums, including her 2000 record Music, which was nominated for three Grammy Awards and whose title track hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. They also collaborated for 2003's American Life and Confessions on a Dance Floor in 2005.

Billboard has reached out to Madonna's rep for confirmation that she's reuniting with Mirwais but hasn't heard back as of press time.

From Billboard.com


Madonna Just Made The Best Points About Sexism And Ageism

If anyone understands the toxic combination of sexism and ageism that's used to demean and restrict women as they get older, it's Madonna. In recent years, the pop icon's every move seems to be met with reductive cries of 'put it away' or 'time to retire, grandma'.

But one of the singer's defining characteristics is her determination to push back: if society tells her not to do something because she's a woman, and a woman who's not 25 anymore, she's sure as hell going to keep on doing it anyway.

In a new interview to promote her MDNA Skin range, she makes some typically perceptive points about the obstacles she faces as she approaches her 60th birthday in August.

'It’s an outdated, patriarchal idea that a woman has to stop being fun, curious, adventurous, beauiful, or sexy past the age of 40. It’s ridiculous,' she tells The Cut.

'Why should only men be allowed to be adventurous, sexual, curious, and get to have all the fun until the day they leave this earth? Why should that only be the domain of men? How do we fight this? By standing up to men and by standing up to social mores or standards that say we cannot. The more women that do it, it will just be a matter of time.'

Madonna goes on to explain that when she became famous in the '80s, she was labelled a 'sexual provocateur' because she made sexuality an integral part of her work - something that was deemed unusual for a female artist at the time.

'Now, all the challenges that I had to face 20 years ago seem ludicrous,' she reflects. 'What I am going through now is ageism, with people putting me down or giving me a hard time because I date younger men or do things that are considered to be only the domain of younger women.'

'I mean, who made those rules? Who says? I’m going to keep fighting it. Ten to 20 years from now, it’s going to be normal. People are going to shut up.'

She's right - and that day can't come soon enough.

From www.refinery29.uk


Donatella Versace Reveals a Stunning Detail About Madonna and the Aftermath of Her Brother's Death

Twenty years removed from her brother's tragic death, Donatella Versace is more comfortable in her own skin than she's ever been and seems sick of others trying to tell both her story and the story of her family. Especially because when they do, they often get it wrong, according to Donatella, at least. Following the 20th anniversary of Gianni Versace's murder, this past July, a new batch of documentary specials, news stories, and, most notably, Ryan Murphy's American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace have purported to give audiences the inside story of what happened. Versace, meanwhile, has been on her own tear of candid interviews; in her latest, which also touches on her struggles with addiction, her love life, and succession plans, she drops a stunning detail about the days following Gianni's murder that none of the books, documentaries, or fictional takes have included before: Madonna was there.

'After identification, I drove to Gianni’s villa on Ocean Drive. Madonna was waiting for me inside,' Versace tells fashion journalists Michael Ebert and Sven Michaelsen in a new no-holds-barred interview with Ssense. 'I will never forget that she was trying to comfort me during these hours. There were FBI agents everywhere in the house. They interrogated each of us and opened all the drawers, a nightmare. My brother had just been murdered, and we were being treated like suspects. But that’s probably what FBI agents have to do.'

Of course, American Crime Story did show its take on the exact moments Versace describes. They were pivotal scenes, and, obviously, Madonna wasn't anywhere to be found in their telling. Had Ryan Murphy known that the Queen of Pop was there, he surely would have figured out a way to include her in the narrative (after all, he managed to controversially shoehorn the Kardashian sisters into the anthology series' first season, about O.J. Simpson, even though the then-young sisters were only tangentially related).

The reason for Madge's presence? Somewhat amazingly, this wasn't widely known by the public before, though it had been hinted at. On the day of the murder, Donatella was in Rome preparing for an upcoming fashion show. Madonna was in a recording studio, presumably in Los Angeles, working on her album Ray of Light. During interviews about the making of the album, producer William Orbit revealed that indeed Madonna was one of the first people Donatella called, on the very same day she recorded the vocals for the album track 'Swim.'

'We were recording ‘Swim’ on the day Versace was murdered,' Orbit told Q magazine in 2002. 'Madonna was very friendly with him and his sister, Donatella, who was in the street, distraught, on her cell phone to Madonna. But she did the vocal, which is probably why it has such an emotional impact.' The Huffington Post e-mailed Orbit earlier this year for elaboration on the story, and while Orbit declined an interview he did write, in an e-mail, 'There’s quite a story around that.' Quite a story, indeed.

To read the rest of the article visit: www.wmagazine.com


Madonna's Son "Steals" Her Beauty Products, Plus Her $10 Obsession

You don't have to be a music icon to get great skin. But being Madonna helps.

Even at a young age, the 'Like a Virgin' singer has always been diligent about maintaining a healthy complexion. When she didn't have much money, she used to get facials from a heroin addict, Madonna shared at the U.S. launch of her beauty brand, MDNA Skin, in September 2017. Now the 59-year-old queen of pop has the resources and platform to share her devotion to skin care with the masses.

'The biggest challenge is getting the story out there - where does this line come from and why it is important to me, that it's not a vanity project, why I developed it in the first place and connecting to people on a human level,' said Madonna to E! News in a phone interview.

You could just scoop up her latest launch—a four-in-one (toning serum, lotion, cream and mask) product appropriately titled, The Reinvention Cream ($75). Like all MDNA products, the lightweight jelly-cream features M.T.Parca Thermal Water, which comes from four different springs in Montecatini, Italy, known for its healing properties. The cream also features three African Resurrection plants (the ones that can sustain extreme dehydration then spring back alive with water). But as Madonna can attest, basic lifestyle choices - the ones that cost almost nothing - can improve your skin, too.

Here, the Material Girl reveals the skin-care tips she imparts on her kids, three beauty products she always has in her bag (hint: one is crazy affordable!) and more!

E! News: It's been three or four years since you first launched in Japan. What are you most proud of?
Madonna: The ingredients are important to me—the fact that they are made with all-natural ingredients, that the hero ingredient of the line is thermal water that comes from Tuscany and that have been a part of healing people for thousands of years. I feel like there's history to it; there's authenticity to it. It's not just talk; it's also walk. It's great when you're not wearing makeup; it's great when you are wearing makeup. My 17-year-old [Rocco Ritchie] son uses it. It's something that everybody loves, and I'm very proud of that.

Since your son uses your products, do you also give him or any of your other children beauty tips?
Hell yes! Are you kidding? First of all, I'm like, 'Don't squeeze your pimples! Please. You're scarring your face.' Also, a lot of people think that if they dry their skin out all the time, they aren't going to get acne. You can get acne from having your skin too dehydrated. My son is always coming into my bathroom and stealing all of my skin-care products. It's very funny to have a 17-year-old son saying, ‘Mom, can I have more serum? I need some more face wash. I need some more of this.' I think it's hilarious. My 21-year-old daughter [Lourdes Leon] loves them. I feel like I'm getting nods of approval from people from all walks of life, and it's not just female either. It's male as well—that means a lot to me. And, of course, I do advise my children on a regular basis: 'Don't smoke. Stay out of the sun. Why are you drinking that? Stop picking at yourself.'

To read the rest of the interview visit: www.eonline.com/news


Tom Holland made a fool of himself in front of Madonna

By the sound of it, Avengers: Infinity War star Tom Holland is as hilariously awkward in real life as his alter-ego Peter Parker is on screen.

The 21-year-old actor shared a mortifying-yet-hilarious story on this week's edition of The Graham Norton Show about how an attempt to impress the legendary Madonna went horribly wrong.

Given that Tom Holland has plenty of dance experience Billy Elliot the Musical, the Spider-Man actor figured he could waltz over to Madge when they bumped into each other at an Oscars after party.

'I'd had one too many when a friend of mine dragged me over to meet her,' he remembered 'All the way there I was thinking, 'What should I say.' And all I came up with was 'Hello.'

'To cover the awkward moment [my friend] told Madonna, 'Tom was a great dancer'.... so, I took her by the hand and started dancing with her. As soon as I took her, I realised this was a mistake. A big mistake.'

'Now, I used to do a lot of dancing, but that was all choreographed. I didn't wing it! I didn't just go on a stage and put on a different show every night. So I start dancing with her, and there's not much arms involved.'

'I'm just doing a little two-step to try and warm myself up. She's so unimpressed that I just bailed and left! I leave Madonna on the dancefloor!'

Ouch! That's the kind of moment any sibling would hold over your head for the rest of your life, although luckily Tom probably won't have to worry it in this case.

'The next day, I'm telling my family about my evening....my dad is wetting himself, my mum's cringing and then my little brother goes, 'Who's Madonna?'' Tom laughed.

From Digital Spy