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April 2020

May 2020

Why Madonna Brought 14 Cape Verdean Drummers on Tour - And What They Taught Her

In 2017, Madonna thought she was moving to Portugal to “be a soccer mom,” but instead, the 61-year-old icon found inspiration for her then-upcoming album, Madame X, thanks to a friend she calls her “musical plug,” Dino d’Santiago. One night, the Cape Verde-born, Lisbon-based singer — who coached Madonna on how to speak Portuguese and sing in Portuguese and Creole — had arranged a concert for her by Batukadeiras Orquesta, a group of female drummers specializing in batuka, a rhythmic call-and-response style created in Cape Verde during the early days of the slave trade. “I’d never seen anything like it, never heard anything like it. So of course, I couldn’t get it out of my head,” says Madonna.

She invited several members of the collective to perform on her album and even brought some to the United States for her intimate Madame X tour that began last September in New York. (Its final two dates were canceled due to the pandemic.) “I thought about [my manager] Guy Oseary’s response to the cost of taking 22 women on the road with us,” says Madonna. (They ended up taking 14.) But her goal was set: “I wanted the audience to get a glimpse of [their] history.”

How did you discover the Orquesta Batukadeiras?
I discovered them once I met Dino d'Santiago, who I call my musical plug. He understood that I wanted to meet musicians and experience all the different traditions and genres that Portugal had to offer. He called me one day and said that he had something very special for me, but he couldn't tell me what -- he just said to show up at this place, at this time. At this point, he had already introduced me to some amazing musicians and brought me to some really cool places, clubs, etc. So, I went to this place -- it's hard to describe -- it was like a bar that hadn't been open in a while. They had opened it expressly for me. There was Abstract art on the wall and a few deer -- you know, antlers. It was filled with people. There was a DJ playing electro-African-house music, and a girl singing in a silver lamé suit, and I thought, "Oh this can't be what he asked me to come here for." Dino said, "No, this is not what I want you to hear. It's coming up." There were some people dancing and eventually the music stopped -- the crowds parted and on the other side of the room was a group of women sitting in a semi-circle in chairs, exactly as you saw them on my stage, but there were a lot more of them. They started playing their drums, drums that they held in their laps, and they started beating out these rhythms, and then they started singing and taking turns getting up and dancing. I was drawn to them and we walked closer and closer to them. It was wild – the way they played and the organic way they got up and took turns dancing together and singing solos. I asked Dino what language they were singing in. They were singing in Cape Verdean Creole.

It didn't seem terribly rehearsed; it seemed like second nature to them. They were like a family, a community of women. I marveled at the age range of the women -- from teenage girls to women who looked like they could be grandmothers. It was an amazing, immersive, musical, familial, matriarchal experience. The music was mesmerizing and hypnotizing and it blew me away. We just sat there, stood there, with our mouths hanging open. I'd never seen anything like it before. They were joyous and enthusiastic. There was an abandonment, for lack of a better word.

Afterwards, Dino said, "This style of music is called batuka, this is the Batukadeiras Orquesta." I met some of the women, not all of them. Dino told me they had to rush out as they all came on buses from far outside of town, especially to play for me. I was extremely moved that they made such an effort and even more so that they were so amazing.

To read the rest of the article visit: www.billboard.com/articles/madonna-batuka-sisterhood


On This Day In Billboard History: Madonna Brought the Transcendence of 'Vogue' to No. 1

At the start of the '90s, Madonna had seven Billboard Hot 100 No. 1s under her boy-toy belt and could pretty readily make the case she was the defining female pop star of the '80s. The only thing arguably working against her was the embarrassment-of-riches issue of figuring out how to follow-up a career-defining smash such as 1989's "Like a Prayer."

She solved that problem by dropping another world-shifting pop hit. "Vogue," which became her eighth Hot 100 No. 1 30 years ago today (May 19, 1990), topped the chart for three consecutive weeks and remains one of her most enduring hits. Over the course of this lush, gradual ascent into thumping house-disco bliss aided by co-writer and co-producer Shep Pettibone, Madonna lays out yet another masterful manifesto about ecstatic liberation on the dancefloor.

Inspired by the visually dramatic dance style of voguing that grew out of Harlem ballroom culture (as depicted in the classic 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning), Madonna tapped dancers/choreographers Jose Gutierez Xtravaganza and Luis Xtravaganza from that world to show America how it was done. While Madonna hardly invented the iconic moves, her global reach propelled voguing into the mainstream, a double-edged sword that season 2 of FX's Pose thoughtfully dealt with in 2019 (on one hand, it gave scene players an industry launch pad, but some queer people of color felt their culture had been appropriated, then discarded, after the craze went out of, well, vogue).

Thirty years after "Vogue" topped the chart, it's truly difficult to think about something related to the song that isn't iconic: There's the irresistible choreography; David Fincher's black-and-white art deco music video; her Marie Antoinette-styled VMAs performance of the song; the movie-star roll call near the end; and also every damn lyric. Really, the only thing "Vogue"-adjacent that isn't a clear victory is the album it first called home: I'm Breathless: Music From and Inspired By the Film Dick Tracy. It was a hit, certainly, peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, but remains one of the more neglected titles in her otherwise essential catalog, in no small part because its biggest single shares almost nothing in common with the rest of the LP other than an affection for Golden Era Hollywood.

It probably wouldn't surprise anyone to learn "Vogue" wasn't even intended for that collection of Sondheim numbers and Jazz Age throwbacks. According to Pettibone, it was given a budget of $5,000 and slated as a b-side for "Keep It Together," but when execs heard it, the plan changed. "The attitude was like, ‘This isn't gonna be a b-side. How can we get this out there?’” Pettibone recalled to Billboard in 2015 of the decision to tack it on to the Dick Tracy companion album.

Regardless, three decades later, its power remains undiminished. When Madame X trotted out "Vogue" at Pride Island 2019 during New York City's 50th anniversary of Stonewall World Pride celebration, the response was deafening, with the crowd surging like a tsunami. But even then, it was so much deeper and deeper than just bumping and grinding: It was a magical, life's-a-ball moment of transcendence few dance songs dare to reach.

From Billboard.com


Law firm hackers shift ransom target from Trump to Madonna

The hackers who stole confidential files about stars including Lady Gaga from an A-list power lawyer claim to have sold all their “dirty laundry” on President Trump to a secret buyer, and now they’re demanding at least $1 million for details on Madonna.

Hacking group REvil cyberattacked top entertainment attorney Allen Grubman’s NYC law firm and stole 756 gigabytes of documents on stars including Bruce Springsteen, Mariah Carey and U2. They doubled their ransom demand to $42 million last week after Grubman refused to pay, stating the FBI considered the hack “an act of terrorism.”

The hackers upped the ante by posting on the dark web, “The next person we’ll be publishing is Donald Trump … We found a ton of dirty laundry.” It was not clear why the hackers connected Grubman to Trump, who has never been a client of the lawyer’s firm.

Then on Monday, REvil revealed the Trump documents were off the market, stating, “Interested people contacted us and agreed to buy all the data about the US president … We are pleased with the deal and keep our word.” They added, “We are preparing to auction Madonna data … The buyer has the right to do whatever he sees fit with the data.”

It is not known what was in the alleged Trump trove, but sources who viewed a sample on the hackers’ site said it related to snarky mentions of Trump in emails from Grubman’s clientele.

Brett Callow, from cybersecurity firm Emsisoft, told Page Six, “What information REvil had on Trump we may likely never know. But they were almost certainly bluffing about it being ‘presidency-ending material.’ But let’s assume this is being treated as a terrorist matter, perhaps because of Trump, so the law firm was prevented from paying the ransom or negotiating.

“The hackers were also prevented from making any money, so they went to Plan B, removing Trump from the deal and instead auctioning off the celebs’ information separately.”

From PageSix


Madonna reveals she's set to undergo regenerative treatment for missing cartilage

Madonna has revealed she is set to undergo 'regenerative treatment' in a bid to relieve pain in her knee.

The iconic singer, 61, told fans that she is 'missing cartilage', after having to cancel a string of tour dates due to injury earlier this year.

Sharing a photo of herself wearing black lingerie and a net bodysuit, the star wrote on Instagram: 'Finally going to get my regenerative treatment for my missing cartilage!! I would be jumping up and down if I could after 8 months of being in pain. Wish me luck!'

Regenerative medicine seeks to develop techniques to regrow or replace damaged cells, tissues or organs to restore their function.

From Evening Standard


Madonna has donated so much money that she may legally become the EU's newest member

As if 2020 wasn't weird enough already, Madonna may end up replacing the United Kingdom as a member state of the European Union.

Because of an obscure EU law unearthed by Politico's Paul Dallison, Madonna can join the organisation because she pledged more money to fight coronavirus than several of its actual members.

Madonna pledged $1m during an online summit held by EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen aimed at raising money to research coronavirus vaccine development and produce tests.

$8bn (£6.5bn) was pledged altogether from 40 countries and donors from the EU and beyond, including £388m from the UK.

Madonna's donation puts her ahead of Estonia and Lithuania, who didn't donate, and the US and Russia who didn't take part.

Because of the UK's recent departure from the EU, Madonna could theoretically step in.

The queen of pop would be well placed to take up our absent spot, given that she lived here for almost a decade whilst married to English director Guy Ritchie.

And who's to say the 'mother of reinvention' isn't up for a new, if not slightly bizarre, chapter of her career?

To qualify for full membership status, Madonna would in fact need to be an actual country, and we're not exactly sure how she'd go about reinventing herself as such. However, if she managed it, it would be pretty simple for her to join the EU: she'd just have to agree to uphold article two of the Treaty on European Union: upholding "human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities".

She might also have to rustle up some legislation that she could then whip into line with EU laws.

But if it all proved too much, it's not like she can't leave.

Madgexit anyone?

From indy100.com


'A Freudian nightmare': Madonna's Blond Ambition tour turns 30

In Toronto, Madonna simulated masturbation on a velvet bed under the watchful eye of the Canadian police, who threatened her with arrest if her show went ahead. In Italy, unions called for a general strike if Madonna performed, and Pope John Paul II declared her concert “one of the most satanic shows in the history of humanity”. The Blond Ambition tour, which turned 30 years old last month, remains among the most controversial tours of all time.

It seems bizarre now that so much fuss was made over a little fake frotting and a few gyrating nuns. But this was 1990, when Kylie Minogue was still performing in straw hats, Bananarama were deemed dangerous and the gossip pages raged over Annie Lennox singing Would I Lie to You in a bra. Into this age of relative wholesomeness landed Blond Ambition Madonna, on a mission to combine fashion, rock, Broadway theatricality and performance art, to “be provocative” and “break useless taboos”. Mission accomplished. Jean Paul Gaultier’s famous conical corset has been described as a “Freudian nightmare”, a generation of teenagers asked their parents what S&M stood for, and the coy suggestiveness of the live pop spectacle was blown wide open.

The themed set-pieces - religion, German expressionism, art deco, Madge’s rubbish new movie Dick Tracy - set a new bar for confrontational theatricality that only greater shock tactics could ever challenge. Marilyn Manson’s onstage Bible shredding is straight out of the “Madonna 90” guidebook, and with her firework bras, stage blood and copious dry-humping, Lady Gaga looks as if she was conceived at a Blond Ambition gig. But the key taboo Madonna broke that summer was that of feminine sexuality as strength rather than titillation, as something owned by the artist not cashed in by the svengalis. That’s what gave us SexKylie, “zig-a-zig-AH!”, Wrecking Ball-era Miley and Nicki Minaj’s bottom-obsessed Anaconda. It’s one of the reasons female artists feel comfortable singing about sex and desire today.

Sex sells, though, and more sex sells more. Over the decades, overt sexuality became the expected – nay, contractual – pop norm. Attention-grabbing boundaries were pushed to their limits, and artists were pressured to play this new, ever raunchier game. Enter Billie Eilish, defiantly covered, mocking the uber-sexualised expectations of modern pop with a film of her stripping off beneath blackened water: “If I wear more, if I wear less, who decides what that makes me?” she intones, shaming the bodyshamers and staring out the monetisable male gaze. By asserting ownership of her body she is not re-establishing any old taboos, she’s breaking the oldest one of all – subservience. Her image, her body, her art, her rules. Which was Madonna’s point all along.

From The Guardian


Madonna says she caught coronavirus on tour in Paris

Madonna battled coronavirus during her 'Madame X' tour in March, along with a number of others working on her live show.

The 61-year-old singer recently revealed she has antibodies for the respiratory condition and sparked confusion when she was then seen out and about, but she's now explained she actually fell ill some time ago, along with a number of others working on her live show.

Alongside an image of a news article explaining she has donated over $1 million to help find a vaccine, she wrote:
'I'm Grateful that I can be a part of supporting Research to Find the cure for Covid -19!! And just to clear things up for people who would rather believe sensationalist headlines than do their own research about the nature of this virus, I am not currently sick. When you test positive for anti-bodies it means you HAD the virus which I. clearly did as I was sick at the end of my tour in Paris over 7 weeks ago along with many other artists in my show but at the time. We all thought we had a very bad flu. Thank God we are all healthy and well now. Hope that clears things up for the band wagon jumpers!! Knowledge is Power! #covid19 (sic)'

The 'Hung Up' hitmaker revealed she had tested positive for coronavirus antibodies last week when she explained she was looking forward to going out for a ''long drive'' after weeks in lockdown.

She said: 'I took a test the other day. I found out I have the antibodies, so tomorrow I'm just going to go for a long drive in the car. I'm going to roll down the window, I'm going to roll down the window and breathe in the COVID-19 air.'

In contrast to Madonna's claims, the World Health Organisation has warned there's 'no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection'.

From contactmusic.com


Madonna celebrates Steven Klein's birthday in Bridgehampton

Pop icon Madonna has stoked controversy after attending celebrity photographer Steven Klein's birthday party days after claiming in a video that she had tested positive for coronavirus antiboides, which would indicate that she had been exposed to the virus. The 61-year-old singer was pictured ignoring social distancing rules at the party, hugging and standing very close to Mr Klein who is a longtime friend and neighbour. The party was held either at Madonna's or Mr Klein's home - both live in Bridgehampton, New York. Most guests at the party attended virtually via Zoom; Madonna was one of the handful of in-person attendees.

Madonna has been criticised for attending a social gathering, especially because her quarantine companions include her children, two of whom are very young. Comments on social media have also pointed out that none of the guests who attended in-person were wearing masks or social distancing. USA has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world.

Celebrity manager Michele L Ruiz, who works with Madonna, shared a video and wrote indignantly that "She was in her own home... There were about 5 people that came to her home (or Steven's?) to celebrate Steven's birthday, and all these people have been quarantined for over a month as well. Please stop the madness. She would never put herself or her children at risk."

From ndtv.com


Madonna wants to ‘breathe Covid-19 air’ as she discovers she has ‘antibodies’

Madonna determined to breathe in ‘Covid-19 air’ after learning she has the anti-bodies to ‘protect her’.

The Like A Virgin singer created a film noir style Quarantine Diary explaining that she had a test done for coronavirus and was told she has tested negative. Of course, the first thing she wanted to do was drive around town with the windows down.

She began: ‘Quarantine Diaries 14. I think it’s quite significant that the paper I’m typing on just caught on fire and consumed my paper,’ before picking up the paper and feigned looking worried.

‘I took a test the other day,’ the 61-year-old said. ‘And I found out that I have the antibodies so tomorrow I’m just going to go on a long drive in a car, roll down the windows and I’m going to breathe in the Covid-19 air. ‘I hope the sun is shining. I have not been wanting to write lately but that does not mean I’m not thinking, thinking about what I want to write or want to say.’

The star went on to discuss how actions are more important than words before she jokingly began talking to her candle. She said: ‘You must now go to bed, you naughty little candle.’

From Metro.co.uk


How Did Older Albums by Madonna, Mariah Carey & Janet Jackson All See Sales Gains This Week?

A sale promotion in the iTunes Store lifted a number of older albums to sales increases, and fans took notice. It might be the year 2020, but if you glanced at the U.S. iTunes Store’s Top Albums tally this past week, it’d be hard to tell what decade you were in.

Thanks to sale pricing and fan promotion, a trio of older albums by Mariah Carey, Madonna and Janet Jackson all jumped into the iTunes Store's always-updating Top Albums tally. On April 27 and 28, Carey’s 2008 album E=MC2 was No. 1 on the iTunes Store’s Top Albums tally, while Madonna’s 1994 set Bedtime Stories visited No. 1 on April 30. Meanwhile, Jackson’s 1986 album Control also visited the top 10 during the week -- and at one point, all three albums were together in the top 10.

According to initial sales reports to Nielsen Music/MRC Data, E=MC2 sold about 2,000 copies total across all retailers in the U.S. in the week ending April 30. About half of that sum was driven by digital sales on April 27, the day the album topped the iTunes tally. Traditionally, the album sells a negligible figure on a daily basis.

As for Bedtime Stories, it shifted a little over 1,000 copies for the week, while Control sold just under 1,000. Again, the bulk of each album’s sales were driven by digital sales - nearly 1,000 for Bedtime Stories on April 30 (the day it was No. 1 in the iTunes Store) and a little under, 1,000 for Control across three days (April 28-30). Like with E=MC2, both Bedtime Stories and Control generally sell a negligible figure on any normal day.

It doesn’t necessarily take a large number of sales to reach No. 1 on the iTunes Store’s Top Albums ranking, especially considering album sales have been on the decline for years, and it was a particularly soft week for new releases on April 24. The trio of albums were part of an iTunes Store promotion where more than 100 pop albums were discounted to $4.99 and advertised in a banner ad that appears at the top of the front page of the Store, directing consumers to “$4.99 Pop Albums at a Great Price.”

As generally happens with deeply discounted albums (most new titles sell for at least $9.99), they start to rise up the iTunes Store Top Albums list, since it reacts in real time to customers’ purchases. After that, fans of the divas took notice of the albums dotting the iTunes Store Top Albums list and began awareness campaigns on social media to drive attention to the albums. That promotion then helped engineer more sales for the albums, which brought them to the top 10 of the store. At that point, the albums got much wider attention, since the top 10 of the Top Albums list is visible on the front of the iTunes Store, and casual music fans likely saw the albums in the top 10 - perhaps encouraging even more sales.

E=MC2 debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart dated May 3, 2008. Bedtime Stories debuted and peaked at No. 3 (Nov. 12, 1994), and Control hit No. 1 on July 5, 1986. None of the albums are expected to re-enter next week’s Billboard 200 chart, despite their surge on the iTunes Store.

From Billboard.com