No one with even half a clue hiding inside their head will deny the role ageism plays in the entertainment industry, particularly in the eternally image-conscious world of pop music.
So, in many respects, I totally understand why Madonna’s latest favorite collaborator, Diplo, is airing his grievances about the state of the icon’s music career. As someone still very much obsessed with the documentary Truth or Dare, Diplo is right in his assessment that, “She created the world we live in.” Likewise, Diplo is correct in noting that Madonna still manages to sell out “her tour in minutes.” However, when he tells Rolling Stone that “no one wants her to succeed,” one can’t help but boo and hiss at such a hyperbolic claim.
The same goes for Diplo’s categorizing of present attitudes about Madonna: “Madonna, we’ve been there, done that, now we’re about Kim Kardashian. Her song ‘Ghosttown’ was a guaranteed Number One for anybody else, but she didn’t get a fair shot. With ‘Bitch I’m Madonna,’ everyone said there’s no way it will go anywhere, but I’m like, ‘Screw it, it represents you more than anything.’
The song “Bitch, I’m Madonna” does indeed represent Madonna in 2015 “more than anything,” only that is exactly the 56-year-old singer’s problem. I will not deny that in terms of maintaining relevance, Madonna has two disadvantages: her age and her gender. They are similar challenges her fellow older pop singers like Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, and Janet Jackson find themselves facing. It is indeed unfair how we collectively dispose of singers reach a certain age bracket.
That said, everyone has their moment and what happens after that has a lot to do with the product they present. I’m not entirely convinced that “Ghosttown” would be an easy smash for “anybody else” as Diplo argues, and while Madonna’s latest album, Rebel Heart, is her best offering in quite sometime, that’s not exactly saying much.
My favorite Madonna album is 1994’s Bedtime Stories, which Madonna acknowledged was heavenly influenced by Joi’s influential and very much ahead of its time The Pendulum Vibe, released that same year but months prior. Madonna was so influenced by that album that she tapped its executive producer, Dallas Austin, to help her steer Bedtime Stories in a similar direction. A pop star’s ability to notice trends and pull from the periphery to create works for mass consumption is a skill – one that Madonna had mastered for much of her career.
Unfortunately, with age comes a certain disconnect. For the last decade now, Madonna has been chasing trends that are either dying out or long been over. See 2008’s very good, but very much too late to the Timberland-resurgence bandwagon party Hard Candy, or 2012’s rather forgettable MDNA. This year’s Rebel Heart is no different.
Read the rest at VH1.