When Madonna’s “Hard Candy” album came out, instead of a treat, it was an unpleasant pill to swallow. So the witch doctor had to offer an antidote: MDNA.
The initial listen barely registered, but a friend said it was a Tuesday kind of album, so I gave it another shuffle. Soon after, I found the hook and my iPod was on repeat. I “Turned Up The Radio.” Say what you must, but you should not be marginalizing her material (I’m looking at you, Elton John). Her 12th studio album proved to be a wonder drug.
You don’t have to convince my friend, Vanessa, of the power of Madonna. She proudly wears her madge (Madonna badge) wherever she goes—she swears by her and for her, if necessary. This avid cheerleader has been pushing her agenda ever since I have known her.
I just love how excited Vanessa gets about her icon. I also love spoiling my friends. Since this journey started, she has been preparing for their inevitable meet. Little did she know, I’d made plans to take her for MDNA’s first night in New York City. But this diva almost eluded us.
Tickets were scarce, and the pre-sale rules almost made it a farce. We flipped our Rolodexes to no avail. And just when we were about to give up, I got a phone call from a friend. He said he would be in town for the show and asked if I was going. I said we couldn’t get in, so he offered to purchase them. And just like that, the conundrum was averted. When I broke the surprise, Vanessa was floored. I believe she swooned “Like A Virgin.”
As if we couldn’t be any more excited, Madonna ordered a preview. She was slated to perform at NFL’s Super Bowl Half Time show. Not only the most watched sporting event in the United States, it is also the biggest advertising draw in any telecast (a 30-second spot costs $3.5 million). It was a marketing gold mine.
This coveted precursor was made famous after Janet Jackson’s infamous wardrobe malfunction back in 2008. After this fiasco, everything was under strict scrutiny, and tamer acts were recruited to appease everyone. But when the material girl secured the spot this year, the Federal Communications Commission was on alert again.
The night finally came: 200 Roman soldiers marched in the stadium and Madonna made her entrance. She paraded her hits, flooding the field with eye candy. LMFAO, Nicki Minaj and MIA helped tickle the skeptical crowd, and Cee Lo sang “Like A Prayer.”
The performance left fans and critics alike with a renewed respect for Madonna. Sales skyrocketed, and she was back in the charts once again. It reinstated her back as pop royalty. Vanessa and I could not wait for the royal engagement.
The holiday was upon us. Going into the Bronx, the train was filled with Madonna clones, complete with fishnets and hand gloves. Once there, we faced a wall of pandemonium. We did not want to lose any minute of the experience so we elbowed our way into Yankee Stadium. Despite its size, Madonna sold out two shows.
The long wait made the night frustrating, even though Avicii tried to set the mood. The mope lasted two-and-a-half hours, but when the bells finally rang, the crowd went wild.
Madonna’s primal instincts entertain and she also finds a way to bridge obscure talents into her shows. For this tour, the Basque group, Kalakan Trio, indulged the queen. An ecstatic friend was proud to see his countrymen breaking boundaries on a bigger platform.
The group seamlessly mixed their own musical style with her art. Not only did Madonna elevate her classics, she also brought their song “Sagarra Jo” to a wider audience. “Sagarra Jo,” which literally means smashing apples, was a statement for squashing stereotypes and prejudices. Hearing them chant those words gave us goosebumps. The collaboration led to a fresh take on the girl’s material.
Only one queen
Her shows do not always hit a home run. The young’uns partied to the hits as the baby boomers dealt with the misses. Despite the less successful gentrification, Madonna succeeded with her premillennium tunes. The rest could be considered incorrigible. Vanessa and I couldn’t care less; we were there to enjoy Madonna.
I was particularly impressed with her energy and stamina throughout the entire show. Whatever her regimen is, it certainly worked wonders for her. She danced and (sometimes) belted her way through her songbook. She strummed, disc-jockeyed, tightroped, stripteased and “Vogued” the night away. She even breakdanced with her son, Rocco, without a misstep.
As Nicki Minaj reminded us in “I Don’t Give A …” —there is only one queen, and that’s Madonna. She’s certainly among the pop world’s biggest royals, and Vanessa won’t let you argue about that.