I’m not sure which is more surprising: that Madonna’s latest concert is making news even though the aging singer has done nothing of note since swapping spit with Britney Spears at the MTV Music Awards five years ago — or that Madonna doesn’t plan to vote for John McCain.
OK, OK — the latter’s not so shocking. Still, even for a woman whose made a name out of generating controversy, her latest effort — likening John McCain to Hitler — is both adolescent and puerile.
For two decades now, Madonna’s fame has stemmed more from her antics than any actual talent, singing or otherwise. Over twenty years ago she burst on the music scene wearing a bridal gown as she rolled on the floor and sang about being Like a Virgin, a marked contrast to the Boy Toy belt she wore (as well as the black bra she sported on top of her T-shirt).
Just as audiences began to ho-hum when hearing her name, she triggered another controversy by tackling the issues of birth control and teen sex with Papa Don’t Preach, a song about a pregnant girl determined to raise her own child. And again, she faded into the background.
Flash forward to the 90s when once again fans started losing interest and Madonna revived their attention through the one thing guaranteed to sell: sex. With men sporting women’s bras and Madonna herself dressed up as a dominatrix, the “Blond Ambition” tour was such a success that she decided to one-up herself. Her Justify My Love video, replete with lesbian scenes and a hefty dose of S&M, not only generated controversy but got Madonna banned from the one vehicle her career most relied upon: MTV.
By the time she made it back into MTV’s good graces — just in time for the famous lip-lock with rising stars Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera — Madonna was irrelevant to both the recording industry and viewers. Naturally, she’s since taken to reprising her lesbian kisses on an as-needed basis to draw the limelight back to her fading career.
So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised at all that she’s resumed her old antics of trying to stir up controversy in the wake of her anti-war album American Life, a flop which would have been her first hit-less album but for the last-minute inclusion of Die Another Day.
So, just how much of a flop was it? Well, for those who didn’t know or, for that matter, don’t care that she was launching her “Sticky and Sweet” tour in the U.K. last night — which, let’s face it, is the majority of us — Madge confirmed her musical irrelevance by drawing the spotlight not to her music but, rather, to the video montage playing behind her.
During the four-act show in Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, a video interlude showed images of destruction, global warming, Adolf Hitler, Zimbabwe’s authoritarian President Robert Mugabe and — you guessed it — McCain.
In another sequence that was shown later, the images were meant to be positive. Madonna showed pics of slain Beatle John Lennon, former Vice President Al Gore, Mahatma Gandhi and presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama.
That’s right: even though tens of thousands of Germans gathered to chant Obama’s name in Tiergarten Park — a site bisected by the Strasse des 17 Juni Boulevard that Hitler once dubbed the “East-West axis” and lined with Nazi flags — it’s McCain whom Madonna is likening to Hitler.
Not surprisingly, the Anti-Defamation League is not amused by the antics of the 50-year-old pop singer (or 36, if you believe her Kabbalah priests). In one of the more sane responses to the stunt, the ADL not only expressed outrage at Madge’s disrespect for the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust but went further to point out:
Comparisons to Hitler have no place in a music concert, or in the presidential campaign.
Whatever Madonna’s political or personal views, it is outrageous to invoke Nazi imagery in the context of John McCain’s candidacy or to make a comment on American political leadership.
The McCain campaign, which has described the Material Girl’s antics as “outrageous, unacceptable and crudely divisive all at the same time”, also notes the desperation they signal.
“It clearly shows that when it comes to supporting Barack Obama, his fellow worldwide celebrities refuse to consider any smear or attack off limits,” McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said.
Perhaps the desperation is indeed deserved, as even rank-and-file Dems are suddenly re-thinking whether they’ll support Obama on Election Day. As I’ve said at my own blog, in this longest-ever presidential campaign, the more voters learn about Obama the more skeletons they find in his closet. So maybe Madonna’s little game will actually play into Republican hands by reinforcing McCain’s message that Obama’s “just another witless celebrity”.
One thing that is evident about the timing of this whole debacle: just how far Madonna’s career has “jumped the shark.”
Apparently the aging singer has forgotten the lessons which the Dixie Chicks learned the hard way: they got sidelined by television networks, radio stations and even consumers who refused to support their use of a sound stage as a political pulpit, all of which was chronicled in the banned documentary Shut Up And Sing.
That’s a piece of advice the aging singer might want to take to heart.