At her Boy Toy 1980s zenith, Madonna would have hardly been Super Bowl material. She was too edgy, too rebellious, too naughty. And back then, Madonna wouldn't have wanted to perform at one of the most conventional events in America. It would have cramped her
But that was then.
At tonight’s Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, she’ll will perform for an estimated 117 million viewers. Has Madonna Louise Ciccone, free spirit and ex-pat, ended up being as all-American as Tom Brady?
Her performance, naturally, isn’t without controversy.
Madge’s critics have already said she is a ghastly match for the likes of the Super Bowl. They say she is a faded star at age 53. They gripe that her faux British accent is annoying. But she’s ignoring the naysayers. Instead, Madonna says that performing at the Super Bowl is “a Midwesterner Girl’s dream.”
In the video age, the Material Girl defied conformity, preferring to push buttons that made parents and the Moral Majority cringe but teenagers squeal. And she did it so well, wearing crucifixes, burning crosses and angering the Pope so much that he banned her from performing in Italy.
Madonna has sold more than 300 million records worldwide. Guinness World Records identifies her as the world’s top selling female recording artist of all time. She is a diva, and proud of it.
Her detractors claim the only reason she is performing is to generate a larger share of women viewers for the Super Bowl. But what w
ould be wrong with that?
Yes, women of a certain age like Madonna. We remember dressing in black lace gloves, rubber O-ring bracelets and leggings, trying to master the moves from the “Lucky Star” music video. For many Generation X women, Madonna opened the door to sexuality – exposing us to topics that even “Cosmopolitan” didn’t address. Remember her 1992 book “Sex” wrapped in silver cellophane? Women weren’t the only ones sneaking peeks of that, rest assured, and they won’t be the only ones watching the halftime show.
On the age front, critics should tread carefully or risk looking sexist. When Paul McCartney performed in 2005 and Mick Jagger in 2006, both men were closing in on 63. Few said anything about those legendary performers’ age, but instead heralded their music legacies. In 2009, Bruce Springsteen gave such a joyful performance he seemed — though this is usually said only of women — ageless.
Madonna’s new video, “Give Me All Your Luvin,'” features Nicki Minaj and M.I.A., who will also perform at the halftime show, cheering Madonna as she strolls down a sidewalk with a baby carriage. Then generic football players carry her around like a goddess.
Having grown no more shy with age, she struts around in hot pants, fishnets and a leather jacket looking more like a thirty-something than someone eligible for her AARP card. The video also pays tribute to the ‘80s, with Madonna wearing a cross, flashing her bra and donning platinum hair from the Blond Ambition era.
Madonna could never have been a one-hit wonder because she cultivated a career of re-invention and a succession of new personas in the then-new world of music video.
In 1992, she founded the entertainment company Maverick as a joint venture with Time Warner. Five years ago, she signed a $120 million contract with Live Nation, unprecedented at the time.
Madonna also made movies – some good, some terrible – and documentaries such as “Truth or Dare.” She won a Golden Globe for her role as Eva Peron in “Evita” in 1996. She has also been a fashion designer, a children’s book author, film director and producer, and the mother of four children – two biological and two adopted.
She has a new movie, “W.E,” about Wallis Simpson that she co-wrote and directed. (It hasn’t received glowing reviews, but negativity never stops Madonna.) She has also hinted that she could launch a world tour this year. Bottom line: She needs to do some promotion and make another come-back.
The best way to do that? Perform in front of half the country and have everyone humming “Vogue” at the office on Monday morning.
Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt.” Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker