Madonna gave her seal of approval to Pope Francis I during a gig in Philadelphia last night, making several references to him throughout the evening – including “I’ve been excommunicated from the Catholic Church three times. It shows the Vatican really cares” and joking that the Pope was “stalking” her, as he has been in New York at the same time as her recently, and was planning a trip to Philadelphia. “”Either he’s a copycat or he’s secretly in love with me,” she said.
She then dedicated a ukulele-led version of Edith Piaf’s ‘La Vie en Rose’ to the pontiff, saying “Since Popey-wopey is on his way over here, I want to dedicate this song to him because it’s a love song, and I firmly believe that love does make the world go ’round. Honestly, I don’t think there’s that much difference between me and the Pope.”
As more music streaming services and social media apps announce their transition into original content, the battle for positioning remains unpredictable.
Power players like Apple Music and Spotify have yet to make a very definitive shift beyond music sharing and discovery to solidify their identity as digital content providers. Snapchat has experienced notable success, as more brands and media partners experiment with different formats that tap into the existing user experience. Netflix and Hulu have mastered their market, creating network-caliber programming designed for the second-screen generation.
While the landscape is still evolving, and such uncertainty builds anticipation, it also presents an opportunity for thriving digital media and social entertainment platforms with an established niche and to remain steps ahead of emerging trends. Announcing a new partnership with mobile entertainment app go90, DanceOn is expecting this move to place its premiere entertainment-focused platform ahead of the pack. …continue reading »
Patrick Leonard can say he knew Madonna way back when — at least as “back when” as her first two tours, on which he served as the musical director. Approached to work with Madonna after directing The Jacksons’ 1984 Victory Tour, Leonard became one of her most trusted collaborators both in and out of the studio, co-writing and producing such hits as “Like a Prayer,” “Cherish” and “La Isla Bonita.” Three decades after 1985’s inaugural Virgin Tour and several self-reinventions later, Madonna is launching the Rebel Heart Tour in Montreal on Wednesday. The Huffington Post called up Leonard to reflect on the early days with pop’s biggest star.
Coming off a huge tour with established artists like The Jacksons, how did you view Madonna’s persona at the very start of her career?
She did not get in the way at all where she did not know what was going on. Where she didn’t know what was going on, she allowed it to be, and yet kept her own vision very much intact. And that’s tough for people to do. Most people need to control everything, and she did not need to control everything. That was one of the first things I noticed. She was a total pro. Like our relationship remained, it was always real open and real simple — you do what you do and I do what I do, and it’s good. She knew how to allow space for things that she didn’t understand.
Madonna is someone who experienced instant fame, but there’s no doubt that her stature escalated by the time the Who’s That Girl Tour launched in 1987. What had changed about her by then?
You know, “change” is a dangerous word. I never saw change. She remained the same. The work ethic remained the same. Where there were things she knew that she wanted, she demanded them at the highest level, as we all do. And from there to working on her documentary film about Malawi some years ago — and I think we did some things after that with a musical that was a potential — nothing changed. I’m not in touch with her very much, but my communication with her is not through the press. I don’t care what people say. I’ve seen her be exactly the same human being and consistent as can be. She’s present and generous about what’s real. Even as it got bigger and bigger, she remained consistent. She really did. …continue reading »
The costume designer Arianne Phillips was in London in late February when she heard through the grapevine about a designer who was just beginning to get people’s attention: Alessandro Michele.
The 42-year-old Roman had just shown two collections in quick succession after his appointment as Gucci creative director and suddenly found himself the toast of the fashion world.
Meanwhile, Phillips, an in-demand costume designer for the movies, a veteran of Tom Ford’s “A Single Man” and an Academy Award nominee for “Walk the Line,” had just started preparing for her biggest project of the year: the months-long, all-consuming head trip known as a Madonna world tour.
In a nice bit of kismet, or a psychic connection, Michele himself was somewhere in Florence working, unprompted, on a gift for Madonna when Phillips reached out to Gucci to contribute costumes to the tour.
Dance Spirit: What’s the process of choreographing for a tour of this scale?
Megan Lawson: Jamie King is the show’s director. The process starts with a discussion between Jamie, Madonna and I about ideas and concepts. Then, my dancers, Jamie and I get into the studio and experiment for a while before presenting to M. She always has a hand in the choreography. She loves to be part of the process and collaborate with everyone, from the lighting designer to the makeup artist. I’d say every number in the tour has at least one part Madonna choreographed herself. It’s a really fun process.
DS: Are there other choreographers working with you?
ML: Since I’m the lead choreographer on this tour, I got to recommend other choreographers to collaborate with. I was so fortunate to bring in other artists, including Jillian Meyers, Matt Cady and Kevin Maher, who are all friends of mine. The great thing about involving other choreographers is that the show becomes really diverse. Every song is different stylistically, and each has a unique choreographic vibe.
DS: Does anything about the tour scare you?
ML: Getting it all done in time! It’s been a challenge to coordinate everything. Madonna doesn’t settle for anything but the best—she’s a perfectionist. It takes time. This is certainly the biggest-scale production I’ve ever experienced. I can’t wait to see it all come together. I know it will. But right now it’s crunch time, and that’s a little scary.
DS: What are your top three favorite Madonna songs?
ML: “Human Nature,” “Messiah” and “Falling Free.”
DS: What’s your advice for Dance Spirit readers?
ML: Explore as many avenues as you can. I never really had goals or plans that were set in stone. I just knew I wanted to dance and create for living. I tried lots of different things—from taking a wide variety of classes to assisting choreographers to picking up small gigs here and there. What really paid off the most, though, was grabbing some friends and making a few little videos of my own. Those experiences were more satisfying than working as a backup dancer—and Madonna ended up hiring me after seeing some of the clips! It’s OK if your goals change over time. Be open to your desires and follow your heart.
17. Madonna, “Into the Groove” (1985)
With two hit albums, Like a Virgin rising in the charts, and one wild MTV wedding cake performance behind her, Madonna’s career was in a very sweet spot in 1985. So it’s no wonder the It Girl would make moves in Hollywood, starring in Susan Seidelman’s Desperately Seeking Susan. It’s there, in the closing credits of the movie, that a demo version of “Into the Groove” was not just heard, but also essentially released.
“Music can be such a revelation,” preaches Madonna on “Into the Groove”, yet again making the dance floor a place for physical and emotional freedom. Playing shy, she bounces between earnestly begging for company and aggressively making her partner dance right to win her affection. While songs like “Borderline” and “Dress You Up” were successful dance-pop tracks, nothing Madonna had put out was as club-appropriate as “Into the Groove”. Penned by Madonna and songwriter Steve Bray, “Into the Groove” was initially intended for producer Mark Kamins. But Madonna thought it would suit her new movie well, much to the chagrin of Kamins.
The fact that Madonna would give the song such an unconventional debut shows how strong her popularity was at the time and how big of a hit the song really is. With filming finishing right before Like a Virgin was out, Desperately Seeking Susan swiftly became a Madonna vehicle before its release. Ratings were lowered specifically to accommodate the star’s teen fanbase and lead Rosanna Arquette was seen as a supporting actress in Madge’s shadow. The unpolished demo didn’t even land on the film’s soundtrack and was only available as the B-side to “Angel” in the U.S., but it’s still regarded as one of Madonna’s best dance tracks. —Hazel Cills
50. Madonna, “Like a Prayer” (1989)
Madonna filed for divorce from Sean Penn two months before she released “Like a Prayer”, the title track to the 1989 album that would cement her as a serious songwriter and an unstoppable cultural force as she entered her thirties. In anticipation of her fourth album, Madonna would grace the covers of Interview, Rolling Stone, and Spin. Like a Prayer was her most visible album to date, and also her darkest.
“This is reality, and reality sucks,” Madonna said in her Interview cover story. She was describing her initial vision for the “Like a Prayer” video, which was apparently even more brutal than the one that scandalized the Vatican, but the statement undercuts the whole song, too. Written toward the end of an abusive marriage, “Like a Prayer” sees Madonna assume a pose of surrender. Its gospel triumph comes only from its embrace of absolute darkness—”everyone must stand alone,” she sings into the emptiness. Then she’s falling from the sky, calling to God, or really just any power that will listen. She’s singing from her own rock bottom, waiting for someone—anyone—to carry her back up to the top. —Sasha Geffen
106. Madonna, “Borderline” (1984)
Released in 1983, “Borderline” is one of the first laid bricks in the cathedral of Madonna’s mythology, four minutes of emotional helium that became her first Top 10 hit on the heels of an iconic music video. In the clip, Madonna closes the gap between the club kid she was and the glamorous star she’d become as she plays her two beaux—a Latino tough boy and a snobby British photographer—off each other. Ironically, while lyrics refer to the gnawing desolation one might feel while navigating a relationship in which they don’t have any power, Madonna has total control in the video. She makes the tough boy miss his shot at the pool table by simply standing in the doorway; she spray paints the photographer’s car, causing him to flip out. She takes the energy from the song—a bubblegum instrumental given weight by her legible vocal performance—and uses it to dispel all the lingering demons from that bad relationship. There’s so much charisma, it’s easy to see why this was the song that catapulted her toward being the biggest pop star in the world. —Jeremy Gordon
Often recalled as the “Marie Antoinette” performance, Madonna’s game-changing 1990 rendition of her hit “Vogue” was based on the film Dangerous Liaisons, with Madge donning Michelle Pfeiffer’s actual dress from the movie. Luis Camacho and Jose Gutierez, both of whom danced on Madonna’s “Blonde Ambition” tour and choreographed and danced in the original “Vogue” video and VMA number, recall that unforgettable night.
Gutierez: At first, we were going to do another song, ’cause people were already sick of us doing this. We had already vogued all year. It was between “Keep it Together” and something else.
Camacho: The idea [for the “Vogue” performance] came about during a game of charades. During the last days of the tour, we were in the South of France, in Nice, and one of the charades was Dangerous Liaisons. I was sitting next to her, and Madonna goes, “You know, that’s very ‘Vogue.’ ”
Gutierez: For the choreography, I was trying to basically keep the same stuff that was in the chorus section [of the video]. Everyone remembers those counts of eight from the chorus. Voguing is very arrogant and very aristocratic with all this attitude, so I think the theme and the costumes made us emulate it even more.
Camacho: The only thing that had us a little nervous were the fans the women [dancers] had. At one point in the choreography, they flipped the fans in the air, and they’re supposed to catch them. At almost every rehearsal, somebody would drop the fan.
Gutierez: Janet Jackson’s dancers also were performing that night, and there was always this Janet and Madonna competition throughout the years. Janet opened the show with “Black Cat” and we were closing the show, so we got to see them go on first. We were so amped because we were like, “Oh my God, they sucked! They were so bad!” We were like, “Oh, it’s in the bag!”
Camacho: We were also up for an award that night for best choreography.
Gutierez: I really wanted to win, but I knew that we weren’t going to. Madonna told us, “Don’t get your hopes up, because it’s very political in these awards ceremonies. They’re not going to give it to two young kids from the Lower East Side.” I was like, “You don’t know that!”
Camacho: By the time we went to perform, we [hadn’t won]. Standing offstage, Jose and I felt like, “We are about to show you why we should have gotten that award.” We always did a prayer circle before we went on stage. Madonna was like, “Let’s go out there and give it to them! Let’s serve it up, ladies and gentlemen!”
Gutierez: You can see our energy. It’s that moment when the curtain goes up and we are there, and everyone in the crowd just rises to their feet. I was jumping out of my skin.
Camacho: And no one dropped a fan! After they all caught it, we all clapped and breathed a sigh of relief. It was a nail-biter.
Gutierez: Talking about it now is like reliving those moments of being on stage—it gives you this rush of wanting to be the best and wanting to leave such an impression. It’s crazy because 25 years later, people still remember. I still get recognized on the street from this job that I did 25 years ago, and it feels so good.
“With Madonna… I had to gain her trust. I was really honest with her in the studio about what I’m doing, what we’re doing. I wasn’t like a fan. She knows I wasn’t trying to be there and make some money..”
Madonna gave Diplo full permission to go left-field on songs like “Bitch I’m Madonna,” which features production work from SOPHIE, an affiliate of London’s enigmatic PC Music collective. “I think Madonna’s manager was like, ‘Who is this person?’ and I was like, ‘Trust me, this is very cool to have him be part of this song,’” Diplo remembers. “PC Music is a really post-modern attempt at pop. It’s something the kids are generating because everything is so clean as far dance music [is concerned].”
Before she was a star, Madonna was a songwriter with a sharp ear for a hook and a lyrical catchphrase, playing tracks like “Lucky Star” for record companies in the hope of scoring a contract. Her earliest hits honed the electro beats coming out of the New York club scene into universal radio gold. But songs like her greatest statement, “Like a Prayer,” can also summon an anthemic power to rival Springsteen or U2. Madonna has enlisted numerous collaborators en route to selling more than 300 million albums — she started working with longtime writing partner Patrick Leonard after he brought her “Live to Tell” in 1986, and from Shep Pettibone and William Orbit in the Nineties through Diplo, Avicii and Kanye West on 2015’s Rebel Heart, she’s worked successfully with producers across many genres. Through it all, her songs have been consistently stamped with her own sensibility and inflected with autobiographical detail. “She grew up on Joni Mitchell and Motown and. . . embodies the best of both worlds,” says Rick Nowells, who co-wrote with Madonna on 1998’s Ray of Light. “She is a wonderful confessional songwriter, as well as being a superb hit chorus pop writer.”
Love her or loathe her, it would be hard to deny Madonna’s pole position as the greatest female pop star of our times. Her world-beating, shape-shifting, trend-setting and at times ground breaking pop music has covered the gamut of female archetypes: virgin, whore, wife, mother, witch, diva, saint, sinner and 50-year-old cheerleader, and put it all to dance beats and catchy hooks. She might not be the greatest singer, she may not be the finest songwriter, she may favour surface over depth and make music that barely ripples the soul, but Madonna’s pop genius has carried her on a three decade winning streak that no other star, male or female, can match.
2. Tina Turner
3. Kate Bush
4. Debbie Harry
5. The ABBA girls
6. Aretha Franklin
7. Amy Winehouse
10. Patti Smith
11. Janis Joplin
12. Lady Gaga
13. Dusty Springfield
14. Siouxsie Sioux
15. Whitney Houston
16. Grace Jones
17. Dolly Parton
18. Joni Mitchell
19. Chrissie Hynde
20. The Spice Girls
Throughout her long career, Madonna has enlisted the world’s top designers, most famously Jean Paul Gaultier, to collaborate on the costumes for her globe-trotting tours.
She’s again recruited a murderer’s row of fashion talent for her latest, the “Rebel Heart” World Tour, named after her 13th studio album of the same name.
On Wednesday, she revealed exclusively to WWD the designers who made the cut, including Jeremy Scott and Alexander Wang. And add Madonna to the Alessandro Michele fan club: the Gucci creative director also pitched in.
Just like she’s been teasing her setlist on Instagram for months — yes, “Vogue” and “Holiday” will make appearances on the tour — Madonna has also been posting snippets of looks she’s been working on with her longtime costume designer, Academy Award-nominated Arianne Phillips.
Ahead of the tour’s opening in Montreal on Sept. 9, she is revealing the full list of designers today: Fausto Puglisi, Prada and Miu Miu, Swarovski and the Lebanese designer Nicolas Jebran are the others. She’ll show sketches at a later date.
The pop singer’s predilection for some of these names has been evident for a while: she wore Scott for Moschino to the Costume Institute gala in May, on the red carpet as well as to various after parties, for instance. And she was also in full Moschino regalia in her last video, “B**ch I’m Madonna,” where Wang made an exuberant cameo. Before that, she was spotted around town wearing the platform moon boots from Wang’s fall 2015 show, practically straight off the runway.
Curiously, Versace, in whose 2015 advertising campaign Madonna appeared, is not involved in this tour. Phillips, who has been nominated for two Oscars, including her work on Madonna’s own “W.E.,” is marking her sixth tour with Madonna and will also contribute costumes.
Some of the other designers, though, like Michele, are more surprising, underscoring the singer’s knack for spotting new talent.
Long before pop acts fraternized with fashion designers, it was Madonna who asked Gaultier in 1990 to design costumes for her famous “Blonde Ambition” World Tour. He delivered the now iconic coned bra and the two have since collaborated on several tours, on 2001’s “Drowned World,” 2006’s “Confessions” and 2012’s “MDNA,” which included a reinterpretation of their best-known garment.
Previous tours included costumes from Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Christian Lacroix — he designed the crystal-studded corset that opened the “Reinvention” Tour in 2004 — and Riccardo Tisci, who designed the costumes the singer wore during the halftime show at the 2012 Super Bowl.
“People say everything has a limit,” Tisci told WWD at the time, “but limits do not exist with Madonna.” With today’s news, that still seems to be the case.