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Madonna: Too old, too white and too English

With a country estate in Wiltshire, a love for shooting and even a taste for Timothy Taylor’s real ale, Madonna has become the epitome of the English lady of the manor.

But the Queen of Pop’s reincarnation as Middle England’s favourite mum is alienating her American fan base and hindering chart success in her homeland.

Many leading radio stations in the United States now regard the 47-year-old Anglophile as passée and are refusing to give her the airtime she once enjoyed.

Her new single Sorry, which topped the charts in Britain, last week stalled at number 58 on the US Billboard Hot 100, which takes into account both airplay and sales. Now in its fourth week of release, the single languishes at number 77.

Madonna has not had a top five hit in the US singles chart for more than five years. Even Hung Up, which reached number one in 41 countries, peaked at number seven in America.

Music critics and fans cite her attachment to England – she once said: ”I love England and I want to be here and not in America” – as one of the reasons for her dwindling chart success back home.

Gareth Grundy, the deputy editor of Q magazine, one of Britain’s most prestigious music publications, said Madonna’s move across the Atlantic had changed the perception of the American audience.

“I think the key reason why she is more popular in Britain and Europe than she is in America is that she lives here now,” he said.

“A lot of Americans now think of her as an expat. She is no longer the American girl next door who turned herself into the greatest-ever pop star.”

Clare Parmenter, who runs the British-based Madonnalicious website, said: “Fans in America who have tried to request Sorry on some American radio stations have found that stations are just not interested any more. They say she does not fit their demographics.

Even a commercial pop song like Hung Up, which is one of her biggest hits ever, is not considered suitable. American radio is only interested in R n B and rap these days.”

Gary Blake, the corporate programme director of the American station Electric 94.9, admitted that Madonna’s “Britishness” could be a factor.

He said: “I really liked Sorry and we did get some good requests on it but we’re just not seeing the response we used to. It may be because of her new-found Britishness, but sometimes it’s just the song.”

After the comparative failure of her 2003 album, American Life, millions was spent promoting Madonna’s latest album, Confessions On A Dancefloor, last November. Despite this, it has sold only 1.3 million copies in the US, less than a third of the sales of her 2000 album Music, released before she moved to Britain.

Perhaps betraying concern about how she is now perceived in America, one track on the new album was entitled I love New York and included the line: “Paris and London baby you can keep. . . no other city made me glad except New York.”

Elsewhere, however, Confessions On A Dancefloor has been a runaway success, topping the album charts in 40 countries and spawning two number one singles in this country.

Despite the slump in the US, Geoff Mayfield, the chart editor of Billboard, said he believed that Madonna could overcome American radio’s lack of support. “I think Madonna is very much her own person and does what she wants to do. The album is a triumph when compared to American Life and she will be pleased with that.”

Madonna’s spokesman, Liz Rosenberg, said yesterday: “Dance music isn’t getting the recognition that it deserves on radio stations in America right now, but Madonna really doesn’t evaluate the success of a record by its chart position. She likes to come out of a studio feeling she has done the very best work she can and earning the respect of her peers.

“She would love American radio to come on board in that way and show the same sort of commitment that European radio has done, but that is not a decision for her. She is about to go on tour and when radio stations are reminded that she is the most phenomenal performer of our time, I am sure they will tune into her again.”