For 20 years, Madonna has lived on the hype that she could effortlessly shape-shift into the latest and greatest pop-culture trendsetter. After all, she made crucifixes a hot fashion item, turned underground house music into the beat of a thousand high school proms and helped refashion the obscure tenets of the kabbala into a fetish as fashionable as Scientology.
“She’s at the forefront of every new cultural psyche,” says Marian Salzman, chief strategy officer for marketers Euro RSCG. “First she was talking about sex, then she was talking about respect. She reemerged in 2000 with yoga and by 2003, she was into electronica and hip-hop.”
But as Madonna launched a six-night run at Madison Square Garden, there’s something about her latest incarnation that’s not quite in sync.
The writhing musical dominatrix in fishnets is selling children’s books. She now expresses herself as a wife, mother, political activist, moral spokesmodel and yoga fanatic.
She has dubbed her new tour “Re-Invention” and packed it full of images that reflect her newfound identity. For Madonna’s 2004 model, it could easily be the “Mixed-Message” tour. Many of her recent public moves have fallen as flat as her high notes.
Think about her highly touted tonsil hockey with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera at last year’s MTV Video Music Awards.
It was meant to be outrageous and link the aging icon to the pop tarts of a new generation. But to many, it was one of the most cloying moves she ever made.
“It looked a little desperate,” says Rachel Weingarten, president of youth-oriented GTK Marketing. “If she’s trying to create the image of a comfortable, complacent mom, it sent another message to kiss a girl. It said, wait, you’re not interesting enough anymore if you still have to create that kind of controversy.”
What’s shakiest about Madonna’s current tour, however, is the fundamental lack of something she’s always had ” a hit.
The title track of “American Life” was the album’s only big single, and that barely cracked Billboard’s Top 40, peaking at No. 37.
The album itself is the singer’s least successful to date, reaching platinum status in three months but stalling soon after. Even 2000’s “Music” went double-platinum and sold nearly three times as many copies worldwide.
That’s largely because young people are the most avid record buyers and, Weingarten says, they see her as a “doyenne” who is “far from the epitome of hip.”
The singer has tried to stay connected, but it’s been something of an awkward fit. Can anybody really imagine Madonna heading to the mall to try on a pair of jeans?
“She wanted to stay relevant,” says Morris Reid, managing director of the marketing agency Blue Fusion. “So she appeared in a GAP ad with Missy Elliott.”
Perhaps that’s why “Re-Invention,” unlike previous tours, features so many of Madonna’s classic hits, giving older fans what they’ve long clamored for. Except that they’ll have to swallow the nostalgia with hefty doses of politics and religion.
“Madonna’s dogmatic kabbala babble, political propaganda and “Riverdance”moves are an utter bore to her hard-core fans,” says Mary Spio, pop culture editor of One2One magazine.
“Going to a Madonna concert riddled with cryptic Hebrew texts and images of war is like going to a strip joint only to find the strippers reading from the Book of Psalms,” she adds.
The $305 price of the top tour tickets is another sign that spirituality hasn’t altered Madonna’s penchant for profit.
These days when she sings “I am a material girl,” she likes to deflect her old image by saying “not anymore.”
But the concert merchandise tables are filled with kabbala trinkets and her Web site hawks discounted copies of the kids’ book ‘Mr. Peabody’s Apples.” Her new identity conveniently comes complete with a fully accessorized product line.
“She’s always at the center of things changing,” Salzman says. “And then she will make a business of it.”
source : thestate.com