Madonna's Turbulent Week: Is The Queen Of Pop's Crown Slipping?
Whilst the wheels have far from fallen off the Madonna bandwagon, they're certainly creaking louder than at any point over the past thirty years after a torrid week for the ageing Queen of Pop. First she was threatened with a lawsuit by far right French political party The National Front for associating their party leader with the Nazis, before flopping in London's Hyde Park last night with hundreds of the non-sell-out crowd heading for the exit well before the show's finish. Then today she cancelled all her Australian dates. It's fair to say that things aren't great in camp Madonna at the moment.
Now, regarding the incident in France, Madge has never been shy in her courting of controversy; we don't need to remind you of the furore 'Like A Virgin' caused when released in 1984, nor the video to 1989 smash 'Like A Prayer'. Madonna's image, and the infamy it has attracted, has always gone hand in hand with the huge pop hooks, the multi-million selling albums and worldwide arena tours. That's fine when everything's going well, the shocked and appalled reactions of the press only adds fuel to the juggernaut when you're still top of the game.
The trouble comes when you're a 53 year-old competing for tabloid space and chart sales with artists over three decades younger than you. Madonna's well-publicised spat with Lady Gaga over the past few months has seen the catty comments from the former laced with something a little different than the bolshie hubris of old: in her comments about the 25 year-old stealing her style, in the way she drops in lyrics from GaGa songs into her own, there is the sense of desperation from a woman quite clearly aware that she's now comfortable being outflanked by her younger competitors. The artist has always ostensibly dealt in sex and adult fantasy; aged 53 that simply isn't attractive anymore - hey, it happens, we all get old - and it's become all too clear that she doesn't actually have anything else in her arsenal, when she eventually does cover up she won't be able to get by on strength of her voice alone. She must know that, at the very top of the pop world at least, her time is nearing an end.
"That's ridiculous" you might say, and on the surface you'd be right. Her latest album 'MDNA' went straight in to number one in the US Billboard Charts, as well topping the UK charts and several other major markets. That only tells a portion of the story though; 'MDNA' has sold less than 500,000 copies Stateside, the lowest selling Madonna album ever, and many believe it only received such figures in the first place thanks to a deluxe package that meant you got a free album with each purchase for her US tour earlier in the year. Even accounting for the worldwide drop in album sales, that still makes for poor reading.
Tour-wise things on the surface seem to be going well too, with the star selling out shows all over the world including her first ever shows in the United Arab Emirates. However, the main markets have performed slower than expected; promoters Live Nation claimed back in the Spring that the tour was on course to be one of the top 10 commercially successful tours of all-time, but tickets still remained for her US shows as late as May, whilst in London last night Live Nation admitted that they hadn't sold out the 50,000 capacity gig. This is a major worry for Madonna; the press have always reacted with outrage and disgust to actions by the star, but she's always had a resolute fan base to back her up. Yet the response to the Hyde Park show ,and at other shows by those in attendance has been somewhat underwhelming, and the sight of so many leaving last night was perhaps indicative of the plight of a star who was reduced to performing a strip tease, in her fifth decade on this earth, in a weak attempt to keep the crowd interested. Whilst there is no denying that Madonna remains and will remain one of the best known stars in the world, this week has really opened the cracks on a career that for some time now people have suggested isn't long for winding down. It's one thing to be adored, and another to shock, but to lose the interest of your fan base? Well that's when you really need to start ringing the alarm bells.