2015: “The Year of Madonna”

madonna_rebel_heart“I’ve fallen apart. I was lost, now I’m found.

I picked up my crown, put it back on my head.

I can forgive, but I will never forget.”

~ Madonna


On March 10, 2015, Madonna will be releasing her thirteenth studio album, Rebel Heart. Most early indications are positive. Because of the leaks and the decision to release six official tracks immediately, initial reviews are favorable, songs are charting, and a buzz is emerging – Madonna is back.

Of course, with the anticipation of new Madonna music comes publicity and press. And with publicity and press comes the commentary, good and bad. Few women, after all, are more polarizing than Madonna. For as many people that love Madonna’s music around the globe, there are those equally enthusiastic who love to point out how much they hate Madonna.

Haters are nothing new for Madonna. As long as there have been Madonna and Madonna fans, there have been those eager to point out why they think Madonna is untalented, desperate, and irrelevant. In the past, such negative commentary typically took place in person. Now, of course, we conveniently have the internet to document the frustration.

Go to any online Madonna article and peruse the comments section. Below is a sampling of the feedback you’ll find:   hater3

Naturally, the commentary above isn’t exclusive to Madonna. But, as illustrated above, Madonna still has a knack for attracting criticism. People love to go out of their way to leave snarky comments about Madonna’s age, her desperation, and, most prevalent of all, haters love to point out that Madonna is no longer relevant.

Debating Madonna’s relevance is something of a paradox. The very act of leaving snide commentary or debating Madonna’s merits, only seems to prove that Madonna is still very relevant. If she wasn’t significant, no one would be talking about her, lovers and haters alike. Yet, after 30 + years in the national psyche, here we are still talking about Madonna. And not only does that make Madonna relevant in 2015, it makes her uniquely exceptional.

While the great Madonna debate has propelled her career and kept her hovering with the stars for decades, it would serve us well to remember why Madonna remains a worldwide phenomena. After all, if there is no substance to debate, there would be no debate to be had.

rebelheart1Madonna is most relevant when she is most irrelevant.

Hell hath no fury like Madonna ignored.  Call her what you will, but at her heart Madonna is a fighter, and she takes her craft and commercial success very seriously. She is always at her best when she has a point to prove, when Madonna demands our attention… not for her controversies but for her music.

Although Madonna has many noteworthy albums and every fan has their favorites, over the past 3 decades there have been 3 defining Madonna albums:

  1. “Like a Prayer” released in 1989
  2. “Ray of Light” released in 1998
  3. “Confessions on a Dance Floor” released in 2005

Given the lukewarm reception Madonna received with 2008’s “Hard Candy” and 2012’s “MDNA”, it appears that Madonna is on the cusp of a fourth defining album to anchor her stardom into another decade.

Madonna has certainly invested the time and energy into Rebel Heart. 2014 was dedicated to writing and recording music for the album, of which 19 songs will be officially released. If the six teaser tracks are any indication, like the albums noted above, Rebel Heart will see a return of the vulnerable, ballsy, and inspired artists that has defined pop music for 30+ years.

The very fact that Madonna has invested so much into Rebel Heart should give us pause. Based on her track record, in the wake of #SecretProject, Rebel Heart (whether we want to listen or not) has already proven to be a labor of love. And let’s be honest with each other, Madonna is at her best when she wants to make love.

Age makes Madonna more relevant.

People are quick to discount Madonna because of her age. Yet in most other circles, experience actually means something.

Where other artists over the decades have stumbled to a finish line, Madonna has been running a 30-year marathon unchallenged. To discount Madonna because of her age is to turn a blind to her stamina, discipline, and drive… Last I checked, these are all qualities that should be celebrated, not shunned.

While Madonna may not be the prettiest pop star on the dance floor, make no mistake – Madonna is the most inspirational. I challenge any naysayer, young and old, to a dance off with Madonna. At 56, Madonna is more fit than most people in their 30s. Her grit and endurance are the result of a lifetime dedicated to fitness and diet, and such determination and stick-to-itiveness can’t be bought with plastic surgery or be photoshopped. Madonna remains beautiful with age, because Madonna fought hard to stay fit.

Men lie. Women Lie. Numbers don’t lie.

People can hate Madonna and Madonna’s music. But the one thing none of us can take away from Madonna are her accomplishments.

  • Madonna has sold more than 300 million albums worldwide.
  • According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Madonna is the most successful female recording artist of all time.
  • Madonna has the most Top 10 singles on Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart (38), surpassing Elvis.
  • Madonna has 43 #1 singles on Billboard’s Hot Dance/Club Play Singles Chart, more than twice the number of her nearest rival, Janet Jackson.
  • Madonna’s 2012 “MDNA” World Tour is the 2nd highest grossing tour for a female solo artist of all time. 1st place was achieved by Madonna in 2008 with her “Sticky and Sweet” tour.

Many people may choose to scoff at Madonna’s accomplishments and write them off as something in the past tense, no longer relevant to the here and now.  Yet when unfinished tracks from Rebel Heart leaked in December 2014, and the decision was made to release 6 tracks immediately, once again Madonna proved how very relevant she remains.

As noted by Billboard Magazine:

“The album preorder topped the iTunes charts in more than 40 countries, including the United States, where three of the six released tracks entered Billboard‘s Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart dated Jan. 3, despite just two days of eligibility. To date, the six tracks have sold a combined 131,000 downloads, according to Nielsen Music, with preorders for Rebel Heart at a robust (considering the situation) 50,000 to 60,000, according to industry estimates.”

Only time will tell whether Madonna will dominate 2015. But considering Rebel Heart hasn’t had any official publicity yet, the album and tour to follow will surely add to Madonna’s already impressive catalog of accomplishments. This being said, haters should brace themselves. For as much effort as Madonna has put into the project so far, Rebel Heart will likely receive a lot of promotion, and no one markets Madonna better than Madonna.

Madonna is loved.

Madonna is a matter of perspective. How we choose to react to her typically says more about us than Madonna. For the millions of people around the world who look up to her, Madonna is an endearing, thought-provoking muse whose humor, voice, and encouragement has accompanied them through life’s trials and tribulations. For them, Madonna doesn’t write music; she is the composer of a gospel, a modern soundtrack to document who we were, who we are, and who we want to be. And despite what haters may opine, like Madonna’s accomplishments, her legion of fans should not be discounted.

Love for Madonna has no borders, admiration for her transcends cultures, ethnicity, sexual preferences, and national origins. And the reason her voice resonates around the planet isn’t because Madonna is sexy or controversial. Madonna fandom, after all, comes with a reckoning, a willingness to look past the cleavage and take Madonna at her word. Remove the woman from the equation and all that is left is Madonna’s music, a collection of songs encouraging all of us to be more bold, celebratory, inclusive, and kind.

Although it’s been over 30 years, Madonna has never stopped demanding that holiday, that one brilliant day when we would all come together and celebrate our collective humanity. Starting in 2015, we should consider taking Madonna up on her offer.

Whether religious extremism, political fear mongering, or snarky comments in a newsfeed, the signs are everywhere: hate has made a comeback. In this vein, Madonna couldn’t be more relevant to 2015.  Whether she intended to or not, Madonna is emblematic of the times we live in.  She represents the choice before us, a decision that we should all take to heart. We can be spiteful, cruel, and judgmental, and lash at the likes of Madonna because of her age, appearance, and views, or we can do the unthinkable; we can challenge ourselves to live in the world as Madonna wants it to be, which is to say: we can reject intolerance and live for love.

madonnas-rebel-heart-reviewed-1419255170Madonna is a Rebel Heart

Long after we all cease to exist, Madonna’s voice will live on. Future generations will dissect her celebrity and debate her significance in the context of the times in which we live. Like us, they will wonder how an outspoken girl from Detroit sung and danced her way into the hearts of millions, while simultaneously drawing ire and ridicule from the masses. Should this essay make it to the hands of someone studying Madonna in the future, I’d like to point out one last reason why Madonna is so relevant to the here and now of 2015.

Madonna is a product of a free society, the equivalent of Lady Liberty in a cone shaped bra. Even if Madonna appalls you, in a time when our liberties are under attack, we should all appreciate that after 30 years we still have the likes of Madonna to champion freedom of expression. After all, had it not been for Madonna’s unapologetic advocacy of self expression, her accomplishments and notoriety wouldn’t exist.

To live in a free society also means that people are free to share their opinions, however snarky and hateful. In this regard, I’ve always considered Madonna something of a warrior. While she may not wield a sword in the name of freedom, I suspect her wounds run just as deep. Whether dancing in front of burning crosses in the Like a Prayer video, photographing her sexual fantasies in her Sex book, or the backlash she received for opposing the Iraq War with the American Life video, Madonna has withstood a lot of public outrage over the decades. And whether we realize it or not, all of those debates centered around the limitations of freedom and speech.

Haters can hate, but I applaud Madonna’s tenacity and resilience. After 30 years of backlash, she keeps on pushing boundaries. Even when faced with a growing mob that insists she can’t, because she’s unworthy or too old, because there’s someone better, prettier, more relevant and talented, acting more age-appropriate than her, Madonna keeps on being Madonna.

Paying attention to Madonna can be exhausting, and her music is not for everyone. For all her strengths, Madonna has her share of flaws. In being outspoken, she sometimes speaks before she thinks. And yes, Madonna is guilty of being narcissistic at times.

There are plenty of reasons not to care for Madonna. But should you want Madonna censored, find yourself despising her for not conforming to your ideals, or feel compelled to leave snarky commentary for the sake of being hateful, let’s be clear on this one final point…

That doesn’t make Madonna irrelevant. That makes you irrelevant.



Leave a comment


  1. Gustavo A.

     /  May 2, 2016


  2. Goliath sparrow

     /  March 1, 2015

    fantastic article, best ive read about my girl in a while……..i had to register to leave this comment, i dont usually, but it was that good. thanks


       /  May 2, 2016

      Madonna Has sold worldwide over 310 Million Albums and over 500 Million Single Records!!!!!!!!!! Madonna is the only Female in top 4 list of All Time Best Selling Artists!!!!!!!! Madonna is Best Selling Female Artist of All Time!!!!!!!

  3. ChadSF

     /  January 21, 2015

    Thank you very much for writing this amazing and insightful article. There are so many points that were brought here but I’m ready for Madonna in 2015. I also want to point out your statement around irrelevance “There are plenty of reasons not to care for Madonna. But should you want Madonna censored, find yourself despising her for not conforming to your ideals, or feel compelled to leave snarky commentary for the sake of being hateful, let’s be clear on this one final point… That doesn’t make Madonna irrelevant. That makes you irrelevant.” Thank you again and stay unapologetic. 🙂

  4. Junior

     /  January 17, 2015

    Wow, what an amazing article. Guy served it at the end, great writing, it left me wanting to read more

  5. Carlos F Lopez

     /  January 16, 2015

    Madonna = LOVE & Love = MADONNA

  6. Great article Damon! No one does sad like Madonna because in her Rebel Heart, she is a Lucky Star, a Ray of Light, a Beautiful Stranger and a Masterpiece and a Future Lover who looks for the Rain and Opens Our Hearts! We Must Love Her whether we Like It or Not because Madonna Louise Ciccone Lives to Tell, Takes a Bow and Promises to Try in her Music which is an Impressive Instant in her Drowned World Ghost Town Paradise! In her X-Static Process Mer Girl Detroit Rock City blues, her life in rock & roll is absolute brilliance! Nothing Really Matters except one thing for Madonna and that is Love. I end this post by saying Don’t Tell Her to stop!

  7. James

     /  January 15, 2015

    Fantastic essay!

  8. I’ll be buying this album for sure. People hate Madonna because they are homophobic.

  9. Horace Kimbrough

     /  January 13, 2015

    M, you know you’re are hot. I love your creative mind. Do your thang, sister in ART.

  10. Robert

     /  January 13, 2015

    And let’s not forget that the 2006 “Confessions Tour” was the highest grossing tour for a female solo artist before she broke her own record with the S&S Tour in 2008.

    Her place in history and pop culture is firmly cemented. This is an inarguable fact, whether she is your cup of tea or not. The Beatles, The Stones, Elvis, Michael Jackson — none of them come close to touching the Madonna. There has never been a more influential and revolutionary figure in pop culture — and there never will be again.

  11. Michael

     /  January 13, 2015

    Great article. Love her or loathe her you can’t deny she is a legend of the music/entertainment industry and should be respected for her unprecedented achievements

  12. trey

     /  January 13, 2015

    LOVE this. You said what I can’t find the words to say. No one gives Madonna the due respect she most definitely deserves. Thank you.

  13. Thatcher

     /  January 13, 2015

    I think the best article on Madonna I’ve ever read. I am a big fan, and have been one such day one. The haters just make me love her more.

  14. Bruno

     /  January 13, 2015

    Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!

  15. Murray Bourke

     /  January 12, 2015

    The only people who don’t understand the Madonna (aka the Queen), look-up to her, admire her and find her a source of inspiration are those who don’t truly understand her. Admitadly there is a lot to understand, so we can’t judge or be intolerant to those who don’t, nevertheless, here we are still taking about Madonna 30+ years later.

    M, thank you for fighting for my freedom, letting my know that it was OK to be me, allowing me to love myself and the world, that I have a place in the world and then through K that I can actually affect change. Not only have you saved my life twice, but countless others that I’ve since come into contact with. Your inspiration continues to flourish stronger than the brightest light. A True RebalHeart.

  16. Thank you all for the feedback. It means a lot to me to know the essay resonated with you. Madonna has had such a positive impact on so many people, which often goes unappreciated. LUV hearing your stories and feedback. Looking forward to the “Rebel Heart” chapter for all of us. Damon (aka Guy Penn)

  17. Thank you so much for writing such a well spoken tribute to Madonna and her legacy, past and present. I have been a diehard fan of Madonna since 1982, and just as others who have commented here, I grew up with Madonna’s message and music as the soundtrack to my life. When I came out of the closet in 1993 it was Madonna’s music and her profound way of telling us to be who we are that helped me to survive and embrace myself wholly. If not for the courage and power of Madonna’s presence, my life would certainly be something alltogether different, and not half as blessed. Madonna couldn’t be more relevant than she is NOW. Thank you, Madonna.

  18. was hooked from 1982 to current….age has nothing to do with…lets see some of the 30 years olds dance like her…shes always been a trailblazer and powerhouse….they em hate…..

  19. Wow great article well written !! I have been a superfan of madonnas since I was 7 years old ….as a gay teenager If it wasn’t for Madonna and her music and strength and ultimately her inspiration I don’t think I’d have had the strength to carry on !!!! I’m super excited for this new album ………. Long live Madonna and long live her music a great gift she has shared with us all ;-))))))))

  20. A great philosophical look at Madonna and her impact! Bravo!

  21. You have spoken my thoughts profoundly and eloquently. Thank you wholeheartedly Guy Penn. #ILOVEMADONNA {everything} beyond the end of time – infinitely so. Because of her, i Am Me Happy Healthy Free 😊 Amen. Sincerely, Fan Since 1982 William WiLaBe Richer #WiLaBeDNA

  22. Caleb cheney

     /  January 12, 2015

    I have always loved Madonna. Nothing will ever change that! She is and always will be an inspiration to me♡♡♡♡♡♡♡ her music has gotten me through some hard times in my life

  23. Tim

     /  January 12, 2015

    . I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

  24. Mark Miltenburg

     /  January 12, 2015

    Madonna captured me back in the day with “holiday” and “like a virgin”, and I have been a vehement Madonna fan ever since. Just ask anyone close to me and you’ll hear how much I love, admire, and idolize Ms Ciccone. For me, Madonna will always be relevant. If the walking dead like Mick and Elton are still relevant, how can she not? And really, what have Mick or Elton done lately? Nothing. Except, at least in Elton’s case, maybe publicly hate Miss M. LONG LIVE OUR QUEEN. As Miss M sings, “Bitch I’m Madonna”.

  25. Salida

     /  January 11, 2015

    A great article! Congratulations and thank you!


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