Monday, July 2, 2012

The 10 best Madonna Moments

Everybody debut - 1982
Before the conical bra and colourful yogatards, the world met a plainer Madonna in the video for debut single “Everybody”. Call it the Amelia Earhart look: waxy leather jacket, checked shirt, sensible trousers, utility belt. Plonked in the middle of a dozen lethargic extras, Madge did a hypnotic side-to-side dance for nearly six minutes, mainly singing truisms about music making people happy. Only once was there a glimpse of her future, when, in a spoken interlude, Madonna delivered chat-up lines at the camera. There was something in the eyes that said: mischief imminent

Like a Virgin live - 1984
Dressed in wedding whites, perched atop an 8ft cake next to a mannequin bridegroom, Madonna eased in to this legend-making appearance at the MTV awards in 1984 by kicking off her heels. The following performance sent spinning, too, all previous standards of acceptable raunchiness in pop. The singer writhed; she panted; at one point she simulated sex with her own bridal veil. Two decades later, the song was reprised at an MTV bash in 2003, this time with co-performers Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera donning whites. Madonna, in black, played the groom

Catholic scrap - 1989-2006
Touring in 2006, Madonna appeared on stage, night after night, strung up on a giant crucifix and wearing a crown of thorns. She had already vexed the Vatican with her 1989 video for “Like a Prayer” (it featured a love scene between her and St Martin de Porres) and the mock crucifixion revived old tensions. “I think [Pope Benedict] would enjoy the show,” said a spokesperson for Madonna, issuing an invitation for the pope to come along that the holy father never took up. Probably wise, as the production also featured images of him intercut with shots of Benito Mussolini

Sex, the book - 1992
Madonna’s foray into the art-porn game was described by a tabloid in ’92 as a “re-re-relaunch” for the singer. (How many extra prefixes would we need in 2012?) Photography book Sex was a commercial triumph, its 100,000 UK copies selling out immediately. Content-wise? More than 100 pages of Madonna and pals pictured nude, part-nude, cross-dressing, gagged, sexily ordering pizza, all sorts. Naomi Campbell made a cameo, as did Madonna’s beau at the time, Vanilla Ice. “It looked like she was screwing all these other people,” Ice later complained, apparently not briefed properly

Courtney Love clash - 1995
Not an obvious tent-pole moment in a 30-year career, but this encounter merits mention for its rare example of Madonna, imperturbable, getting rattled. She was being interviewed at an awards show in 1995 when missiles came flying in: Courtney Love was off-camera, throwing makeup. “Don’t, please,” said Madge when Love joined them. “Oh my God, talk into the big ice cream, yes,” she was soon telling herself, out-of-sorts and reminded by a producer to use her mic. The segment ended with Madonna backing away from an uncomfortable few minutes out of the image-control bubble

Evita - 1996
“Only I can do Eva Perón,” said Madonna, newly cast in a film of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Evita. “Like me, she left her hometown in order to succeed. I went to New York and she went to São Paulo.” Well... the geography was close enough. Argentina’s famous first lady ultimately provided Madonna with her best screen role to date, and won the singer both a Golden Globe and a top 10 hit for centre-piece song, “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina”. Some Argentinians did, inevitably, cry over Madonna’s involvement. “Satan in drag, a real insult to [...] the memory of Eva Perón,” was the archbishop of Buenos Aires’s measured view

Ray of Light - 1998
There had been lots of distractions: the rarity of critical approval for her acting (Evita), the birth of a first child (Lourdes), the abrupt embrace of ancient Rabbinic philosophy (Kabbalah). “Ray of Light”, 1998’s enjoyable head-nodder, marked a return to frontline pop. The William Orbit-produced single (from an album of the same name) was brisk and efficient, a rock meets dance track with a video that had Madonna convulsing in front of footage of speeding cars and later getting sweaty in a disco. On release, it was held off the top of the UK charts by an All Saints song, but was later voted into a list of “No1s that should’ve been.”

Swept Away - 2002
“For starters,” wrote Rolling Stone of this Madonna-starring, Guy Ritchie-directed film, “it blows.” “Leaves men with the quaint notion that the best way to a woman’s heart is through enslavement,” said the New York Daily News of its love-on-a-desert-island conceit. Our own Philip French went for “dire”. Still, there can be profit in disaster. Ritchie was urged back to the enjoyable London-based capers with which he first made his name, and Madonna – after an uncredited cameo in a James Bond flick in 2002 – has never appeared in a film again (though her direction of last year’s W.E. invited comparable reviews)

Parkinson interview - 2005
At the beginning of a Michael Parkinson interview for ITV, Madonna exchanged pleasantries with her host before launching into a song. Hadn’t she...? Wasn’t that...? Only after an ad break, Madonna parked in a swivel chair, did realisation strike. She was speaking in a British accent. Not full-bore RP (there was still plenty of the famous New York-Michigan hybrid in there) but very, very odd. Perhaps it was the influence of Ritchie, to whom she’d been married for five years. But whenever Madonna slipped into Baker Street Irregular mode (“Frum moi perspective...”), it became difficult to watch while sitting still

Super Bowl gig - 2012
It’s one of the biggest gigs a singer can get: a short slot at half-time during the annual American football final, more than 110m watching in the US alone. When Madonna was booked to perform at the 2012 Super Bowl in Indiana, we wondered how big she would go. She entered on an oversized golden throne, on a ship with wings, being dragged by 50 topless men. The following 12-minute medley featured swordsmen, harpists, cheerleaders, tightrope walkers, a gospel choir and a snare drum corps – the population, basically, of a small town. “I’ve never worked so hard,” said Madonna, who didn’t even have to haul the winged ship