It’s far too common to pit women in popular music against one another. And, after Madonna and Annie Lennox delivered their respective performances on the 57th Grammy Awards on Sunday, that’s exactly what happened. As both these strong female trailblazers came to prominence in the 1980s, many in the cyber sphere wanted to admonish one over the other.
But, first off, comparing Annie Lennox and Madonna musically is a false equivalence. They are, generally, two different types of artists, popular for different reasons, each with separate skill sets: one is a rock, blue-eyed soul vocalist about big vocal performances, the other is a dance-pop, self-proclaimed “show girl” with a talent for theatrics, messages, dancing and spectacle. Both are entertainment masters in their own right.
But, simmering underneath their performances was a vitriolic conversation online and in the media about age. With just four years difference (Lennox, 60 and Madonna, 56), there were countless remarks on how one was acting “appropriately,” and one was not. One was “a class act” and one was not. But when it comes to aging — just like their musical careers — these women have two separate approaches and journeys entirely their own.
Madonna has opted to go a more modern and, dare I say, subversive route. Physically, she tries to look the best she possibly can for her age, even decades younger (utilizing everything from intense workouts to diet to alleged surgery), and she dresses unconventionally and scantily (even cheekily flashing the Grammy red carpet her bare bum).
Musically, she works with younger producers and continues creating modern music. And she is not about to stop being the same provocative artist she’s always been. “Is there a rule? Are people just supposed to die when they’re 40?” she famously said in a 1992 interview at age 34 , lamenting how people aren’t supposed to be “adventurous” or “sexual” after maxing their 30s. Madonna has always challenged culture norms and “rules” about behavior, particularly rules in relation to women and how people are told they can and can’t express themselves.
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