The power of vocal manipulation lets stars break free from human form

What is art about if not breaking free from unremarkable human form? Botticelli envisioned Venus emerging from the sea fully grown. Max Shrek’s face was twisted into a ghostly visage to play the title role in F W Murnau’s Nosferatu. Madonna used auto-tune on her album Madame X to alter the pitch of her vocals into something different. Something superhuman.

The record plays like a straight-up museum piece. The way Madonna digitally manipulates her voice on the edgy high-end pop number Dark Ballet encapsulates the cerebral nature of her approach. Over spotless piano keys and a heavy electronic beat, the singer is a creature transformed. When the vocal effects fray at the edges of lyrics like, “‘Cause your world is such a shame/‘Cause your world’s obsessed with fame’/Cause your world’s in so much pain,” it suggests the erosion of our species’ righteousness, the erasure of our humanity.

Madonna later uses a vocoder to switch into a more discernible retro-futuristic robot voice, programming such lyrics as, “I will not renounce my faith in my sweet Lord”. Then there’s a rendition of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite: Dance of the Reed-Flutes. By uniting sci-fi tech, classical music and ancient scripture, Madonna creates a jarring juxtaposition. Her methodology highlights what using vocal manipulation techniques can achieve in pop performance.

Madonna used auto-tune on her album Madame X to alter the pitch of her vocals into something different. Something superhuman. Photograph: Steven Klein
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The Virgin Tour homevideo promo ad from Argentina

If you only knew how much stuff I still need to scan to update the many pages here on MadonnaUnderground. Thanks to a certain Madame X everything has been on a hold-up including our discography. Now that the hectic times have settled a bit and Madonna is deep into tour rehearsals I have some time to catch up on my work again.

First up here is an original rare promotional ad for The Virgin Tour homevideo from Argentina! It has been added to the press section of our Virgin Tour page.

MUCH MUCH more coming up, stay tuned!

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Madame X goodiebag giveaway winners announced

Thank you once again for the dozens of entries to our Madame X goodiebag giveaway with thanks to Concerto Recordstore in Amsterdam!

From a random lottery draw the following winners were selected:

  • Rene Liet
  • Christophe Fadeur
  • Sandra Burton

Congrats! The bags will ship out asap!

If you didn’t win do not despair we will have another giveaway soon, though we cannot guarantee more goodiebags…but you’ll never know.

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Designer Jean Paul Gaultier Loves Madonna So Much, He Proposed to Her 3 Times

One of the fashion industry’s most iconic duos almost said “I do!”

Every since Madonna first wore one of Jean Paul Gaultier’s designs in the mid-1980s to the premiere of Desperately Seeking Susan, the two have been an inseparable fashion force. Since then, Madonna and Gaultier have collaborated on costumes for the pop sensation’s Blonde Ambition tour in 1990, the Confessions tour in 2006 and even attended the 2018 Met Gala together. Their bond was so close, in fact, that the French designer once wanted to take their friendship to the next level.

During an interview with London’s This Morning, a reporter asked Gaultier if he’s always been a bit in love with Madonna, to which he replied, “I was kind of.”

He added: “I asked her three times if [she] wanted to marry me.”

Though she loves him as a close friend, Madonna wasn’t ready to tie the knot. “She said no,” Gaultier told the outlet.

At the 2018  “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” Met Gala, Madonna turned to Gaultier to create her “Immaculate Goth Queen” look.

Her black ball gown featured a fitted bodice and a sheer cross cutout, a full ball skirt, black veil, cross-adorned crown and she finished the look off carrying a black flower in her hand.

“Madonna and Jean Paul have had quite a history together so it was a wonderful family reunion and quite the fashion throwback,” the star’s stylist Eyob Yohannes told PEOPLE. “It was lovely to work with Jean Paul who has such a creative eye.”

More at PEOPLE

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Madonna Collaborator Patrick Leonard Shares Original Like A Prayer Demos

Madonna’s former art advisor and friend Darlene Lutz is auctioning off a bunch of the star’s personal items, including a 1995 breakup letter from Tupac and cassette tapes featuring unreleased demos and recordings. Madonna has been trying to stop the unauthorized auction for two years now, but she failed, and there are currently over 70 lots on the auction block at the memorabilia company Gotta Have Rock & Roll.

But even if Madonna couldn’t legally stop the auction from happening, that doesn’t mean that she and her friends are just going to let it go. Yesterday, Madonna’s collaborator Patrick Leonard, who co-wrote and co-produced many of her albums including True BlueLike A Prayer, and Ray Of Light, uploaded the original demos of “Cherish,” “Like A Prayer,” and the unreleased track “Angels With Dirty Faces” to YouTube for free in an attempt to deter fans from bidding on them.

“I hope these posts stop the sale of that cassette at auction,” Leonard wrote in one of the video’s descriptions. “Not cool at all that someone would sell it. Not theirs to sell.” The auction is set to close in three days. Listen to the original demos of “Cherish,” “Like A Prayer,” and “Angels With Dirty Faces,” apparently recorded the day they were written, below.

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Dave Chappelle’s no-cellphone rule doesn’t apply to Madonna

The rules don’t apply to Madonna.

Madge was spotted on Saturday at Dave Chappelle’s limited-run Broadway show, where guests are required to put their phones in securely locked bags to prevent them from sneakily recording the show — except the Material Girl, apparently.

“She was the only one who got to keep her phone,” said a spy at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, adding, “She laughed at everything.”

We’re told Madonna came with three dancers about 25 minutes before Chappelle went on, when opener Anderson Paak was performing.

After staying for two hours, which included an audience Q&A, we’re told she was “whisked away by security the moment that Dave was done.”

More at PageSix

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UK cassette sales grew by 94% in first half of 2019

Nearly 35,000 cassettes have been sold in the UK for the first half of 2019, according to a BPI report via Wired.

Billie Eilish took top place with 4,000 copies of her debut album When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?sold, followed by Catfish and The Bottlemen’s The Balance at 2, Madonna’s Madam X at 3, Lewis Capaldi’s Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent at 4, and Hozier’s Wasteland Baby at 5.

Despite the growth, the sales account for just 0.2% of total albums purchased during that period. By comparison, vinyl records accounted for 12% of UK album sales for the first 6 months of the year.

Check out the best sellers, and watch our film about DIY cassette culture below.

UK top selling albums on cassette, January – June 2019

1. Billie Eilish – When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
2. Catfish and The Bottlemen – The Balance
3. Madonna – Madam X
4. Lewis Capaldi – Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent
5. Hozier – Wasteland Baby

More at The Vinyl Factory

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Jean Paul Gaultier discusses working on Madame X Tour costumes

— Who else from known musicians and actors you have worked closely?

— I made costumes for Kylie Minogue and her tour KylieX2008. I bought many outfits especially for any important ceremonies. All is remember! Marion Cotillard in my dress received “Oscar” in 2008. She played Edith Piaf. Easier just to call names — Nicole Kidman, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Kim Kardashian, Katy Perry, Rihanna, cate Blanchett. It’s all a beautiful woman, versed in fashion. By the way, my collaboration with Madonna continues in full swing. I created a collection of costumes for her new tour Madame X. She wanted more black, more leather. Something Gothic. And then I got the idea. I said to Madonna, “Honey, you were Frida Kahlo, Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe. It was the turn of Joan of Arc”. She asked: “And who or what I had declared a Holy war?” “Age!” I replied.

Read the full interview with Jean Paul Gaultier at GalPost

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Win a Dutch Madame X bag and envelope set!

Concerto Recordstore in Amsterdam was the official host of the Dutch Madame X Releaseparty on June 13. For this event exclusive goodiebags were made and handed out to all customers who bought their copies.

Concerto Recordstore has been so kind to sent us a few Madame X goodiebags to give away through random lottery draw. These bags don’t include the full set from the releaseparty but come with the official Madame X postcard set and a CD sized official promo flat (UMusic U.K.)

To try and win a bag please send an email before Wednesday July 24 to: madonnaunderground@gmail.com 

Please include your full name and address, all entries without this information will be discarded.

Good luck!

Special thank you to Concerto Recordstore and UMusic U.K. 

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Madonna Releases Visually-Stunning Video “Batuka”

Madonna today unveiled a visually-stunning video for “Batuka” from her new #1 album Madame X. Directed by Emmanuel Adjei, who most recently collaborated with Madonna on her “Dark Ballet” video, the video features the all-female Orquestra Batukadeiras and was shot off the coast of Lisbon, Portugal where Madame X was born. Watch HERE.
 
“Batuka” is inspired by Batuque, a style of music created by the women that originated from Cape Verde. Condemned by the church for what was considered an act of rebellion, the female slaves were then forbidden to drum. But the inspiring and powerful women continued their singing and dancing, and the Batuque lives on today.

In Lisbon, while working on Madame X, Madonna formed a bond with Dino d’Santiago, a Portuguese singer of Cape Verdean descent. He began to introduce her to other musicians, including the all-female Orquestra Batukadeiras, who are featured on the song “Batuka.”

Madonna says, “We went to a tiny club in the middle of nowhere and a circle of women were sitting in chairs playing leather drums. The music started and they all took turns singing solos in Creole and dancing. It was so inspiring that I asked if possible, to collaborate with them. They agreed and we ended up in the studio recording ‘Batuka,’ this call-and-response song, live. It was a religious experience, just a total celebration of life.”

Madonna is getting ready to bring Madame X to life by embarking on a series of rare and intimate concert performances to take place exclusively in theaters, giving fans an opportunity to see her perform in an environment like they never have before. The Madame X Tour will kick off September 12th at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House in New York and will feature multiple nights of shows in each city including performances at the Chicago Theatre, The Wiltern in Los Angeles, the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, the Boch Center Wang Theatre in Boston, The Met Philadelphia and at the Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theatre. The Madame X Tour will continue in early 2020 with performances at the Coliseum in Lisbon, the Palladium in London and at the Grand Rex in Paris.  Tickets and further information is available at https://www.madonna.com/tour.

Madame X comes in a standard and deluxe version of the album and exclusive album bundles with limited edition merchandise are now available direct from Madonna.com.

More at Vents magazine

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