Madonna, U2 Manager Guy Oseary No Longer Running Maverick; What Does it Mean for the Collective?

Guy Oseary
Joe Schildhorn/BFA/REX/Shutterstock

Guy Oseary has “stepped down” from the day-to-day running Maverick, the management collective he founded in 2014. “I’m ready for my new chapter and welcome the opportunity to have more time to focus on management of Madonna and U2 while furthering my passion for identifying and incubating revolutionary businesses,” said Oseary in a statement, first published by Billboard.

Moving forward, Oseary will segue to a consulting role with Live Nation, specifically for CEO Michael Rapino for the next three years, while continuing to represent Madonna and U2 under the Maverick banner. A statement by Live Nation notes that Oseary will be “concentrating on his entrepreneurial interests, investing in and incubating companies on the cutting edge of technology and entertainment.”

Said Rapino: “Guy built an incredible team at Maverick and his work with U2 and Madonna is unmatched. Live Nation has always been about putting the artist first and no one knows that better than Guy. I look forward to continuing our work together on projects including U2, Madonna and beyond.”

Partnered with Ashton Kutcher in venture capital firm Sound Ventures, Oseary’s investments include prescient stakes in Uber, Airbnb, Spotify, Pinterest and Square, among others. He’s also an investor in Peloton and the co-founder of budding social media platform Community.

What does the move mean for such seasoned managers as Adam Leber (Miley Cyrus. Lil Nas X), Larry Rudolph (Britney Spears, Pitbull), Sal Slaiby (The Weeknd, Doja Cat), Scott Rodger (Paul McCartney, Andrea Bocelli) and Lee Anne Callahan-Longo (Ricky Martin) — just a handful of the power brokers under the Maverick umbrella — and their clients? Not much changes, it seems, as most of the Maverick collective is contracted for employment by Live Nation and their deals made with Rapino.

Indeed, the number of acts Live Nation manages has ballooned over the last five years and, as of 2019, counts more than 500 acts represented by “70 managers across 16 management companies,” the company notes of its Artist Nation management arm which is also partnered with such concerns as Roc Nation (home to management clients Rihanna, Shakira and Mariah Carey, among many more). Live Nation “will continue to invest in this division,” the statement continues.

Still, it stands to reason that some managers might want to pivot off of the Maverick brand to another firm within the Live Nation-Artist Nation ecosystem.

Perplexed? You’re not alone. Multiple insiders are scratching their heads over the purpose of such a “vague” announcement, pointing to Maverick’s structure as more of a loose collective of management silos than one requiring heavy oversight by a chief executive. It’s also worth noting that both Madonna and U2 have touring agreements with Live Nation (each reported to be worth north of $120 million when they were signed as 360 deals in 2007 and 2008, respectively) — Oseary had worked with the Madonna since he was in his twenties, but came aboard the U2 train in 2013 — so they remain under the tent no matter their management representation.

Oseary himself has made no secret of his desire to reach beyond music, amassing credits as a film producer (four “Twilight” films, Rob Zombie’s “House of 1,000 Corpses” and “The Devil’s Rejects”) and television executive (“Last Call with Carson Daly”), in addition to author and photographer. More recently — and with the absence of awards shows or afterparties due to the coronavirus pandemic — Oseary has been hosting A-list Zoom get-togethers that have drawn the likes of Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Adam Sandler, Dakota Fanning, Laura Dern and Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, according to the New York Post.

Oseary got his start in the entertainment business as an A&R executive at Madonna’s label while barely out of his teens. He credits his longtime client for being a master of reinvention. “She has a lot to do with that because I’ve been around her relentless process of innovating since I was 18 years old,” Oseary told Variety last August. As it turns out, Madonna similarly shaped the work ethic of this visionary who was born in Jerusalem but bred in Beverly Hills. “She doesn’t have many peers and she’s always pushing new ground — the word lazy doesn’t connect to her,” he said, though he could have easily been talking about himself.  “Maybe being around [her] helped to show me that’s just the way it goes.”

The writing seemed to be on the wall as early as last summer when Oseary reflected on the potential peak of Maverick’s success. “Let’s look at the totality of it all: Every manager is doing really well,” he said, citing Rudolph, Slaiby, Clarence Spalding (Jason Alean) and “the guys on the country side,” Nashville-focused Big Loud Management. Of Leber and Gee Roberson, who jointly guide the career of Lil Nas X, Oseary added: “I’m proud that two managers came together here under the Maverick roof and were able to achieve this incredible success and break all these world records.”

When Variety asked Oseary what sets him apart from everyone else in business, he replied: “I think that it’s always day one. Every morning I wake up like: ‘Okay, now where do I begin?’ I don’t have a sense of a sense of accomplishment as much as I do: ‘Today is day one — let’s go.’ “

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Madonna Calls George Floyd Murder ‘Most Sickening, Heartbreaking Thing I’ve Seen in a Long Time’

Yet another incident of police brutality against the black community surfaced on social media Tuesday (May 26), and the Internet is outraged, rallying in support of George Floyd.

The family attorney was arrested on Monday (May 25) on suspicion of forgery. In the viral clip, Floyd was unarmed and cried out that he couldn’t breathe as an officer kneeled on his neck. He later died at the hospital.


Madonna is among the growing number of celebrities speaking out against the horrifying injustice. She shared the video to her Instagram page with the caption, “Watching this Cop suffocate George Floyd with his knee on his neck, handcuffed and helpless, crying for his life with his face in the street is the most sickening, heartbreaking thing ive seen in a long time.”

“This Officer knew he was being filmed and murdered him with arrogance and Pride. This has to stop!! Until we can over come Racism in America— no one should be allowed to carry a gun. Most of all cops,” she continued. “God Bless you George Floyd Im so sorry for you and your family. And all the senseless killings that have gone before you. Will it ever end?  I pray to GOD it does one day.”

Until then—F— The Police!” she concluded. “Yea I said it. Im not interested in being PC. Im interested in Justice.”

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Buffalo Rose covers Madonna, White Stripes on one-mic album

For Buffalo Rose, covering Madonna’s “Borderline” did not come without some internal discussion.

The Pittsburgh string band does a loving take on the 1983 Madonna hit on “Borrowed & Blue: Live Around One Microphone” a new EP that found them recording, just like they practice, around one mic in the grand folk/bluegrass tradition.

“It was my idea to do ‘Borderline,’ ” says singer Lucy Clabby. “I’m the Madonna fan of the group and it wasn’t necessarily that I was particularly attached to that song, but when I was younger I did see another cover of it …”

It was a characteristically weird, explosive, psychedelic take by The Flaming Lips with Stardeath and White Dwarfs in 2009.

“My older sister’s friend showed me that when we were teenagers and I was obsessive with it,” she says. “I thought it was the coolest thing ever because it sounds nothing like the original song. That sort of inspired me, in general, in terms of the way that I look at music and recreating other people’s music and taking inspiration from it.”

Buffalo Rose gives it a more traditional string treatment, with Rosanna Spindler taking the lead and Clabby and Shane McLaughlin adding harmonies.

“The singers were excited. They’re always are excited about pop stuff. The only resistance I ever really get is from Mac,” Clabby says.

That would be Mac Inglis, who is not only the dobro player but “the genius behind the recording process,” she says.

“I don’t think he’ll be mad that I called him out like this. Mac did not grow up loving pop music the same way that I did, so his reactions to the songs are not always the same. But we went through this once before when we covered ‘Lucky’ by Britney Spears and the approach we used for that was we played it for him without telling him who it was, who had written a song — we just played him our arrangement of it and he loved it, so he’s come to trust me.”

“Borderline” already has more than 9,000 YouTube views, so it’s well on its way to becoming Buffalo Rose’s most popular video. The EP also includes four original songs reworked for this one-mic approach and their cover blend of the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” and the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).” “Seven Nation Army” had been in the set for a long time, Clabby says, because her first concert was The White Stripes and that’s one of her “old-school favorite songs.”

“It’s one of our standard covers,” she says. “The ‘Sweet Dreams’ part came in maybe a year ago when we realized in practice that the riffs blended so well together. One person started humming the other song and we just got excited and started singing the verses over the chord progressions, and because we’ve been playing ‘Seven Nation’ for our fans for a little while at this point, we thought it would be fun to spice it up and do a little medley.”

The EP was recorded at the Unity Center in Garfield over two days in February with the band, which also includes mandolin player Bryce Rabideau and upright bassist Jason Rafalak, doing just a few takes of each song.

“In some ways it’s easier, in some ways it’s harder,” Clabby says of the method, “because you don’t have the time or ability to nitpick endlessly. So, the challenge is getting everybody to get the best take at the same time, which is very rare, but usually we can come to some sort of agreement about what the overall best-feeling take was for everybody.”

The EP will be available Friday and at 8 p.m. Friday, the band will play the release show on its YouTube channel.

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How Madonna Blurred the Lines Between Personal and Persona on ‘I’m Breathless’

Tied to her turn in Dick Tracy, the album offered a sneakily subversive spin on the Disney blockbuster, with songs like “Vogue,” “Hanky Panky,” and more

Dick Tracy, Madonna


Thirty years ago this month, Madonna released one of the most fascinating records in her catalogue, I’m Breathless. Attached to her role as the nightclub singer/femme fatale in Warren Beatty’s 1990 film Dick TracyI’m Breathless wasn’t necessarily a proper solo album, but one of those “Music From and Inspired By the Film…” projects that the world’s biggest pop stars always seem compelled to make (see also: Prince’s Batman or, more recently, Beyoncé’s The Lion King: The Gift). Meant to match Beatty’s exorbitantly stylized adaptation of the 1930s comic strip, I’m Breathless was a collection of big, brassy tunes that recalled the Prohibition Era more than anything in the contemporary zeitgeist. It was a decisively dizzying left turn for an artist who’d already built a solid career out of them. 

The year before, Madonna had released Like a Prayer, a critical and commercial smash, and a crowning artistic achievement to wrap up her remarkable run during the Eighties. Her cultural dominance was unparalleled; she’d brought a soft drink conglomerate to its knees. But entering the Nineties, the one thing Madonna was not, was a movie star. It certainly wasn’t for lack of trying, but after a breakout turn in 1985’s Desperately Seeking Susan, her subsequent projects — 1986’s Shanghai Surprise, 1987’s Who’s That Girl and 1989’s Bloodhounds of Broadway — had all been tremendous flops.

In a 1989 interview with Rolling Stone, Madonna wasn’t exactly willing to cede ground when asked if she considered herself a movie star: “Yes, if I could be so immodest to say so,” she replied. Though just a moment before she acknowledged the hurdles she faced in Hollywood: “I don’t really think they understand me well enough to think of me in any way,” she said. “A lot of them see me as a singer.”

That was all designed to change with Dick Tracy. The film had been a pet project of Beatty’s since the Seventies, and by the time Disney finally greenlit the film in 1988 it seemed destined to be a summer blockbuster. Beatty would direct, produce and star as the hard-nosed detective with the yellow cap and Mac jacket; Al Pacino would play his nemesis Big Boy; and Madonna had secured the role of Breathless Mahoney, who falls hard for Tracy, tries to steal him from his girlfriend, Tess Truehart (Glenne Headly), and eventually turns out to be the conniving, merciless, faceless villain known as “The Blank.” 

Like any proper Disney movie, music was a crucial component of Dick Tracy, and it ended up producing three separate albums. Beatty hired Danny Elfman to handle the score (album one) and singer-songwriter Andy Paley to make an official soundtrack (album two). He also enlisted Stephen Sondheim to pen several original songs, three of which were to be sung by Breathless; and Madonna — savvy as ever — used them to anchor her own new album, I’m Breathless.

At the peak of her powers, Madonna could’ve easily recorded the three Sondheim songs for Dick Tracy and called it a day. Instead, the Queen of Pop chose to deliver a record of big band jazz and musical theater pastiche, cap it all off with one of her biggest hits ever, “Vogue,” and then make those songs a tent pole of her massive Blond Ambition Tour. Coming off Like a Prayer, arguably her most personal album to date, I’m Breathless could be viewed as a pivot to the comfort of character, but as much as the album is rooted in her Dick Tracy role, it simmers with a personal touch and tension that’s distinctly Madonna Louise Ciccone.

Madonna wasn’t Beatty’s first choice to play Breathless Mahoney — and she knew it. “I saw the A list and I was on the Z list. I felt like a jerk,” she told Newsweek in 1990. But with top choices like Kim Basinger and Kathleen Turner unavailable, Madonna managed to sway Beatty, and even agreed to work for scale, making just $1,440 a week on the film. Though as Forbes reported at the time, she did negotiate some extra points on the back-end that certainly made it worth her while — to say nothing of the 7 million copies I’m Breathless sold worldwide.

At some point, Madonna and Beatty’s working relationship became a romantic one. They dated for just 15 months, but the tabloid fodder was astronomical: Madonna had just ended her tumultuous marriage with Sean Penn, Beatty was one of Hollywood’s most prolific lovers, there were two decades in age between them and he was directing and starring alongside her in an expensive summer flick with high expectations. The whole thing smacked of a publicity stunt. To suggest there wasn’t something mutually beneficial about it would be naïve: Madonna wanted that Hollywood clout, and while Beatty could offer it, he was nevertheless coming off a massive flop of his own, 1987’s Ishtar. Considering that by 1990, he wasn’t exactly Clyde Barrow anymore either, some contemporary oomph to push Dick Tracy certainly wouldn’t hurt.

Madonna said as much herself in that Newsweek story: “Disney didn’t come to me and ask me to help market the movie. Let’s just say I’m killing 12 birds with one stone. It’s a two-way street. I’m not going to overlook the fact that it’s a great opportunity for me, too. Most people don’t associate me with movies. But I know I have a much bigger following than Warren does and a lot of my audience isn’t even aware of who he is.”

But to assume their relationship was just an empty vessel for publicity feels unnecessarily jaded. It’s clear why it failed — just watch the famously private Beatty squirm every time he appears in Truth or Dare — but it also does seem like it was built on plenty of genuine mutual affection and admiration.

“I don’t know that there are many people who can do as many things as Madonna can do as well,” Beatty told Vanity Fair in 1990. “People who are in a positive frame of mind, who bring as much energy and willingness to work as Madonna does. She has, in this respect, a real healthy humility about the theater. I think this is a prime requisite to be able to function in theater — or, actually, in art… As she goes on she will gain the artistic respect that she already deserves.”

Madonna’s relationship with Beatty wasn’t the sole force driving this moment in her career, but it is an important piece of it, and I’m Breathless feels not necessarily indebted to it, but crafted in its glow. Auteur that he was, Beatty was heavily involved with every aspect of production on Dick Tracy, including the music. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Patrick Leonard, one of Madonna’s go-to collaborators at that time, recalled a dinner with Madonna and Beatty to discuss ideas and reference points for I’m Breathless. Andy Paley — a go-to producer at Sire, Madonna’s label — says Beatty came to the studio on multiple occasions while he was working on the official Dick Tracy soundtrack, which the filmmaker wanted to feature all-new music that sounded like it was released no later than 1939.

“Warren came to the studio and he played piano for the guys, he really got into it,” Paley tells Rolling Stone. “He would refer us to old records that he liked [such as Bob Wills and Fletcher Henderson]. He was so invested in that project.”

Along with being era-appropriate, the music for Dick Tracy had to fit its aesthetic, one where the sets looked stripped from the Sunday funnies, every villain’s face was slathered in prosthetics, and Al Pacino could deliver 85 percent of his lines at a pitch and volume that still somehow didn’t feel half as over-the-top as everything else around him. Big band arrangements may have been new sonic territory for Madonna, but big shows weren’t. 

I’m Breathless came quickly, Leonard says. Usually, he and Madonna worked at a fast clip, but where Like a Prayer took a couple of months, I’m Breathless came together in only three weeks.

“It was like one-a-day for a little over a week,” he says. “I’d play her something, she’d write some lyrics then go in and sing it. And I think in this case, many of those vocals were the final vocal. Then we just overdubbed the big band and orchestra in like one or two days.”

The three Sondheim songs, though — “Sooner or Later,” “More,” and “What Can You Lose” — were a different story, recorded separately from the sessions with Leonard and produced by another regular collaborator, Bill Bottrell. For decades, Sondheim had been composing music that could challenge even the top vocalists on Broadway, and Madonna, by her own admission, was far from the best singer in the world. In interviews from that time, she was open about the challenge his work presented.

“There’s not one thing that repeats itself,” she told SongTalk in June 1989. “It’s just unbelievable. When I first got them, I sat down next to him and he played them for me, and I was just dumbfounded. And then, forget about making them my own, just to learn to sing them — the rhythmic changes and the melodic changes — it was really tough. I had to go to my vocal coach and get an accompanist to slow everything down for me. I could hardly hear the notes, you know what I mean? So it was a real challenge. And they definitely grew on me.”

As Robert Christgau wrote in his review of I’m Breathless, “There are no doubt hundreds of frustrated chorines who could sing the three Sondheim originals ‘better’ than the most famous person in the world.” But Madonna put in the work and came to fully embody the tracks. The least gripping of the bunch is the tender duet “What Can You Lose,” and Madonna certainly holds her own alongside Sondheim vet Mandy Patinkin (he played Breathless’ pianist, 88 Keys, in Dick Tracy). “More,” however, feels practically pre-fabbed for Madonna — rich, fun and gleefully gluttonous in the same way as “Material Girl.” And her navigation of the jazzy peaks and valleys of “Sooner or Later” is superb, a performance befitting the Best Original Song Oscar she helped Sondheim win. 

As for the rest of I’m Breathless, Leonard says one reason it came together so quickly is that, unlike an “artist album,”  for this one Madonna had “a script, a storyline and characters in her mind that she could draw on.” Opener “He’s a Man” is most explicitly tied to the events of the film, as Madonna, as Breathless, tries to lure Dick Tracy away from his beat and law-abiding ways (“All work and no play/Makes Dick a dull, dull boy,” go the opening lines). But just as the three Sondheim songs appear in Dick Tracy as part of Breathless’ nightclub routine, much of the rest of the LP feels like what one of her sets would’ve sounded like. There’s the Carmen Miranda homage “I’m Going Bananas” (penned by Paley and Michael Kernan), the playful ode to soft boys everywhere “Cry Baby,” the vintage torch song “Something to Remember” and, of course, that rollicking ode to spanking, “Hanky Panky.” 

In many ways, I’m Breathless is a concept album and character study, though Madonna also found much to relate to in Breathless: “I’ve probably been preparing for the role all my life,” she told Interview in 1989. To that end, the album flirts with that space between person and persona, the most potent example being “Something to Remember.” It’s a devastating song about a devastating relationship, which Elizabeth Wurtzel, in her review for New York, said “sounds like a mournful but mature attempt to come to terms with her marriage to Sean Penn.” If that’s the break-up tune, other moments on I’m Breathless feel like they’re chronicling the ups and downs of the rebound with Beatty.

Listening to “Cry Baby,” it’s hard not to think of the way she refers to Beatty as “pussy man” in Truth or Dare, a nickname she expounded upon in a 1991 interview with The Advocate: “Warren is a pussy! … When I say ‘pussy’ you know what I mean. He’s a wimp.” But then at the end of the album, Beatty appears on “Now I’m Following You,” a charming soft-shoe duet that Paley co-wrote with his brother Jonathan, Jeff Lass, and Ned Claflin. Beatty’s no belter, but he carries the tune with ease, and the chemistry between him and Madonna comes through in the song’s simple harmonies and head-over-heels lyrics: “My feet might be falling out of rhythm/ Don’t know what I’m doing with them, but I know I’m following you.”

In Lucy O’Brien’s 2007 Madonna biography Like an Icon, session pianist Bill Meyers remembered the track coming together in just one take: “They’d paid for three hours, and the whole thing lasted 15 minutes,” he said. “I admire that. If you’ve captured the lightning in the bottle, why not?”

But, even a song like “Hanky Panky” can say more about Madonna than Breathless. “I remember writing the music and probably the first thing she sang was that,” Leonard remembers. “Right away, there it was, and not one to shy away from anything, it was on the list. I think things get blown up much bigger when they leave the studio. When we’re experiencing them, it’s just something to laugh about.” The song was borne out of a Breathless line in the film (“You don’t know whether to hit me or kiss me,” she tells Tracy), paired with Madonna’s reading of the character as someone who “liked to get smacked around,” per a 1990 interview in Rolling Stone conducted by Carrie Fisher. But even as bawdy as a 1930s nightclub set could get, only the pop star who’d just left Pepsi out to dry would have the chutzpah see how far she could push Disney.

Speaking with Interview in 1990, Madonna acknowledged her penchant for being controversial, but she also found that particular word to be lacking. Instead, she framed the impulse this way: “It’s more like, ‘Hey, well, you know how they always say things are this way? Well, they’re not! Or they don’t have to be.’” When asked if she wrote her songs that way, Madonna replied, “I’m starting to. Especially on my last album [Like a Prayer]. And when you hear the Dick Tracy soundtrack, then you’ll know.” 

In that same interview, Madonna revealed that she’d had to change some of the lyrics on I’m Breathless — “anything to do with sodomy, intercourse, or masturbation” — to appease Disney. But all the double entendre she managed to slip into the final version feels like a feat in and of itself. She flips one chorus on “He’s a Man,” to, “Cause I can show you some fun/And I don’t mean with a gun.” You can probably guess which word she stresses on this line on “Cry Baby,” “He acts like a real cock-a-doodle, he can’t even tell you why.” And then on “Now I’m Following You, Pt. 2” — a contemporary dance-pop remix crafted by Kevin Gilbert — she coos what could’ve been a quip from her director’s cut of the movie, “Dick — that’s an interesting name.” And then, for good measure, the word “Dick” is chopped up and transformed to fit the song’s lead vocal melody. But Madonna’s purest presentation of her vision for I’m Breathless came on her Blond Ambition Tour. At each of her 57 shows, across three continents, Madonna would gleefully bump and grind with a Tracy look-alike, and unleash a troupe of dancers wearing the yellow Mac jackets and hats, with just black briefs underneath, for a routine of can-can lines and light striptease that’s wonderfully campy, sexy and queer.

Arguably, the most sneakily subversive thing about I’m Breathless was the inclusion of “Vogue.” The song was certainly tacked on in part to satisfy the perennial music biz plea of, “We need a single,” but despite the vast sonic gap between it and the rest of the album, it doesn’t feel that incongruous thanks to the lead-in provided by the “Now I’m Following You” remix, and the song’s celebration of old Hollywood glamor. “Vogue” helped introduce underground ballroom culture to the American mainstream, and its legacy is a tangled knot of indisputable pop greatness and the issues implicit in a straight white woman using, and profiting off of, a culture and craft created by black and brown LGBTQ people, not to mention the mainstream’s willingness to seriously engage with that culture and craft only when it’s presented in this way.

The validity of these critiques, though, doesn’t mean one can’t still revel in the song’s brilliance, nor do they necessarily suggest anything malicious on Madonna’s part. She was steeped in New York City’s myriad music and arts scenes, and approached “Vogue” with a clear admiration and respect for the ballroom world. She was also, at the time, one of pop culture’s most prominent advocates for gay rights, someone who’d seen first-hand the devastation of the HIV/AIDS crisis and likely understood the many obstacles that still stood in the way of equality and justice. If nudging the needle of cultural opinion is one way towards that goal, it’s hard to think of a more shrewd move than using a Disney movie as a Trojan Horse for a song like “Vogue.”

Upon its release, Dick Tracy proved to be the blockbuster it was meant to be, grossing over $162 million worldwide, picking up seven Oscar nominations and winning three, Best Original Song for “Sooner or Later,” Best Makeup and Best Art Direction. Madonna showed up to 63rd Academy Awards not with Beatty, but with Michael Jackson, and performed “Sooner or Later” as if she were Marilyn Monroe, paraphrasing “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” to make a little barb about the Gulf War: “Talk to me General Schwarzkopf, tell me all about it!” she bellowed while wind-milling a big fur boa. But Dick Tracy still didn’t exactly make Madonna the movie star she yearned to be. Her film projects over the next decade or so remained a mixed bag at best, every A League of Their Own or Evita, balanced out by a Body of Evidence or a Swept Away

In the grand scheme of all things Madonna, the legacy of I’m Breathless is rather muted too. “Vogue,” of course, remains a concert staple, but per, she hasn’t performed “Sooner or Later” or “Now I’m Following You” since Blond Ambition, and has only dusted off “I’m Going Bananas” for the 1993 Girlie Show World Tour and “Hanky Panky” for the 2004 Re-Invention Tour. And while the album surely ranks as a favorite for many fans, I’m Breathless hasn’t exactly achieved the status of a forgotten classic. But, 30 years later, it remains a compelling snapshot of a pivotal moment in Madonna’s life and career, when the world rolled in ecstasy at her feet and she had the power to push it any which way she wanted, mold it to suit her ideal. 

There’s something about I’m Breathless that actually recalls a moment from another Warren Beatty movie, 1981’s Reds, his epic historical romance about John Reed and Louise Bryant. The movie features “witness” interviews from Bryant and Reed’s real life peers, and at one point, the author Henry Miller appears to offer this frank assessment of life in the early 1900s: “You know something that I think, that there was just as much fucking going on then as now.” Miller proceeds to ruin this perfectly astute observation with the qualification that he thinks sex has become more perverse and devoid of love, but the first part echoes something in Madonna’s remark to Interview about pushing buttons and boundaries. I’m Breathless allowed Madonna the chance to filter a staid Disney movie through her worldview. To say, like she so often did, “You know how they always say things are this way? Well, they’re not! Or they don’t have to be.”

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5 Times Madonna Stood Up, Proved She’s the Baddest of the Bunch (In the Best Way Possible)

Madonna has always been a controversial entertainer — a performer boasting a soundtrack to rock the decades, and a tendency for speaking her mind. She owns her sexuality and her femininity without ever minimizing her power, control, or influence. Madonna may cause a stir — and she may often use expletives when getting a point across, but she does not back down. Madonna’s recent Instagram post is merely one of her many controversial, but no-less socially reflective and inspiring moments.

Madonna stands for what she believes in, and she fights for causes that she holds close to her heart. And, for that, she is one of the baddest of the bunch…in the best way possible. And, she’s done it again. So, let’s dive into Madonna’s most recent post, in which she “bared it all,” as well as four other times she made her fans jump for joy and smile with pride. 

1. Inside the Queen of Pop’s recent Instagram post

Madonna recently took to Instagram, posting a photo of herself in a see-through bra and black underwear. She bares it all, leaving little to the imagination, and she accompanies the post with an important message: 


Current Wardrobe Sitch……………… And for those of you who are offended in any way by this photo then I want to let you know that I have successfully graduated from the University of Zero F*^ks Given. Thanks for coming to my Graduation Ceremony! 🎓 Class of 2020! 🎉🎉🎉 @stevenkleinstudio

In short, she predicted the hate that would come from certain individuals — ready to pounce and cancel celebrity’s at the drop of a hat — and she let them know she doesn’t care what they have to say. She is who she is, and will continue to be the woman she has been since the day she rose to stardom. 

2. The time she dropped some truth bombs at the Billboard’s Women in Music Event 

Remember when Madonna was honored as Woman of the Year back in 2016? If you don’t remember her speech, you must have missed it. She started with the following sentence, as Billboard notes, “I stand before you as a doormat, Oh, I mean as a female entertainer.” She thanks those present for honoring her career despite the continued criticism and sexism she has faced for over three decades. 

3. The kiss with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera in 2003 

Madonna’s musical career speaks of sexual freedom, liberation, and more. The kisses she shared with Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears at the 2003 VMA’s was an action that echoed a career defined by such liberation — a musical movement that Madonna helped barrel into the industry, breaking walls and shattering shackles since the 1980s. 

4. She said she would ‘rule the world’

Madonna appeared on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand back in 1984. When asked about her future — the remainder of her professional life that was just beginning — Madonna stated her goals clearly and with conviction: “to rule the world.” What a response! Well-timed, clear, and lacking any doubt. It was perfectly unapologetic.

5. Every single time she reinvented herself without fear or hesitation 

Madonna has managed to remain timeless. While her music is part of this ability, she does so by choosing what works for her fan base. She knows her demographic, and she takes risks that may further eschew those already on the fence when it comes to her whole image. 

Yet, Madonna doesn’t care. She owns every choice, every reinvention, and every musical shift. For, she does what she wants with her music, not what will appeal to the largest common denominator. And that, makes her a true voice — a unique artist — as opposed to an industry robot.

More at Cheatsheet

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Madonna Reveals Her ‘Current Wardrobe Sitch’ in Overly Revealing Photo

Looks like Madonna needs to do some laundry…

The pop idol is back to her risque ways and posted a very NSFW photo on Instagram today. (Good thing most of us are working from home these days.) The revealing photo shows Madge wearing nothing but a black thong and transparent nude-colored bra, exposing her nipples.

“Current Wardrobe Sitch,” she captioned the post before getting ahead of any critics. ‘And for those of you who are offended in any way by this photo then I want to let you know that I have successfully graduated from the University of Zero F*^ks Given. Thanks for coming to the Ceremony! Class of 2020!”

See Madonna’s DGAF post here.

Madonna has been spending a lot more time on social media while in quarantine. Earlier this month, the 61-year-old revealed she had tested positive for antibodies and is going to “breathe in the COVID-19 air.” She believes she contracted the virus on tour.

“When you test positive for anti-bodies [sic] it means you HAD the virus which I clearly did as I was sick at the end of my tour in Paris over 7 weeks ago along with many other artists in my show but at the time,” she explained in another recent Instagram post. “We all thought we had a very bad flu. Thank God we are all healthy and well now. Hope that clears things up for the band wagon jumpers!! Knowledge is Power!”

More at SPIN

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30 Years Of Madonna’s ‘I’m Breathless’


Exactly 30 years ago, Madonna turned the music world upside down by releasing an album of show tunes called I’m Breathless. Doubling as one of three (!) soundtracks to Dick Tracy, the staggeringly ambitious collection is a mix of Stephen Sondheim originals and campy, pop pastiches courtesy of regular collaborators Patrick Leonard and Shep Pettibone. The emphasis is on vocals and atmosphere instead of floor-fillers. It could have been a career-derailing misstep, but fans were more than willing to go along for the ride.

The genius of I’m Breathless is its ability to find the middle ground between Broadway fare and top 40 pop. Madonna wasn’t trying to bend and twist into another genre, she simply dismantled it and took the bits and pieces that pleased her. Take “Hanky Panky.” The ode to light S&M, which ranks as one of the most unlikely hits of the ’90s, wouldn’t sound out of place in Cabaret. It also works, however, squeezed between “Express Yourself” and “Cherish” in a stadium tour. The same goes for the wonderfully demented “I’m Going Bananas.”

More traditional in their sound and aesthetic are the glorious Sondheim contributions. Madonna nails the Oscar-winning “Sooner Or Later,” showing range that surprised even her most ardent detractors. “More” sounds like the Broadway equivalent of “Material Girl,” while “What Can You Loose” is the duet with Mandy Patinkin you didn’t know you needed. If I had to pick a favorite cut, however, that honor would go to one of the non-Sondheim songs. “Something To Remember” still holds up as one of the Queen of Pop’s best ballads 30 years on.

Despite the genre flip, I’m Breathless was a massive hit around the world — selling seven million copies. Admittedly, a large proportion of those sales can be attributed to the addition of “Vogue.” While that bop sounds out of place on the album, it makes complete sense from a marketing perspective. Revisit I’m Breathless below.

What’s your favorite song on the album? Let us know below, or by hitting us up on Facebook and Twitter!


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I’m Breathless turns 30 – brand new page online (clippings, memorabilia, video & much more!)

Happy 30th anniversary to I‘m Breathless!! Madonna’s studio album inspired by the film ‘Dick Tracy’ and released on this day back in 1990.

We realized once this celebration was coming up that we did not have a dedicated ‘I’m Breatless’ album page up yet (why……no idea) so we put one together.

Check it out:

I’m Breathless 

The page includes original magazine adverts and articles, memorabilia, audio, video, discography and more!!

Madonna released two singles off of the album ‘Vogue’ and ‘Hanky Panky’, while ‘Something To Remember’ ended up on a promotional 12″ from Brazil. The song ‘Sooner or Later’ was performed at the Oscars by Madonna and won for Best Original Song. She was there with Michael Jackson as her partner for the night.

Happy birthday Breathless!

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Why Madonna Brought 14 Cape Verdean Drummers on Tour – And What They Taught Her

Ricardo Gomes

Madonna onstage with Batukadeiras Orquesta in Brooklyn in 2019.

In 2017, Madonna thought she was moving to Portugal to “be a soccer mom,” but instead, the 61-year-old icon found inspiration for her then-upcoming album, Madame X, thanks to a friend she calls her “musical plug,” Dino d’Santiago. One night, the Cape Verde-born, Lisbon-based singer — who coached Madonna on how to speak Portuguese and sing in Portuguese and Creole — had arranged a concert for her by Batukadeiras Orquesta, a group of female drummers specializing in batuka, a rhythmic call-and-response style created in Cape Verde during the early days of the slave trade. “I’d never seen anything like it, never heard anything like it. So of course, I couldn’t get it out of my head,” says Madonna.

She invited several members of the collective to perform on her album and even brought some to the United States for her intimate Madame X tour that began last September in New York. (Its final two dates were canceled due to the pandemic.) “I thought about [my manager] Guy Oseary’s response to the cost of taking 22 women on the road with us,” says Madonna. (They ended up taking 14.) But her goal was set: “I wanted the audience to get a glimpse of [their] history.”

How did you discover the Orquesta Batukadeiras?

I discovered them once I met Dino d’Santiago, who I call my musical plug. He understood that I wanted to meet musicians and experience all the different traditions and genres that Portugal had to offer. He called me one day and said that he had something very special for me, but he couldn’t tell me what — he just said to show up at this place, at this time. At this point, he had already introduced me to some amazing musicians and brought me to some really cool places, clubs, etc. So, I went to this place — it’s hard to describe — it was like a bar that hadn’t been open in a while. They had opened it expressly for me. There was Abstract art on the wall and a few deer — you know, antlers. It was filled with people. There was a DJ playing electro-African-house music, and a girl singing in a silver lamé suit, and I thought, “Oh this can’t be what he asked me to come here for.” Dino said, “No, this is not what I want you to hear. It’s coming up.” There were some people dancing and eventually the music stopped — the crowds parted and on the other side of the room was a group of women sitting in a semi-circle in chairs, exactly as you saw them on my stage, but there were a lot more of them. They started playing their drums, drums that they held in their laps, and they started beating out these rhythms, and then they started singing and taking turns getting up and dancing. I was drawn to them and we walked closer and closer to them. It was wild – the way they played and the organic way they got up and took turns dancing together and singing solos. I asked Dino what language they were singing in. They were singing in Cape Verdean Creole.

It didn’t seem terribly rehearsed; it seemed like second nature to them. They were like a family, a community of women. I marveled at the age range of the women — from teenage girls to women who looked like they could be grandmothers. It was an amazing, immersive, musical, familial, matriarchal experience. The music was mesmerizing and hypnotizing and it blew me away. We just sat there, stood there, with our mouths hanging open. I’d never seen anything like it before. They were joyous and enthusiastic. There was an abandonment, for lack of a better word.

Afterwards, Dino said, “This style of music is called batuka, this is the Batukadeiras Orquesta.” I met some of the women, not all of them. Dino told me they had to rush out as they all came on buses from far outside of town, especially to play for me. I was extremely moved that they made such an effort and even more so that they were so amazing.

You know, I’d never seen anything like it. I’d never heard anything like it. So of course, I couldn’t get it out of my head. As the days went on, I thought it would be really special to try and collaborate with them and write a song together for my record since so many of my songs were influenced by and/or involving other musicians that I had met in Portugal. So, Dino again approached them and asked them if they would come into the studio and try to experiment, this musical experience, which is a kind of call and response, and they were up for it. Very few of them spoke English, so we had both Dino and another woman who came as a representative and translator.

We all got into the recording studio, the same women and girls, into the only room we could actually record in — we barely fit. I had written some words and I encouraged them to just repeat after me. They start playing their drums, which is a triplet rhythm. Lots of the women sang solos, and I picked out which ones I liked the best, Antonia and Bianina, the women who ended up going on the road with me. What amazed me was how even though we didn’t speak the same language, they repeated precisely not only what I said but also the melody. That’s how our recording went: back and forth and back and forth, until we got it right. They weren’t used to singing into microphones so there was a comical aspect to it. We realized we had to record things separately because I was singing in 4/4 time, and they were playing their txabeta triplet time. In any case, for me it was an amazing experience because they were so open to anything I suggested and to collaborating. They brought their fire and their passion. I explained to them through Dino what the song was about and they loved it because their whole philosophy is about fighting for your rights and empowering women. They were very happy with what I was saying in English.

After the hours and hours of playing together and singing together, they insisted that we all pray together. That prayer was Amor de Mãe, which is the song that ended up being in the show before they appear on stage, when you see the map. We did that prayer at the end and they all blessed me and wished me well. There was a lot of hugging and tears. I just can’t explain what a positive encounter it was.

I loved the way the song turned out, and after my record was finished, I was putting the Madame X show together and started thinking, “Oh my God wouldn’t it be amazing if I brought the Batukadeiras on stage?” Of course, I thought about Guy Oseary’s response to the cost of taking 22 women on the road with us. We ended up taking 14. Dino then reached out to each and every one of these women to ask if they were interested in going on tour and doing a show with me. It took a while as many of them have families, jobs and school they couldn’t leave, but we welcomed the women who could work things out.

What did it feel like sharing the stage with them every night?

Sharing the stage with them was like an ecstatic experience because I was surrounded by such powerful, passionate women. Having them all around me singing along with all the musicians that I met and work with — I really felt like they were there for the right reason. I felt like they were there to share their message of love and unity and female empowerment. I could feel how proud they were to share this tradition that’s been going on for hundreds of years with the world. It was as if we were feeding off each other’s energy. I wish I would have had all of them, to tell you the truth, because the power of all of them was just so amazing. But the women who did come, I mean from day one of rehearsal: they were always joyful, always positive, always smiling. They had each other’s backs. When one of them was sick, they all gathered around each other. I never saw musicians care for each other so much and support one another so much. They had so much respect for the elderly women in the group. If one was sick they would all insist, “Nope she can’t come to work today. She’s gotta stay home.” And I’d say, “Aww are you sure?” And they would say, “Nope, she’s gotta stay for a whole week, she’s gotta stay home.” It really impressed me how much they loved and supported and cared for one another. It was pretty special, as you don’t see that in our Western world.

There’s clearly pain associated with them, the genesis of their music. Did you talk about that with them?

Dino first told me about the history of their music, that it came from a kind of rebellion. Everything was taken away from them when they were slaves. They had no freedom and what they played on originally came from when they would wash their clothes in the river: They would bunch them up together and turn them into a kind of drum they could play on…eventually that evolved into a leather-covered drum, a piece of leather, stuffed with clothes – with fabric – with a little nozzle at the bottom that they could grasp between their legs when they’re sitting. All they had was their music when they were together. The rule makers, the authorities and slaveowners perceived their music as a form of rebellion – they were not behaving, they were not being quiet, they were not obeying the rules, and they were not being submissive. So, they took their txabeta away and their reaction was: “Okay fine, we’ll play on our legs. We’ll sing anyways; you can’t take our voices away.” I just love that story. That was their spirit, that was their soul and their music is proof that the human spirit cannot be kept down. Dino gave me so many history lessons about Portugal being the birthplace of slavery. When the slave trade first started ships went to the island of Cape Verde, which is on the northern West Coast of Africa. That’s where the slave trade first began.

Knowing their history made their music and these women so important. That they kept that tradition going and that against all odds, they managed to make music, dance, sing, and create joy and happiness in spite of the oppression they were suffering. I wanted this to be known. I wanted the audience to get a glimpse of that history too.


What did you learn from them?

Resilience and the importance of unity — having each other’s backs. You know, that really impressed me a lot. We don’t have that a lot. We’re experiencing that right now obviously, during this time when people are coming together and helping one another, but it’s important to have that spirit at all times. That thought helped me keep going through my show because I was suffering, I was in pain, and they really supported me and really had my back. They were always smiling and supportive, always there for me. It was a real sisterhood. I wanted to show the world that these people exist. We don’t have to live in our separate worlds, fighting against each other, fighting for our place… we can actually work together as a team and be appreciated as a group without cutthroat ambition.

Generally speaking, is there something in African music that’s missing from most Western music?

To me it’s music that has been handed down through the centuries. It comes from the soul of the Earth — it’s connected to nature; it’s connected to community. There’s something organic about it because you can create an instrument out of anything. There’s a soulfulness about it. And a paradox, because there’s sadness and there’s suffering, but then there’s also joy, and the sense that all sorrow and pain can be overcome. And that music is what lifts everybody up. And so to me, that’s the essence of African music that is missing from a lot of Western music that we hear today. It’s not just entertainment. You feel the journey that each of these people have been on, you feel the journey of the past, you feel the journey of their history, of their ancestors. It’s filled with so many layers and complexities.

What other African music or musicians do you draw inspiration or strength from?

I love morna music, which is the music of Cape Verde. It’s the kind of music that Cesária Évora made. To me it’s like the sound of mourning. It’s a kind of sad, melancholic music and again, mesmerizing and heartbreaking but also, like the song “Sodade” that I sang in my show, which Cesária made famous, is about missing. It means missing, to miss something. It’s that longing for your home, that longing for your family that you are no longer with, that longing for a loved one that you are no longer with. It’s about loss, but never being a victim, because even in the song “Sodade,” Cesária says, “Okay, I miss my home and I miss you, and if you write to me, then I’ll write back, and if you miss me, then I’ll miss you too, but if not, then okay.” So, it’s not like, poor pitiful me. There’s strength in the longing, and the loss, if you know what I mean.

What other memorable music experiences have you had in Portuguese-speaking Africa?

One of the musicians that I love and who really moved me and still does wasn’t in my show, but he’s somebody that whenever I go, I always make a point of going to hear him play or I invite him over to my house because we became friends. His name is Kimi Djabate and he’s from Guinea-Bissau. He also sang on one of my songs on my album called “Ciao Bella,” which was only in one of the super deluxe packages of my records. He has an incredible voice and he plays guitar and also plays an instrument called a Balafon. It looks like a xylophone, but it’s a more ancient version of it. When you play with a mallet on these pieces of steel it makes different notes and sounds. When he was growing up, his father and the people in the village were against him playing music as they perceived what he was doing as wrong or negative or maybe connected to witchcraft or something like that. He persisted and eventually was appreciated for his musical gifts and talents and eventually he moved to Lisbon. And now, he has records out. He has an Instagram account — @kimidjabate. He’s a huge talent and he really moves me. And Cesária. Dino d’Santiago – I can’t not mention him also, because you know, he does it all. I mean, he plays, he does morna, he does funaná, he can play samba. He can do anything, he’s an extremely versatile and talented musician.

What is it about him that moves you?

His musicality, his versatility, his passion for what he does, the way he was so excited to introduce me to the Batukadeiras. He was so proud that I could share their music with the world. He’s just a man full of love, you know, and he has his hands in everything. He brought me to a lot of fado clubs as well. He introduced me to a lot of amazing fado singers. He just connected me to everyone musically, he introduced me to Miroca Paris, Carlos Mil-Homens, Jessica Pina, and Celeste Rodrigues – whose great-grandson Gaspar ended up going on the road with me. So, Dino’s responsible for so much – also coached me on how to speak Portuguese and sing in Portuguese and Creole, introduced me to so many different genres and styles of music, brought me to every club there was to go to, brought me to living room sessions, and just connected me to this underground world of music that people don’t know about. I in turn tried to put that into my show and share it with the world. So, he really was my pipeline, my connector — what I call my plug. He did it with so much love, and completely and utterly out of generosity. Usually there’s some manager calling you saying, ‘Okay, so how much, this is what he charges, and this is how many hours he’s gonna work.’

How fluid is the music between Portugal, Brazil and Portuguese-speaking Africa?

Extremely fluid. I mean, it’s the same. There was also an incredible Brazilian pianist named João Ventura, who played piano at the Met Gala for me when I did “Dark Ballet.” He’s a virtuoso pianist who can play anything, classical to pop, and samba. I would go to a small club called Tejo Bar, you could walk in there and hear any of these styles of music with these musicians playing it and it would be as if you were transported back to those countries.

What did you learn musically being immersed in the Portuguese-speaking world?

Well, I learned to sing in Creole and Portuguese. I learned to play the 12-string guitar when I played “Sodade” in my show, and I learned to sing fado. I also learned and understood how limited I am, and how far I have to go as a musician and singer.

Was there any life wisdom you drew from the musicians you met?

To never forget where you come from, and the honesty and purity of those who share what they have learned. It was handed down to them from their ancestors, their families, fellow musicians that they work with. They’re just so open and generous, I really can’t express that more. I’m so used to everyone in America thinking, ‘I’m the best. I’m the best. I’m on top and number one. I’m the greatest. I have the most views. I have the most awards. I’m a King, I’m this, I’m that.’ Everyone’s into titles… labels, and they don’t have that in Portugal. All they want to do is share their love of music and what they know with other people, and it’s really rare and so appreciated, especially now.

The Prime Minister of Cape Verde attended a Madame X show in New York in September. What did you talk about when you met?

Really, the main thing was how proud he was. How proud he was to have his country represented, how he said he was crying tears of joy. He was telling the truth – he was on his feet in the box that he was in from beginning to end. He was just so proud of the Batukadeiras. So proud that all these musicians that I’d met in Lisbon were traveling around the world, sharing what obviously he knows and understands and appreciates, but never in a million years did he imagined that America – people in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago would be experiencing this. I think pride and gratitude was my main takeaway from him.

What kind of response to the album and the tour have you received from other figures across Portuguese-speaking Africa after spotlighting their music in such a huge way?

I think in general all Portuguese people and the music that I represented in my show and on my record were extremely grateful and surprised that I was sharing fado and morna and batuka and funaná with the world. They didn’t expect it. And, well neither did I, but obviously when I moved there, I didn’t expect that I was going to have those musical experiences. I thought I was just going there to watch soccer matches and be a soccer mom.

More at Billboard

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The 100 Greatest Debut Singles of All Time (Madonna at #43)

Oct 1983-new York City Madonna Performs at Studio 54Madonna 1983


43. Madonna, “Everybody”

The obvious standout from a four-song demo that the extremely ambitious young singer was shopping around in 1982, “Everybody” caught the ear of a DJ friend, who slipped into his sets at New York’s famed Danceteria. She’d quickly go on to bigger things, and sharper material, but the song patterned the ebullient electro-pop sound of her early classic hits, eventually landing in the Top Five of the Billboard dance charts after Sire Records put it out as her debut single. As Sire founder and President Seymour Stein later recalled, “I would’ve gone down to the bank and withdrawn my own money to sign her if I had too.” J.D. 

Full list at Rolling Stone

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Vogue’s André Leon Talley Discusses Madonna in New Book

When Anna returned to Vogue in 1988 as EIC, replacing Grace, she named Andre creative director. “There was no higher accolade she could give me, as the masthead portrayed. Anna Wintour made me the highest-ranking black man in the history of fashion journalism,” he writes of a ranking he’d maintain until Edward Enninful‘s promotion to EIC of British Vogue 30 years later. One of his first big assignments was handling Madonna‘s first cover shoot in 1989. Upon meeting the pop diva in Los Angeles, “she smiled warmly when she introduced herself and said, ‘Hi, I’m Madonna, you want a blow job?” he reveals. “‘No thanks,’ I replied. I am sure she was joking and just breaking the ice, as we had never met before. I was flattered and continued to unpack my large black cases from Paris.”

Full article at E Online

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HAIM inspired by Madonna

HAIM are inspired by Madonna, as they said they’re “so into” the singer, whom they also dubbed an “icon”

HAIM are inspired by Madonna.

The ‘I Know Alone’ hitmakers have said they’re “so into” the singer – who they also dubbed an “icon” – and credited her decades-long career with inspiring them to start their own music journey.

Danielle Haim said: “I mean, I’ve always been so into Madonna and everything that she is and everything she’s like, I don’t know. I just think she’s a icon and I’ve been super into Ray of Light. Like that was like a huge inspiration on ‘Women in Music Pt. III’ – It’s just, everything about it. So amazing.

“I feel like Music is underrated and that’s the album that this next song is from, but also the song is so good. I honestly, I cried like for a while, like every morning I’d play it and I’d like, cry to it – No, but just the whole sentiment. Like, do you know what it feels like for a girl? Like it’s just … and the way that it’s written and all the sound, it’s just a great song.”

Read full article at The List

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On This Day In Billboard History: Madonna Brought the Transcendence of ‘Vogue’ to No. 1

Michel Linssen/Redferns

Madonna performs on stage at the Feyenoord stadium on July 24, 1990.

At the start of the ’90s, Madonna had seven Billboard Hot 100 No. 1s under her boy-toy belt and could pretty readily make the case she was the defining female pop star of the ’80s. The only thing arguably working against her was the embarrassment-of-riches issue of figuring out how to follow-up a career-defining smash such as 1989’s “Like a Prayer.”

She solved that problem by dropping another world-shifting pop hit. “Vogue,” which became her eighth Hot 100 No. 1 30 years ago today (May 19, 1990), topped the chart for three consecutive weeks and remains one of her most enduring hits. Over the course of this lush, gradual ascent into thumping house-disco bliss aided by co-writer and co-producer Shep Pettibone, Madonna lays out yet another masterful manifesto about ecstatic liberation on the dancefloor.

Inspired by the visually dramatic dance style of voguing that grew out of Harlem ballroom culture (as depicted in the classic 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning), Madonna tapped dancers/choreographers Jose Gutierez Xtravaganza and Luis Xtravaganza from that world to show America how it was done. While Madonna hardly invented the iconic moves, her global reach propelled voguing into the mainstream, a double-edged sword that season 2 of FX’s Pose thoughtfully dealt with in 2019 (on one hand, it gave scene players an industry launch pad, but some queer people of color felt their culture had been appropriated, then discarded, after the craze went out of, well, vogue).

Thirty years after “Vogue” topped the chart, it’s truly difficult to think about something related to the song that isn’t iconic: There’s the irresistible choreography; David Fincher’s black-and-white art deco music video; her Marie Antoinette-styled VMAs performance of the song; the movie-star roll call near the end; and also every damn lyric. Really, the only thing “Vogue”-adjacent that isn’t a clear victory is the album it first called home: I’m Breathless: Music From and Inspired By the Film Dick Tracy. It was a hit, certainly, peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, but remains one of the more neglected titles in her otherwise essential catalog, in no small part because its biggest single shares almost nothing in common with the rest of the LP other than an affection for Golden Era Hollywood.

It probably wouldn’t surprise anyone to learn “Vogue” wasn’t even intended for that collection of Sondheim numbers and Jazz Age throwbacks. According to Pettibone, it was given a budget of $5,000 and slated as a b-side for “Keep It Together,” but when execs heard it, the plan changed. “The attitude was like, ‘This isn’t gonna be a b-side. How can we get this out there?’” Pettibone recalled to Billboard in 2015 of the decision to tack it on to the Dick Tracy companion album.



The 100 Greatest Madonna Songs: Critics’ Picks

Regardless, three decades later, its power remains undiminished. When Madame X trotted out “Vogue” at Pride Island 2019 during New York City’s 50th anniversary of Stonewall World Pride celebration, the response was deafening, with the crowd surging like a tsunami. But even then, it was so much deeper and deeper than just bumping and grinding: It was a magical, life’s-a-ball moment of transcendence few dance songs dare to reach.

More at Billboard

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Madonna’s ‘I’m Breathless’ Turns 30 | Anniversary Retrospective


Happy 30th Anniversary to Madonna’s I’m Breathless: Music from and Inspired by the Film ‘Dick Tracy’ originally released May 22, 1990.

1990 was most definitely a defining year in Madonna’s career. In fact, it may just be her most definitive. Fresh out of the career resplendent ‘80s and hot off the heels of the success of Like A Prayer (1989), Madonna entered 1990 with a massive bang by releasing “Vogue,” a song that remains synonymous with the singer until this very day. Paying homage to ballroom culture and with thumping house beats, “Vogue” was the epitome of what a classic dance track should and could be.

After the release of “Vogue” and its incomparable success, Madonna embarked on the now infamous Blonde Ambition Tour causing controversy wherever she went. The show had a heady focus on Religion, her Like A Prayer album and of course “Vogue,” but it also included three songs from her then upcoming film, Dick Tracy. Honoring her character, night club singer Breathless Mahoney, she wore a green showgirl outfit as she sang “Sooner Or Later,” “Hanky Panky” and “Now I’m Following You.” Both the stage and choreography were inspired by the classic movie performances of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and were an interesting departure from the rest of the show.

Given the high profile Madonna had at the time, coupled with the controversy surrounding her on stage performance of “Like A Virgin,” it not only seemed like a logical extension to hock her latest film and accompanying album, but it was also an incredibly smart business move. Dick Tracy was set in the 1930s and Madonna—who at the time had a hyper-sexualized, religious angst-riddled persona—seemed to be the furthest thing from the somewhat brassy, but gentle character of night club singer Breathless Mahoney. Whilst the film adaption of Mahoney was different from the original comic strip, Madonna again managed the unimaginable and brought not only a new dimension to Mahoney, but essentially also brought the character to life.

It’s true that I’m Breathless is a collection of big band pop songs that make up a film soundtrack, but more than this, the album finds Madonna taking on music by the legendary Stephen Sondheim. Sondheim, who is arguably one of the most important figures in musical theatre, contributed three tracks to the album; the sultry “Sooner Or Later,” the jazzy “More” and the beautiful duet with Mandy Patinkin, “What Can You Lose.” Madonna took to these songs like a duck to water and showed that pop was not her only repertoire. Her singing is given great range and she not only tackles genres like Jazz and Big Band, but conquers them with great aplomb.

As per usual, Madonna had an immense amount of input on the album, co-writing six of the album’s twelve songs and co-producing every track. Joined by (then) long time collaborators Patrick Leonard and Shep Pettibone, Madonna also managed to bring a playful vibe to the album. The seductiveness of the album opener “He’s A Man” also has a devilish element that allows for songs like “Hanky Panky,” a cheeky double entendre, to breathe life amongst its peers.

“I’m Going Bananas” provides a fun, lighthearted, almost Carmen Miranda-like energy with its latin flavored sound. The impassioned “Something To Remember” played to a conversation on self-love, a topic that Madonna would go on to explore more later in her career. Never one to sit in the “comfort zone,” as the album draws to a close, Madonna and then boyfriend and co-star Warren Beatty duet on the two-part “Now I’m Following You.” Part one continues the album’s big band theme before segueing into a ‘90s dance track for part two. Complete with background tap dancers, Madonna breathily quoting Socrates (“An unexamined life is not worth living”), another double entendre with Tracy’s first name (Dick) and a line from “Hanky Panky” (“My bottom just hurts thinking about it”) being morphed into a sexual mashup, Madonna again manages to get her exposition to the forefront.

Let’s be brutally honest here. Give or take one other legend (Diana Ross), not many other artists would tackle something like I’m Breathless—then or now. Madonna moved into unknown territory on this album and she delivered. Her vocal prowess may be at its finest on this album, but she also wasn’t afraid to venture into the serious and silly, even giving us a little camp, all things that made and make I’m Breathless a truly breathless exercise in sonic beauty.

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