RICHARD S. HE questions our love/hate relationship with pop’s first lady ahead of Madonna’s first Australian tour in 23 year.

Madonna was never a bigger pariah than in 1993, the last time she toured Australia. Her infamous Sex book had just given an enormous middle finger to the prudishness of ‘90s pop culture. Equally pretentious and tongue-in-cheek, it was a coffee table art book that had no place in most respectable living rooms. Of course, you didn’t actually have to read it – the point was just that it existed. But at the same time her complex, contradictory Erotica record suffered for it, reduced to Sex’s same hypersexual veneer. She’d become too good a provocateur. That punk rock incarnation of Madonna would feel right at home in 2015, now that Sex has paved the way for everyone from Miley Cyrus to Kim Kardashian. Popstars who weren’t alive for ‘Like a Prayer’’s release revere her. So why does it still feel like the general public can’t wait to prematurely wheel her to the retirement home?

Madonna’s been called “desperate”, “calculated”, and much worse – usually by straight white men – ever since she rolled off the 1984 VMAs stage singing ‘Like a Virgin’ in a wedding dress. If it wasn’t true then, it’s even less true now. Nothing she did, not even Sex, was ever just bald-faced provocation. Now, Madonna has nothing left to prove except, ironically, that she still has something left to prove. No genre has a shorter memory than pop, where you’re only as good as your last move or you’re a flop. She can’t help being compared to not only all the younger, hungrier popstars in her wake but her entire three-decade legacy, like an albatross around her neck