Madonna’s epic two-night showcase at American Airlines arena reunites the material girl and her old friend Miami.

It will be a homecoming of sorts when Madonna hits Miami as part of her tour for Rebel Heart, her 13th studio album, on January 23 and 24. Back in the ’90s, when Madge set down roots in Miami, she electrified South Beach nightlife, bringing glamour, excitement, and a flock of private jets carrying fellow stars along for the ride. By that point, her status as one of the biggest cultural forces in the world was well established—an undeniable pop juggernaut, fashion icon (think Jean Paul Gaultier cone bras), and agent for social change (as an empowering feminist who rallied on behalf of her legions of gay fans, and the fight against AIDS, among many other humanitarian efforts). Her searing, controversial 1992 book, Sex, much of it set in Miami, only further secured her role as a provocateur. Shot by Steven Meisel, the photo tome featured images of Madonna cavorting with gal pal Ingrid Casares, who went on to cofound Miami hot spot Liquid, and hitchhiking stark naked on the streets of the Magic City.

Madonna blazed the trail for today’s boundary-pushers, like Lady Gaga and Kesha; her eponymous 1983 debut set the standard for a career that merges pop and dance with the freedom to express yourself in any way you see fit. Her latest endeavor, Rebel Heart, is no different, with production from the likes of Diplo, Avicii, and Kanye West; it’s also, in some ways, a throwback to the 57-year-old’s clubby early days, says her first collaborator (and then-boyfriend), Jellybean Benitez, who produced her breakout “Holiday” for that first album. “From the single ‘Living for Love’ to the lyric in the title track (‘Rebel Heart’), I can see a lot of her in this particular record,” says Benitez of Rebel Heart. “She’s returned closer to her club roots with it. This is the closest thing to what’s going on in club culture in years for her.”

Benitez, a superstar DJ who headlined PAMM Third Thursdays: Poplife Social last April, has worked with and remixed many of the greats over the years, from Whitney Houston to Michael Jackson. “The thread that runs through all of them is passion,” he says. “These artists are fearless. No matter what the obstacle is, they find a way through it, around it, over it. They’re always looking at the good things that are happening and not focusing on the negative things that could be happening. That’s her.”

Early in Madonna’s career, Miami proved a fantastic playground—from hot spots like Liquid to the Blue Door restaurant at the Delano to Versace’s mansion, everywhere the Material Girl went, the paparazzi, crowds, and drama followed. “She was often [at the Versace Mansion] when Donatella and Gianni were there,” says her ’90s friend (and rumored on-again-off-again paramour) Chris Paciello, who co-owned Miami nightclub Liquid with Casares. “They’d throw a little party at [Gianni’s] house, and then they’d all go out to the clubs after. She had her own little crew: photographers Herb Ritz, Bruce Weber, and Steven Meisel; Orlando Pita, who used to do her hair; Rupert Everett, and when she was in town, they’d all be here.”

Although Madonna departed Miami for homes in New York and London, the occasional South Florida appearance—such as asking the 2012 Ultra Music Festival crowd if they’d seen “Molly” (a nickname for the drug ecstasy, which was also the title of her album just prior to Rebel Heart)—has left her gone but certainly not forgotten. Madonna performs on Saturday, January 23, and Sunday, January 24, at AmericanAirlines Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami;

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