Madonna has once again infiltrated the pop culturesphere. The 64-year-old singer announced her 12th world tour — a spin across 40 cities and through four decades of hits entitled “Celebration” — via a five-minute black and white video that shows her hosting a dinner party with an assortment of famous friends that was as attention-demanding as you might expect.
She is resplendent in Heidi braids and Jocelyn Wildenstein face, body winched into a corset, shorts, fishnets and zip-up jacket as she and Jack Black, Lil Wayne, Judd Apatow and Amy Schumer, among other guests, play “Truth or Dare” (get it?), mime “Sex” (get it?), sing along to “La Isla Bonita,” and otherwise offer a brief referential whirl through onetime shocking Madonna moments before the big reveal.
To coincide with the news, Madonna is also on the cover of three different issues of “Vanity Fair” (Italian, Spanish, French), in the guise of the Virgin Mary, complete with black and white lace veils and a bleeding heart; inside the magazine she appears in a re-creation of “The Last Supper.”
And to coincide with all that, Piers Morgan, avatar of outrage, is predictably up in arms. How dare she presume to shove herself in our faces yet again, flaunting her body; her smutty jokes; her plastic surgery; her totally, incredibly, no-holds-barred age-inappropriate self?
Duh, because she always dared — that was her truth, more than the dancing, the OK singing, the documentaries, the ad campaigns channeling a sexy housewife for Dolce & Gabbana and a power C.E.O. for Versace. Why should it be any different just because she’s reached Social Security age?
Madonna was never going to go gently into that good night, even if she did have a brief phase living as English landed gentry (that was after her period as a hippie earth mother, as preserved on another cover of “Vanity Fair,” and her period of being Marilyn Monroe). She has always danced on the edge of absurdity and self-caricature, ever since she started actually dancing around the New York club scene in ripped lace petticoats, crosses and fingerless gloves with her belly sticking out. Even when she falls over, as she did at the Brit Awards in 2015, she does it with gusto and no apologies. We need someone to show us how. She’s not so much a train wreck as the train that wrecks the stasis of smothering politesse; the best woman for the job.
Just imagine what it may bring. Not much has been revealed except that Bob the Drag Queen of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” will be a special guest on all the dates, but if the theme is greatest hits, you have to expect that means not just the songs — “Like a Virgin,” “Vogue,” “Ray of Light,” etc. — but also the schtick. The cone bras. The simulated sex. The harems of sweaty ab-full young men. Maybe a surprise planned smooch with a guest star or two and some tongue. (Britney, where are you?) Perhaps a backstage film moment or two. Ascending from hell and descending from the heavens. Fashion-tastic costumes involving bondage, body-baring. Campy historicism and religion. The whole kit and kaboodle of Madonna-isms.
Her timing, as usual, is impeccable. Naked dressing is making a comeback, as worn not to please the eye of the (male) beholder but to advertise the empowerment of the woman inside the skin. So is the era of Indie Sleaze. Seventy has become the new 50. The president is 80. Maye Musk and other “mature” models are getting their cover tries. Mick Jagger is still prancing around in his fancy pants at 79. Madonna is practically middle-aged by comparison.
Besides, something happens when you stick to your guns long enough: You pass through the stages of being in and out and ascend to the status of national treasure. It happened to Queen Elizabeth II. It happened to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. After 40 years of pop culture presence, Madonna has become, Olivier Bouchara, head of editorial content for Vanity Fair France, said in a news release, “a figure as disturbing as she is sacred.” But the truth is, she really isn’t disturbing any more (real life is way too complicated for her to come anywhere close). She’s comfortingly herself.
At this point, we should just be appreciative. It’s probably not a coincidence most of her guests at the announcement party were comedians. It’s a hint (like the career Easter eggs) not to take any of it too seriously. Blowing raspberries at the world is fun. And cathartic. The show will probably be too. And that, as much as anything, is indeed worth celebrating.