Her influence in the music industry has dwindled in recent years. Gone is the youthful, trend-setting fashion icon/pop artist of yesteryear. But Madonna is still making headlines, this time with the film release of The MDNA Tour, which premiered at the Paris Theater in New York on June 18 and premieres on the cable channel EPIX on June 22.
Her twelfth studio album, MDNA, was somewhat lackluster in terms of popularity. It didn’t spawn any hit singles and failed to make much of a dent on the Billboard charts, with sales dropping 88% between its first and second weeks of release. Few of the songs were memorable, and some downright bad. (“Masterpiece” was anything but.) Even the album’s producer, William Orbit, went on record saying the album was a dud, claiming Madonna was too busy hawking her new perfume line and working on other projects to focus on making a decent record. (He later apologized on Twitter.)
And yet the 2012 MDNA tour, despite some rather harsh remarks from Elton John and other critics, still brought in over $305 million. Billboard dubbed it the highest-grossing tour of the year, as well as the highest-grossing female tour of all time.
Which begs the question: What is it about Madonna that keeps people coming back for more?
Her live shows all tend to follow the same formula: Madonna, surrounded by a dozen or so dancers, stands in front of an enormous LED screen that broadcasts images of her younger self, while she sings “reinvented” versions of her old hits. At some point during the show, she’ll inevitably give the audience the finger, kiss another woman, break out some bizarre yoga-inspired dance move, and make a crowd-pleasing statement like “Put your hands in the air like you just don’t care!” And she’ll do it all clad in only her underwear.
So why do we keep watching?
The answer is simple: Because even if we’ve seen it all before. Even if the album she’s promoting isn’t up to par with her earlier material. And even if she is “getting older.” She still puts on an entertaining live show. And we love her for it. She is Madonna.
Fifty-something years old and still rocking a cone bra, Madonna is as daring, unafraid, and unforgiving as she was 30 years ago. In fact, maybe even more so. And it’s hard not to appreciate her for that.
The MDNA Tour airs on EPIX this Saturday, June 22. A DVD release is scheduled for August 27.