Madonna recycles “the shock value of her heyday” on TikTokPosted by Mike Schumacher
In May, Madonna visited Brooklyn. Picture: Al Bello via Getty Images
To the dismay of fans like Cardi B, the diva is using the platform to claim credit for her image
Madonna wants to remind everyone that she created sex. Or at least made the necessary sacrifices to enable the alleged “pornification of pop”. She appears to believe that Sex, the coffee table book of softcore porn/art photography she published this past weekend, was the start of everything.
The weekend before last, Madonna discussed the book in an Instagram story, adding: “Now, Cardi B can sing about her WAP. There were images of Men kissing Men, Woman kissing Woman, and Me kissing everyone. Miley Cyrus may enter like a wrecking ball, and Kim Kardashian can adorn the front of any magazine with her bare ass. You’re welcome, f*ckin’ bitches.
Madge’s tweet about her viral nostalgia was perhaps the mildest thing she published this weekend; in the previous 48 hours, she also uploaded a video of her reclining on a training bench and rubbing her crotch. Cardi B, however, responded that she was “disappointed” with her flashback post. The rapper claimed in a since-deleted post that he had “literally [paid] this woman homage so many times because I grew up listening to her.” She doesn’t need to use clown emojis or open her lips to convey her point.
Others who followed the story online charged Madonna of exaggerating her personal impact on pop music while downplaying the achievements of Black women like Donna Summer, Grace Jones, and Janet Jackson, all of whom explored their sexuality onstage. (However, can we expect intelligent, welcoming comments from a mother who, in 2014, repeated her use of the n-word in reference to her white kid while claiming that she was just using it as a “term of endearment”?)
The seeming conflict was then settled as quickly as you can say “Pop Crave has reported that…” Cardi claimed in a tweet that she and Madonna had reconciled over the phone. Madonna returned to what she’s been doing best—or at least most frequently—in recent weeks, posting on TikTok with the exuberance of a kid on vacation, writing that she will “always love” Cardi.
Madonna performs in Chicago in 1987. Photograph: Paul Natkin/WireImage
Madonna, 64, joined TikTok in 2018 and was one of its early users. Since then, she has continued to post, but in recent weeks, her attention-seeking actions have reached a peak. As W put it, Madonna has reached her “TikTok era” and is flaunting her rainbow-manicured finger to her pouting lips while dancing in bondage attire, parading through a mirror-filled bathroom on silver heels, and looking at the camera from behind enormous baby pink sunglasses.
Madonna utilized TikTok last week to (maybe) come out. She held up a pair of fuschia underwear while sporting a white corset and sweatpants. “If I miss, I’m gay,” read a caption. The underwear were then thrown by Madonna into a trash can after missing their intended target. The lesbian superstar Madonna seemed to have told us something when the camera turned back to her and she shrugged with a “aw, shucks” expression.
Many would argue that she previously told us the same thing at the 2003 VMAs when, in a gesture that kept members of the Parents Television Council awake for weeks on end, she kissed Britney Spears onstage. Or in the lesbian orgy she arranged for her 1990 song “Justify My Love,” which MTV forbade its use. (More recently, this summer Madonna was seen making out with 26-year-old Dominican rapper Tokischa at a Pride celebration, a New York fashion week presentation, and of course on TikTok.)
As a result, the queen of innovation recycled some content on TikTok, which is nothing new. According to Katie Kapurch, associate professor of English at Texas State University and co-editor of the scholarly journal AMP: American Music Perspectives, Madonna’s use of TikTok “manufactures the kind of buzz she derived from the shock value of her music’s subject matter and her subsequent encounters with critics during her heyday.” It’s all extremely meta-textual. Now, rather than defending her work, she’s defending the history of her art.
The “credit-taking trend,” which is common among musicians more closely associated with Boomers and Gen X but doesn’t work well on TikTok, is what Kapurch sees in Madonna’s videos. The result may be cringe-worthy when someone honestly claims credit for their effort, she added. “Ironic language is preferable. Take a look at Dionne Warwick’s excellent usage of Twitter, for instance. She speaks on hot themes, but Warwick’s wit and timing inspire others to pick up her mantle and argue why her music is important.
However, Madonna doesn’t need assistance with her own marketing. And even while she may be correct that she has earned her reputation as an elder of pop culture feminism, she often obscures that reality by just being Madonna.
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