SAN DIEGO – November 4 – PRESS Reports/Reviews/Pics

San Diego Union Tribune

STILL IN VOGUE? Madonna returns to San Diego and a rapidly changing pop music world

Although her concert here Tuesday at Petco Park falls on Election Day, it’s unlikely Madonna will make a political statement by performing a dancer-friendly version of “Hail to the Chief.”

Sure, the Queen of Pop has been encouraging her audiences to vote for Barack Obama at each stop on the U.S. leg of her ongoing Sweet and Sticky world tour. And, yes, she has also been flashing images of John McCain during her nightly performances of “Get Stupid,” although not of his running mate. (“Sarah Palin can’t come to this party,” Madonna told the audience at one of her New York concerts last month. “She is not in my show. She willnever be in my show.”)

Then again, subtlety has never been Madonna’s strong point, as befits a cultural provocateur who has long inspired both acclaim and derision.

But so what?

For much of the past 25 years, the woman born Madonna Louise Ciccone has been the commander-in-chief, if not of the country, than of much of the world of pop-music.

It’s a world the Michigan native has dominated, off and (more often) on, since the days when New Wave and the short-lived New Romantic movement were all the rage during Ronald Reagan’s days as president.

“I have the same goal I’ve had ever since I was a girl,” Madonna said early in her career. “I want to rule the world.”

Granted, she no longer rules the radio airwaves as she once did. But her latest album, the dance-floor friendly “Hard Candy,” did top the charts in 31 countries, albeit only briefly. She is also the first artist, male or female, to sign a 10-year deal — worth a reported $100 million — with concert industry giant Live Nation.

Known as a “360 contract,” the all-encompassing deal gives Live Nation a percentage not just of all her concert earnings, but also of any Madonna ring-tones, videos, books, theatrical projects, corporate sponsorship deals, merchandise of any kind and (heaven forbid) feature films. The contract also stipulates Madonna’s albums over the next decade will come out on Live Nation’s new record label, thus ending her affiliation with Warner Bros., the company that had distributed all of her dozen-plus albums to date.

Most music biz experts doubt that Live Nation — which subsequently signed U2, Jay-Z and the Jonas Brothers to lucrative 360 contracts of their own — will be able to recoup its $100,000 million investment in Madonna. Consider that only a fraction of the arena and stadium dates on her ongoing, 49-date tour have sold out. 

But this may reflect more on the high ticket prices (which range from $58.50 to $353.50 per ticket, plus service charges, for her Petco Park show), and the current state of our troubled economy than it does on her popularity as a concert attraction, a performer who has long transcended styles and trends.

Industry insiders question, however, whether Madonna will be nearly as big a live draw 10 years from now, when the sight of a scantily clad, 60-year-old woman bumping and grinding on stage to “Like a Virgin” might seem more creepy than empowering. Then again, Mick Jagger is still going strong at 65 (and Tina Turner at 69), so who can tell?

Either way, Madonna is the first artist with whom Live Nation signed a 360 deal. This attests to her power as a brand image whose ultimate product is, well, Madonna.

To call that product one-of-a-kind is less an opinion than a simple statement of fact. Not that anything about Madonna has ever been simple, though, beyond her desire to achieve “world domination.”

“People think they will wake up one day and I’ll be gone,” she said years ago. “But I’m never going away.”

Cited as a key influence by everyone from Miley Cyrus and Gwen Stefani to Britney Spears, she has never minced words.

“I’m tough, I’m ambitious, and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch, OK,” she once said.

Just how ambitious was demonstrated by another choice Madonnna quote: “I want to be like Gandhi, and Martin Luther King and John Lennon … but I want to stay alive.”

Yet, despite the fact that her worldwide record sales now top 250 million units — or, perhaps, because of it — Madonna has nearly as many detractors as fans.

“She puts on a new hat and she’s `reinvented’ herself,” said Walter Becker of Steely Dan. “As if there was anything to reinvent in the first place.”

However superficial some of her “”reinventions” have been, Madonna’s strong suit has never been her at-best adequate singing, which is heavily processed in the recording studio and on concert stages.

Her forte has been her masterful manipulation of the media and her ability to market herself by generating controversy through envelope-pushing videos (“Like a Prayer” and “Justify My Love”), stage attire (the ice cream cone-like breast plates she wore during her 1990 Blonde Ambition tour and the de-flowered bride’s gown featured in her 1989 video for “Like a Virgin”) and her books (1992’s “Sex,” although her more recent literary efforts have been geared to young children and their parents).

Granted, fueling controversy now is more difficult than it was back when she launched her career. But that doesn’t mean Madonna doesn’t want to keep — to quote the title of her 1987 hit — “Causing a Commotion.”

The title track of her 2003 album, “American Life,” took aim at the Bush administration and the then-budding war in Iraq. But it failed to generate more than a fraction of the furor then being directed at the Dixie Chicks for expressing similar sentiments.

Last month in Rome, Madonna dedicated “Like a Virgin” to Pope Benedict XVI at a concert that drew 60,000 fans and took place just a few miles from the Vatican. That’s the same Vatican that denounced her 2006 Rome concert, which featured a mock crucifixion on stage during “Like a Prayer,” as one of the most “Satanic shows in the history of humanity.” 

Earlier this month, the announcement of her pending divorce from her second husband, English action movie director Guy Ritchie, made headlines around the world. So did the subsequent report that the impoverished father of her adopted Malawian son, 3-year-old David Banda, believes young David might now be better off returning to Africa to live with him.

But to judge by her history, this unbowed diva has never let a personal setback keep her down for long. Her heart may be broken, her spirits may be at rock bottom, but when it comes to Madonna being Madonna, her past and present are perhaps best sumarized by the title of her chart-topping 2003 hit, “Nothing Fails,” if not by the title of her directorial film debut, “Filth and Wisdom,” which opens here this week.

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Posted on November 2, 2008, in Madonna, Music, Sticky & Sweet Tour and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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