Madonna – the best-selling female recording artist of all time – may well have the last commercial laugh in 2019. Some critics wrote the star off this weekend after her Eurovision performance, and said that many younger pretenders now have captured her pop crown.
Madonna, who is 60, is known for her spectacular album launches and is on the countdown to her 14th studio collection, Madame X, due out on June 14. After criticism talking of a botched comeback, her loyal fans maintained that she doesn’t have comebacks because she has never been away and is better than ever.
Leave aside altogether Madonna’s decision to perform at the 64th annual Eurovision Song Contest; some critics were simply not impressed by her performance. Martin Belam, writing in The Guardian, said that Madonna’s vocals on her 1989 hit “Like A Prayer” were “pitchy” and her new song “Future,” featuring U.S. rapper Quavo, was lackluster. Belham concluded: “Madonna must be questioning whether it was worth it.”
The star sported a black outfit and X eyepatch during her performance, which was also criticized by some social-media writers who talked of a need for good auto-tuning. A YouTube video has now been released of the show with the BBC saying that some vocals were apparently cleaned up. Madonna, quoting her song “Music,” told the audience that music could make people come together – a remark variously seen at patronizingly obvious and important.
Some viewers were more appreciative, with a typical tweet saying “#Madonna may have sounded flat but she won my heart – being an artist is not always about having a perfect voice, but having something inspiring to say, and knowing how to deliver the message.”
Love her or hate her, Madonna’s income will be boosted by touring. The Madame X Tour currently has some 69 shows running from September this year through to February 2020. This is not on the scale of the Rebel Heart Tour in 2015 and 2016, which had 82 shows and grossed nearly $170 million. This time, the tour will take in theaters rather than large stadiums. This is the first time Madonna has played such venues on a tour since 1985. The income will still be substantial.
“The focus of much of media attention focuses on the release of new music,” Dr Iain Taylor, Lecturer in Music Industries at Birmingham City University in Britain, said in an interview. Particularly with Madonna, he said “much of the fan excitement appears to be much more focused on the accompanying tour. Revenues in current music industries are driven primarily by live music over record sales, and it’s important to remember that Madonna remains one of the top grossing live acts of all time, having grossed more than $1.3 billion in ticket sales over the course of her career.”
Madame X promises to be an ambitious project with Madonna developing her teenage nickname of “Madame X” into a chameleon-like character, who can be anything from a secret agent to nun, whore or a head of state.
The album’s lead single was “Medellín”, a duet with Colombian singer Maluma. The song’s chart performance so far has not lived up to previous outings. It has reached No. 16 in the US Dance Club Songs chart. This after a run of No. 1 singles on the same dance chart, such as “Living For Love,” “Ghosttown,” and “Bitch I’m Madonna,” all them being songs off the last album, Rebel Heart, from 2015.
Madonna fans will bite back and say nobody compared with their idol, and there is much to celebrate in her stellar career including 300 million records sold worldwide, according to The Guinness Book of Records. She has the most No. 1s on the Billboard charts. Still, it is some years since her singles reached the upper reaches of the Billboard Hot 100. As the years have gone on, media commentators have dubbed many newer commercial female stars as being “the new Madonna” – from Lady Gaga to Taylor Swift.
Iain Taylor pointed out: “Taylor Swift had the top-grossing tour in the States last year, and is not too far from having grossed $1 billion in sales herself over the comparatively short length of her career. With fan spending, and artist income, so dominated by the live music experience, perhaps our attention as commentators shouldn’t really be driven by albums and singles any more, and instead focus more on the tours, performances, and experiences which, ultimately, pay for them.”
The Material Girl’s net worth was recently calculated by Forbes at $590 million, placing her 36 among America’s wealthiest self-made women. Her average gross per tour stop over three years was put at more than $3 million. Given the smaller venues this time, the takings will be lower, though some fans will be prepared to pay premiums to see her in more intimate venues. Madonna has been written off commercially many times before, and she has survived.