Madonna: Controversial queen of pop is always in vogue writes Chitra Ramaswamy

LET'S look back for a moment: four weeks, four controversies. A typical Madonna month, you might say. Number one, YouTube slapped a viewing restriction on the video for 'Girl Gone Wild', presumably on the grounds that it features a 53-year-old woman humping a wall while making I-don't-give-a... eyes at the camera

Number two, at Miami's Ultra music festival, Madonna took to the stage (minus a golden throne carried by glistening gladiators – this was not a Superbowl moment) and screamed, "How many people in this crowd have seen molly?". The ravers went wild. So, too, did a DJ called Deadmau5, who pronounced her an "idiot". Molly, you see, is American streetspeak for the drug MDMA. Oh, and Madonna's new album is called MDNA. It was hardly an Evita moment, but then again... has everyone forgotten The Shamen?

Number three, Madonna was wearing fishnets at the time. Imagine! A 53-year-old woman in a pair of tights. We can only assume that stuffed inside the offending garment was the horny tail of a she-devil, and a wrinkly old one at that. This really was an unforgivable crime. One (female) columnist even wondered what could she be hiding under those trademark fingerless Chanel gloves? Liver spots?

Number four, and this one at least is about the music: MDNA has undergone the biggest second-week sales drop in US chart history. The crown is slipping. Never mind getting to number one on iTunes in 30 countries, the fact that Madonna has overtaken Elvis as the solo artist with the most chart-topping albums, or that MDNA is a fabulously camp, thinly veiled revenge album, a perfectly manicured finger raised at Guy Ritchie. It's official. Again. Madonna, finally, must be over.

"Some things never change," is how Madonna's publicist, Liz Rosenberg, puts it. Well, quite. Let's look back again. To 'Justify My Love', which was banned by MTV in 1990 for its sexual content. Or to 1989, when a Pepsi ad featuring Madonna singing 'Like a Prayer' was pulled within just 48 hours for its religious content. Now it's the advert for her perfume, Truth or Dare, that's whipping up a storm as predictable as the missionary position. It seems Madonna no longer needs to actually do anything to court controversy. The memory of it, plus a bit of rolling around in couture lingerie, is enough.

The fact is that Madonna hasn't really changed, despite what people always say about her being the queen of reinvention. Her attitude, style, sexual politics, feminism, fighting talk, dance music influences and, yes, her fishnet tights, were all there from the start. Give or take some lace and a mockney flirtation, she's just the same. Apart from one thing...

Madonna's age has changed, and for this we seem unable to forgive her. The criticisms are the same as they ever were – she is too rich, too cold, too driven, too controlling, too much – but another insult is creeping in more and more. And it has the nastiest sting of all because, in directing it at her, it is directed at all women. Madonna is too old.

Actually, for all of us who have grown up with Madonna, sported legwarmers with her, even endured the ignominy of Swept Away with her, her age is one of our favourite things about her. We love her longevity, the fact that she has stuck it out, that she's still not sorry, and that with each passing day she becomes a little bit more outrageous, a little bit more Liz Taylor. This is the point of Madonna. This is why we still need her. And, of course, this is why she drives people mad. Long may the fishnets continue.


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