1. An Unforgettable Entrance
As the sole promotional performance for the MDNA-era, there was a lot riding on Madonna’s highly anticipated Super Bowl appearance in 2012. Needless to say she pulled it off effortlessly, despite MIA giving the entire world the finger (coincidence that MIA hasn’t been seen since? unlikely) and the now inexplicable but at the time sort of logical appearance of LMFAO (oh, to be 2012 again…)
Probably the very best thing about M’s very good performance, which drew a record-breaking 111 million viewers, was how she entered. Riding atop a golden throne on a carriage carried by approximately 700,000 oiled-up gay men (all estimates unverified) Madonna arrived to the subtle introductory chords of 1990’s legendary “Vogue” and when her iconic demand: 'What are you looking at?' carried across the stadium, we knew everything would be okay.
A nice big entrance please, Madonna.
2. Water-Tight Choreography
What Madonna has historically lacked in vocal capability, she has more than made up for with her abilities as a dancer, which are, in my opinion, second only to 2004ney. She has an unfortunate habit of displaying her best moves on tour rather than TV, but at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards she showed her peers how to really strike a pose.
Backed only by Donna and Niki (look ‘em up) and with nothing more than a blazer, a monocle and a mic-stand as props, Madonna comprehensively proved that while the spectacle and the drama we all know and love is fantastic, she can pull off a simple performance with originality, style and finesse.
High kicks and vogueing please, Madonna.
3. Impressive Live Vocals
The birth of Madonna’s first child, Lourdes, has been seen as a turning point in her career – another reinvention, they said, from needlessly shocking nymphomaniac to ethereal, socially-conscious Earth Mother. Sure, she may have gone back on her mantra to change her narcissistic ways just slightly in recent years, but nothing helped cement Madonna’s status as a Real Artist than her appearance on Oprah in 1998 where she performed the title track from her Grammy award winning LP ‘Ray of Light.’
What was most exciting about Madge’s performance was seeing how well those vocal lessons for ‘Evita’ had paid off, as the Material Girl belted an apparently extremely difficult song with ease. Silencing those who dismissed her as talentless, her newly discovered vocal prowess proved integral to her transformation from a lowly pop star into a genuine musical legend.
Show us your pipes please, Madonna.
4. An Overall Aesthetic
Anyone who’s seen Madonna live in concert will tell you that no one is better at picking an overarching vision for the show and sticking to it, so it should come as no surprise that her TV performances have been most successful when they’ve followed the same formula. Nothing exemplifies that better than her 1995 BRIT awards performance of “Bedtime Story.”
The futuristic, wind-machine utilizing rendition of one of her most underrated singles showcased Madonna at her most atmospheric. Pairing clinical lighting with a haunting remix of the already ultramodern track, throwing in a ridiculous wig and two space-age dancers, the performance had a feeling, y’know? Oh, and ‘weht’ @4:02. Amazing.
Mood lighting please, Madonna.
5. Bitch, You’re Madonna
Am I the only one who feels like Madonna has spent so long talking about how she’s Madonna that she’s forgotten how to actually be Madonna? Cool and aloof, shocking but not desperate, engaged but not needy. I almost thought she’d gone forever but the ‘Rebel Heart’ demos give me hope that she’s waiting in the wings to take over from the youth-pandering “Girl Gone Wild” twerker.
Nothing embodies the Madonna we’re all desperately seeking (see what I did there?) like this performance at the 1990 VMAs, just one year after our number two position. Madonna strutted onto the stage in full French Renaissance attire and shamelessly lip-synched (with no mic, so there could be no accusation that she was trying to fool anyone) her way through what is still one of the most iconic VMA showings. The curled lip, the panty flashing, the 30 second bow, the exit… All those little touches that make it so completely Madonna.
Be Madonna please, Madonna.
So Madonna, follow these five simple steps and your performance of the properly amazing “Living For Love” will be quite simply legendary. But she probably doesn't need our help. Let’s be honest, when it comes to the music Madonna may have been patchy in the last decade, but when it comes to the performances... Bitch, she’s Madonna.