Sarah Linney

Why Madonna still matters

She’s more than a musician

  • From Spectator Life
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In my day job, I work with children. Well, OK, they’re in their twenties, but when they ask me who my favourite musician of all time is, and I say Madonna, they usually look blank. That funny-looking woman who had a few hits in the 1980s? Meh, what about Taylor Swift?

Madonna may not have topped the charts for a few years, but for me and many other women of my generation, she is the greatest. And she always will be, in a way that the pop stars of today – derivative, airbrushed, on-message and PRed to the max – can only dream of. She changed the world of music, she changed lives and even now, in my forties, I still look to her as an inspiration – which is why I was so concerned last week when the news broke that she had spent several days in intensive care with a bacterial infection.

Madonna is living proof that you don’t have to be ‘nice’ – people-pleasing, appeasing, uncontroversial – to do good

At 64, Madonna is the bestselling female recording artist of all time; she has sold 300 million records in her 40-plus year career. She continues to release albums every three or four years. Before her hospital admission she had been preparing to begin a seven-month, 45-city world tour. Contemporary radio stations that ignore her in favour of younger artists are missing a trick, as she is still making both first-class dance-pop bangers and addictively beautiful slow-tempo tracks. To pick out just two from her recent albums: ‘Turn Up The Radio’ is a fantastic dance track that has lifted me out of a low mood more than once; ‘Ghost Town’ is a haunting evocation of the beauty of having a soulmate which I first heard with my equally music-obsessed ex and which, five years after we broke up, still revives a sadness.

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