After winning countless awards (including seven Grammys), selling over 300 million records (making her the top selling female artist of all time), appearing in nearly 20 films, and cementing her public image as an envelope-pushing pop icon, one would think Madonna would finally be comfortable enough in her own skin not to appear threatened by up-and-coming talent.
Guess that’s too much to ask.
Madonna, now 53, has been all over the music news headlines lately for her digs against younger diva Lady Gaga (whom some have compared to a young Madonna). Most notably, her MDNA Tour kickoff show in Tel Aviv this week included a clever sampling of Gaga’s “Born This Way” worked into Madonna’s hit “Express Yourself,” at the end of which Madonna shouted, “She’s not me!”
Hmm…a little sensitive, are we?
The thing is, while the inevitable comparisons have been drawn between the younger and older divas, and while the press has even not-so-subtly pushed for a friendly rivalry between the two—thus far, the only real sense of rivalry has come from Madonna, not Gaga. With this “expression” of herself, Madonna went too far out of her way to state the obvious: Lady Gaga is most definitely not Madonna. NOBODY is Madonna except Madonna, and nobody else could ever BE Madonna. She has set herself apart from the pack in a way that no one will be able to copy her without immediately being pegged as an impersonator. Lady Gaga has the potential to match Madonna success-wise, but she’ll ultimately have to do it by carving out her own persona.
So why does Madonna feel so compelled to make a differentiation between them?
So what if “Born This Way” sounds just a li’l bit like “Express Yourself?” Most established icons would consider that a compliment—a tip o’ the hat, if you will. But not Madonna; no, apparently, she’s pissed off about it—so much so that she had to work a public dig of Gaga into her world tour. Sorry, but that just comes off as childish, and looks far worse on Madonna than it does on Gaga.
My point is this: while no one would expect Madonna to be anything other than competitive, when anyone starts “competing” by trying to cut the other guy down to size, it sends a message of insecurity, jealousy, and frankly, immaturity. It would be like a professional baseball player trying to trip a little leaguer running the bases, just to keep the younger guy from showing up the older one; it just looks bad.
I’m no psychologist, so I don’t know how to label this behavior—whether it’s some form of narcissism or some kind of “diva complex,” or just perhaps a fear of getting old. But someone with Madonna’s record of success simply ought to have nothing to worry about. She’s at a place where she could be encouraging and developing up-and-coming talent, instead of trash-talking it; in fact, there are other pop icons who have developed a solid reputation for encouraging the next generation (Elton John is a great example). Instead, Madonna appears to be trying—and trying too hard—to fight to keep her place at the top of the heap, like somehow she has something to lose. But in my humble opinion, Madonna stands to lose much more by her own childish behavior than any run for her money that Gaga or anyone else could give her.
Madonna should be enjoying her run at the top. Instead she acts fearful—desperate, even. And that’s really sad, because there’s no need for it. No one’s gonna knock her off her throne; the only way that could happen is if she falls off the throne while trying to knock the younger divas off the mountain.
Chill out, Madonna.