Madonna's recorded persona can't hold a candle to stage self - Reverb

Madonna’s recorded persona can’t hold a candle to stage self

Madonna's will play the Pepsi Center on Thursday. Photo by Kathy Willens, AP.

Madonna’s will play the Pepsi Center on Thursday. Photo by Kathy Willens, AP.

The math of music — choosing where to spend your money — doesn’t always make sense. And Madonna is a perfect example of this strange arithmetic.

Madonna isn’t worth the $9.99 you’d spend on her latest album “MDNA” on iTunes. Yet the 54-year-old pop goddess is worth the $45-$355 you’d spend on seeing her live on Thursday at the Pepsi Center.

It’s strange logic, sure. But think about it. Madonna isn’t producing entire albums you need to own anymore. Sure, there’s Spotify, and you can stream it all for free. But even for those who want to own their music, download one song per new Madonna album, and you’ll have what you need for your collection.

There was a time where you had to have the latest Madonna album, in its entirety, along with the remixes that would follow. But that time is not now. As a recording artist, Madonna is unquestionably past her prime.

Conversely, your money will be well spent if you shell out the $45 (plus fees) for Madonna’s concert tickets. You’ll be in the cheap seats. But you’ll still be in the room with a legend and her music.

Yes, Madonna is still an essential artist in concert. It’s a weird relationship with her recorded self, because the Material Girl will certainly play some of her lesser, often newer material — as she is still touring in support of this year’s awful “MDNA.” But like the irrelevant, in-the-know nod of her recent album’s title — one letter away from club-drug ecstasy’s chemical name, MDMA — it’s easy to look beyond the artist’s lackluster songs when she’s breathing the same air as you.

Madonna still sounds great: When she was last in Denver, in November 2008 for two Pepsi Center shows on her Sticky & Sweet Tour, we marveled at her voice as she slayed a late-set “You Must Love Me” from the filmed musical “Evita.”

She also still looks fantastic: You’ve seen her on red carpets and award shows. Madonna has defied age, and she’s as conscious of her image as she’s ever been. But when you see her slender frame walk the stage’s catwalk, it’s not frailty as much as it is strength. Madonna is fit — totally buff.

She still loves to dance: Thursday’s Denver show will be focused on her music — but choreography will come in a close second. Expect more back-up dancers than back-up singers. And while Madonna’s never been a jaw-dropping dancer, she’s among the best at interweaving timeless style and current trends with arena-friendly dance routines.

Music makes the people come together: Finally, this is why we continue to celebrate an artist who has embarrassed herself with some of her recent output. (For a laugh, listen to the inane lyrics of 2005’s “I Love New York” or the unflattering simplicity of this year’s “Give Me All Your Luvin’.”) Madonna’s back catalog is unparalleled in pop music. From the early days of “Borderline” and “Like a Virgin,” the midperiod classics such as “Vogue” and “Ray of Light” to her most recent hits “Hung Up” and “4 Minutes,” these are some of the biggest pop songs in the history of music.

They make us dance and sing along, and they remind us of different times — easier times and younger times. At her best, which is typically live in concert, Madonna brings us back to a happy place. A club. A 1989 Volvo. A roller rink. A college party. And if you close your eyes real tight and sing loud enough to “La Isla Bonita,” you’ll likely remember yet another night that was vastly improved by the presence of Madonna and her music.

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Ricardo Baca is the founder and executive editor of Reverb, the co-founder of The UMS and an award-winning critic and editor at The Denver Post.

  • Daniel, SF

    I have to tell you, as an avid Madonna fan for 25+ years, I agree with everything you have said in this article. It is unfortunate that Madonna seems to have put less energy into her music lyrically (I have often said that her songs don’t have as much ‘meat’ as they did in the 80s and 90s), but she has not slowed down when it comes to her concerts. Even though this latest tour is not one of my favorites of hers, it still knocks down any other pop tour to date. And she sings…LIVE, and sounds fantastic. She looks amazing and the cherry on top is – you can see that she is thoroughly enjoying herself up on stage. Keep it up, Madonna. I will be first in line to buy a ticket!

  • Josh

    I actually like her new album MDNA but I really love the censored version, I think I f##ked up is a wonderfully written ballad that is deep.

  • Al

    Having been a fan for over 25 years, I still buy and listen to every song on her newer albums. Yes, MDNA is not always lyrically her best, but that’s not why you buy a Madonna album. You want fun pop songs with a catchy tune. MDNA delivers that. GMAYL, Girl Gone Wild and I’m A Sinner are prime examples.
    Yes I totally agree that she still looks and sounds great live and puts on an amazIng show but MDNA deserves a full download and a full listen – more than once. Remember it’s pop! It’s fun! Enjoy!

  • poobah

    Madonna is rude to her fans. Show started nearly 3 hours late. Lame dj on stage as pre show is a joke and boring. Opening gang bang song with blood splatters was gross and incredibly distasteful for denver. We jsut experienced one of the worst mass murders in history and she records a song like that with a blood splattering performance. Boo. In poor taste and will never see her again. Wtf is wrong with her?

    • http://www.facebook.com/futuroeuro Gerardo Alonso B

      wHAT an ego of your part? All the sudden is Madonna’s problem your bad experiences? If any one would operate like that before any desicions well be stuck. If you are traumaized for violence go to therapy don’t blame it on Madonna!!!!

  • jojo

    I love madonna and mdna song,before the album out i already own all mdna song
    download from youtube.
    I love all the song, believed or not almost 7 month i used this song to my daily excercise 1hrs in a morning and another 1 hrs in the evening.