The Snubbing of Madame X By the Grammys Is Something of a Compliment
While even Barbra Streisand managed to get a nod from the Grammys (for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album thanks to Walls), noticeably lacking from the OG gay icon list was Madonna. Lost amid “fresher” competitors like Billie Eilish, Ariana Grande, Lana Del Rey and, somehow, Vampire Weekend. Very strange indeed considering that Madame X was one of the most daring and memorable records released in 2019. Challenging norms and defying convention both sonically and with accompanying videos that included “Medellin,” “Dark Ballet,” “Crave,” “I Rise,” “God Control” and “Batuka.”
Recorded while in Lisbon for the benefit of her son, David Banda, joining the Benfica soccer team, the experimental nature of the album (going well-beyond anything Madonna did on Ray of Light or American Life, the two records consistently deemed her most avant-garde) is unapologetic and relentless throughout, with producer credits from Mirwais Ahmadzaï, Mike Dean, Diplo, Billboard, Jason Evigan and Jeff Bhasker.
Which is perhaps why the Grammys didn’t know what to do with it, Billie Eilish being just the right amount of “experimental” in the present climate. On that note, Eilish’s debut was given six nods (Best Solo Performance, Best New Artist, Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album) for her debut, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?. Mind you, Madonna’s self-titled first record received no award nominations, setting something of a precedent for being overlooked throughout her entire career, save for that Ray of Light moment at the 1999 Grammys. Because yes, out of twenty-eight nominations in the past thirty-plus years, she’s only won seven times. A head-scratching anomaly if ever there was one, and more than somewhat proving that to be acknowledged by “major” institutions with clearly no taste is more insult than compliment.
Even so, her label, Interscope, reportedly submitted Madame X for Album of the Year, “Medellin” for Best Pop Duo Performance and “Crave” for Record of the Year. The Recording Academy could not be bothered. For, more than anything, it seems Madonna continues to represent to “real” musicians that she is all raw ambition and no talent. The shadowy judgment that has cast a pall throughout the success of her fourteen studio albums, each offering at least one chart-topping single. But charts are of no concern to the Grammys, who want to see “true” singers shine. And yet, they seem to forget that show(wo)manship and artistry are key components to putting out a record that will endure (David Bowie certainly knew something about that).
As though seemingly punished for this ability to interweave all aspects of art into her career–a multimedia genius–Madonna has somehow been ignored. Then again, she has always rebelled against the establishment rather than seeking to be recognized by it. In this way, it is as she says on Madame X’s “Extreme Occident,” “Life is a circle”–and it will circuitously repeat the same pattern of Madonna being snubbed.