Madonna's Top 5 controversies: Wardrobe malfunction to mock crucifixion, Queen of Pop's most scandalous moments
'I don't get it. Everything I do is controversial. Nothing's changed. I'm still in trouble,' Madonna said in an interview in 2019
Every so often you get an artiste who is willing to cross the line between art and controversy and when it happens, you don't forget it easily. It is also those statements that get a lot of attention and when the world comes to understand it, is when you start seeing change and in turn, and impact on culture itself.
Since Madonna stepped into the musical arena in the early 1980s, she has had a social-cultural impact on the world through her recordings, attitude, clothing, and lifestyle. Dubbed the "Queen of Pop," Madonna is labeled by international authors as the greatest woman in music, as well as the most influential and iconic female recording artiste of all time.
A global cultural icon, Madonna has been studied by sociologists, historians, and other social scientists. Her legacy has often been compared with that of Elvis Presley and the Beatles. She is the first multimedia pop icon in history and professionals have noted that she has become the world's biggest and most socially significant pop icon, and controversy has a huge part to play in it.
But where did it all begin though? You may have heard in discussions about Madonna that she was an artiste to push the envelope in her early career days and further, so we have compiled a list of her five biggest controversies. Check them out below.
1984: 'Like a Virgin' performance at the VMAs
In the early '80s, Madonna was already infamous for her innuendo-laced lyrics and sexually provocative performances, and if 'Like a Virgin' wasn't enough to shock listeners during that era, wait till you see her MTV video music awards performance of her classic hit song. When artistes experience malfunctions on stage during live performances, it is always amazing to see their impromptu reversals of such moments as they save face and continue with the show. In Madonna's case in 1984 during the VMAs, it started with her stiletto slipping off her foot. Unflinching, Madonna turned the malfunction into a provocative performance, writhing on the floor in a wedding dress and giving the audience a full view of her bare legs, toes to thighs.
1986: 'Papa Don't Preach'
Sometimes it's more the negative reaction from the public that can get something deemed as controversy more than the content itself. That is probably the case with one of Madonna's first music videos to become a moot effort. In the visual for 'Papa Don't Preach', Madonna portrays a pregnant teen from a working-class neighborhood in Staten Island who tells her father that she's decided to keep her baby. It also shows the romance with the one Daddy warned you about.
The organization Planned Parenthood felt the music video didn't sit right with them and urged radio stations to boycott the song because it allegedly promoted pregnancy among underage girls. Madonna, still baffled by the controversy decades later, shared in a 2019 iHeartRadio interview, "I don't get it. Everything I do is controversial. Nothing's changed – I'm still in trouble."
1989: 'Like a Prayer' video
By the end of the '80s, Madonna was used to pushing people's buttons and this next video was clearly designed to do just that. Featuring White supremacists, a Black man arrested for the murder of a white girl, a cross burning, and a stigmata scene, the 'Like a Prayer' music video led to the cancellation of the contract that Madonna had recently signed with Pepsi to use the song in a commercial. Needless to say, the Vatican also invested a lot of time to condemn the video.
2003: Madonna, Britney and Christina kiss at VMAs
Fast-forward to a more modern era, and we have the famous female pop star triumvirate where Madonna kissed Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera at the 2003 VMAs. Initially kissing Britney Spears on the mouth, Madonna subsequently made out with Christina Aguilera during their wedding-themed performance of 'Like a Virgin' and 'Hollywood', although cameras cut away during the Xtina kiss.
Watch a fan-made clip of the scene here.
2006: Madonna mounts herself on a mirrored crucifix
During her 'Confessions' tour in 2006, Madonna took her already-criticized religious symbolism to the next level when she performed on a cross while singing 'Live to Tell'. Additionally, she wore a crown of thorns, which Jesus wore on his head during his crucifixion. As expected, Madonna's performance drew backlash from religious leaders. "My 'confession' follows and takes place on a Crucifix that I ultimately come down from. This is not a mocking of the church," she said. But out of curiosity, Madonna, what's with the crosses?
Watch the performance here.