The pop singer is still eluding the critics who tell older females to fade away, says arts novelist Fiona Sturges
Is Madonna dead ?” my daughter asked recently, while we danced like imbeciles in the kitchen to Vogue. Having expended a good few months inculcating my child with Madonna’s back catalogue, I realised I’d told her nothing about the woman herself. My daughter is still young enough to have no interest in the age of the vocalists she listens to- living or dead is generally sufficient information for her. If merely we all felt that way.
Pop music is an unforgiving place for the older female. Few know this better than Madonna, who turns 60 on Thursday, and whose every move in the past 15 years has been accompanied by a grim chorus of” Set it away, grandma “. That the entertainment industry is among the worst culprits when it comes to fading out women- note in comparison the scores of male performers and musicians carrying on into their 60 s and 70 s unimpeded- is especially depressing since it’s a business that directly influences how we guess and live. But we can take heart that, as with so many aspects of the female experience, Madonna is doing her damnedest to put it right.
” Do not age, to age is a sin ,” she said in a blunt speech in 2016 ,~ ATAGEND after accepting an award at Billboard’s Women in Music event.” You will be criticised, you will be vilified and you will definitely not be played on the radio .” But being criticised and vilified is all in a day’s work for Madonna. So is adjusting expectations and redrawing boundaries, all the while pleasing herself. These are the things she does best. She hasn’t so much smoothed the track for those who have come after her as hacked her way through the undergrowth, and done battle with ogres, in order to make it walkable for the rest of us.