Madonna at 60 – Is Her “Schtick” Still Working?


Love her, hate her, there’s simply no denying that Madonna is a force of nature, a fierce one at that. Ever since she burst onto the scene as an ‘80s icon, Madonna’s presence and perseverance has been profound. Fans have followed her career for decades. Some have come and gone, but a new generation of Madonna enthusiasts have flocked to the now more mature “Material Girl.”

Back in the “Borderline” days, Madonna’s style, arrogance, and all-around allure made her a superstar. Think back to the other top performers of her time and most are mere memories. But Madonna had that certain “star quality” that’s both rare and remarkable. That’s what has kept her relevant, but nothing near relatable. As much as her music has been influential, it’s Madonna’s unmatched personality that’s been her strong suit. Call it a “schtick,” for lack of a better term, but hers has stood the test of time. Her just-released album Madame X finds her “reinventing” herself yet again.

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When compared to others who made a name for themselves as young adults and maintained a healthy lifetime career, Madonna’s path is scrutinized more strongly. For example, compare it to the late Aretha Franklin. Her soulful sound was as inspiring from the start as it was until her final performances. Was she under the microscope for maintaining her “Queen” status? Not one bit. This may be due to her “age appropriate” attitude, adapting her place among an ever-changing sea of singers, and fitting in where she was best suited. Madonna, on the other hand, started out as part of the music video generation. How could she slip out of that spotlight and start (for lack of a better term) “calming down”? As a pop phenom, she wouldn’t dare step aside for the Britneys and Christinas and allow them to become the “next” Madonna. “Madonna” was already taken; she would never need a stand-in.

Naturally, there are critics who are convinced that Madonna’s glory is all gimmick. They argue that she needs to grow up, taper off, embrace her age…whatever that’s meant to entail. Does it mean she ought to exchange her elaborate costumes with somber pantsuits? Should she zip it on the sex talk and related raunchiness? Is collaborating with the up-and-comers “too commercial”? News flash: Madonna is not your average mom. She’s MADONNA. She wouldn’t be the woman she is today if she didn’t bend the rules and break barriers.

So she’s 60. Big whoop. Today’s version of “60” is youthful. It’s empowered and energized. It means being the same strong person you were years ago, only savvier and smarter. And if anyone knows what it’s like to be strong, savvy, and smart, it’s Madonna. She knows exactly what she’s doing. She is not a caricature. This woman is well-aware of her amazing accomplishments. Sure, “Like a Virgin” may come off awkwardly should she perform it these days, but the Madame X album is already garnering attention.

Call it a “schtick” if you will, but Madonna’s goal from the get-go was to stand out, and she still does. If she wants to gyrate on stage, so be it. Her body is fitter than most women half her age, her confidence and creativity never falters, and her true fans never need an excuse to continue cheering her on. Face it: Madonna’s “schtick” has “stuck.” We’ll be sure to see it in full swing in coming years. Madonna did not get into the “biz” to be a flash in the pan and forgotten. Her powerful plan is working, and for me, it’s wonderful.

-Melissa Kay

Photo: Madonna in New York, 1984. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

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Melissa A. Kay is a seasoned freelance writer, content strategist, and editor from the New York City area. You'll find her work on the web and in print, covering a wide range of genres and interests. She resides on Long Island, NY with her husband and cat, both who serve as inspiration.

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