- Tracy Heck
Madonna continues to captivate with 'Madame X'
On Friday, the concept film to Madonna’s acclaimed Madame X Tour debuted exclusively on Paramount+, the streaming service from ViacomCBS, in the U.S., Latin America, Australia, the Nordics and Canada. Fans outside those markets can watch the documentary on MTV.
To coincide with the film's debut, Warner Records also released the digital soundtrack, Madame X-Music From the Theater Xperience (Live,) which is available on all digital download and streaming platforms.
The soundtrack features 20 dynamic live performances that span the entirety of her career, but heavily rely on Madonna's 2019 album, Madame X, which hit the charts at #1, giving her her ninth #1 album.
The concept film and companion soundtrack were recorded in January 2020 in Lisbon, Portugal, which was the inspiration for Madame X after the singer moved there to support her son's soccer career.
The Madame X Tour was the first time Madonna performed live in smaller venues since her 1985 Virgin Tour. Her 2008 Sticky & Sweet Tour continues to hold the record for the highest-grossing concert tour ever by a female artist.
The Madame X film was directed by Ricardo Gomes and SKNX and captures the rare, intimate performance that takes the audience on a journey through Madonna's alter ego, Madame X, a secret agent traveling around the world, changing identities, fighting for freedom and bringing light to dark places.
Nearly two years and a pandemic have passed since the staging of the tour, but it's message remains prevalent as the singer continues her fight to bring equal rights for all and reminds everyone throughout the show that she lives her life by the famous James Baldwin quote, "Artists are here to disturb the peace."
She is joined on stage by a cast of nearly 50 performers that includes her children, musicians and dancers from around the globe and also features a poignant appearance by the all-female Orquestra Batukadeiras.
The film opens with a montage of the singer's most infamous moments as she opines, "The most controversial thing I have ever done is to stick around," which leads to the show's opening with her boyfriend, Ahlamalik Williams, performing to the sound of Madame X's typewriter before rolling into the Madame X track "God Control," Madonna's response to the rise in gun violence.
The song, which was written and performed before the uprising last year, now fits in perfectly with her continued support of the Black Lives movement and female rights.
The performance leads into the moody "Dark Ballet" before the audience gets their first taste of her back catalog with a jazz take on her seething "Human Nature," which is followed by a thumping revival of her classic "Vogue."
As the show rolls on, she continues to shine a light on the tracks from Madame X, which includes the euphoric performance of "Batuka" with the Orquestra Batukadeiras and the album's shining track, "Crazy."
The singer also brings back her much aligned chaotic track, "American Life," which works well with the theme of the show and allows her to give the track it's justice.
It's a family affair as her three youngest daughters join her on stage for an audience sing along of her female empowerment anthem, "Express Yourself" and her son David shows up during the show to escort her out into the audience where she shares a feel-good moment with comedian Dave Chapelle.
Later on, her eldest child, daughter and dancer Lourdes Leon, shows up on screen in black and white in a Martha Graham-inspired performance as Madonna performs her haunting, "Frozen," which was written after Lourdes' birth in 1997.
The duel vision of mother and daughter is one of the show's most striking moments and is a nice lead-in to the show's final section.
Madame X's Morocco-inspired, "Come Alive" is a joyous performance as the singer spins across the stage barefoot, sharing her love of dance before a choir joins her to take the track to its height.
She then slows things down with a stripped-down version of her apocalyptic warning song, "Future," with Madonna sitting down to play the piano before standing up to bring the track to a boil, which leads into a trap-influenced take on her classic "Like A Prayer," with the audience enthusiastically singing along.
The show ends with another video montage of human rights protests as the singer explains that she wrote the evening's closing track, "I Rise" as "a way of giving a voice to all marginalized people; people who don’t have the opportunity to speak their mind; people who are in jail, incarcerated, bullied, beaten, abuse. All people who feel that they are being oppressed. I hope that this song gives people hope and courage to be who they are, and to not be afraid to be who they are, and to speak their mind and to love themselves. Because you can’t love other people unless you love yourself."
Reprising the start of the show, Williams is back to bring a visul aspect to Baldwin's important message before Madonna and her dancers perform in front of a background of people fighting for change.
Towards the end, the singer takes to the crowd once again as she exits the venue with her fist raised as she encourages the audience to sing "I will rise," with her.
Although some fans may have been expecting more moments from her back catalog, the Madame X Tour was all about taking her fans on a complete journey while pushing her powerful message.
Art is meant to disturb the peace and she has certainly done that.