And her onstage performance of “Living for Love” was so last century. Again with the matador theme, Madonna assumed yoga poses (it can’t be called dancing) in a one-piece red outfit that covered about as much as a bathing suit. I suppose the presence of a dozen or more writhing, bare-chested male dancers with horns on their heads — your pick, bulls or demons — was meant to distract the audience so no one would notice the sophomoric lyrics, mediocre singing, unimaginative melody and, my goodness, her age.
The lyrics could have been a cautionary tale of jilted love, heartache and spiritual growth. The object of her love “took [her] to heaven and let [her] fall down,” but she failed to learn any lesson from being used and tossed away apart from recognizing him to be a jerk and asserting that she values herself (an assertion contradicted by her performance). Madonna will continue to “live for love” and it’s fairly certain she means the erotic kind of love because she and the horned dancers engaged in sexually provocative moves. Somehow, the three belated appeals of “God forgive me” rang false. There’s no evidence of the persona seeking forgiveness. The song ends with Madonna being hoisted up on a sling while the demon bulls continue to writhe below her to these words:
I need you to
Lift me up up up
Lift me up lord
If you’re interested in hearing a truly original female composer who knows a lot about love and lyrics and gorgeous melodic lines, may I suggest St. Hildegard von Bingen, a Doctor of the Church. The banality and trashiness of Madonna’s music is all the more evident by comparing it to what St. Hildegard has to say about love in “Ordo Virtutum” (The Play of Virtues). Text and tracks are available online. Her reputation and fan base continue to grow eight centuries after her death. Does anyone think that will be the case with Madonna?
Susan Wills is a senior writer for Aleteia’s English language edition.