Madonna might not have had the most graceful transition into the modern era (i.e. Madame X). But the pandemic has brought out the best in the queen of pop — a flare for drama, comedy and reinvention — just when we needed her most.
The 61-year-old artist has been documenting her time in quarantine with a series of heavily edited Instagram montage videos. Typically, they see her disembodied voice narrating her own diary entries musing about COVID-19 or the philosophy of art, as she punches them on a typewriter surrounded by candles and flowers. All the while smooth jazz vinyl twinkles in the background like a noir film scene or at very least, a Wes Anderson parody of one. Occasionally, the diaries include cameos from her 25-year-old boyfriend, dancer-rapper Ahlamalik Williams, who she's quarantining with in London along with her daughter Mercy James.
Perhaps in a nod to current trends experimental autobiography, Madonna switches between her own (ostensibly) non-fiction narrative with that of her alter-ego, the Carmen Sandiago-esque, femme fatale-woman of mystery Madame X. Some of the entries seem to take place under a different global crisis altogether, one that has impeded the health or resources of a celebrity millionaire, as she refers to rationing food or being too weak to pick up her children.
"Madame X did not die in Paris," she begins one entry. "Her journey continues on self-quarantine in honor and respect for COVID-19. I am still in pain with no cure in sight, thanks to all the borders being closed. I shall learn from this and grow stronger. "Ironically, the brand of this this typewriter is Corona," she adds wistfully. In another, "I am home. Isolated. Artists are here to disturb the piece, but how shall I disturb it now?" Queue a martini order addressed to an alleged off-screen butler.
The entries are incredibly entertaining, reminiscent of a selfie-video character bit you might find on a Brooklyn comedian's Twitter. Madge always keeps you guessing as to whether there's a wink between her long dramatic sighs.
"Tonight at the dinner table we talked about our favorite painters, Surrealism versus Cubism. It's a toss-up for me, I love Frida and Dali, I love Picasso, I love Léger, I love Leonara Carrington… What would I do without art? Perish for sure," she waxes in Sunday's entry.
Occasionally, the ambiguous level of parody is off-putting. For instance, in yesterday's now-deleted diary Madonna delivered a soliloquy nude from a milky bathtub full of rose petals about how coronavirus is "the great equalizer." "That's the thing about COVID-19, it doesn't care about how rich you are, how famous you are, how funny you are, how smart you are, where you live, how old you are, what amazing stories you can tell… what's terrible is it's made us all equal in many ways, and what's wonderful about is that it's made us all equal, in many ways," she says, shaking her head in wonder, with a quiet laugh to herself.
This is all of course, absurd and factually false, given wealthy people's disproportionate access to medical care and safeguards from the volatile economy. But hey, while most celebs are livestreaming their basic DJ sets or yoga routines, Madonna is crafting a narrative arc, even if it goes off the deep end sometimes. This is the quarantine content we deserve.
Photo via Instagram