The Material Girl has entered her fourth decade as a pop icon with relative grace, remaining a worldwide touring sensation and a marquee name big enough to headline the country's most watched TV event of the year. She's taken a couple PR hits in recent days, and her singles aren't guaranteed hits the way they used to be, but she remains an unimpeachable figure in the world of popular music, and the consensus bearer of the DiMaggio-esque title of the World's Greatest Living Pop Star.
By the beginning of the 2010s, Madonna had amassed the back catalogue to be considered an all-time legend no matter what she did or where she went from there.
Still, some of her more recent musical efforts proved that even as an established pop immortal, Madonna was still prone to the occasional misstep.
Madonna also saw her film directorial debut come and go with W.E.
, a British (of course) romance tale based around the story of Wallis Simpson, the American commoner that King Edward VIII abdicated the throne to be with. The movie was received poorly by audiences and critics alike, though Madonna did win a Golden Globe for "Masterpiece,"
her contribution to the movie's soundtrack.
Madonna left the director's chair for her first single of the 2010's, "Give Me All Luvin." The Nicki Minaj and M.I.A.-featuring single was one of the pop star's breeziest, most fun singles in ages, lacking the 21st-century trend-hopping trappings of some of her other recent lead singles, and sounding like Madge at the most care-free she'd been since "Beautiful Stranger." The song debuted to strong sales and radio play, though it quickly fell off after.
"Luvin" was one of the songs Madonna played at halftime of Super Bowl XLVI, her "still got it" preview for her impending world tour. The performance featured appearances from collaborators LMFAO, Nicki Minaj, and M.I.A. among others and was the most watched show in Super Bowl Halftime history—though Madonna's own efforts were overshadowed some by M.I.A.'s controversial bird-flipping
to the camera during the "Luvin" performance.
The exposure from the Super Bowl halftime show—plus some creative discounting of the album and packaging of it with concert tickets—resulted in very strong initial sales for MDNA
, with 359,000 copies moved in the album's first week. The album failed to generate a second hit, however, and as of posting has still yet to go Gold in the United States.
The MDNA Tour has been a relative commercial success, but has been the subject of a good deal of controversy—first for a mini-medley in the set which appeared to dis Lady Gaga
, blending "Express Yourself" with Gaga's similar-sounding "Born This Way," but tellingly concluding with Hard Candy
album track "She's Not Me."
Madonna also caught some attention for baring her nipple during a performance of "Human Nature" in Istanbul—tame stuff for a woman who literally wrote the book on Sex
, perhaps, but something that many thought, fairly or no, that Madge would have moved beyond once into her 50s.
The controversy mounted for Madonna as the tour progressed, especially attracting attention for a picture of French right-wing politician Marine Le Pen with a swastika over her face flashed during the concert, which resulted in Le Pen threatening the singer with a lawsuit. This arguably contributed to the low point of the tour, in which Madonna was booed by fans at a gig in Paris–either due to her Le Pen comments, the short nature of the set, or some combination of both, depending on who you believe.
It's been an up-and-down year for Madonna, but in between the celebrity feuds and petty controversies, she still reigns supreme over popular music, her Super Bowl set reaffirming her Queenly status, and her tour setlist speaking volumes in the songs it doesn't
include—pop classics like "Borderline," "Crazy for You," "Live to Tell," "Take a Bow" and "Don't Tell Me"—that 99.999% of pop artists would kill to be able to include in their sets. As long as she's around and making music, there's a pretty good chance we'll still find a place for her on this list. And hey, the new record does
have some serious jams: