"Art must be controversial."

Madonna has always been convinced of it, so much so as to turn provocation into one of her trademarks.

Censored videos, Pope's excommunications, controversial tours, naked body, charges of blasphemy, explicit sexuality, underwear worn as outwear ...

They are the "weapons" that the queen of pop has used during her long career to try to open the mind of her audience (and not only), entering the history of costume and music.

She did it before Britney Spears, Beyoncè, Rihanna, Lady Gaga.

Before anyone else.

Becoming the ultimate icon.

nss pays tribute to Madonna on her 60th birthday and traces the top 10 of her most shocking moments: from the performance at the MTV Video Music Awards of 1984 to the kiss with Britney, from the scandal book "Sex" to the crucifixion in the "Confessions Tour".

 

MTV Video Music Awards 1984: Like A Virgin

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On the evening of September 14, 1984 the MTV television channel, born about three years earlier, broadcasts the first edition of the MTV Video Music Awards. Among the guest-stars on the stage of the Radio City Music Hall in New York, there is a 26-year-old named Madonna who has just released her first album. The girl sings "Like a Virgin", a single teaser of her second work, in a performance bound to enter history.

 

Madonna, wearing an alternative version of wedding dress, made of a white bustier, tutu, veil, lace gloves and a belt buckle with the words "Toy Boy", gets down from a giant wedding cake and begins rolling around on stage simulating an orgasm.

It is the beginning Madonna as we know he: an icon of provocation.

The singer replies the look and part of the performance in the video of "Like a Virgin" directed by Mary Lambert and shoot between Venice and New York.

 

Like A Prayer

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In 1989 Pepsi signed a $ 5 million contract with Madonna to use her new single in one of its commercials, even before it was available in stores or broadcast on the radio. In that advertising, the pop star traveled back to her 8th birthday when she was dancing on the street, happy; a story completely different from that told in the official video of "Like A Prayer".

In the short film directed by Mary Lambert, Madge is witness to the murder of a girl for whom a black man is wrongly arrested and takes refuge in the church in search of the strength to testify. All completed by a lysergic mix of burning crosses, holy black man, interracial kiss, stigmata and gospel choir.

Sex, race, and religion.

Result: the American Association of Families and the Vatican are on the warpath and Pepsi dumps Madonna and deletes the spot.

In 2006 a poll of MTV Italy elects the video of "Like A Prayer" as "the most revolutionary video" in the history of music.

 

Blond Ambition Tour

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Once again sex, Catholicism and many criticisms.

The "Blond Ambition Tour" inaugurates a long series of controversial tours for Madonna, continued with the disguises as dominatrix of "The Girlie Show", the crucifixion of the "Confessions Tour", the Tarantino styled performance with guns of the tour for the abum "MDNA" or the political messages of "The Rebel Heart".

In the 90s (perhaps the wildest period of the pop star) she sang on a bed with red silk sheets, dressed in a gold corset, she performed with two dancers simulating masturbation.

In Italy the Catholic Church calls for the cancellation of the shows in Rome and Turin and, at the end, one of the three scheduled dates is canceled; while in Canada the police arrives at the beginning of the concert and threatens to arrest Madonna if she brings on stage the masturbation scene during the performance of "Like a Virgin".

Honorable mention for the costumes of the tour created by Jean Paul Gaultier ... remember the cone bra?

 

Truth Or Dare (In Bed With Madonna)

 

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1991. After four albums ("Madonna", "Like a Virgin", "True Blue" and "Like a Prayer") and three tours, for Miss Ciccone it's time for a documentary.

The director Alek Keshishian follows the pop star during the "Blond Ambition Tour", between live and backstage moments, showing Madonna talking with Warren Beatty (the boyfriend of the time), meeting the family, going to the doctor, eating alone in the hotel, joking with the crew of dancers or miming a fellatio on a bottle.

In 2016 comes out the docu-film "Strike a Pose" which brings to the limelight the crew of dancers seen in "Truth Or Dare": the six guys, together again, tell and remember the days of great success next to the star and all that happened to them after, from economic difficulties to illness.

 

Justify My Love

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One million copies sold only in the United States, two consecutive weeks at the number one in the American singles ranking, compiled by Billboard, and top 10 positions achieved in a dozen other countries.

These are some of the numbers of "Justify My Love", single co-written by Lenny Kravitz on November 6, 1990, as an anticipation of Ciccone's first anthology of hits, "The Immaculate Collection".

In the black and white video of the song, directed by the French photographer Jean-Baptiste Mondino, Madonna wanders through the corridors of the Royal Monceau and catch a glimpse of what happens in the several half-closed rooms, then letting herself be involved in a love triangle.

Bisexuality, androgyny, voyeurism.

Too much for MTV that refuses to broadcast the world premiere of video and announces the tv boycott.

Madge's solution? Distribute 500 promo copies of the full length clip in the most popular clubs in the States and publish it in VHS format through Warner Bros. Records.

Fun facts: the visual transposition of "Justify My Love" is a tribute to "La Caduta Degli Dei" by Luchino Visconti and to "Il Portiere Di Notte" by Liliana Cavani.

 

"Sex"

 

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Simultaneously with the album "Erotica", Madonna publishes the "Sex" coffee table book.

With the help of photographer Steven Meisel and the artistic direction of Fabien Baron, The Queen of Pop stages her erotic fantasies played by her alter ego, Dita Parlo (like the famous movie star of the '30s): gets undressed and  wears leather; does bondage; becomes dominatrix; she pays homage to Pasolini and his movie "Salò", leading around men on a leash; she hitches naked with only her heels and handbag; she is surrounded by naked and beautiful men and women; between breasts, nipples, buttocks and tonic, perfect bodies.

With her in the images appear, Isabella Rossellini, Naomi Campbell, Ingrid Casares, Tony Ward, Vanilla Ice, Udo Kier.

The book was made of silver-like mylar, similar to a condom wrapper and sold 150,000 copies on the first day of release in the United States.

 

Madonna vs David Letterman

 

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1994. Madonna is a guest on the David Letterman show.

In introducing the artist, the presenter calls her "One of the most famous pop stars who has slept with some of the most influential names in the music industry".

Result? In response, she pronounces the word "fuck" 13 times, lights a cigar and invites Letterman to sniff her underwear.

After Madonna disappears behind the scenes, the anchorman, joking, says, "Ok, they'll probably cancel us from the schedule!"

 

Britney kiss

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2003. MTV Video Music Awards.

Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera dressed as brides pay homage to the historic performance of Madonna in 1984, which, at one point, reaches them on stage and kisses them on the mouth, one after the other.

Only the kiss between Madonna and Britney enters the collective memory, thanks to the incredulous expression of Justin Timberlake, Spears former boyfriend, who attended the show in the audience.

 

Confessions tour

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During the 2006 "Confessions Tour", Madonna sings "Live to Tell" nailed to a glittering mirrored cross.

The Church does not like it and threatens boycotts and excommunications.

Common routine for the star, which explains the choice of that image:

"There seems to be many misinterpretations about my appearance on the cross and I wanted to explain it myself once and for all. There is a segment in my show where three of my dancers “confess” or share harrowing experiences from their childhood that they ultimately overcame. My “confession” follows and takes place on a Crucifix that I ultimately come down from. This is not a mocking of the church. […] My performance is neither anti-Christian, sacrilegious or blasphemous. Rather, it is my plea to the audience to encourage mankind to help one another and to see the world as a unified whole. I believe in my heart that if Jesus were alive today he would be doing the same thing. My specific intent is to bring attention to the millions of children in Africa who are dying every day, and are living without care, without medicine and without hope. I am asking people to open their hearts and minds to get involved in whatever way they can."

  

Madonna’s butt on the red carpet of the Grammys 2015

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 The singer walks the Grammys' red carpet in a sexy matador version, with a pink and black bustier and a skirt by

Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy. Provocative and ironic as always, Madonna raised her dress and showed her butt, veiled by a thong and fishnet stockings, to all the paparazzi lined up on the sides of the red carpet.

A gesture that has raised much criticism, especially regarding the age of the star (in 2015 56 years).

Time later, in an interview for Rolling Stone, she responded to the controversy with these words:

"No one would dare to say a degrading remark about being black or dare to say a degrading remark on Instagram about someone being gay. But my age – anybody and everybody would say something degrading to me. And I always think to myself, why is that accepted? What's the difference between that and racism, or any discrimination? They're judging me by my age. I don't understand. I'm trying to get my head around it. Because women, generally, when they reach a certain age, have accepted that they're not allowed to behave a certain way. But I don't follow the rules. I never did, and I'm not going to start."