When it comes to controversy, Pop royal Madonna might have written a book a two about the matter. Still, at times it’s best not rustle feathers, especially when it’s fleeting.
This week’s From The Vault pick is the superstar’s doomed single ‘American Life.’
The first offering from the album of the same name, ‘Life’ saw Madonna put her “socially conscious” hat on, to poor critical results. Dealing with the illusion of fame and the reappraisal of the American Dream, the track was produced by Mirwais Ahmadzaï – like the bulk of its parent LP. It featured a rap segment where Madge details her daily activities and concludes that all her possessions didn’t necessarily make her happy.
Peaking at #37 on the Billboard Hot 100, it fared better internationally, reaching the Top 10 in Australia, France and the UK among many other countries. It was a chart topper in Canada, Denmark and Italy.
A video for the track was shot prior to the invasion of Iraq by the American troops.
Set at a high-end fashion show, it depicted models dressed in military fashion walking down the runway. As the video progresses, it begins to mirror a war zone, with overzealous soldiers scaring middle eastern kids, shots being fired, bodies exploding and all.
Madonna and her literal troop of female dancers emerge from backstage to put a stop to the madness.
Yet, the biggest controversy about the video came in the form of a lookalike of George W. Bush – then president of the USA and key figure war – gleefully sitting front-row and seemingly enjoying every minute of the show.
The release of the Jonas Akerlund directed music video was shelved and the artist issued a statement stating that more than anything else it was “an anti-war statement,” and that she was “pro-peace.”
Another visual was released, presenting M singing the song in front of ever changing flags of different countries.
Initially, the ‘American Life’ project was panned by critics and the public because they felt it was try-hard, self-centered and contrived.
Through the years it has gained somewhat of a cult following, with music lovers and critics alike praising its minimalistic Folk/Electronica sound and social commentary-fuelled lyrics.
War or no war, who knows if the nation was ever going to be ready for Madonna to express her political views by way of her music. Still, we applaud the entertainer for taking a stand and using her art to do so.