A self-described international agent, dancer, professor, head of state, housekeeper, equestrian, prisoner, student, mother, and nun, Madame X can now add “Eurovision performer” to her long list of occupations.
Madonna — the pop icon behind the titular persona fueling the aesthetic of her upcoming 14th studio album — headlined a two-song set Saturday during the final night of the 64th annual continental song competition in Tel Aviv, Israel, dipping into her catalog of hits for a hip-hop-inspired rendition of classic song “Like a Prayer” as well as grooving through the new track “Future” featuring rapper Quavo. But, the 60-year-old also ruffled feathers after viewers noticed a pair of Madonna’s dancers brandishing the Palestinian and Israeli flags on their backs as they embraced each other — widely seen as a political statement on the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The set also saw several background performers falling to the ground while wearing gas masks, and concluded with Madonna and Quavo holding hands as the words “wake up” flashed on a large screen behind them.
In a statement to EW, the European Broadcasting Union — producer of the Eurovision contest — addressed the dancers’ outfits, confirming that “this element of the performance was not part of the rehearsals which had been cleared with the EBU and the Host Broadcaster, KAN.” The statement goes on to note “the Eurovision Song Contest is a non-political event and Madonna had been made aware of this.”
A representative for Madonna provided EW with a photo of the performance (above) with a note that “a message of peace is not political.”
In addition to performing, Madonna appeared for a brief interview during Eurovision’s live telecast, telling the audience “The one thing that brings me to [these] countries and the thing that brings all of these people here tonight is music, so let’s never underestimate the power of music to bring people together.” She then quoted her 2000 single “Music” by saying: “Music makes the people come together, yeah!”
Elsewhere during the run-up to Madame X, Madonna dropped the Maluma-assisted, Latin-influenced bop “Medellín,” as the LP’s lead single on April 17. The song precedes Madame X alongside several promotional tracks, including “Crave” with Swae Lee and the emotional ballad “I Rise,” which features introductory vocals from Stoneman Douglas shooting survivor and gun control activist Emma González.
Madonna worked on Madame X with several former collaborators, including Diplo and her Music and Confessions on a Dancefloor collaborator, Mirwais, whom she hasn’t worked with since 2005.
In a 2018 interview with Vogue Italia, Madonna indicated her new material would reflect inspiration from Latin cultures — primarily Lisbon, Portugal, where she lived throughout the process of the Madame X‘s creation.
“I’ve just met lots of really amazing musicians, and I’ve ended up working with a lot of these musicians on my new record, so Lisbon has influenced my music and my work. How could it not? I don’t see how I could have gone through that year without being informed by all this input of culture,” she told the publication. “It’s also such a nice antidote to what’s going on in the music business now where everything’s so formulaic, and every song has 20 guest artists on it, and everyone sounds the same. Something’s gotta give.”
Madonna will also take Madame X on the road for an intimate concert tour visiting theaters around the world throughout 2020.
Madame X drops June 14. Watch Madonna’s Eurovision performance above.