So Rihanna is the Pope and Madonna the Virgin Mary?
Obviously not. But pop stars have a knack for turning things upside down. And maybe that’s a good thing. When Rihanna dressed up in star-studded Papal attire at the 2018 Met Gala I didn’t comment at first.
Religion can be such a touchy topic. I didn’t want to upset traditional Catholics who really believe the Pope is God’s representative on Earth.
But Cardinal Dolan made a brilliant move by not freaking out and treating the Rihanna moment lightly.
Pop stars at their best invert the traditional pulse of life, make us see in new ways, and breath fresh air into stagnant, creepy places.
We don’t have to think too hard to get Rihanna’s symbolic message.
Dolan’s reply shows he can laugh, which was great politically. It neither affirmed nor denied Rihanna’s semiotics.
Jesus may be God but the Church, well, that’s part human. And Rihanna nailed it. A woman of color ostentatiously dressing up as a person who has traditionally always been a white male—and usually a wealthy one with an abode and lifestyle resembling more a worldly King than a humble, parsimonious servant.
Beautiful. So much cleverer than Sinead O’Connor’s ripping up a picture.
Madonna isn’t quite the force she used to be. But she sure was back in the day.
Her Like a Prayer video shocked and outraged traditional Christians in 1989. Today it seems quite tame and beautiful.
Madonna actually is second to The Beatles in some of those All-Time Great Pop Polls. Most folks agree she’s not brilliantly talented in the musical sense. But she’s great at managing and delegating responsibility.
Some millennials might not know just how big Madonna was. That’s okay. But she did inspire women (and probably some men) to stand up for themselves and not settle for “second best.”
Researching for a personal retrospective “Reelin’ in the Years” I was amazed to find how Madonna consistently charted thru the decades. Again, second only to The Beatles.
That’s pretty amazing for a solo performer of any gender.
Not as hot today as the feuding friends Katy Perry or Taylor Swift, most pop lovers will still tip their hat to Madonna. Some grudgingly, others gleefully.
Even David Bowie, who said it like he saw it, made an oblique and somewhat ambivalent reference to her in Lucy Can’t Dance (1993).
Lucy can’t dance but she knows what the noise can do.¹
- “Madonna video ‘top rule-breaker’” in BBC News, July 24, 2006.