Whether by brazenly injecting sex in the public sphere, adopting gay subculture for mainstream audiences or becoming the top-selling female musician of all time, Madonna has asserted an incalculable influence.
The pop superstar is turning 60 on August 16 and is again breaking barriers — this time as a mature woman who is still brash, carnal and unapologetic.
Giving new meaning to the term sexagenarian, Madonna openly dates men three decades younger, maintains a svelte figure that would be the envy of most people half her age and on her latest tour put on a characteristically provocative show that simulated most conceivable sex acts.
Madonna is hardly the first female entertainer to stay active while growing older, with singers as diverse as Aretha Franklin, Cher, Dolly Parton and Stevie Nicks on stage in their 70s.
But Madonna — who entered pop culture at the same time as MTV — has embodied the cult of youth like few other artists and, while others reinvented themselves or staged nostalgic comebacks, the Material Girl has never gone more than four years without an album since her blockbuster self-titled debut in 1983.
The title of a single off her latest album, “Rebel Heart,” summed up her unwavering attitude: “Bitch, I’m Madonna.”
Freya Jarman, a music scholar at the University of Liverpool who co-edited a book on Madonna, said the pop star has already left her legacy, with younger artists such as Lady Gaga so evidently influenced by her.
But she emphasized that Madonna was now demonstrating a new kind of relevance.
“As an aging, female popular musician who is still so much in the public eye, she is absolutely relevant,” Jarman said.
“Madonna stands out in a way that she always has done, in that she has always been interested in creating a stir which someone like Cher, for my money, does not, really.”