With its solemn and rather ceremonious opening, Madonna’s new “Living For Love” music video show the legendary singer taking centre stage and once more giving us a memorable (matador) performance — another side of her ever-changing, chameleon-like star image.
After news earlier this week her forthcoming album Rebel Heart leaked in full online, Madonna expressed her frustration over Instagram and social media. No doubt spurred on by the widespread availability of the whole album all over the interwebs, Madonna has now released the music video for her first single “Living For Love” on SnapChat.
The song was first released through the (typically sexual) photo-sharing app on Thursday afternoon to mixed reactions. In line with SnapChat’s self-destructing policy, the video was deleted 24 hours from the time of its release. Madge made history as the first artist to debut their music video on the picture-messaging app. But why Madonna chose to use SnapChat as a conduit to stream her first music video is yet to be answered. The riddle may lie in the fact that Madonna’s music has trickled onto the Internet over the past two months — without the singer’s approval or authorization. With her “Living For Love” music video, was Madonna saying to fans (and hackers?): "You can have it all — but only for 24 hours." The metaphor is still apparent and we Madonna seeking to politicize her music and message once more. It was soon released on Vevo as well:
In the video, we see Madonna draped in a tight, body-hugging leather matador suit, as she tries to control the lustful, hungering and aggressive tempers of a stage-full of muscled men wearing bull’s horns. We find the video filled with oozing blood-red colors, as Madonna masters the prowling and wild attacks of the roomful of bulls. The legendary singer thrusts, wrestles, and turns tricks in the air as she beguiles us with her calls “to not stop…until love lifts her up.”
Like the music videos of her previous album — in particular “Give Me All Your Luvin’” and “Girl Gone Wild” from MDNA — Madonna flaunts her toned and lean physique, demonstrating her unique and unparalleled mastery of the male species. We see her perform in a stylish and empowering choreographed dance pack (with her back-ups), evidently victorious in her quest to be the leader of the pack. Madonna has clearly mastered her untamed and ferocious friends and plants her pumps on one of the bull’s backs.
As is often the case with Madonna, she transcends gender roles — often assuming both. She takes on the role of the Matador, a title often only reserved for a man, willing to risk his life (and masculinity) before the raging bull in the open stadium. The iconic singer enchants us with her sweeping scarlet muleta (cape) and her triumphant end when she vanquishes all her bullish (bullies?) enemies.
Perhaps the only time the video is tempered by pretention is when Madonna provides us with a Friedrich Nietzsche quote at the video’s end. “Man is the cruellest animal,” reads the first line of the passage. No doubt, we can infer allegorical threads from its inclusion: Madonna is still a woman scorned since tracks from Rebel Heart first leaked this past December.
With the video filled with red visuals, controlled violence, and images of aggression and power, Madonna seems to tell us that she is still in power and she can get down in the pits and still play dirty with the rest of them.
Nathan Smith is a freelance writer and graduate student at the University of Melbourne, specializing in queer and cultural studies. His writing has been published in Out, Salon, and The Advocate. Nathan tweets @nathansmithr and maintains a website at NathanRSmith.org.