The pop industry has always been an incredibly perilous place for women over the age of 40. If a woman in the spotlight embraces her natural wrinkles, curves and creases, she’s deemed lazy, unfit and unappreciative of the platform bestowed upon her. If a woman pursues cosmetic surgery in an attempt to appear more youthful, she’s considered vapid, grossly fake and far too concerned with her own looks.
It’s these strict societal expectations that saw Madonna be completely torn apart after her recent appearance during the 2023 Grammy awards. The entertainment icon had been asked to introduce a performance by non-binary musician Sam Smith and transgender singer Kim Petras at the event—the pair had earlier won an award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for their song ‘Unholy’.
After images of Madonna at the event had been shared on social media, users began to bombard the singer with vitriol, pedalling horrendous comments online riddled with ageism and misogyny.
One user stated, “What happened to Madonna? She’s almost become unrecognisable.” Another netizen shared, “I’m worried for her mental health,” and one individual even went as far as to say: “Freakish…and definitely not ‘Like a Virgin’.”
Following this, the 64-year-old singer shared a statement on her social media: “Instead of focusing on what I said in my speech which was about giving thanks for the fearlessness of artists like Sam and Kim, many people chose to only talk about close-up photos of me taken with a long lens camera by a press photographer that would distort anyone’s face!!”
The artist continued: “Once again I am caught in the glare of ageism and misogyny that permeates the world we live in. A world that refuses to celebrate women past the age of 45 and feels the need to punish her if she continues to be strong willed, hard-working and adventurous.”
Now, Madonna is no saint. She’s a package deal that includes her very own set of controversies. For example, some fans had an issue with her alleged ‘coming out’ TikTok back in October 2022—seemingly a number of netizens smelt a whiff of queerbaiting and felt as though the video was inauthentic.
Whether or not this was the case, historically Madonna has always been one for breaking protocol and has never hidden away from embracing her sexual prowess or power out of fear of being labelled uncouth or unladylike. In fact, if anything, she’s ran towards controversy and has helped a number of other female and femme musicians incorporate sex and gender fluidity into their identities.
The conversation here isn’t solely about the criticism surrounding Madonna’s current appearance, or even about the way in which she conducts herself in public. It’s about how older women within the music industry are treated—especially those who aren’t willing to compromise on their own originality.
First of all, it should be noted that all women within the industry are considered fair play in the public court of opinion. What they wear, how much they weigh, if they’ve used cosmetic surgery or not—it’s all up for debate as far as society is concerned.
But there’s a particular venom when it comes to the criticism that surrounds older women. As noted by Refinery29: “Why do we champion aged male rock stars while completely forgetting female musicians? It’s almost too easy to pretend that this kind of sexism doesn’t exist anymore, since so many female artists are outspoken about their sexuality and their feminist beliefs.”
And it’s true. I mean, Steven Tyler is still considered a sex symbol and he’s 74 years old. And don’t even get me started on America’s passion-fuelled obsession with 73-year-old Bruce Springsteen.
When male musicians produce music late into their 60s and 70s, we get behind them—both culturally and financially. But when women do the same, not only is their attempt at continuing their craft questioned and criticised, but their music is received flatly by both the consumer and the industry. There are a few names who continue to dominate regardless of age, Cher being one.
However, even the queen of pop herself has faced massive interest regarding her choice to have cosmetic surgery on her face. Now, in Cher’s case, commentary has been slightly different compared to Madonna.
Naturally, because when society decides your plastic surgery meets its very specific criteria, the change is welcomed and celebrated. It’s when an older woman’s face shifts away from what’s considered to be traditional beauty standards that the hate begins to topple over.
The 65th Annual Grammy Awards took place on 5 February 2023 in Los Angeles and, this year’s event was filled to the brim with historic and noteworthy music moments—both good and bad. The Grammys—or as we like to think, the gen Z of awards season—might be over for another year, but the evening gave us enough highlights and disappointments to discuss until then. Here are the most memorable ones.
How could we start off this list with anyone but Queen Bey herself? With her win for Best Dance/Electronic Music Album for Renaissance, Beyoncé, who was nominated nine times total this year only, broke the record for the most Grammy wins by an artist.
This groundbreaking achievement was slightly tarnished by the fact that the singer-songwriter has yet again missed out on the Album Of The Year award to former One Direction member Harry Styles, despite the fact that she was favoured to win.
Fans of ‘Unholy’ singer and openly non-binary artist Sam Smith have called out a red carpet reporter for repeatedly misgendering the performer during the coverage of this year’s Grammys.
Smith has been using they/them pronouns for four years now, having come out as gender queer and non-binary in 2019. So, the internet was heavily disappointed when a reporter from the Associated Press persistently referred to them as “he.”
German pop star and queer icon Kim Petras warmed hearts everywhere when she accepted the award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for her single ‘Unholy’ which she collaborated with Smith on.
Migos member Quavo performed an emotional tribute to nephew and former band member Takeoff, who passed away on 1 November 2022 after a tragic shooting incident.
American contemporary worship music collective Maverick City Music also joined the Migos singer on stage with a rendition of ‘See You Again’ by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth.
Viola Davis has become the 18th person in the world to achieve EGOT status—meaning she has now won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony. The highly renowned artist clinched the honour after securing a Grammy award for Best Audio Book for her autobiography Finding Me.
While accepting her award the actress said: “I wrote this book to honour the six-year-old Viola.To honour her life, her joy, her trauma, everything.”
This triumph makes Davis the third black woman to achieve EGOT status, following the footsteps of Whoopi Goldberg and Jennifer Hudson.
Lizzo won the Grammy for Record Of The Year for her track ‘About Damn Time’ beating out the likes of ABBA’s ‘Don’t Shut Me Down’, Adele’s ‘Easy On Me’, and Beyoncé’s ‘BREAK MY SOUL.’
In her acceptance speech, Lizzo made sure to pay tribute to Queen Bey, deeming her “the artist of our lives.” The ‘Truth Hurts’ singer also managed to snag a picture alongside Adele before the night ended. Truly a successful evening.
Seven-time Grammy winner and American rapper Dr. Dre was awarded the inaugural Global Impact Award. A voiceover read aloud: “Dr. Dre is one of the greatest game-changers in music history. [His] impact has been global, massive, and an authentic and positive force within our world.”
In his acceptance speech, Dre said, “This is the 50th anniversary of hip hop, make some noise for hip hop. And where would I be without it? Where would a lot of people in here be without hip hop?”
Ben Affleck, who was seemingly solely attending the awards ceremony to support his wife Jennifer Lopez who was due to present the award for Best Pop Vocal Album, definitely made his mark on audiences everywhere. The actor, or more accurately the actor’s face, blew up on social media after netizens noticed his highly ‘miserable’ expression. He was spotted several times grimacing at the camera while Lopez danced beside him…
Naturally, it wasn’t long before the moment began trending online with users poking fun at the Gone Girl actor.
Aptly put by one individual on Twitter: “However bad of a day you’re having, I promise you’re not as miserable as Ben Affleck at the Grammys right now.”
So, there we have it. The Grammy Awards are sadly over for another year, but at least the highs and lows of the music industry’s finest will remain in our hearts, and on our timelines, for the foreseeable future.