Madonna’s 54th Birthday Comes at Grim Time for Pop Star

Madonna (pictured, putting on her birthday suit) turns 54 today, though the pop star could be forgiven for having a somewhat muted celebration. Not merely is she hard at work–her MDNA tour played Oslo last night, and goes on to Zurich on Saturday–but that work has not gone amply rewarded, with fans revolting, lawsuits initiated over hamhanded Nazi imagery and criticism for brandishing guns onstage. Rivals old (Elton John) and new (Lady Gaga) have sensed weakness and attacked the singer for her wardrobe and her mockery of younger stars.

Mr. John recently referred to Madonna as “a fairground stripper,” the latest salvo in a feud reignited when Madonna’s song from W.E. beat Elton John’s song from Gnomeo and Juliet at the Golden Globes (fun fact: those italicized things were the titles of movies!). Lady Gaga, meanwhile, alluded to Madonna’s mockery of “Born This Way” in a letter of truth to her fans. Both of these criticisms seem to stick to Madonna more than they might have in past: criticism from the moral majority or from critics is nothing new for Madonna, but getting lambasted by your fellow pop stars? That’s tough.

Ah, Madonna, the year began so well! But the slight misstep you took during your  Super Bowl performance–nearly falling off the bleachers on which you danced to a series of old hits as well as one new dud–seems more indicative of the state of things than your triumphant reprisal of “Like a Prayer.” Here’s to the right kind of provocation, and a better set of pop tunes, in your new year.