The “Popular” Slow Burn, Brazilian Banks & Madonna’s Next Chapter

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We are rapidly approaching the tail-end of the Celebration Tour, Madonna‘s first-ever victory lap, celebrating a 40-plus year run in the music industry.

The greatest hits tour could have easily felt like a winding down. Instead, it feels more and more like the Queen of Pop™ is just warming up for the next chapter of her prolific career.

And while she’s presently busy dancing, singing, getting up and doing her thing IRL, she’s still found some ways to entertain us virtually. (No, no more NFT money laundering schemes, thank God.)

No, now all the main pop girls are escaping the waking hell that is our present reality and feeling their Fortnite fantasy, and now we’re all gaymers.

Just after Kylie‘s “Padam Padam” became an emote (I don’t even know what that is), and just before FarmVille ambassador Lady Gaga‘s four-year-old Chromatica-era skins were dusted off from the discard pile for Fortnite Festival (it looks like virtual green hair and mechanical horses are the thing now), the “Bedtime Story” icon herself found her way into the game to debut a long-awaited music video. (Oh, and Kesha‘s running around somewhere on there, too.)

“Popular” is a truly interesting situation: the immediately addictive collaboration between The Weeknd, M-Dolla and Playboi Carti came out eight whole months ago as part of the since-scrapped The Idol, Vol. 1 soundtrack album.

The song is not only genuinely great (if largely overlooked by the gays), but the definition of a sleeper hit, slowly-but-surely climbing all the way into the Top 10 of the UK Singles Chart as of just a few weeks ago, her 64th Top 10 overall in the territory. (It had already sailed into the Top 10 in dozens of countries over the last few months, actually.)

Although it’s not entirely clear why The Weeknd & Co. held onto it for so long, the official music video for “Popular” finally arrived at the same time as the song’s UK Top 10 feat in February…exclusively on Fortnite. Just for a few days anyway, allowing us to get glimpses through grainy clips circulated on social media of a muscly Peter Griffin staring up at the screen – exactly as the art was intended to be consumed, I’m sure.

Due to popular demand, or perhaps it was always planned, the music video hit the official YouTube a few days later, mercifully.

The video finds Abel strutting and showing off at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, while Playboi stunts in a luxury car. But of course, it’s all about Her Madgesty: she looks hot and rich, writhing around in a chic high-rise New York City apartment in full, opulent Queen of Pop mode. The scenes are made all the more impressive given that she filmed them in August of 2023, just weeks after her hospitalization due to a life-threatening infection.

As a fan, it’s a thrill to think of Gen Z and/or straight bros seeing Madonna in “Popular” mode, perhaps even for the first time: she looks incredible, and the feature itself feels fresh, cool and appropriately regal.

The sound and success of “Popular” makes me excited for whatever’s coming: not only was there that moment in the studio last March with the Pop God himself Max Martin, but Abel’s been outspoken about his dream to do an entire “classic” Madonna album.

“I’ve always wanted to write and produce a Madonna album—well, co-produce because she’s a visionary and she has such a singular vision. I just want to come into her world and create a classic Madonna album. That was always my dream. Hopefully this is the appetizer for that,” he tantalizingly teased last year to Zane Lowe, to which Madonna responded with: “let’s go.”

Let’s fucking go, indeed: R&BDonna has always been a delight, stretching all the way back to Bedtime Stories. Here’s hoping we get the elevated Hard Candy follow-up we deserve.

At the same time, Madonna also did what any good pop star should do: she acknowledged Brazil.

In what can only be described as an advertisement for herself being a legend, the “I’m Going Bananas” icon teamed up with Brazilian banking institution Itaú for an extravagant ad campaign that reunited her with longtime collaborator Jonas Åkerlund, of “Ray of Light” music video fame, among many other iconic visual moments.

“This Film was made to thank my Brazilian fans for their love and devotion. It would not have been possible without the tireless support of @itau and my team -And the incredible vision of @jonasakerlund. We are made of the Future! ♥️” she said. Siri, how do you say “Mother is mothering” in Portuguese? (“Mãe é mãe!”)

My immediate hunch is that this video might have once been tied to an announcement of the long-rumored South American leg of the Celebration Tour, which now seems to have gone quiet and/or is no longer happening for whatever reason. It just seems odd to have shot all this lavishness solely for the sake of humbly rejecting the “Queen of Pop” title and slurring through her grills (no, she’ll never take them out) about agism and her staying power in pop culture.

Regardless, it’s still a really fierce reminder that she was, is, and always will be That Bitch.

As she just explained to the crowd at one of her most recent Celebration Tour stops: “Four decades of music, motherfuckers…so when you bitches try to drag me about my age, I’ll see you when you’re 65, okay?”

Long live the Queen. And Brazil.

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