It took a war, but Madonna has finally censored herself.
The Material Girl on Tuesday decided to pull the musicvid for her current single “American Life,” out of concern that its graphic, antiwar-themed imagery might send the wrong message as long as American troops are in the field.
Video opens with fatigue-clad models on the runway at a fashion show, but later intersperses imagery of aerial bombing and Iraqi refugee children. It ends with Madonna tossing a live grenade to an ersatz George W. Bush, who uses it to light a cigar.
“It was filmed before the war started and I do not believe it is appropriate to air it at this time,” the singer wrote on her Web site. “Due to the volatile state of the world and out of sensitivity and respect to the armed forces, who (sic) I support and pray for, I do not want to risk offending anyone who might misinterpret the meaning of this video.”
Career of controversy
Move was surprising for an artist who virtually built a career on controversy, from grinding provocatively in a wedding gown on MTV to cross-burning and interracial love in the video for her single “Like a Prayer.”
This conflict, though, has spurred a number of unusual responses from the music community on both sides of the war debate.
There has been a revival — albeit a modest one — of the protest-song genre that held such a prominent place in 1960s counterculture. Among those raising their voices are the Beastie Boys, who rush-released a track called “In A World Gone Mad. . .” from their forthcoming album, and Lenny Kravitz, who cut the track “We Want Peace” with Iraqi pop star Kazem Al Sahir and made it available via the Web.
Clear Channel hit
On the other side of the debate, Texas-based radio conglom Clear Channel has faced a firestorm of public criticism after one of its top disc jockeys organized a series of pro-troop gatherings under the banner “Rally for America!”
And on Tuesday, R&B crooner R. Kelly unveiled a track called “A Soldier’s Heart,” which he billed as “my way of saying thank you to everyone protecting us, and allowing us to sleep comfortable at night and send our children off to school in the morning.”
RCA Records will release on either April 15 or 22 a single of the “American Idol” finalists singing Lee Greenwood’s “I’m Proud to Be an American” and “God Bless the U.S.A.” Proceeds will go to an unspecified charity.
Not all this patriotism and activism has been met with open arms by the record-buying public. The Dixie Chicks raised the hackles of many a country-music fan by saying they were “ashamed” that President Bush was from Texas, leading to radio boycotts and organized CD smashings.
Paul Levinson, chair of Fordham University’s communication and media studies department, said people who have strong reactions — positive or negative — to celebrities’ political statements are falling prey to what he calls an “appeal to false authority.”
“I think the public should be educated to just ignore it when celebrities talk about issues they know nothing about,” he said. “There’s an aspect of immorality to it because they’re using the celebrity they gained for one reason to speak out on a completely different topic.”