Madonna's "Life" Vid Goes AWOL
by Josh Grossberg
Apr 1, 2003, 10:40 AM PT
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In what may be a first in her two-decade-long boundary-crossing career, Madonna is actually shying away from controversy.
Fearing a public backlash, Madge has decided to shelve her antiwar-themed shock video for new anthem "American Life," "out of respect" for America's fighting men and women in the Middle East.
"Due to the volatile state of the world and out of sensitivity and respect to the armed forces, who I support and pray for, I do not want to risk offending anyone who might misinterpret the meaning of this video," Madonna said on her Website.
The video for "American Life," the first single off her new album of the same name, was filmed in February and helmed by wunderkind music video director Jonas Akerlund. It was supposed to premiere on VH1 this Friday to help hype the album, which is due to hit stores on April 22. The single is already in heavy rotation on radio stations.
According to the 44-year-old singer and mother of two, "rumors and misinformation," including a story on the Drudge Report, caused a fury about the clip's content before anyone even saw it.
The video reportedly featured Madonna, decked out in military garb, alongside dancers depicted as transvestite soldiers on a fashion runway. The dance sequence was supposedly intercut with disturbing scenes of war, including images of stealth bombers, missile launches, mushroom clouds, suffering Iraqi children and shots of the American flag.
Another image featured the singer in a bathroom stall carving "protect me" on the wall with a knife.
Perhaps the most shocking antiwar statement purportedly showed Madonna saying, "F--k it," before pulling a pin on a grenade and hurling it towards a copycat of President Bush, who picks up the explosive and lights his cigar with it.
According to Madonna's publicist, Liz Rosenberg, the intention behind the clip isn't to bash Bush, but rather to be a "thought-provoking" video that portrays the "catastrophic repercussions and the horrors of war."
The lyrics, meanwhile, are a full 180 from Madonna's "Material Girl" past. "I tried to stay ahead, I tried to stay on top/I tried to play the part, but somehow I forgot/Just what I did it for and why I wanted more," the song goes. "This type of modern life, is it for me? This type of modern life, is it for free?"
Madonna initially said she withheld the video for a little post-production tinkering after the clip approached "Thriller"-like length.
"Jonas was trying to tell a story, and he put so many stops in the song," Madonna told USA Today. "It was about 10 minutes long. It was just too long."
Of course, Madonna doesn't want a repeat of what happened to the Dixie Chicks after Natalie Maines dissed President Bush--the group's airplay dropped dramatically and record sales fell off after several stations and pro-war groups called for a boycott.
While the video was withdrawn from American airwaves due to its sensitive nature, that didn't stop Madonna from reportedly releasing the video to German Music TV, an appropriate venue given that nation's decidedly antiwar bent.
All this from a woman who sashayed in front of burning crosses for her "Like a Prayer" video in 1989, prompting a boycott from Catholics and causing Pepsi to scrap its sponsorship of her tour.
Madonna also caused a stir with her sexually explicit "Justify My Love" video, which ended up being barred from MTV. And she raised eyebrows in 1993 for posing in S&M garb with the release of her Sex book.
While her new video maybe MIA, Madonna is keeping herself plenty visible these days. Although she didn't show up to collect her trophies at this year's Razzie Awards for the train wreck that was Swept Away, she is turning up practically everywhere else to promote American Life.
She's scheduled appearances on ABC's Live with Regis & Kelly on April 23 and CBS' Late Show with David Letterman on April 24, the same day she'll guest-star opposite new pal Megan Mullally on an episode of NBC's Will & Grace.