Miami’s Ultra Music Festival is one of the biggest weekends on any electronic music fan’s calendar. The event brings together hundreds of the world’s most popular DJs and producers for three days of the best live sets electronic music has to offer, fromA-Trak to Zedd. This year, the festival waslivestreamed over YouTube, and more than 20,000 people tuned in. It was a huge success, and its popularity demonstrates electronic music’s growing appeal to a wider audience. It’s unfortunate, then, that a guest appearance by Madonna soured the experience for many.
Swedish DJ Avicii announced before his Saturday night set that he had a surprise guest lined up. Shortly after 11 p.m., an introduction video started playing on the main stage. The short clip detailed the inspiring rise of electronic music, with familiar faces like Avicii, David Guetta, and Carl Cox discussing its exploding popularity in America. Then, Madonna took the stage and proceeded to undermine almost everything that had just been said.
Madonna greeted the crowd, stating “I can honestly say a DJ saved my life.” She then asked “How many people in this crowd have seen Molly?”—an obvious reference to ecstasy. She was wearing a shirt with the letters MDNA—the name of her new album—spelled out across the chest, which can be interpreted as a thinly veiled reference to ecstasy’s clinical name, MDMA. Madonna hung out on stage while Avicii played his remix of her new track, “Girl Gone Wild.” Then, as if she hadn’t disrespected everyone enough already, she left.
It’s no secret that electronic music concerts are often incubators for drug use. However, it’s an image that many involved in the genre are trying to shed. As a fan, I don’t feel I need drugs to appreciate the music, and it’s upsetting to see people showing up to concerts with a bag full of pills but no idea what a 4/4 beat is. Drug usage at raves is a serious problem, and it should be treated as such by those who lead the genre.
What’s especially disappointing about Madonna’s overt drug references is that she is one of the artists who began building bridges between the underground house music communities and the mainstream, incorporating electronic elements into many of her songs in the 1990s and 2000s. After having such a positive influence on the genre, she’s now using it as a marketing tool. What’s more, Madonna is a mother of three. I wonder if she would have acted the same way, urging people to buy her new album while making ambiguous comments about drug use, if her kids were in the crowd.
Canadian producer Deadmau5 picked up the ecstasy reference and blasted Madonna for it, calling her a “fucking idiot” via Twitter. The two settled their feud last week when Madonna tweeted a picture of herself wearing Mickey Mouse ears, with the text, “I was referring to the song called ‘Have You Seen Molly’ written by my friend Cedric Gervais.” Right, and I’d like you to meet my friend Mary Jane who I just smoked on the race track.
It’s painfully awkward watching Madonna attempt to rebrand herself to appeal to a younger audience. Her appearance at Ultra was clearly a marketing strategy, and a botched one at that. She needs to understand that while it’s possible to stay on top by continuously changing her image—something she has done in the past—she’s beginning to seem desperate. If a DJ really did save Madonna’s life, she owes them all a lot more respect.