The Madonna-BBC Radio 1 ageism controversy seems to be heating up again.
Last month, Madonna’s music was reportedly dropped from the rotation on BBC Radio 1, which is targeted primarily at the under-30 age group. According to insiders, the Material Girl’s material, such as her latest single “Living For Love” from her new album Rebel Heart, supposedly aged out of the station’s demographic and was deemed no longer relevant for programming purposes.
Radio 1, however, strongly denied that the Queen of Pop had abdicated her throne as far as the radio station was concerned, and insisted that age is irrelevant to its playlist decisions.
Madonna’s “Living for Love” single is being played on BBC Radio 2, which is programmed for an older audience (35-plus).
The dispute over airtime notwithstanding, Rebel Heart appears to be topping the charts in Britain, the 12th time a Madonna album has been No. 1 in the U.K.
In an interview with the U.K. publication The Sun, Madonna 56, described the station’s playlist decision, or alleged decision, as “discriminatory and unfair” and that the quality of the music (“a good, catchy pop song”) should be the only measuring stick.
“My manager said to me, ‘If you’re not in your twenties, it’s hard. You might get your record played in your thirties. There’s a handful of people who do — Pharrell got lucky. But if you’re in your fifties, you can forget it.’ I didn’t know it was anything to do with my age. I just do my work. We’ve made so many advances in other areas — civil rights, gay rights — but ageism is still an area that’s taboo and not talked about and dealt with.”
A Radio 1 representative again dismissed the ageism talk.
“Radio 1 do not ever ban artists and Madonna’s track ‘Living for Love’ has been played on the station. The tracks are chosen on musical merit and their relevance to our young audience on a case-by-case basis, and whilst around 40 per cent of the country’s 15 to 29-year-olds tune into Radio 1 each week, an artist’s age is never a factor.”
Last month, however, a Radio 1 executive said that “The vast majority of people who like Madonna, who like her music now, are over 30 and frankly, we’ve moved on from Madonna.”
In late February, as a result of a wardrobe malfunction, Madonna fell down a flight of stairs while performing “Living for Love” at the Brit Awards in London. Madge was unhurt, however, in the fall, and was able to soldier on with the set in the event’s finale, the first time she performed at the Brit Awards in 20 years.
On the subject of age bias (and sexism) in the music industry and society in general, Madonna recently told Rolling Stone that “It’s still the one area where you can totally discriminate against somebody and talk sh*t. Because of their age. Only females, though. Not males…Because women, generally, when they reach a certain age, have accepted that they’re not allowed to behave a certain way. But I don’t follow the rules. I never did, and I’m not going to start.”
[Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images Entertainment]