Madonna, who's given dozens of stunning performances at arenas around the globe, is really nervous about her upcoming gig in Indianapolis - in the Super Bowl halftime show.
Appearing on "The Tonight Show" earlier this week, she called the Super Bowl "the holy of holies" and told Jay Leno that the Feb. 5 performance would be "the most nerve-wracking thing I've ever done." One of her concerns: there's no way to do a sound check before going onstage.
But that's only a tiny part of it. Madonna, 53, is following some legendary entertainers to the Super Bowl stage. Among them: Michael Jackson, the Rolling Stones and Prince. (The most memorable performance, arguably, was given by U2 in early 2002 following the 9/11 attacks.)
One of the most self-aware stars ever, Madonna knows what she has to do: "put on the greatest show that's ever been put on before, so that's no pressure."
Whether that will happen is anyone's guess, but one thing's for sure: If she falls short of her goal, it won't be for lack of trying. Because making extraordinary efforts is what Madonna does. She's put a colossal amount of work into her career, and the reward is her status as a cultural icon.
So it's no surprise that as she nears her mid-fifties, she's still pushing herself in both music and movies. "Gimme All Your Luvin," the first single from her new album "MDNA," will be released Feb. 2, three days before the Super Bowl, and it's one of the songs she'll be performing at halftime. She's just directed "W.E.," and while a drama about the woman who led King Edward VIII to abdicate isn't likely to be a huge hit, Madonna found directing a creative, if emotional, adventure. At the U.S. premiere, she told the audience the film was dedicated to her late mother-and then broke down in tears.
For Madonna, that's almost unprecedented. Columnist Liz Smith said that, in covering Madonna for almost thirty years, she'd seen the star break down only once before: when she was criticized on "Oprah" for adopting her son, David, from Malawi.
That kind of vulnerability is surprising from a woman who arrived in New York City in 1977 with just $35 and worked relentlessly toward her goal for five years before getting a recording contract in 1982. Her self-confidence has been limitless -- "I always thought I should be treated like a star," she once said --and so is the effort she's put into her career. "I don't want easy," she's said. "Easy doesn't make you grow. Easy doesn't make you think."
Along the way, Madonna's won millions of fans-and a fair amount of mockery. Internet posters snarked at the English accent she seemed to develop during her marriage to British film director Guy Ritchie. And Ritchie himself, who apparently didn't appreciate his wife's super-toned body, reportedly said that making love to Madonna "was like cuddling a piece of gristle." (How did Madonna react? She probably says it best herself: "Power is being told you're not loved and not being destroyed by it.")
The star's big critic these days is Elton John, who was up against Madonna for Best Song earlier this year at the Golden Globes. When asked by red-carpet interviewer Carson Daly whether Madonna would win, John said "She hasn't got a f***in' chance." When Daly told that to the star, she said, smiling, "May the best man win."
Guess what? She won.
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