- Madonna's tumble made headlines and she was hailed as an 'icon' by fans
- It will surely go down as one of the most bizarre episodes in pop history
- But the singer has a history of bizarre and outrageous publicity stunts
- Some have suggested her tumble was cynically organised beforehand
- Since she fell from the stage, her flop single has rocketed up the charts
This was the tumble that shook the internet, the fall that was bigger than the £5 million show itself, and quite possibly the ultimate wardrobe malfunction.
After a 20-year absence from the Brit Awards, Madonna stooped to conquer — by falling off the stage.
The extraordinary spectacle of the singer, worth £520 million, being thrown to the floor at the British music industry’s flagship award ceremony this week will surely go down as one of the most bizarre episodes in pop history.
Madonna's a goner: The Material Girl doesn't shriek or grimace as she tumbles - and is there a trace of a wry smile on her lips?
As she sang the lyrics from her new single, Living For Love, and reached the line, ‘Took me to heaven and let me fall down,’ she did indeed fall down — backwards down some steps, dragged by a backing singer tugging on her Armani cape. She was heard landing with a deep ‘thud’ by all sitting near the stage.
For a moment, as the backing track continued to play, there was stillness and silence. And then the Material Girl, 56, rose, climbed the stairs again and resumed singing, completing her routine with remarkable aplomb.
Sure, there was an extra kink in those Shirley Temple curls, and the vocals were not perfect, but, dignity aside, she seemed essentially none the worse for wear. And in getting up and embodying the ‘show must go on’ spirit, she was instantly lionised and hailed as an ‘icon’ by fans across the globe.
Radio 1 breakfast DJ Nick Grimshaw, a barometer of cool, tweeted: ‘Madonna come party with us — I’m gonna DJ — you can vogue. Everything will be fine. DO NOT BRING THE BLOODY CAPE.’
Indeed, far from a disaster, the incident has provided a welcome burst of publicity.
In its wake, not only has #madonnafall been trending worldwide (bringing her to the attention of the internet generation who have not, until now, been buying her music), but her single Living For Love has shot to the top of the iTunes chart from its previous position well outside the top 100, while the British Phonographic Industry reported yesterday that sales of her greatest hits album, Celebration, rocketed by 62 per cent.
And despite presenters Ant and Dec joking after the show that they were sitting with the star in A&E, the performer herself is absolutely fine. Actually, and this may seem curious, Madonna made such a speedy recovery that she was well enough to plug her album, and pay thanks to her fashion designer friends, immediately after the show.
Madonna revealed a bare behind on the red carpet at the Grammys earlier this month
‘Armani hooked me up! My beautiful cape was tied too tight!’ she wrote on Instagram. ‘But nothing can stop me and love really lifted me up! Thanks for your good wishes! I’m fine! #livingforlove.’
It’s enough to make one suspect that perhaps, just perhaps, this was a publicity stunt.
Conspiracy theorists were yesterday pointing out a few key peculiarities. First, close examination of the footage shows that just before she fell she wasn’t frantically trying to unclasp the cape — which, you imagine, you would surely do if you knew it was about to be whisked off. Instead she had her hands at her waist when she fell.
Photographs also show the star looked peculiarly calm as she tumbled; no grimaces or shrieks.
Indeed, in some images, traces of a smile seem to be playing about those tight features.
Unlike her performance at the American music awards, the Grammys, earlier this month, where she wore a buttock-baring corset, Madonna also favoured a sensible pair of three-quarter length trousers — which will have made for a slightly more comfortable landing. Perish the thought they were padded.
Might she, then, have planned it? After all, the perfectionist that she is, Madonna had spent two full days rehearsing her routine and performance at the O2. Surely someone as thorough as she would have finessed the business of taking a cape off.
Intriguingly, at the very moment Madonna toppled from the raised stage, the male dancers flanking her vaulted down, too, and artfully formed into a ring around her.
Viewed on video, they do not seem to be rushing to help her — their movements suggest a choreographed sequence.
Those whose faces are not obscured by bizarre horned masks do not appear unduly concerned.
What’s more, other dancers could be seen already crouching around the back of the podium before Madonna fell, almost as if they meant to catch her.
And what is to be made of the lyrics of the song? As fans have noted, they seem to defy mere coincidence. ‘Took me to heaven and let me fall down, Now that it’s over, I’m gonna carry on,’ she sang. ‘Lifted me up, and watched me stumble, After the heartache, I’m gonna carry on.’
Showbusiness veteran Rick Sky, who has spent decades covering Madonna’s performances, said: ‘You would have thought it would be easier for Madonna to just show her a** for publicity — but she did that at the Grammy’s, didn’t she? Perhaps this was all that was left. Stranger things have happened. She is such a perfectionist that you know she will have rehearsed every last second of that performance, which makes it seem even more unlikely that it could be anything but deliberate.’
It is a view shared by hundreds of Twitter users. One wrote: ‘Who else thinks the Madonna fall was planned?’ Another: ‘I think it’s staged. It gets a lot of publicity and sympathy.’
Musician George Bowie tweeted: ‘The more I watch that video, the more I think it’s the greatest PR stunt of all time. New single out & everyone talking about Madonna.’ But if it was a stunt — albeit one that perhaps went slightly awry, with the singer hitting the floor more heavily than planned — what did Madonna hope to prove by it?