Performing at the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, Madonna injected some politics into her act with a call for peace in the lyrics of her new song “Future,” which featured two of her dancers wearing Israeli and Palestinian flags on their backs.
The flag-wearing pair were the last two dancers to leave the stage at the end of the song, at which point Madonna and co-performer Quavo dramatically disappeared from the back of the stage with the message “Wake Up,” which also flashed on screen.
Critics of Israel had objected to Tel Aviv hosting the concert; Madonna, by contrast, made plain she was delighted to be performing, and the political dimension was evidently a call for harmony rather than a protest.
The lyrics of “Future” underlined the message: “Not everyone is coming to the future / Not everyone is learning from the past… Come give hope / Come give life / Only get one, so we gotta live it right… Come make peace.”
The European Broadcasting Union quickly released a statement saying that the Israeli and Palestinian flags in Madonna’s performance were not approved.
— Eurovision (@Eurovision) May 18, 2019
“This part of the performance were not part of the rehearsals which had been approved by the EBU and the host broadcaster, Kan,” the union said, according to a Reuters reporter. “The Eurovision Song Contest is a non-political event and Madonna has been made aware of it,” the statement noted.
“Future” was the second of two songs played my Madonna, and also featured back-up dancers wearing gas masks. The first was “Like a Prayer,” with a chorus dressed as Benedictine monks.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) May 18, 2019
Politics aside, the singer’s performance was rapidly and devastatingly critiqued, with Paddy Power, a betting firm, saying it would pay out on bets that had predicted a malfunction. “That eye patch, and performance as a whole, was a giant malfunction, so we’re paying it out,” it said. Even the Netherlands’ announcer, intimating that the singer was out of tune, made sure to get in a pot-shot, saying she was “thankful for Madonna’s autotune.”
Minutes before she performed, the singer, sporting that eye patch, showed up in the contestants’ room speaking to host Assi Azar in a live interview broadcast as part of the show. She gave the contestants a pep talk, telling them they were all winners, and proclaimed that music is the great unifier. “Music makes the people come together,” she declared, quoting from her own song.
Apart from Madonna, the contest made it almost all the way through without pro-Palestinian protests.
But Iceland’s entrant, Hatari, did manage to sneak one in as its vote total was announced, holding up Palestinian flag banners to the camera.
Earlier, Israeli-Canadian billionaire Sylvan Adams told the Kan public broadcaster that Madonna’s Eurovision appearance had never been in doubt, calling hiccups that delayed her gig’s confirmation as “little contractual technicalities.”
Adams played a key role in bringing Madonna to Israel for the show, flying her and her entourage to Tel Aviv in his jet on Tuesday, despite her not yet having a contract signed at that point.
“She flew a ton of equipment from Las Vegas here a month ago. Once she was physically here, there was never any doubt there would be a contract sign,” Adams said.
On Thursday, Madonna reached an agreement with the European Broadcasting Union to put on the show.
Madonna wanted to put on a “special” performance tonight, Adams said. When asked if rumors that she had paid for some of the costs “out of her own pocket” were accurate, Adams confirmed they were.
“That’s correct… She wanted a certain level of her show and she wasn’t going to compromise,” he said.
Asked whether that means Madonna was losing money to perform, he said, “I don’t know if she’s losing money, but she didn’t do this for the money.”
“She wanted to come,” he said. “She knows us, she likes us.”
He added: “It’s really good to have friends like that.”
Madonna, who is not Jewish but has dabbled in Kabbalism, has made several trips to Israel over the years and played three shows here.