The Queen of Pop Will Kiss You Now

Madonna surprised Drake with a make-out at Coachella. Let’s talk about it.


I was not yet a teenager when Adrien Brody won an Oscar, bounded up on stage to collect it, and was so excited to take that little golden statue home that he just had to smooch presenter Halle Berry to express it.

It was 2003, and I was too young to read think pieces in the New Republic or editorials in the New York Times. I did not yet have a Twitter account, and it would be years before I could debate the muddiness of verbal consent in a coherent conversation. But I was old enough to know desperation when I saw it. I had been around the block and the playground and the elementary school cafeteria. I had seen social suicide up close and personal. Unlike Halle Berry and my mom, it was not pretty. That night, I watched the kiss on live television and cringed.

Since then, you and I have witnessed public embarrassment of every stripe. As citizens of the Kardashian nation, we have survived nipplegates and televised weddings and too many seasons of The Bachelor. Today, cries for attention are even louder than they were a decade ago. I double dare you to watch the E! network tonight. You will go deaf.

This week, the noise is thunderous. Proving her lifelong commitment to provocation, Madonna grabbed and kissed Drake on stage during his performance at Coachella on Sunday. As countless GIFs can attest, the rapper was at least somewhat alarmed, and the stunt made international headlines.

CNN reported, “Madonna smooches a flailing Drake at Coachella.” The Telegraph got more creative, dubbing the controversy “50 Shades of Granny.” Rita Ora defended the Queen of Pop and thanked her “for fighting all these ageist battles.” Later, Drake took to Instagram to explain the encounter: “Don’t misinterpret my shock!! I got to make out with the queen Madonna and I feel [100%] about that forever. Thank you Madonna.” Nice save, Drizzy.

Earlier this year, Madonna more or less anticipated the controversy in Rolling Stone:

[W]omen, 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…. [I]f I have to be the person who opens the door for women to believe and understand and embrace the idea that they can be sexual and look good and be as relevant in their fifties or their sixties or whatever as they were in their twenties, then so be it.

She has a point. It’s true. Despite a shift in the fashion community, mainstream media is ageist. But does that societal bias explain why we winced this weekend? Did we recoil because Madonna is too old to be sexy? Or, did we shake our heads because she is too old to make the same mistake that Adrien Brody did? Isn’t desperation unattractive at every age? Is it desperation? It’s definitely a loud reminder that it’s never okay to land a surprise make-out on someone who is, regardless of the venue (on stage at Coachella, for example), at work. Let’s talk about it.

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  • Abby N

    I was shocked to see this (Madonna making out with Drake, that is) because it seemed like a sexual assault. He clearly didn’t invite her, she definitely surprised him, and he had to laugh it off afterward even though we have no way of knowing if he was OK with it. I’ve got no problem with Madonna doing whatever she wants, but this seemed like an infringement of personal space and comfort levels (especially since afterward Drake sits there making a grossed-out face). Remember when Justin Timberlake ripped off Janet Jackson’s clothes? I hope this gets that same criticism, even though the roles are reversed between Madonna and Drake.

    • To be clear JT “ripping off Janet Jackson’s clothes” was a wardrobe malfunction. Not only was it an accident on the part of JT, but he was actually supposed to pull her top off. Unfortunately, instead of revealing a second layer of
      clothing underneath he ripped off
      the entire blouse. Madonna’s kiss was not an accident so I dare say it’s not a reasonable comparison.

  • Michelle

    Her age shouldn’t even matter. Its the idea that just because she’s madonna she thinks its acceptable to force herself on people, making herself the best example of sexual harassment yet putting it on a dias for the world to think its ok. To me it looked like she spit or threw up in his mouth. Seriously, her age should have nothing to do with it. If a man did that, there would be a uproar. The fact that he wasn’t allowed to do any reciprocal actions and just take it just sends the message of control that she can take what she wants. If all of it was a mutual pr stunt, carefully planned, then they both just perpetuated rape culture.

  • LetsEatPizza

    It’s not an age thing, it’s a boundary thing.

    • Marianne Ronsse

      Yep, and it’s not a gender thing either. Whether you’re an older man or woman, this would still have looked shocking/preposterous.

  • Kelsey Moody

    The onstage make out is Madonna’s m.o. (pun intended..) just ask Brit or Xtina of MTV VMAs of yesteryear. Drake’s move is sitting on a chair doing very little while the our queens dance around him (Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda video, Madonna at Coachella). My main issue is that we’ve been there done that, I didnt even think about age as an issue. As entertainers who push the limits and use the media’s reaction and outrage to self promote is, simply, just good business. It’s got us talking about them right now. In terms of Drake’s reaction? Madonna’s kiss with Britney and Christina was planned…this seemed like an assault on Drake’s face. Performing at a major music festival just doesnt get youre name in the press anymore, but a non consensual kiss? Headline. Does anyone even know what song they were singing?? Does anyone care? Talent and art doesnt matters in the media any more unless your offending someone.

    • Mattie Kahn

      Ooh, I want to talk about the last line of this! When is the last time that a deliberate artistic performance–not an amateur YouTube video, not a Vine–went viral and got attention? Something that Adele did? Some Beyonce choreography? I genuinely can’t think of an example…

      • I saw a video yesterday of Ariana Grande performing Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” with David Foster. I wouldn’t say that has gone completely viral, BUT IT SHOULD.

      • Kelsey Moody

        When Lady Gaga performed at the Oscars celebrating the Sound of Music anniversary everyone was likeeee whaaaaat??? She can sing?? It makes you think– did she need a meat dress with pipes like that?!! She was so desperate to prove how weird she was (think back about 5 years ago: who can wear a “crazier” outfit: Katy Perry, Nicki M, or Gaga?) No one was focusing on these women’s talent. So do you have to spray whipped cream out of your bra, wear a pope inspired robe, or be carried around in an egg contraption to be noticed? Once that gets your foot in the door THEN you can prove you have talent? Will Gaga have to make out with Tony Bennett now to get a headline?

        ALSO if anyones interest, I just went to an Alabama Shakes concert on Saturday– Brittnany Howard, the lead singer, can SING. If you have the means, GO SEE THEM LIVE

        • Esther Levy

          YES to all of the above, especially to Alabama Shakes

        • i agree with this completely, gaga was smart regarding her career at first because she needed to get attention on her and then like ok every know me lets show them i can actually do shit.
          ps: i adress gaga because i dont care about the other too and i follow her since she sang with her actual name

  • AlexaJuno

    Sadly, Madge, it has nothing to do with your age and everything to do with your transparent, desperate quest to preserve your cultural relevance. It is sad and uncomfortable to watch. Get yourself back on the charts and I can assure you, age ain’t nothing but a number.

    • Aydan

      Yeah, I agree with this. Its the way in which she’s presenting herself that makes it soo awkward and weird. If you watch her performance on Fallon, she grabs some guy in the audience and throws his head at her pelvis. Young or old pop star that to me is not the best way to get your music across!

  • Rae S.

    I think if you have to sexually assault 20-somethings on stage to prove that you’re still sexy… you’re doing it wrong.

  • Nothing to do with Madonna’s age. It ain’t nothin’ but a number- As far as I am concerned she is younger than me spirit/looks/behavior wise. I’m just really not a big fan of surprise sexual advances. Speaking of kisses making headlines: remember this?!

    • AlexaJuno

      Or this?

  • Marianne Ronsse

    I think this kiss was a preposterous thing to do.
    And not provocative, just plain dull.
    I used to really like Madonna but now I’m a bit fed up with her.
    Is doing the exact same thing decades after you started necessarily a good thing? Or is it just a lack of inspiration?
    And I don’t think this kiss is “helping women being sexually relevant in their fifties”. If she was trying to “provoke” and prove that, just like men, women can still be “sexual” as they grow old, she missed the mark.
    What’s she trying to do? Be like old man Hugh Heffner, on botox and viagra, going out with girls who could be his granddaughters? Is she trying to be the equivalent of that?

  • To me, this has nothing to do with age and everything to do with crossing personal boundaries and being on the receiving end of a physical act that you don’t wish to receive. It’s that simple.

    • María Belén

      Exactly, we always complain (and with every right), about abuses made to woman and their bodies. But we fail to recognize that the same happen to men.

    • R Ju Nz

      yeah right <3

  • I think regardless of who you are, you shouldn’t be able to just attack someone! It’s disrespectful and like you said, desperate

  • I think that the media needs to shift its focus to the positive morals of this encounter, celebrating the fact that this guy kissed a girl without forcing a game of spin the bottle.

    Look out for my ‘Started From The Bottom’/’Madonna’ remix with Diplo.