Here is the story of two recording artists. The first is Ozzy Osbourne (74), who this week announced his retirement from the live arena on social media, noting he is no longer physically capable of touring.
While fans wished him well in their droves, many lamented the end of Osbourne’s touring days.
The other artist in this story is Madonna, a full decade younger than him and in finer physical fettle than many women half her age. Last week, Madonna announced an extensive world tour, and the reaction was… interesting.
The first thing of note was the internet memes. GIF after GIF of octogenarian ladies, seemingly fighting their way out of wheelchairs or off walking aids. Clips of Madonna falling off the stage at the 2015 Brits resurfaced (a moment which had less to do with her age and more to do with a dancer removing a cape wrongly during her routine).
The general consensus was that Madonna was far too old to be getting on stage. This will be the same Madonna, incidentally, who has prepared for every live tour she has done with the vigour and focus of an Olympic athlete.
It’s worth seeing who Madonna is sharing the road with this year. Among those coming to Ireland and performing live as part of a touring schedule are Bruce Springsteen (73), Christy Moore (74), Elton John (75), Randy Newman (79), Sting (71), Peter Gabriel (71), and Lionel Ritchie (73).
I have yet to see any kind of mention that these elder statesmen of rock music are too old or too irrelevant to be going on tour. Bonnie Raitt (73), Mavis Staples (83) and Emmylou Harris (75) are still very much ploughing their own musical furrows to the consternation of no one.
The next point of remark about Madonna’s tour was the seemingly “exorbitant” ticket prices, which can be bought for as low as $140 (€128), yet have an average price of $350 (€321). Yes, it’s pricey, but no more so than many other major artists. Look at the prices of, say, Elton John’s live date in Ireland. VIP Packages cost anything from €299 to €899. A ‘civilian’ ticket for his Belfast date is currently £220 (€248).
Why are other artists shielded from such opprobrium, while Madonna is catching an almighty amount of snark for, well, doing her job? Is it because the careers of these other artists have been slow-burners, largely without the sort of attention and energy that has marked Madonna’s pop career?
Or is it that Madonna’s strenuous efforts to stave off the physical effects of ageing has made her age a major talking point when it comes to her personal brand?
The double standards that Madonna faces never cease to amaze. When it was announced that her self-directed biopic had been shelved, quote after quote from ‘sources’ and ‘friends’ noted that Madonna was too controlling over her vision, going through screenwriters like tissues and putting potential lead actresses through gruelling ‘bootcamps’.
“She did herself no favours,” is a quote from one such pal. No one ever minds when David Fincher, famous for putting actors through multiple takes and shooting 99 takes of the opening scene of The Social Network, is a control freak. Rather, he is protecting and respecting his vision.
The biopic may be no more to the evident mirth of many, but hearteningly, several more dates have been added to Madonna’s celebration tour due to demand. Will she rise to the occasion, sonically and sartorially? I, for one, am left in no doubt.
The tech industry has long been known for its innovation and cool efficiency, and so it went, alas, when it came to mass layoffs within the sector.
Reports abound of employees only finding out that they no longer have jobs when they are denied entry to the building or are told they no longer have email access. It’s a brutal and shocking way to find out that your lucrative livelihood has gone up in smoke.
The online videos of tech employees going through this in real time are striking, not least when compared to the ‘before’ visuals of sprawling campuses and perks.
TikToker Nicola Tsai showed multiple videos of her Google campus, showcasing free lunches, the bar and open office space. She was later forced to document the much less pleasant reality of being unceremoniously made redundant.
“My entire team got laid off from Google,” she said in an online post. “The writing had been on the wall for a really long time… Layoffs were not performance based. I received an ‘exceeds expectations’ on my last performance review... it was strictly just people had to go because the company needed to save money.”
The reports do little to quell the idea that the tech industry wasn’t so much a bubble as a firework. A fairytale career, without a happy ever after for everyone. The industry that seemed like a bottomless pit of money, status and opportunity, sad to say, has a bottom after all.
I’m at once loving and struck by the sheer normalcy of actress Julia Fox’s two-bedroom apartment.
Offering her fans a tour of the New York flat she shares with her two-year-old son Valentino, Fox showed viewers her unmade bed in the living room, while admitting that her home has a “mouse problem” and could use more storage.
“Even though I could have probably afforded a bigger place, it’s about having a sense of normalcy for Valentino,” she said afterwards. It was the most ‘she is one of us’ moments I’ve had from the topsy-turvy world of celebrity in an age, and not before time.