Did Madonna save the best for last?
The 60-year-old icon has released “Dark Ballet,” the fifth and final preview track from her upcoming 14th studio album, Madame X, following “I Rise,” “Crave,” “Future,” and “Medellín.”
Produced by longtime collaborator Mirwais, “Dark Ballet” doesn’t dance around oppression and discrimination. Likewise, the accompanying music video, directed by Emmanuel Adjei, highlights the patriarchy’s persecution of minorities with Mykki Blanco as Joan of Arc, seen bound and jailed, stripped and shaved, dancing in a gold corset and pleading with religious leaders, before finally being put to death.
“She fought the English and she won, still the French were not happy,” Madonna says about Joan of Arc in a statement. “Still they judged her. They said she was a man, they said she was a lesbian, they said she was a witch, and, in the end, they burned her at the stake, and she feared nothing. I admire that.”
The release fittingly follows Madonna’s disappointment in a New York Times Magazine piece that she felt focused unfairly on her age and other trivial matters: “You cant fix society and its endless need to diminish,” she wrote on Instagram. “It makes me feel raped.”
Got a burning desire to know why Madonna tapped a queer rapper to play the legendary heroine? (Blanco, who previously “trans-identified,” rejected the idea of “one singular transgender narrative” in a 2017 Facebook post: “I am a Gay man but my Trans journey is who I am.”)
“She tells me, ‘Based on some of the things that you’ve told me you experienced in this industry and in this society, I feel that some of those things could be a modern day analogy for Joan,’” he tells Billboard of his conversation with Madonna. “‘Because think about if you had existed as you in her time—you would have been burned at the stake as well.’”
— Madonna (@Madonna) June 7, 2019
The “Dark Ballet” video ends with an inspirational message from Blanco: “I have walked this earth, Black, Queer and HIV positive, but no transgression against me has been as powerful as the hope I hold within.”
Blanco, who was diagnosed with HIV in 2011 and publicly revealed his status in 2015, joined Rosie O’Donnell and Anderson Cooper last month to present Madonna with the Advocate for Change Award at the 30th Annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York City. Madonna reflected on the AIDS crisis in her emotional speech.
Meanwhile, Madonna’s empowering new Pride anthem “I Rise” is a ballad about summoning the strength to survive life’s struggles. “I wrote ‘I Rise’ as a way of giving a voice to all marginalized people who feel they don’t have the opportunity to speak their mind,” Madonna said. “This year is the 50th anniversary of Pride and I hope this song encourages all individuals to be who they are, to speak their minds and to love themselves.”
— GLAAD (@glaad) May 5, 2019
It’s rumored that the music video for “I Rise” will also be a love letter to the LGBTQ community, featuring drag queens like Monét X Change. Don’t forget Madonna’s surprise New Year’s Eve appearance at Stonewall Inn.
It was announced last week that Madonna will appear in New York at Pride Island on Sunday, June 30, during Pride weekend.
Madame X, out June 14, is now available for pre-order. Her intimate Madame X Tour launches September 12 in New York.
Watch “Dark Ballet” below.