Last week Madonna was embroiled in yet another controversial debate, accusing BBC Radio 1 of ‘ageism’ when they refused to air her new single Living for Love which caused uproar among Madonna fans of all ages. The Material Girl singer, aged 56, called the whole issue “discriminatory and unfair”, horrified that her new album would receive no air time on the radio station.
So does Madonna have a point? Has the BBC really discriminated against her solely because of her age? The BBC, in their defence, have been quick to point out that they have artists such as Paul McCartney (on tracks from Rihanna and Kanye) on the radio’s rotation of songs– a man who is 16 years older than Madonna. The radio’s producers have insisted that Madonna’s age has nothing to do with their decision. Instead, the choice of songs selected are based solely on what constitutes as “musical merit” and what seems to be most relevant to the station’s young target audience of 15-30 year old listeners.
However the singer, who has won seven Grammy awards through the course of her career, was quick to retaliate to such claims. In her recent Rolling Stone story, Madonna spoke at great length about the limitations for older women in the pop industry: “It’s still one area where you can totally discriminate against somebody and talk s***. Because of their age. Only females though. Not males. So in that respect we still live in a very sexist society”. Madonna has since continued her accusations, going on talk shows such as Jonathon Ross to publicly display her outrage and disappointment, leaving no stone unturned in her efforts to fight the age taboo.
However this isn’t the first time the Radio station has been accused of ageist actions. Back in 2009, long standing presenter, Jo Whiley, 44, was replaced by Fearne Cotton, 27, on the coveted weekday slots. The drastic change came as a shock to many, who felt that Whiley had been marginalised as a result of her age. The alteration came in light of the executors’ wishes to connect with a younger, up-coming generation, and being an accomplished, brilliant older woman just didn’t seem to cut it at the time.
So, it seems that BBC radio 1 is no stranger to these ageist outcries or are even able to deny them. Although the singer gained some support from DJ Annie Mac, who played Living for Love during her takeover of Zane Lowe’s tastemaking spot on BBC Radio 1, Madonna remains outraged at the BBC’s lack of air time for older women artists. While many have deemed her music as irrelevant to the current pop world, (personally I’m not a huge fan) I still think Madonna has a point. As a woman of a bold and remarkable career spanning across many years, I think it’s incredibly sad and disappointing that we still live in a society that cannot appreciate age and is still seeking to undermine older artists that have accomplished so much.
So do you have to be young in order to engage with Radio 1? Or is Madonna just not letting go of the past, refusing to imagine that her music isn’t to everyone’s taste? I’ll let you decide.