Madonna found herself in hot water after photoshopping images of Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. bound with black cords. The image resembles her new album cover for Rebel Hearts. Some fans felt that Madonna crossed the line and the images were very insulting. Fans also accused Madonna of trying to compare herself to both Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. Madonna defended the images on social media, “I’m sorry. I’m not comparing my self (sic) to anyone. I’m admiring and acknowledging there (sic) Rebel Hearts. This is neither a crime or an insult or racist!” She also mentioned that she did not create the images; the images were created by fans and she reposted them.
Madonna also posted an image of John Lennon that was also recreated with black cords by her fans. Madonna reiterated, “It shows that you are also celebrating and in admiration of these freedom fighters! When I repost these images I am saying YES! These people are all Rebel Hearts in one way or another from Martin Luther King to Jesus to Nelson Mandela to John Lennon. Let’s celebrate them! The world needs more people like them.”
This is not the first time a pop/rap superstar found themselves in a politically charged controversy. Last year, Nicki Minaj’s cover art for her single “Lookin’ A** N***a,” was considered heavily offensive. The artwork featured the famous photo of Malcolm X with a rifle in his hands, peering out a window in his home. The symbolic Malcolm X picture depicted his struggle to defend his religious and political views, while trying to protect his family and home. Days after Nicki Minaj released the controversial artwork, she apologized and removed the cover art. Minaj’s music video for her single, “Only,” also caused a lot of controversy. The animated video emulates Adolf Hitler, resembles Nazi-esque troops, and depicts the Young Money logo in a swastika-like shape. Again, Nicki Minaj apologized amidst the criticism.
Some may argue that the reason behind using political, racial, and social figures to promote music is just a ploy to sell albums. In some cases, controversy can help album sales, but it may also be detrimental to an artist’s career.