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Billboard honors Madonna, Kesha – Stones roll back years with chart-topping album

Madonna attends the 11th annual Billboard Women in Music honors at Pier 36 on Dec 9, in New York. (AP)

NEW YORK, Dec 10, (Agencies): The annual Billboard Women In Music event featured emotional and heartfelt speeches about the uphill battles women face in the music industry, including personal stories from top honoree Madonna and pop singer Kesha.

The Material Girl, named woman of the year Friday, was passionate as she spoke onstage in New York about being raped at knifepoint, battling critics.

“I remember feeling paralyzed. It took me a while to pull myself together and get on with my creative life — to get on with my life. I took comfort in the poetry of Maya Angelou, and the writings of James Baldwin, and in the music of Nina Simone. I remember wishing that I had a female peer that I could look to for support,” 58-year-old Madonna said at Pier 36, where the audience included fellow honoree Shania Twain, Nick Jonas, Anderson Cooper and dozens of music industry executives.

“People say that I’m so controversial, but I think the most controversial thing I have ever done is to stick around,” Madonna said at another point. “Michael is gone. Tupac is gone. Prince is gone. Whitney is gone. Amy Winehouse is gone. David Bowie is gone. But I’m still standing,”

Cooper introduced Madonna, his friend, with touching words.

“For me as a teenager growing up, her music wasn’t just a soundtrack to my life, her music and her outspokenness, her willingness to stand up, her courage — it showed me as a teenager a way forward, a pathway,” he said.

The event also paid tribute to platinum-selling singer Kesha — who is currently in a legal battle with her former mentor and producer Dr. Luke — with its trailblazer award.


“It’s mind-blowing to be honored like this after the very public year I’ve had. I feel stuck, and I feel sad. And quite frankly today I feel bloated,” she said, as the crowd laughed. “I didn’t really feel like standing up and getting an award — I didn’t feel worthy of that. But I knew I had to drag myself out of my bed, put on my boots and walk up here (today) and say thank you to you guys.”

The audience applauded loudly.

Then Kesha added in a serious tone: “Most importantly, do not let anyone else ever take your happiness. You are worth it, and thank you for reminding me that I’m worth it, too.”

Twain was given the icon award, while other honorees included country singer Maren Morris and pop singers Halsey, Alessia Cara and Meghan Trainor, who didn’t attend the event because she is on vocal rest. Fifth Harmony sang in honor of the “All About That Bass” performer.

“It’s an honor — that’s the only thing that comes to mind,” said Grammy-nominated R&B singer Andra Day, who earned the powerhouse award. “It’s humbling. It’s fulfilling. I’m experiencing so much gratitude at the same time because these women are part of the reason that I’m even able to be here.”

The annual Billboard luncheon also honored 100 female music executives, including iTunes and Apple Music’s head of global consumer marketing, Bozoma Saint John, who was ranked No.1. Before she spoke, she received warm words from Lady Gaga via video.

Madonna’s successful year included her top-grossing Rebel Heart Tour, which sold more than one million tickets.

“To the doubters, the naysayers, to everyone who gave me hell and said I could not, that I would not, that I must not, your resistance made me stronger, made me push harder, made me the fighter that I am today, made me the woman that I am today. So thank you,” she said.

“The biggest accomplishment I think was finishing my tour, doing my shows every night. And dealing with the challenges of being a mother. That’s always the challenge for me. Being a good mother, being an artist, getting through it all,” the “Material Girl” singer told reporters on the New York red carpet.

Madonna, 58, who has four children, in March completed her 82-show “Rebel Heart” world tour while embroiled in a legal battle over the custody of her 16 year-old son Rocco with ex-husband Guy Ritchie.

Rocco left Madonna during the tour to live with Ritchie in London. The dispute was settled in September.

The Rolling Stones on Friday scored their first British number one album in over 20 years, a day after frontman Mick Jagger became a father for the eighth time, aged 73.

“Blue & Lonesome”, a tribute to the blues legends who inspired the iconic British band, sold 106,000 copies, making it the second-highest opening-week sales for an album in 2016, behind David Bowie’s “Blackstar”.

“We are absolutely delighted with the success of ‘Blue & Lonesome’ in the UK and around the world,” said the band, according to the Official Charts Company.

It is the band’s first album to feature only cover songs, drawn exclusively from the 1950s blues scene of Chicago.

“This album is a homage to our favourites, people that kicked us off in playing music, that was the reason we started a band,” charismatic singer Jagger said.

Songs by Little Walter, Eddie Taylor, Howlin’ Wolf, Magic Sam, Jimmy Reed and Willie Dixon all feature on the record.

Completing the full circle, the band recorded the album at the British Grove Studios, close to the west London pubs where they honed their all-conquering sound in the early 1960s.

The band’s last studio album to score a home number one was 1994’s “Voodoo Lounge”, although a re-release of their 1972 “Exile on Main St” became number one in 2010.

Their “Bridges to Babylon” (1997) reached number six and 2005’s “A Bigger Bang” peaked at number two.

It is their 10th chart-topping studio album in Britain, the first coming in 1964 with their eponymous debut.

Jagger was already celebrating after his 29-year-old ballerina partner Melanie Hamrick gave birth to a son in New York on Thursday.


Madness, “Can’t Touch Us Now” (UMe)

“Can’t Touch Us Now” is an invitation into the Madness carnival of sounds, brimming with intriguing, colorful characters.

One of the most British of bands and some energetic concert performers, Madness bring the goods in familiarly entertaining fashion, sustaining the strong resurgence on their third album since 2009.

Having long expanded from their ska-punk beginnings, the band is deft in a wide array of styles and rhythms, blending pop, soul and reggae. The lyrics carry plenty of whimsy and nostalgia and if the tunes drag a bit here and there, there’s enough energy to feed the festivities.

Songwriting duties of the 16 tracks are spread out among the band, now a sextet after the departure of Chas Smash.

Lead singer Suggs contributes touching portraits of Amy Winehouse (“the voice of fallen angels”) on “Blackbird” and of a legendary West End homeless woman on “Pam The Hawk,” whose “toothless smile laughs like a machine gun” as she pours her coins in slot machines.

The album’s first single was “Mr. Apples,” a less sympathetic but wholly believable depiction of a wholesome citizen by day who spends his nights on the wrong side of town.

“Herbert” is a terrified ode to a prospective father-in-law who happens to be a preacher and has a shotgun to make sure his daughter is honored correctly. The Ian Dury-like rhymes (hotelier/derriere, Herbert/sherbet) amplify the fun.


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