In the world of pop music, women are enjoying a moment of dominance. Beyoncé, with her towering album and short film “Lemonade,” rewrote the playbook (again) in April. Adele’s album “25” has soared since its release about a year ago, selling more than 10 million copies in the United States alone.
The two artists will square off in the top categories at the Grammy Awards in February.
But in a lacerating speech on Friday, Madonna — the highest-grossing female touring artist of all time, who in March wrapped up a tour that took in $170 million — resisted the notion that all was well and fair for women entertainers, particularly as they get older. Accepting a Woman of the Year award at the Billboard Women in Music 2016 event, the 58-year-old musician brought a hush over the crowd as she spoke in deeply personal terms.
In the speech, Madonna said she had faced sexism, misogyny and “constant bullying and relentless abuse” over the more than 30 years of her career. She spoke about being raped on a rooftop with a “knife digging into my throat” when she first moved to New York many years ago, an experience she first discussed publicly in 2013.
She also took pride in her ability to persevere in an industry that she said did not look kindly on older women singers. “People say that I’m so controversial,” she said to the crowd. “But I think the most controversial thing that I’ve done is to stick around.”
In the world of music, she said, “to age is a sin.”
“You will be criticized, you will be vilified, and you will definitely not be played on the radio,” she added. (Beyoncé is 35 years old; Adele is 28.)