clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Madonna photoshopped facial bondage on Nelson Mandela to promote her new album

Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

On Friday, Madonna (or someone that she employs) took to Twitter and started tweeting out bizarre images of powerful, historical figures in facial bondage in what was most likely an attempt to promote her album Rebel Heart.

The singer tweeted out pictures of Nelson Mandela:

And Martin Luther King:

And Bob Marley:

Why is Madonna doing this?

There are some things in this world that defy common sense and slip into the sphere of unexplained. We may never know why the spirit moved Madonna to Photoshop and administer face bondage to a revered man like Nelson Mandela, specifically, but we do know (or at least heavily suspect) that it's in order to promote her new album, Rebel Heart.

On the cover art of that album, Madonna's face is similarly strung up:

(Madonna/Rebel Heart)

That's the same pattern that Madonna (or again, someone on her team) imposed on MLK, Mandela, and Marley's faces.

That's sort of disrespectful.

Yeah.  People are upset with the imagery of taking these revered figures and turning them into promotion. There's also quite a lot of people who are upset with the face bondage. But irritating people seems to be Madonna's strategy. On Thursday, she tweeted out a message for the "haters" about having more in store to get them riled up:

In hindsight, it looks like these photos are what Madonna was referring to. To be fair, Madonna has been tweeting out these photo manipulations of famous people for a while:

This is one she did of Jesus:

And one of Salvador Dali:

Frida Kahlo was not immune:

Nor was Homer Simpson:

Is that stringy stuff licorice?

It looks like it. It looks like it could also be electrical cord, a whip, or a half-hearted pipe cleaner project. But Madonna has not revealed what those strings are made out of.

Why is Madonna so hung up on Rebel Heart? Why not another song off the album?

Madonna is in a weird situation. "Rebel Heart", the title track of her album, was leaked last month, and the reception from critics and fans was cold. And in the last few weeks, Madonna (and her team) have been doing damage control. Part of that damage control was releasing six new songs late last month.

"I was hoping to release my new single ‘Living for Love' on Valentine's Day with the rest of the album coming in the spring," Madonna said in a statement on December 20. "I would prefer my fans to hear completed versions of some of the songs, instead of the incomplete tracks that are circulating. Please consider these six songs as an early Christmas gift."

By tweeting these controversial images, she's (or someone on her team) doing a masterful job at changing the conversation. Instead of talking about how bad "Rebel Heart" is, people are now talking about how disrespectful she's being.

Who do you think she'll tweet out next?

No clue. But I am hoping it's Marisa Tomei.

When is her album coming out?

March 10.

So will she keep tweeting images until then?

Quite possibly.

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.