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O Magazine
2015-2017

by Ben Tuthill

The Illuminati
vs. The New World order

Are there any Illuminati deniers out there anymore? The evidence is pretty stacked: that Dan Brown book, a whole lot of Youtube videos, and finally the launch of Tidal, Jay Z’s luxury music-streaming service that roped in basically every A-list music celebrity as an investor. The Carter-Knowles family are the undeniable heads of the New World Order, and the Bitch I’m Madonna video is their latest attempt at world domination.

Bitch I’m Madonna seemed, for a minute, like it was going to be a legitimate Event. The repercussions were going to last for decades; this was going on par with previous Illuminati-funded cataclysms like the Kennedy assassination and the founding of the United States.

What we got, instead, was something of an unmitigated failure. Between obvious problems (streaming issues, lack of actual on-sight cameos, the song really sucks) and less-discussed ones (exploitatively reductive Japanese back-up dancers, wtf is the thing in Madonna’s mouth), Bitch I’m Madonna is at best stupid and at worst painful to watch. It’s Lucky Star if you switch the white background for the Standard and Madonna’s overflowing 1984 star power for Lots Of Famous People. Madonna can’t really dance, she can’t really sing, and she can’t really pull it off on the pure charm of herself anymore. She relies on her back-up crew instead and expects their combined celebrity to pull us through what’s an otherwise unremarkable video.

Madonna’s Illuminati crew wants to convince me that they’re real and that they’re having a good time together and that it would be fun for me if I was their friend and that I should therefore worship them, do their bidding, allow them to harvest my soul, organs, etc. It doesn’t really work; less because I feel excluded and more because I don’t actually want to be there. I don’t want to party with Diplo and Alexander Wang at the Standard, because Diplo is a dick, the Standard is passé, and Alexander Wang’s last five collections sucked.

Madonna is the perfect person to helm this, because Madonna more than anyone is an example of the American Fame Industry sustaining a celebrity solely on the basis of her previously existing fame. Whether you love it or not, pretty much everything that Madonna’s done post-Ray of Light has focused mostly on the fact that she’s Madonna. At least Bitch I’m Madonna revels in that. It spends four minutes luxuriating in its little Illuminati world: I’m famous, you’re famous, all of us will always be famous, and everyone will probably enjoy watching us hang out together because they’re fascinated by us and love to watch us be famous and fascinating.

I don’t think this works anymore. Madonna came of age in a time when celebrity was based on the occasional glimpses you got of someone whose fame you’d otherwise only read about. It was a different kind of celebrity, the kind that people like Michael Jackson, Boy George and Madonna made into an art form. A TV appearance was genuinely exciting, a music video was borderline transcendent. To be a celebrity was to capture those rare moments and own them, to make every second of camera time glisten by the simple virtue of your presence.

Back then, getting two celebrities in the same frame was actually something special. Do They Know It’s Christmas?, We Are The World, the David Bowie/Bing Crosby Little Drummer Boy duet… are still incredible to watch. But celebrity is different now. What used to function on necessary exclusion now functions on constant intimacy. We know our celebrities better than we used to; when two of them show up together acting like they’re friends, they need to actually be friends or we’re not going to believe it (this is why Bad Blood sort of works: at least I know that Taylor and Karlie Kloss spend a lot of time together). When they pull together a Bitch I’m Madonna –hashing up cameos, grinning way too broadly, including Rita Ora– I know that they’re lying. It’s the music industry equivalent of the 2014 Oscar selfie; it feels self-congratulatory and borderline contractual. I don’t buy it for a second. I see it for what it is: a last-ditch effort by the Illuminati to lord their quickly fading power over us increasingly autonomous and critically savvy peons.

The Illuminati is real. The Illuminati has always been real. This used to be genuinely worrisome, but we can rest easy now, because the Illuminati in 2015 is a joke. Whatever alien overlord used to run it back in the day should never have handed the reins over to Jay Z because he’s running it into the ground. They used to build pyramids; now they put out widely-maligned promotional clips on streaming services that don’t work. It was fun while it lasted. But it’s probably for the best.