Madonna took the stage Saturday at the 64th Eurovision Song Contest held in Tel Aviv, Israel, and opened her set with a performance of her hit song Like A Prayer from her fourth studio album of the same name released in 1989.
The 60-year-old pop star was costumed in a black outfit with an eye patch over one eye, while her backup dancers were dressed in monk robes and some wore gas masks. Migos’ Quavo later joined Madonna on stage to perform the song Future from her album Madame X.
Future was released as a promotional single on May 17.
WAKE UP #Eurovision #Madonna pic.twitter.com/duHivZ92ZM
— MadonnaTribe (@madonnatribe) May 18, 2019
The gas masks certainly raised eyebrows, while during the performance two of the dancers turned to display Palestinian and Israeli flag on their backs.
Many fans were taken aback by both the gas masks and national flags, which were interpreted as an effort to send a political message that Israelis and Palestinians should resolve their differences, despite the fact that organizers have always insisted that Eurovision is a non-political event.
So Madonna thought that gas masks were a good idea in Israel? #Eurovision pic.twitter.com/G9Jti8sJKv
— Jess (@Jess_Lock) May 18, 2019
I COULD NOT BE MORE UNCOMFORTABLE? GAS MASKS? pic.twitter.com/xUc6ELBm5C
— 紫織?? (@LadyJenevia) May 18, 2019
GASMASKS IN ISREAL??????????
— QQ, (@QuQuel01) May 18, 2019
Shout-out to #Madonna’s choreographer; gas masks for the backing dancers, behind flames… in Israel for #Eurovision. Such insensitive programming. pic.twitter.com/KesxxCk2Oo
— James Fleury (@JamesFleury91) May 18, 2019
gasmasks, AND FLOWERS… ??#ESC19 pic.twitter.com/TSCDDpziFq
— Kim Hu @home 24/7 (@elbowrocket) May 18, 2019
The organizers later said Madonna did not obtain approval for the political messaging that involved displaying Palestinian and Israeli flags on the backs of her dancers.
“In the live broadcast of the Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final, two of Madonna’s dancers briefly displayed the Israeli and Palestinian flags on the back of their outfits,” Eurovision said in a statement. “This element of the performance was not part of the rehearsals which had been cleared with the EBU and the host broadcaster, KAN.”
“The Eurovision Song Contest is a non-political event and Madonna had been made aware of this,” the statement concluded.
Many fans and critics were not impressed with Madonna’s performance and many took to social media to comment that her voice was off-key.
Is Madonna ill? I've never heard her sound this bad. #Eurovision
— Steven Townley (@boardsilly) May 18, 2019
That was an aweful performance. We keep getting told that this show is not political but it is by 100%
— Rachel Fieldhouse (@Siamese_mad) May 19, 2019
It's scary to think how much Israel paid Madonna to sing completely out of tune. What a time to be alive #Eurovision
— Matt Dunkley-Roberts (@mdunkers) May 18, 2019
Don't want to be the feeder of conspiracy theories, but I reckon there was a little bit of auto-tune in the Madonna performance. #eurovision
— Oblong (@oblong) May 18, 2019
Madonna would not have made it through to the finals ? #Eurovision
— Rebecca A. L. (@rebecca_a_l) May 18, 2019
Madonna not only lost her singing voice but she’s lost an eye too
— Banko (@Banko24456619) May 19, 2019
Madonna’s vocals looking for the right key #eurovision pic.twitter.com/4jyMSJrBzF
— Sam Yung (@samjoeyung) May 18, 2019
Before her performance the show’s host asked Madonna whether she intended to use her set to send a message. Madonna responded to the question with a comment about the power of music to bring people together.