Madonna’s much anticipated performance in conjunction with Barack Obama’s appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon was made more worth the wait by the fact that the pop icon chose an earlier staple from her canon, which is something she’s generally averse to. The selection of “Borderline” from her debut album seems a fitting choice at this point in time, what with the non-stop commentary on her age, vocal abilities and “unworthy” Prince tribute.
A stripped down, modernized version of the hit showcased Madonna in a state of simultaneous confidence and vulnerability. Wearing an Annie Hall/Avril Lavigne-esque ensemble that, of course, included a tie, Madonna seemed to be asserting, once again, the strength she possesses via her masculine sartorial pick. A belt with crucifixes dangling from it capped off the homage to the past as Madonna crooned, “Just try to understand/I’ve given all I can.” This and other extremely apropos lyrics toward her critics of late (and generally for most of her career) served as a subtle way to say: don’t keep pushing my love.
The minimalism of the performance is in keeping with M’s recent aesthetic, perhaps an admission that, yes, she is “of a certain age” where the grandiosity of her style (as present in classic videos like “Express Yourself” and even “Don’t Tell Me”) cannot be conveyed as effortlessly through choreography. So now, she is using something that has often taken a backseat to the visual nature of her work: words. And the words of “Borderline” are telling every one in no minced terms to back the fuck off.