Madonna did what she does best Thursday night on the Tonight Show. Not singing, not dancing, but giving people something to argue about. How a person feels about her quoting writer and activist James Baldwin is likely to be how that person feels about Madonna altogether. "Artists are here to disturb the peace," she told host Jimmy Fallon. And then she did, a little bit. Just a little. A bleeped word here, a chaste flash of bottom there, a slow, careful sprawl across Fallon's desk along the way.
Madonna, whom we're culturally obliged to call the Material Girl at least once, has made a living as a flashpoint for discussion, so it was basically expected that she would flash the audience. She also has a long history of disturbing the peace on late-night talk shows, most famously perhaps in a 1994 appearance on the Late Show With David Letterman, when she swore in the interview and Letterman finally asked, "You realize this is being broadcast, don't you?" Fallon didn’t have Letterman’s chill and squeaked out a panicked giggle, said "stop it!" several times, and draped his jacket over her rear.
She was on the show to promote her Madame X concert movie on Paramount+, debuting Friday, per Stereogum, and she did manage to talk about it a little bit. That's why she quoted Baldwin, and implied Fallon had never heard of the writer in a funny, offhand dig. "Have you heard of him? Don't lie," she said. She told Fallon that she didn't make any money on the movie, suggesting she did it just to shake things up. Before she came out, Fallon told the audience, "Madonna's been on the show many times and she never does anything that we plan," per the Today show.
Depending on how you feel about seeing Madonna's clothed rear end, the most shocking revelation in the interview could have been her announcing one of her biggest regrets is that she turned down a bit part in the Matrix. Or it could have been when she said, "I like opiates." Or maybe when she said she was writing and directing a movie about herself. When the Tonight Show staff posted the video on YouTube, it noted in its initial title that the interview had gone "off the rails," but at 63, the eternally controversial star is a known quantity, and maybe she was right on track. (Read more Madonna stories.)