Sir Elton John turned 70 years young over the weekend, and like everything the flamboyant singer has done throughout his career, the event was anything but subdued
. He had an endless list of A-list talent only matched by an awards ceremony filling the guest list, plus a "Happy Birthday" rendition led by none other than Stevie Wonder and Lady Gaga. It seemed that all of Celebrityville came out to wish the Rocket Man a happy seven decades, but you can almost guarantee there was at least one person who wasn't invited: The 1980s superstar, the Vogue-ing Queen of Pop herself, Madonna
. What, you might be wondering, does Madonna have anything to do with Elton? These are two stars of both different decades and different genres, both have more than respectable track records of hits and accolades, and both were even friends at one point in time. However, most fans know the pair of divas for one specific thing: The long and bitter feud that came seemingly out of nowhere and lasted for the better part of a decade.
While the two stars are known for their big stage personas and even bigger offstage personalities, Elton in particular has always been known to be, shall we say...a dramatic
type. Take his 1997 documentary Elton John: Tantrums and Tiaras
, directed by his now-husband David Furnish, which lived up exactly to its name and gave us some of the greatest curse-filled hissy fits ever captured on celluloid. There's some great candid footage of Elton at work in the studio and playing to millions of people on tour, but there's mostly some hilariously petty and diva behavior, from refusing to do a music video to vowing to "never play tennis ever again." As the film proved, and according to Elton himself, he has a tendency to pick fights with people, and that's exactly what happened when he set his targets on the female pop icon.
It all started in 2002, when Madge recorded the title track for the then-latest James Bond film, Die Another Day
. At the time, the song received a mixed reception from critics and fans at best, and it didn't help it was attached to the Bond movie that killed the franchise for the next 5 years. Elton particularly didn't hold back, calling it the "worst Bond tune ever," though it honestly didn't create that much of a stir being that the majority of listeners agreed with him. The beef only really took off two years later, when Elton used his acceptance speech at the 2004 Q Awards to give Madonna, who was also nominated that night, a brutal lashing of words. "Madonna, best live act? Fuck off!" he infamously exclaimed, "Since when has lip-syncing been live? Sorry about that, but I think everyone who lip-syncs on stage in public when you pay like 75 quid to see them should be shot. Thank you very much."
Clearly, Elton is not a fan of faking it onstage, so he immediately took offense to the Material Girl's elaborate stage shows that allegedly included lip-synching. He was still very much not a fan in 2012, where he gave Madonna some, for lack of a better description, goddamn bitchy advice for her Super Bowl halftime performance: "Make sure you lip-synch good." In retaliation, Madonna took a less direct response to Elton's antics, instead picking a fight with his close friend Lady Gaga, calling the singer's hit "Born This Way" "reductive" and a rip-off of "Express Yourself." Things really came to a head at that year's Golden Globes, where both artists were both up for Best Song in a Motion Picture. At the red carpet, Elton confidently told NBC's Carson Daly that Madge "didn't stand a fucking chance," which made things all the more tense when she won the Best Song award. Madonna didn't use her speech to cut heads, instead taking the usual route of gracious "thank you's," but for four amazing seconds, the good people watching at home got to see Elton absolutely fuming in his seat.
As if things couldn't get pettier, David Furnish defended his husband after the Globes, saying, "Madonna winning Best Original Song truly shows how these awards have nothing to do with merit. Her acceptance speech was embarrassing in its narcissism." In spite of the rising tide of drama, Madonna actually kept her cool amazingly well, responding to a question about her and Elton with simply, "He's known to get mad at me. He'll win another award." Soon after, Elton held nothing back on the Australian program Sunday Night
, where he called her 2012 world tour "a disaster," called her out for being "so horrible to [Lady] Gaga," and most infamously of all, called here "a fucking fairground stripper."
Damn...so that was a bit much, wasn't it? It was that last remark that really made people go from merrily enjoying celeb drama to actually wincing from the verbal brutality. These were hard years to be an Elton and Madonna fan at the same time, but luckily things turned around in the artists relationship by the next year, when Elton went on The Graham Norton Show
and said that the feud between him and Madge was over. He essentially realized that he was being a bit of an unnecessary prick, so when he ran into Madonna at a French restaurant, he sent a note to her table saying, "You'll probably never speak to me again but I am really sorry and ashamed of myself and can I buy you dinner." That was enough of an apology for Madonna, who was more than happy to move on, and the pair has been cordial ever since (though Elton comically warned, "I can't say it won't happen again, but not with Madonna!")
So there you have it, a brief history of one of the weirdest feuds in music history. On paper, you'd think the two pop icons would get along, especially when Elton and Gaga, a self-proclaimed Madonna super fan herself, are extremely close friends. But whatever the reason, it's nice to see Elton humbly own up to the error of his ways instead of dragging it out for another 10 years. Madonna, meanwhile, is still doing what she does best, creating controversy and pissing people off, but at least she isn't pissing off Elton anymore. It's hard to say who was in the right in this feud, probably neither to be honest, but it least one thing's for sure: It was weird, it was wonderful, and it was so, so amazingly petty.