How Madonna is using younger stars to cling to relevancy

Madonna is still fulfilling her blond ambition.

The 60-year-old singer’s calculated moves were fully on display in February, at the annual ultra-exclusive Oscars party she hosts with her manager, Guy Oseary. In one of the very few photos released from the bash, she is seen curled up to Lady Gaga — who had just won Best Song for “Shallow” and whom Madonna is rumored to have been jealously feuding with for years, even saying the younger star had ripped her off..

A source close to Madonna (known to her friends as “M”) insisted, “She wanted to support Gaga on her win, on her big night.”

But a music insider said it wasn’t as simple as all that. “It was just for show. She is Madonna after all — and Madonna never changes. She loves to be the center of attention and have everyone talking about her.”

Thirty years after she released her “Like A Prayer” album — with a title-track video that created one of the singer’s most controversial moments ever — the star still knows how to maximize her moment in the spotlight.

As Madonna prepares for the release of her first album in four years (most likely in May or June), The Post has confirmed that she’ll perform at Eurovision — the beloved and over-the-top song competition among ­European countries — in Tel Aviv in May. The plan is to roll out some of her greatest hits and unveil new songs.

She’s also smartly cozying up to younger stars, like Gaga, who can help draw eyes her way.

The new album will include a collaboration with reggaeton singer Maluma — the 25-year-old Colombian heartthrob who has 40.3 million Instagram followers to Madonna’s 13.2 million. Maluma has already posted a flirtatious photo of the two on his account.

It’s all part of the master manipulator’s master plan to keep herself front and center in the cultural conversation. After an extended timeout as a self-described “soccer mom” — living with her family in Lisbon, Portugal, where 13-year-old son David trains for the sport — sources say Madonna is eager to be back on stage.

After all, it’s a second home for the woman who was once the biggest trendsetter and provocateur in global pop culture.

“She was super big, then it all went a bit off the rails, she got a bit kooky, people started to lose a bit of interest,” said a music executive who has worked with the singer. “You don’t real­ly hear people talk about her that much anymore, whereas everyone wants to know if Ariana Grande has crossed the street or had a milkshake.”

But some insiders think that Madonna — who has already been in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for more than a decade — shouldn’t feel compelled to even be in the same league as current chart-toppers such as Grande.

“She’s one of the greats — and there aren’t that many of them left,” said the music executive. “She’s up there with the biggest stars in the world that you want to see perform before you die.”

Madonna during the VMA's Aretha Franklin tribute.
Madonna during the VMA’s Aretha Franklin tribute.WireImage

Madonna’s latest music-world comeback started last August, when she appeared at the MTV VMAs to pay tribute to the late Aretha Franklin. But it turned into a disaster with a speech that only fleetingly made reference to Franklin and instead focused more on her own start in music.

(“I did not intend to do a tribute to [Franklin]!” Madonna later posted on Instagram. “That would be impossible in 2 minutes with all the noise and tinsel of an award show.”)

By the end of the year, however, the firebrand was back on her game when she made a surprise New Year’s Eve appearance — performing “Like a Prayer” and an ­Elvis Presley song, accompanied by son David — at Stonewall Inn in the Village. As photos taken in profile show, the star’s backside was eye-poppingly Kardashian-esque. The rumor mill immediately flew into a frenzy. Had she actually had butt-enhancement surgery?

According to a friend of the singer, “No one truly in their right mind thinks that Madonna got butt implants!”

Instead, it seems, the star was wearing padding.

Whatever the case, Madonna got what she wanted: people talking.

“Desperately seeking no ones approval . . . and entitled to free agency over my body like everyone else,” she posted on Instagram the next day. “Thank you 2019! Its going to be an amazing year.”

Indeed.

Her new album guest-stars Orquestra Batukadeiras PT, an all-female orchestra from ­Portugal, as well as some of the biggest names in that country’s Fado genre. To promote the record, Madonna will soon be announcing a world tour.

And this June, she’ll be taking part in the World Pride celebrations in NYC, honoring the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn ­riots, and she’ll accept the Advocate for Change Award at the 30th Annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York on May 4.

On the family front, she’s got a lot on her plate as well. Last year, she moved her brood to a $9 million 18th-century Moorish Revival mansion in Lisbon so they can be close to David, who plays soccer at the city’s Benfica soccer academy.

“I’ve been desperate to get him into the best academies with the best coaches, but the level of football in America is much lower than the rest of the world,” she told Vogue Italia of the move.

The singer’s eldest, 22-year-old daughter Lourdes Leon — who while a student at LaGuardia High School on the Upper West Side dated classmate and now Oscar-nominated actor Timothée Chalamet — is believed to have recently graduated from Madonna’s own alma mater, the University of Michigan.

While it’s unknown what career path Lourdes (known to her friends as Lola) will take, she appears in the spring 2019 ad campaign for clothing line Miu Miu, alongside young actresses Zazie Beetz and Maya Hawke (herself the daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke).

Madonna, Rocco Ritchie and Guy RitchieGetty Images (Composite)

Meanwhile, a source said Madonna’s relationship with son Rocco, now 18, is in a much better place. He was the focus of a bitter 2016 custody battle with her ex-husband, movie director Guy Ritchie, that, as The Post reported at the time, led to the boy refusing to spend the holidays with his mother in New York City. Now the teen lives in London but is extremely close to his siblings and was pictured with them in a family photo taken last year in Malawi (the birth home of her adopted children David, Mercy James, 13, and 6-year-old twins Estere and Stella).

“A lot of people say to me, ‘You must really want your son to be a successful soccer player, your oldest daughter [Lourdes] to be a dancer, Rocco to be a painter,’ ” the singer told Vogue Italia. “And I always say no, what I want my children to be is loving, compassionate, responsible human beings.”

“Madonna’s a single mom, she has six children and four homes to juggle and she does the best she can,” said the friend of the singer. “She’s committed to her children.”

As for her dating life, Madonna has seen a string of younger men since splitting with Ritchie in 2008 — a divorce that cost her a reported $92 million. She dated her backup dancer Brahim Zaibat from 2010 to 2013, later suggesting she broke it off because her ex-trainer ­Nicole Winhoffer had bedded him. At a concert in the Philippines in 2016, she said: “Once I had a Filipino trainer — this beautiful girl . . . But she f–ked my boyfriend, so I fired her.”

Then there was model Aboubakar Soumahoro, who spent a year living with Madonna and family at her ­Upper East Side mansion. They ended things in 2017 because, as a source told Page Six, things had become fraught during her custody battle with Guy.

She has most recently been linked to model Kevin Sampaio, who appeared in her “Bitch, I’m Madonna” video in 2015, and who is 30 years her junior.

In 2018, Madonna told The Cut of people who judge her relationships, “What I am going through now is ageism, with people putting me down or giving me a hard time because I date younger men or do things that are considered to be only the domain of younger women.”

And even as she is competing with younger women for public attention and record sales, she’s also embracing — and, smartly — supporting them.

She featured on Grande’s “God is a Woman” and the 25-year-old hitmaker has cited Madonna as an inspiration and mentor.

Perhaps one thing the icon has taught the young star: Don’t be afraid to remind everyone of your power.

Earlier this month, Madonna posted on her Instagram: “30 years ago today I released Like a Prayer and made a video that caused so much controversy because I kissed a black saint and danced in front of burning crosses. I also made a commercial with Pepsi that was banned because my video was seen as inappropriate. Happy Birthday to Me and Controversy!”


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