With a theme like “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” there was really only one person who could take the stage at the Met Gala: the one and only Madonna. More than 30 years after she first angered the Catholic Church by writhing around onstage at the 1984 MTV VMAs while wearing a pile of crosses and rosaries over a pristine white wedding dress, Madge continued her career’s work of melding religious iconography, high fashion, and pure entertainment.
In videos shared by Vogue and other Met Gala attendees, Madonna appeared at the top of a staircase in a brown hooded robe, surrounded by other hooded “monks” singing Gregorian-esque chants. As the chanting continued, Madonna slowly lifted her hood, revealing her face, and launched into a slowed-down version of her 1989 classic “Like a Prayer.” According to one of her backup singers, Donald Meineke, the monk-like figures chanted “Like a Prayer” in Latin throughout the performance, as Madonna made her way down the stairs and the music picked up.
Midway down, she stopped and removed her robe to reveal an angelic white dress underneath. As Madonna and a small group of dancers also clad in white had a choreographed struggle across the staircase, she performed a new song that included lyrics like “It’s a beautiful plan, but I’m not concerned / It’s a beautiful game that I never learned / You have taught me to shut my mouth, better not get burned / Keep your beautiful lies, cause I’m not concerned.” According to Genius, Meineke also revealed that the song is called “Beautiful Game” and will be on Madonna’s upcoming 14th studio album.
Finally, Madonna sat on the stairs to strap on silver armor over her white dress and began to sing a rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” As she sang, she finally made it to the bottom of the stairs, then walked through the crowd before suddenly being lifted into the air, Vogue reports. Decades later, and Madonna is still the high priestess of blurring the line between religion and entertainment.
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Madonna at the Met Gala: See the Star’s Most Outrageous Red Carpet Looks
Madonna in Versace at the “Gianni Versace” Costume Institute Benefit Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on December 8, 1997. Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage.
Madonna in Louis Vuitton at “The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion” Costume Institute Gala at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 4, 2009 in New York City. Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage.
Madonna in Stella McCartney at the “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” Costume Institute Gala at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 2, 2011 in New York City. Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/FilmMagic.
Madonna in Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci at the Costume Institute Gala for the “PUNK: Chaos to Couture” exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 6, 2013 in New York City. Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images
Madonna in Moschino at the “China: Through The Looking Glass” Costume Institute Benefit Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 4, 2015 in New York City. Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images.
Jeremy Scott and Madonna in Moschino.
Madonna in Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci at the “Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology” Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 2, 2016 in New York City. Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images.
Madonna wears Moschino at the “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art Of The In-Between” Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 1, 2017 in New York City.
Madonna attends the Heavenly Bodies: Fashion & The Catholic Imagination Costume Institute Gala at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 7, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)