'I Rise': Madonna gives nod to Stonewall rebellion with new song

Madonna’s new studio album, “Madame X,” debuts globally on June 14.
Madonna performs at the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas
Madonna performs at the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas on May 1, 2019.Mario Anzuoni / Reuters
By Alexander Kacala

Madonna today released the empowering ballad “I Rise,” the second track of five songs to be released before her new studio album, “Madame X,” debuts globally on June 14.

“I wrote ‘I Rise’ as a way of giving a voice to all marginalized people who feel they don’t have the opportunity to speak their mind,” Madonna said in a statement. “This year is the 50th anniversary of pride and I hope this song encourages all individuals to be who they are, to speak their minds and to love themselves.”

On New Year’s Eve, Madonna made a surprise appearance at New York City’s Stonewall Inn, the site of the 1969 Stonewall rebellion, which is widely considered the spark that ignited the modern-day gay rights movement.

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“I stand here proudly at the place where pride began, the legendary Stonewall Inn, on the birth of a new year,” she said in a speech at the iconic West Village gay bar. “We come together tonight to celebrate 50 years of revolution, 50 years of freedom fighting, 50 years of blood, sweat, and tears. Can I get an amen?”

“Let us never forget the Stonewall riots and those who bravely stood up and said, ‘enough,’” she continued. “Our brothers and sisters before us weren’t free to celebrate like we are tonight, and we must never forget that. Stonewall has become a critical turning point in history, catapulting LGBTQ rights into public conversation, and awakening gay activism.”

The “I Rise” intro features a sample of Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor and gun control activist Emma Gonzalez's signature exhortation, "They say us kids don't know what we're talking about, that we're too young to understand how the government works. We call BS!"

GLAAD, a national LGBTQ media advocacy organization, will honor Madonna in New York on Saturday with its Advocate for Change Award at the 30th annual GLAAD Media Awards ceremony. Madonna is the second person — behind only Bill Clinton — and first woman to ever receive the recognition.

“Madonna always has and always will be the LGBTQ community’s greatest ally, and it is only fitting to honor and celebrate our biggest advocate at GLAAD’s biggest event ever,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement shared with NBC News. “From the HIV crisis to international LGBTQ issues, she fearlessly pushes for a world where LGBTQ people are accepted. Her music and art have been life-saving outlets for LGBTQ people over the years, and her affirming words and actions have changed countless hearts and minds.”

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