There was a moment during Smirnoff's Nightlife Exchange Project Saturday night, at New York's Roseland Ballroom, where it looked as if Madonna just might officially premiere her new single. Since the leak of "Give Me All Your Love" last week, speculation had been rampant that the singer would perform at the event after announcing the winner of a Smirnoff-sponsored contest to find her next dancer.
About an hour after crowning the winner of the competition (Memphis' Lil Buck), just as the clock neared 2 a.m., Madonna hopped into the DJ booth with the single's producer Martin Solveig, grabbed a microphone and began the "L-U-V!" cheer from the song's intro. The crowd happily roared back, "Madonna!" Solveig quickly joined in, cheering "Y-O-U!" and eliciting the appropriate "You wanna?" response. But much to the crowd's chagrin, that was as close as Madonna came to acknowledging the new single, with Solveig switching back to a playlist that included his own single "Hello" with Dragonette, Cassius' "Toop Toop," Benny Benassi's "Satisfaction" and Madonna faves like "Ray of Light" and "Hung Up."
Madonna took to the DJ booth with Martin Solveig to lead the crowd in sing-alongs to her hits "Hung Up" and "Ray of Light" as well as a quick chant from her recently leaked single "Give Me All Your Love." (PhotoL Andrew Hampp)
Earlier in the night, Madonna watched the contest's 11 finalists compete from an adjacent stage where she was joined by guests like manager Guy Oseary, publicist Liz Rosenberg, daughter Lourdes Ciccone and an assortment of choregraphers. Celeb guests spotted in the crowd and on the red carpet include Natasha Bedingfield, "Project Runway" winner Christian Siriano, drag queen Lady Bunny and transgender performer Amanda Lepore. After selecting Lil Buck, all 11 dancers joined her on the stage for a freestyle group dance while Solveig spun N.E.R.D.'s "Hot N Fun," Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks" and The Jets' "Crush On You."
Madonna's appearance was the final act in a global series of Smirnoff Nightlife Exchange events held in 18 countries on Saturday. Other parties included a London event with Basement Jaxx, Toddla T and Ms. Dynamite; a Norway event starring Kelis and a Berlin event with CSS, Mixhell and 90s dance act Snap! According to a Smirnoff press release, Saturday's Nightlife Exchange Project accumulated over 200 hours of music, 117,000 specialty cocktails, 3,000 tracks, over 5,000 "likes" for Smirnoff on Facebook and over 8,000 photos posted to Facebook via RFID bracelets across the globe.
Madonna dances with the winner of the night's competition, Lil Buck. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage for Smirnoff)
The whole project was derived from one of Smirnoff's brand taglines, "Be there," as Michelle Klein, Smirnoff's VP of global marketing, content and communications, told Billboard.biz. "It's about inspiring people to get out and have more extraordinary experience in their nightlife. So we thought a way to make it memorable was to make consumers go to one place."
The global approach applied to Madonna's dance contest as well, which was narrowed down to 11 finalists hailing from the Netherlands, Japan, Belgium, the U.K. and the U.S. Klein says the contest drew thousands of entries, with over 100,000 ideas for the Nightlife Exchange events submitted through Smirnoff's Facebook page and Smirnoff.com. "To be able to have this conversation around dance and nightlife is quite refreshing," she says.
Neither Klein nor Live Nation, the event's producer, could confirm official plans for Madonna's next tour, though Lil Buck is expected to join her dance crew on the eventual dates. Klein also declined comment on Smirnoff's plans to be affiliated with the tour, though the brand's parent company Diageo recently linked with Live Nation for a multi-deal that will eventually include other products.
Madonna with dancers from the Smirnoff Nightlife Exchange Project. (L-R) Princess Lockaroo, Lil Buck, Madonna, Skorpian, Maya Chino, Choreographer Shay Normann (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage for Smirnoff)
The Smirnoff deal is a unique one for Madonna, who in recent years has lent her name to upscale fashion brands but rarely consumer goods or liquor brands. "I've had many ideas I've presented to and she's so clear in what she wants," says Christopher Swope, Live Nation's senior VP of strategic alliances and innovation. "A big catalyst was looking at what's the brand trying to achieve, and what's Madonna looking to achieve as well? Ultimately it came down to celebrating dance culture, and looking to exchange many elements of culture from dance and other things people do in terms of nightlife experience. On Madonna's side of things, she's always looking for inspiration but also celebrating what dance is all about."