It’s Madonna, bitch!
On Friday, the queen of pop took a stab at covering one of the princess of pop’s most iconic songs, posting a haunting cover of Britney Spears‘ 2003 hit “Toxic” to social media.
The cover was in honor of World AIDS Day, and came attached with a message to Madonna’s followers to stay active about the cause. “Silence = Death,” the mother of six wrote, adding the hashtag “#poisonparadise.”
It was also a birthday wish to Spears, who turns 36 Saturday. “Happy birthday,” Madonna, 59, wrote on Instagram, tagging Spears.
Of course, Madonna and Spears have had a few memorable moments together before. The two collaborated together on the 2003 tune “Me Against the Music” — which, like “Toxic,” appeared on Spears’ album In the Zone.
There was also that kiss at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards. As fans remember, it happened during the show’s opening medley after Spears and Christina Aguilera covered Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” and during their take on the Material Girl’s song “Hollywood.” Madonna dressed as a groom and kissed the two young pop stars (who were dressed as brides), giving the VMAs its most-talked about moment of all time.
But as fun as the Madonna-Spears connection is, Friday’s cover was really about bringing awareness to the AIDS crisis — a cause very close to Madonna heart.
The star was one of the first activists during the 1980s to tackle the HIV and AIDS crisis.
“When the AIDS epidemic first came to New York and I was living on the Lower East Side, my best friend was HIV-positive,” Madonna recalled to PEOPLE in September. “I went to St. Vincent’s hospital because I saw that the gay community was being marginalized in a crazy way that I’d never experienced before. I remember going into the AIDS ward with rows of beds, emaciated people, the smell of death. And just feeling a sense of responsibility and compassion, thinking: ‘How can I help these people, how can I love these people, how can I make them feel better?’ Because everyone was casting them aside and not wanting to touch them.”
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“I felt like there was another, deeper meaning and reason to be there — to, again, come to the service of people who have been marginalized by a disease that nobody wanted to talk about in Africa,” she said. “The spread of HIV is so prevalent there because nobody is talking about sex or practicing safe sex — those things are taboo. It was just shocking: ‘This is happening again?”