The Big 5-0

Michael, Madonna and Prince all turned 50 this year! What does that say about us?

Illustration by Mark Stamaty

Prince, Michael Jackson and Madonna. One last name, three big birthdays. The big 5-0. Mike crossed the threshold on August 29. Madonna hit it on August 16, and Prince is the elder of the bunch, having turned 50 on June 7.

Fifty? How did that happen?

To some, 50 is a marvelous milestone; to some it's a time to re-evaluate; to others, it's the beginning of the end. When we see our icons turn 50, we can't help but wonder…which one is it for them? Unlike the millions, the mansions and the fame—turning 50 is something we all can relate to.

Aging, the great equalizer.

But, of course, puzzling over this trifecta of pop royalty dashing over the hill is less about them, really, than it is about us. When one has vivid memories of junior high or high school make-out sessions to "Darling Nikki" and all of sudden Prince is 50, it is only natural to think: "How the hell old am I?" When you can pull out old photographs of you dressed up like Madonna at a seventh grade Halloween Party, and now Madonna is older than your mom was when she took you to that party, it hits you: "Jeez, I'm really getting up there."

But there is comfort in this realization of immortality. As pop stars age, something about them seems more accessible. They are suddenly more like us. Celebrities that we thought had perfect lives and perfect bodies are now…well, a little troubled and wrinkly (or so altered by surgery that they are a little scary). And we love it!

Fifty is an age that, for most people, sparks careful reflection on the successes and failures in their lives. Could this really be so different for the ultra-famous?

Take Madonna. She must look at her 50th birthday with pride at the fact that she is still making it rain on performers half her age. Forget Beyonce. With a new hit tour, Madonna is the still baddest chick in the game.

Transfer that thought to our own lives: We may not have a sold-out tour. But in giving props to the "Material Girl," we can take a moment to look at ourselves and think, "I did good." Reflecting on a life well-lived is a great feeling whether you're a pop star on stage or a mom fixing Pop-tarts in your kitchen.

And what about Prince? As one of the most talented musicians of our time, he is still heralded as royalty and with age he has become sophisticated and mature and, in many ways, more fabulous. His concerts are still the hottest tickets in town, and he has successfully transitioned from the "big freak" of the '80s to the biggest talent of the 20th century.