Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Totally Random: Rethinking Madonna

Some of you may remember a while back that I mentioned my holy trinity (Dolly Parton, Joan Jett, and Björk) and how I was quite upset with Madonna. I had recently seen Madonna on a British talk show where she declared that much of her music's content was decided for her, and that she did not really mean a lot of it, but hoped to sell records with sex and scandal. This bothered me as through the Reagan/Bush era Madonna was the biggest voice against the religious right. She bothered them to no end, yet controlled things enough to remain popular. Many artists went too far fighting the PMRC and other groups, seriously damaging their careers; Ice-T for example with his excellent "Freedom of Speech" album, and the Ice-T fronted Body Count song "Cop Killer." Madonna lived to piss in their cornflakes another day.

I guess it all comes down to getting old and perhaps feeling the world has passed you by. At 51, it is difficult for Madonna to be anything but a mentor type figure. When your first album is twenty-six years old it can be difficult to seem relevant, and sometimes revising your history seems like an option. This is a shame, as Madonna is responsible for some of pop musics most memorable moments. Starting with her performance of "Like a Virgin" on the VMAs, she became an important part of the Video Music Awards, and often the most talked-about performer. The video for "Like a Prayer" garnered more unnecessary religious ire than most any video and lost her an endorsement from Pepsi... Then her Sex book, Truth or Dare "documentary," and the "Justify My Love" video caused a huge stir. The last really outrageous thing I have seen from her is the video for "What It Feels Like for a Girl" (2002) — a highly disturbing and thoroughly entertaining video that was banned by MTV.

There is a lot of talk comparing Lady Gaga to Madonna, and I think it is appropriate. Lady Gaga seems to be bringing Madonna out a bit, much better than the failed attempts to pass her torch to Britney Spears or Christina Aguillera. Lady Gaga is more interested in pushing boundaries and making art than the other two, and is more in the early Madonna mold.

I am going to hope Madonna was being funny about her past, but regardless I am going to give her the credit she is due whether she wants it or not. Her music and persona told us that sex was not dirty, that it was okey to be who you are, and that AIDS was not some sort of divine retribution. She was an important figure during a scary time, and I don't plan on forgetting it.

11 comments:

Shon Richards said...

I feel the same way you do. I fell out of love with Madonna when she started taking back her Sex period. I mean, you inspire us and then tell us it wasn't real? Hush and let us keep our inspiration.

Having said that, I think I am ready reembrace my memory of her too.

Jay Amabile said...

that's one of my fav. pictures of Madonna. I totally see that Lady Gaga is clearly more qualified to take the torch from Madonna but Lady Gaga is too weird even for my taste. Being outlandish for the sake of being outlandish is lame. Gaga is Cyndi Lauper times 50 billion.

Darius Whiteplume said...

@Shon - "...as we forgive those who trespass against us."

@Jay - Give Lady Gaga a chance, she'll surprise you.

MPorcius said...

I thought it was obvious to everybody at this point, so much so that it is cliched to say it, that Madonna has always been just a marketing ploy, that her music and look consisted of jumping on bandwagons in order to sell records.

Not that there is anything wrong with that; some of those Monkees singles are quite good, for example.

Darius Whiteplume said...

@MPorcius - I never doubted that she was selling records, but I always thought she believed what she was saying. The Madonna of old was as much a personality as a performer. Ah, my young naivete! :-)

MPorcius said...

If you want a sincere female vocalist, who believes all the stuff she says and does, consider Sinead O'Connor.

Lorelei said...

Madonna is 10 years older than I am, which is why (I guess) she never really spoke for me. I'm just glad I didn't copy her sense of fashion in the 80's.

Anonymous said...

I've never heard Madonna say any of that, instead just the opposite. Are you sure you're correct. I head a radio interview with her last week and she said she regrets nothing.

Darius Whiteplume said...

@Lorelei - I can appreciate that ;-)

@Anon - It was a BBC talkshow interview from a few years back - Parkinson, IIRC. If I heard wrong, I am glad for it. If she's back peddling, she is forgiven. ;-)

Anonymous said...

what utter nonsense.. madonna never said anything like that.. if anything she controls her music and the record company has to comply with her! if she is indeed bound by her record company then she would have had 20 best off compilations just to cash in.. this rethinking of madonna is completely unfounded but then again if you think that the holy trinity consist of pumped up Dolly, tacky leatherer Jett and crazy Bjork, then you are forgiven

Shon Richards said...

The incredible legions of Madonna supporters bring a tear to my jaded heart.

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