Monday, October 06, 2008


From the New York Times courtesy of the Huffington Post Newswire:

Aerobic, Not Erotic: The Concert as Workout

At 50, Madonna can no longer be seen as a clubland ingĂ©nue, a Hollywood glamour queen, an iconoclast rejecting a Roman Catholic upbringing or a kinky provocateur, and she won’t be any kind of dowager yet. Time has brought out her core: careerist ambition and a combative tenacity.

Has there ever been a colder pop sex symbol? For all the invitations in her lyrics, Madonna has always projected more calculation and industriousness than affection. She works; her audience looks and pays, becoming another conquest.


Madonna turned to messages: a save-the-world video that torpedoed its good intentions with overkill, juxtaposing John McCain with Hitler and Barack Obama with Gandhi. Although her outfit and a mop-with-bangs wig made her look like a bad 1970s comic-book character, Madonna was close to inspirational in an electrocharged version of “Like a Prayer,” with golden-rule religious teachings projected overhead. She followed it awkwardly, with guitar-slinging rock versions of “Ray of Light” and, returning to earthly things, “Hung Up,” with a feedback finish. She wants punk’s old rebel credibility.

More here.

Okay, when I say she sucks, I mean only by the standard she set for herself back in the day. That is, she still manages to release a pretty good song or two every few years. As a pop singer, I'd say that Madonna is okay. But she's just another pop singer, divorced these days from the sense of cultural significance she exuded for about a decade or so, from, say, 1982-1992.

I've ranted about this at length here on more than one occasion. Madonna obviously jumped the shark long ago, yet like a zombie she's still there, still touring and releasing records, still important fodder for the gossip trade, still ripping off zombie fans of their hard earned cash. But who's really into her lately? I mean, it's been a long time since one could honestly assert that she has any real cultural significance. It's really hard for me to get past the feeling that what she's got going now is simply a more media-savvy version of the slow fade into obscurity suffered by the baby boomer performers who've preceded her, you know, the Beach Boys and their ilk.

One thing that's become utterly clear to me since my last rant about Madonna is that she never really understood exactly why she was important back in the 80s. Here's my take. Her personality - hard working, greedy and ambitious, controlling, sexually aggressive, New York hip, spiritually confused, angry - was absolutely perfect for the post liberal, post hippie Reagan era. I mean, Madonna is cocaine. All euphoria, but totally self-involved. How could she not have become a superstar in the 1980s? But the 80s ended, and Madonna stayed the same. I mean, sure, she toyed with different musical styles, changed her outfits, but what she was about always stayed the same. There has never been any sense of self-understanding, which is why she has never been able to take the ideas that launched her to cultural prominence and expand upon them, or examine them, or move them toward new or different ideas.

Greed was all the rage back in '82 when "Borderline" first hit the charts, but what does greed mean now? How does the Material Girl fit into an America where such right-wing cultural values are being shredded by reality as we watch on television? Madonna has never understood herself, and that's completely evident today.

It's also why she is totally irrelevant.

What the fuck does she think she's doing? She can't even play guitar.
Chang W. Lee/The New York Times