Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Madonna - a fading brand?
In 1985, Madonna's navel ruled the world. That year - which opened with "Like a Virgin" perched at Number One, and would later see "Crazy for You" knock "We Are the World" off the top of the charts...
Coming off her last album, the tepid American Life, the forty-seven-year-old mother of two wants to show that she can still stay up late. Confessions on a Dance Floor won't stand the test of time like her glorious early club hits, but it proves its point. Like Rakim back in the day, Madonna can still move the crowd.
That's what Rolling Stone magazine had to say but I don't have as charitable an assessment. I am a Madonna fan but remain unmoved by this new album.
The 80s had dozens of female singers with catchy tunes going for them - Cyndi Lauper, Belinda Carlisle, Paula Abdul. But Madonna had something more - she had attitude.
Madonna was no musical genius but one thing you could not accuse her of being was a 'me-too'.
Yet, 22 years into her musical career that's exactly what's she's become. The video of 'Hung Up' has the 47 year old prancing around in a neon pink bodysuit - the kind favoured by 16 year old Russian gymnasts.
"Ooh! she's almost 50 and can still look like that?" we're all supposed to gush admiringly. And hopefully, we'll be so busy looking we'll pay less attention to the music. And also forget to notice how much of a tribute to Britney Spears the whole effort is. (remember the 'Slave for You' video - note the many echoes in 'Hung Up')
And the strenuous dance movements? They reminded me of uthak-baithak style punishments at military boot camp...
The thing is, when a 47 year old tries to emulate someone half her age she ends up looking silly. Like a mom desperately trying to be as cool as her 16 year old daughter.
Certainly Madonna should be proud about looking and feeling great, but it's time to style a whole new image, both musically and otherwise.
Because this looks hollow. And fake. So despite amazingly positive reviews and great initial sales, 9 weeks on the album is no 21 on the Billboard charts . In fact, it did not climb beyond no 7.
A musician, after all is the brand. And this brand - in her quest for eternal youth -has abandoned her core customers. The fans who grew up on her music and are not getting any younger themselves.
They want the old Madonna who sang tuneful songs with simple lyrics that one could understand and hum along with. Not some dig-tik-dig-tik-dig-tik interspersed with mumblings. Call it dance or trance or electronica.
And no, looping Abba's "Gimme gimme" into one of songs does not qualify as 'experimental'. It's just being smart and cashing in on a current trend. Although she did have to grovel for it.
Incidentally the 50-something, mother-of-two Sharon Osbourne recently pronounced that Madonna 'dresses like a hooker'. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!