I can’t stand Madonna.
Madonna the expert player of the media? Forget Madonna, I’m over Lady Gaga, and I’m bored with whatever comes next. Whoever it is. Already.
Her “signficant artist” phase? Her coffee-table photo book “Sex” got all those pretensions sent back to the clubs pronto.
The original Madonna, of “Holiday” and “Like a Virgin” fame? She came out during my too-good-for-dance-club music phase, and oozed “manufactured pop treacle” to me.
Nope. Don’t much care about Madonna.
Now about that “manufactured pop treacle” thing; that doesn’t necessarily disqualify music for me. I’ve said it before; I appreciate music on two levels:
- Does the technique involved in playing or producing the music make me go “yeah, someone’s got some chops?” Even if I don’t care for the song itself, I can nod my head and go “Yeah” for technical merit; Yngwie Malmsteen and Mariah Carey leave me equally cold, but yet their technique on guitar and voice respectively have gotta make a musician go “boom”.
- Does the song grab me in the liver and say “there is something important here”?
Madonna has done either of the two – according to me, and when it comes to music it’s the only standard I really care about – so rarely it barely deserves mention.
Well, OK – with two exceptions:
All About The Technique: You can listen to “Ray of Light” – Madonna’s nod to the techno boom
about ten years back from, yow, 1998 (!) – and think “It’s just a bunch of semiconductors that’ve been programmed to fire off in the right order”.
And you’d be right. But all of that programming led to one of the most perfect bits of dance-pop ever.
To which I say “kudos to the artist”. In this case, the “artist” is British dance-pop producer William Orbit, who recorded the song (and the entire album) without any actual live band instruments. It’s a technically ingenious record, and it makes even me wanna dance.
And that says something.
The Liver: But the music I really care about is the stuff that grabs me somewhere south of the frontal cerebral cortex and says “listen up – there’s something in here that’s perilously close to The Truth”.
What truth? Whose truth? I don’t know – but “Oh Father”, from 1989, grabbed me anyway:
There’s a story there – but you don’t have to know the story (as, indeed, I didn’t until 20 solid years after the song came out) to have something somewhere just north of your medulla go “hang on here…”.
And that’s just what that something did.
Would I cross the street to see a Madonna concert? No – and the way her last album seems to have tanked, neither it seems would an awful lot of people.
But while I can take and mostly leave most all of Madonna’s discography, those two songs occupy precious space on my phone, for that very reason.