Friday, 2 October 2009

Into the groove

I've reposted my text below from FreakyTrigger as I surprised myself by how much I had to say about Madonna in response to her first number one record in the UK.

It is a compelling record – song seems the wrong word for it somehow – one that, like the red shoes, forces you to dance.

As mentioned in previous threads I was working on a summer camp near Toledo, Ohio at the time this was a hit (on both sides of the atlantic) and it was interesting to see how some of my American co-workers – many of whom were dyed-in-the-wool ROCK fans – responded so positively to this – largely because the whole package of image and sound was so compelling – the post-punk attitude and look may well have sugared the pill of what was effectively the disco revival. Her success in the US Pop charts (rather than just in the dance charts) also seemed to allow them to afford her legitimacy.
I don’t think any other woman in Pop has maintained such a high profile AND artistically successful career as Madonna. We are halfway through Tom’s project and she is still as likely to produce a number 1 now as she was then. She has managed to do so by removing from the foreground most of the qualities that were previously associated with women performers – vulnerable/confessional lyrics rooted in a stable/authentic musical identity. Even songs which did appear confessional were less authentic than they may have first appeared.
Being based in dance music allows her the opportunity to change style in a way that seems innovative yet not as fractured as say Dylan or Bowie changing from one genre to another.
For me Madonna embodies the triumph of the will – summed up in her phrase Blonde Ambition – rather than channeling some essential outpouring of her soul. The imperative mode of the lyrics to Into the Groove reflect the commanding role which has assured her continuing success. It’s easy to submit to that will and let yourself go – even if I can’t warm to her as much as I can to other performers.