Say what you want about Madonna. She’s old. She’s tired. She has no talent. She can’t sing. She can’t dance. She’s a slut. She’s past her prime. There simply is no denying the woman and the mark she’s left on pop culture and music. She is the world’s best-selling female artist of all-time and is still breaking records this year with yet another #1 album, a sold out world tour, the most Tweeted about celebrity achievement (during this year’s Super Bowl performance) and a $550-million payday according to Forbes.
This past Tuesday, my friend Jocelyn’s company threw their annual “Happy Birthday Madonna!” party at Timpano Chophouse in Hyde Park Village. There was live Madonna-inspired entertainment, a video wall playing all of her iconic music videos and images, look-a-like contests, photo stations, birthday cakes and more. As I walked into the packed house filled with Madonna wannabe’s and look-a-likes, I was suddenly transported back to the late 1980s / early 1990s where you couldn’t go anywhere on the planet without running into someone who wasn’t copying or imitating her style and look. I remember growing up as a child and staring at this woman on MTV in total awe and fascination. Sure Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey sang better than her and Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul were better dancers, but Madonna had the message, the originality, the brazen starpower.
Nearly 30 years into her career, and she is still seen as a contemporary alongside today’s pop starlets. From Pat Benatar to Cyndi Lauper to Kylie Minogue to Britney Spears to Jennifer Lopez to Katy Perry to Rihanna to Lady Gaga, Madonna has stood by them all. While Jennifer Lopez and Kylie Minogue have perfected sexual confidence as an art, theirs lacks the depth and meaning that Madonna brings to the table. While Katy Perry and Britney Spears sing undeniably catchy pop songs, theirs lacks the message of empowerment that accompanies a Madonna track. And while Lady Gaga and Rihanna never fail on the visuals and the flash, they have yet to exude an ounce of vulnerability. It always amazed me how a bold, brassy and outspoken person (see “Justify My Love” or nearly any of her MTV VMA performances) can also be so soft and humble (see “This Used To Be My Playground” or “Live To Tell.”) In response to the newer generation that will undoubtedly disagree with any of the above statements about their idolized pop diva, I simply say that they have not been properly educated. From her bragging to her High School classmates’ in their yearbooks with her bold yet prophetic statement that she would be “the most famous woman in the world one day” to her risky move to New York City at the age of 19 with 30 bucks in her pocket and sheer determination, Madonna is a survivor.
And to those who doubt Madonna as a live vocalist performer…
“Sooner or Later” performed by Madonna
1991 Academy Awards