SOME people believe that the music you listen to is in some measure a reflection of who you are as a person.
I'm sure there is something in that, to a certain extent, but what this doesn't really take into account is how music changes over time and how our tastes can both develop and stagnate, and our tendency to associate music with certain times and events in our lives which then renders our preferences non scientific in nature.
Music afficionados often feel the need to bring down others for their tastes and preferences. It's a boring snobbery that to me is more reflective of personality than the music someone listens to. Admit it, you all know someone like that, that hangs it on you for your choices. I am surrounded by them. It's insecurity on these people's part that they feel the need to somehow demonstrate that they are more sophisticated or evolved than you. Oxymoron(s).
As a pop lover, I am subject to the kind of conversations that teenagers have ad nauseum, because there is an inbuilt judgment being made that I somehow should have evolved beyond my tastes. Just for the record, my itunes collection is pop heavy, but to dismiss my tastes as being surface dance pop would be inaccurate and limited. I know more about music than a lot of the people who criticise my tastes do. But I don't suffer from the same kind of insecurity that makes me feel like I need to defend myself in the face of their stupidity. The idea that I am merely a Kylie/Madonna boy is the cross I have to wear for other people's narrow minds and assumptions.
Frankly, to the people with this flawed view; I Don't Give A F*ck.
Case in point; I refuse to apologise for my love of Madonna's music.
I'm a super fan. People, this is a serious long term relationship that I have been in that has outlasted every non familial relationship I have had. I'm taking it back to 1984 and it has been immeasurably more rewarding than some of the interactions that I have had in the ensuing years. Let's face it, music makes life far more tolerable than people do.
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For a mainstream artist, Madonna has had to weather a lot more pressure, criticism and judgement than any of her peers ever did. And she has done it more consistently than any one else has.
Let's take Blondie for example. Deborah Harry was the blueprint for early era Madonna, and I am a huge fan of Blondie, but let's get real for a moment. Blondie as a group made a seminal mix of pop, rock and dance music that was inspired by a punk ethic. But let's give Blondie the benefit of the doubt and assume that all of their studio albums were masterpieces (not the case). We are talking about six calendar years between album one and album number six which came out in 1982. This they did without any of the kind of hyperbole that Madonna has faced in her career.
Since then, Blondie have occasionally, and unfortunately, reformed for the odd album now and then. Each time doing so, they have devalued their work and standing as one of the all time greats. That they were only able to sustain a short period and not evolve beyond the post punk/new wave period suggests that they weren't built for the longterm, even though they are quite rightly recognised for their brilliance. The point is not so much that they weren't built for the longterm, but that they weren't able to ever match their early brilliance.
Madge on the other hand, has emerged as a long distance runner, who occasionally breaks out into a sprint. This beyiatch fights her own fight! Perhaps with the exception of a handful of albums, Like A Prayer, the Ray of Light -Music era and Confessions on a Dance Floor , which each dominated critical and commercial lists, she has weathered endless criticism, cynicism, sexism and resentment for her ability to reinvent and market herself. Behind this is an unparalleled ability to make consistently brilliant pop music that more than occasionally transcends the limitations of her personality. Let's face it, beyiatch would be an international treasure if she wasn't all bravado, all chola, all ambition. But that's the way the Ciccone is made, cos if she didn't have that personality, she would be seen as being a phenomenal songwriter and pop maker, vocal limitations or not.
Thirty years on she still has the ability to capture the imagination of the world and simply erase negative associations with a good album. Not many artists, in any genre, can continually re-establish themselves, particularly after a four year hiatus.
Today marks the release of Madonna's twelfth studio album MDNA, that comes on the eve of her thirtieth year in pop. Rather than thoughtful interpretations of the work such as this, we can probably expect to be flooded with a mixed bag of positive reviews, criticisms about the fact that she is no longer steering the path of pop music and the constant restatement that she harnesses the drawing power of younger collaborators
Frankly, if any act, thirty years into their career was still capable of making high caliber tracks like I'm A Sinner, Love Spent, Addicted and Gang Bang, I will gratefully tip my hat. But, I'm not a music snob, and music snobs aren't generally capable of objectivity. Come to think of it, neither are super fans.
UPDATE: MDNA is shaping up to be one of my preferred M albums...it definitely stands up to repeated listenings. At the moment, I am completely enthralled by Falling Free. It's amazing, like a piece of chamber music fused with kooky electronic pop, with a few moments of Yiddish like pronunciation thrown in for good measure.
Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
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