Madonna is back, everyone! This is a good thing. The pop music landscape needs a (stalwart other than Kylie Minogue) to whip these uppity little bitches into shape, and who better to do so than The Queen of Pop? Okay, well, who is more likely to do so? No one, really. As much as I would love for Bonnie Tyler to collaborate with Kanye and break back into the mainstream, I don’t see that happening any time soon (but seriously, has no rapper sampled Total Eclipse of the Heart yet?!).
No, I’m a Madge purist. I’m not a huge fan of Ray of Light-era Madonna, and I think basically everything she’s done since then has largely been rubbish. Hung Up was a pretty good song, but the rest have been pretty mediocre. To be fair, her last Billboard Number 1 was back in 2000. To say that the decade has been unkind to Madonna and her unsightly, sentient arm muscles is a severe understatement. The main reason I am hoping that she comes back in a big way, though, is because she can be the one to get the current crop of pop stars – particularly Katy Perry, Rihanna, etc. – to start making good, honest pop music again. Because as I’ve discussed before, what they’re churning out now amounts to no more than bastardised club bullshit. At this point, it’s more reasonable to call Rihanna a club star than a pop star. Taking TGIF as an example, Katy Perry still does but it’s also mixed in with pseudo-edgy club shit like E.T (she sure likes her acronyms). Adele is making very traditional, soul-oriented balladeering pop and kicking their asses in album sales. Perhaps she too will be able to get mainstream pop back on track a little.
Madonna made Like A Virgin, Vogue, Like A Prayer, Justify My Love, Borderline, Material Girl, Holiday and so on, so she basically gets a musical lifetime pass (acting and directing…not so much). I was sceptical of Luvin’, simply because previous collaborations, namely those with Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake, have produced songs as messy and hard to bear as Lourdes’ eyebrows. And while I wish for the days where Madonna would engage with the controversial and taboo (Like a Prayer is still my favourite of her songs), I can understand that, at the age of 53, she has mellowed and is really just trying to maintain cultural relevance in an era where many ignorant, flippant children think that Lady Gaga is all there is to know about boundary-pushing in pop. Hint: Gaga is often good, but it takes more than presenting yourself as a bit batshit to push boundaries. That said, I don’t care for the obvious Gaga diss in the video. It’s a bit juvenile, if somewhat accurate.
You’ll note that I’m talking about Ms Ciccone’s single as a “comeback”, event though her last single was only 3 years ago, and that is mainly because I think she’s fighting an uphill battle. I think there’s about a 50/50 chance Madge is going to go the way that she did with Hard Candy; and that is, one top 10 single and nothing else, really. I think it’s fabulous that a 53 year old woman is still trying to hit the top of the charts with ball-out pop music in an industry that largely pronounces its talent dead at 30, even if said 53 year old standard-bearer-for-aging-pop-icons is literally THE pop icon who shaped the entire genre in her heyday.
The song itself is vibrant, fun and catchy, which is the lesson that I hope other pop stars pick up on. A cheerleading chant courtesy of M.I.A and Nicki Minaj crash into a pulsing synth line, then layered over by some bright keyboard and some bouncy guitar make for some great, straight-up pop. The video is a bit silly and a lot camp, which is exactly what you’d hope for. And really, despite her age she looks pretty fucking great in that outfit. I’m wondering how much of this is me loving this song, and how much is simply the gayer side of me feeling defensive of the Queen of Pop. It might be that this song has some shades of early 2000s pop that I love, while still sounding modern in the guest verses and bridge, which, shockingly, I don’t mind even though it goes a bit (ugh) dubsteppy. Neither M.I.A nor Nicki Minaj get a whole lot to do, but I’m okay with that. There’s nothing worse than a guest verse that overstays its welcome. I think this song reveals exactly why I prefer Ke$ha to the more self-serious music pop stars are making today: it’s sheer, unabashed fun, if kinda trashy at the same time. Madonna has tapped into the same thing, though mercifully she’s not singing about getting drunk and sitting on dicks. In pop, fun beats SRS SRSNSS every goddamn time. I’d rather dance to this in a club than something ridiculous like E.T any day.
I wish that more of pop sounded like this. A great melody, a great beat and singalong chants? Thank Emperor Kaballah for Madonna. One thing, though, Madge: I think you’re applying the term ‘girl’ a teensy bit too liberally in relation to yourself.