Why I love Madonna
Let me start with the negative first, because that’s how I roll. I believe that Madonna is a mediocre talent. She’s not a good singer, (a majority of the songs in her live performances are auto-tuned), she’s not a particularly memorable dancer, she can’t play a musical instrument, and her songs are typically co-written with four other people. Trust me, you don’t need a group of songwriters to rhyme “mad” with “sad”, but then again writing songs is not easy, and few people can do it well.
Despite this knowledge, Madonna holds a special place in my heart. Her work ethic is notorious, and I believe it plays a large role in her success as a musician. But it’s also her ruthless ambition, the stubborn streak to succeed at all costs, that fascinates me most.
Madonna’s career has thrived, even though little emphasis has been placed on her music. In the beginning the focus was on her clothing, then by the late 80s and early 90s, she delighted in shocking people by talking openly about sex, and refusing to play the typical submissive female role in her relationships. This came at a time when bubblegum pop ruled, and yet it’s surprising to see how little we’ve evolved since then. In North America, we’re still obsessed, and shamed by sex.
Maybe that’s why for so long Madonna was only attracted to South American men, a region where sex is celebrated, and openly discussed without childish giggles.
In a commencement address that Madonna gave to a group of university students a few years ago someone asked her why she has been so successful, in an industry that chews and spits people out. Her answer is something that I still remember to this day.
“A lot of people told me that I wasn’t very good. I just didn’t listen to them.”
How many of us have never reached our goals because we believed and cared so much about what other people thought of us? Madonna refused to listen to her critics. It’s a quality that I rarely have the courage to emulate.
At 54 the conversation now revolves around how old she is. People are angry that she’s still trying to be sexy at her age. I often hear people criticizing her physical appearance. But then again, they’ve always done that, as though it’s perfectly appropriate; I guess that’s the shallow world we currently live in. My response to this criticism is simple: “You be 54 your way, and she’ll be 54 her way.” It’s worth noting that she is in better physical shape than most 25-year-olds.
Madonna refuses to be an old lady, and because her critics can’t control how she behaves, what she wears and says, they lash out. I’m looking at you Elton John.
When she recently slipped an Italian audience her nipple, the media, and social networks went crazy. How dare she make us look at her old boob?
But then again, no one asked them to look or read about her. It seems sport to beat up on Madonna and to say horrible things about her. Her MDNA Tour was marred by controversy, the media claimed that her shows were not selling. In the end it was revealed that each of her 88 performances sold out, making her the top earner in music for 2012 by grossing $305.2 million.
As a gay kid in the suburbs of Toronto I looked to Madonna as an ally. She supported gay people at a time when it was dangerous to do so. She challenged societal norms around sexuality, provoking responses from people, and then asking them why they felt so strongly opposed to something that didn’t affect them.
During this time in the early 90s, when AIDS was used as a tool to repress gays, she stood up in concerts and informed the world that AIDS was not a bad person’s disease. I felt safe. I remember thinking that perhaps I wasn’t as innately disgusting as everyone was telling me I was.
I’m not always drinking the Madonna Kool-Aid. I see how fame has terribly affected her. For example she speaks with a faux English accent, when everyone knows she’s from Detroit. It’s annoying, and I hate it. But she can talk however the hell she wants to.
I enjoy Madonna because she succeeds in an arena full of detractors. There are so many people who want her to fail, and who get angry because she doesn’t.
It says more about them, then it ever does about her.