The queen is dead, long live the queen: 60 years of Madonna
The editorial of the literary magazine Cubaneo, que tuvo apenas 4 números, hechos a mano, en los inicios del período especial, decía intentado explicar «lo cubano» con la ayuda de Fernando Ortiz y la postmodernidad, que Madonna era cubana por derecho propio, con su «voy a mí», y su afán por tener descendencia con nuestra sangre… Por his "cubanía", Madonna has won that we celebrate her 60 from this text by Norge Espinosa, in a Cuban music magazine.
It seems a lie, but only 16 years separated Aretha Franklin, who has just died, in age, and Madonna, who is now in her 60s. In their own way, each one gives us a low blow: the loss of an exceptional figure that made the song and its delivery to the music of black roots a faith of radical consequences even for itself; and the entrance to a point, on the part of the other, in which his acrobatics and provocations of youth will already be considered strictly museum stuff. Compare them is impossible because, queens after all, each was established in its own area. The amazing thing, in the case of Madonna, that as Aretha comes from Michigan, is how she has made us witnesses of her long doctorate of survival.
When 35 years ago appeared the debut album of that irreverent girl and dressed to your liking and whim, many prophesied a fast ending, betting on other presences of the moment that seemed (and are) more talented, Cindy Lauper included in that avalanche of faces that MTV made known with feverishness. Madonna, after six decades, has achieved everything, without having to reduce herself to a residence in Las Vegas, where Lady Gaga is now going, to show herself as a luxury doll in her weakened career. Material Girl not only longed for her crown: she ended up designing it at her whim. It is difficult to snatch something that she achieved with her share of sacrifice to prevail in that New York to which she arrived with a few dollars and ready for everything. And it still goes on, from time to time, showing it with pride in some of its many metamorphoses.
Between one and another phase of those transformations that have been the axis of her multiform trajectory, Madonna has rarely let us see her in her most vulnerable state. His commitment has been to build a shell, not just an empire, which the evil tongues assure has managed to suck the blood of collaborators, friends, and faithful. Not even his own brother has been able to avoid such maneuvers, and that list includes famous lovers, movie stars, dancers and models, men and women, Prince and Basquiat, Michael Jackson and Tupac Shakur, not to mention Carlos León and Guy Ritchie, parents of their biological children. In the process, she gained a more educated voice (she went from being a Minnie Mouse under the effects of helium, to a woman capable of singing with dignity but without the histrionic gleam of others. Don't cry for me, Argentina, from Avoid) and defined herself more as a performer that as a singer, so that his extensive videography becomes the best-defined manifesto, his most thorough hagiography, conceived for the camera in a romance of many edges.
Her ambition was always to dominate the world, and to have a chance to express her opinion, however polemic or banal it may seem to the listener, in a context where women used to be just decorative objects. Her art consists of knowing how to press the precise buttons: she is a teacher of provocation. And it reminds us of the ingenuity of our morals when it achieves the expected effect, whether with a book like Sex, in the apotheosis of AIDS, or showing a nipple and something older on a recent tour.
Rivers of ink have been written about her. Grade thesis, volumes where he is recognized as an icon of postmodernity, as the last vestige of an era in which few can make the tale of the past glories of the 80s. Neither Prince, nor Jackson, nor George Michael, nor David Bowie. Missing those monarchs, Madonna, a little like Cersei Lannister, has retained the throne for her. It is worth clarifying that in the effort has left us a list of songs in which we now see his (and our) biography.
Maybe the title of classic will be great. Not the icon that she herself, thanks to Jean Paul Gaultier and other designers, has been bequeathing us. When I saw your video of Material GirlFor the first time, I was outraged at his brazen reappropriation of what Marilyn Monroe had left as an indelible stamp on the big screen. Then I learned that this was one of her tricks, and I would see her repeating the resource to the point of exhaustion. What once seemed fun and spontaneous (since its terrible performances in Who's that Girl or Shanghai surprise, not to mention Swept away, where she overcame herself as a Razzie candidate), now becomes a carefully calculated gesture, contempt that has to be measured against the shadow of her own trajectory.
From the Confessions on a dance floor, your discs look like a remix not always successful of successes and producers that has already had to his side, and except one that another single, the rest does not manage to equal the old expectations. Now he announces a new album, in which he devotes his time to charity work in Malawi, providing his son Rocco with the education he longs for as a fubtbolist, and continuing to wait, spectacular mantis, for the next man. He is 60 years old and has been seen on stage with a cane, although that was already in the video of his brainless duo with Britney Spears, whom he gave a kiss of which the girl never recovered completely. We also have, in a certain way, that age, or part of it, because their music has been the soundtrack of so many things, in a time when she helped us to challenge parents and religions, even if it was a game, or to celebrate sex at the cost of several scoldings and threats of excommunication. He came to Havana to dance on a restaurant table, and to celebrate a birthday at the roof terrace of La Guarida, perhaps only to be news again and mark territory, during the brief season that Obama advocated. A demanding goddess, she has a cult that rarely admits contradictions about her creeds, but she has not forgotten to laugh at herself, knowing that at her call, the new pop figures will gather at her door, eager for a cameo before the Sphinx that once seemed to enjoy eternal youth.
For those of us who belong to the LGTBIQ community, she is an inescapable reference. That it is necessary to handle with care, as Björk did, able to give him one of his subjects for his trance era, but that he refused to know her personally. Today, Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Cardi B and many dare to things that she praised. They do not always seem to have learned that Madonna was nourished by the geniuses of her time, not only those of music, and that from there she drew many strengths and challenges. You can look at that landscape of flashing and frenetic lights where she has worn her crown, even at the risk of a fall or stumble, which, of course, will also become news.
In his new album he will experiment with Lusitanian airs, as an echo of his current residence in Lisbon. We'll see. It has just begun to raise the campaign that will be around, again, that sequence that we already know: teasers, flashazos, rumors, photos that advance the art work of the album, announcements of the world tour, and perhaps even the filtering of the entire album in the promiscuities of the internet. He has also survived all that, reminding us of that essential thing that many forget: with talent, by itself, it is not enough to become king or queen. You need many other things, will, guts and guts, to continue in the struggle. That was also what Aretha Franklin knew. Only if Aretha learned to sing in churches, as the daughter of a pastor; Madonna has written her own gospel, which does not lack the nuances of a frivolous courtesan, nor of a political speaker who does not hesitate to pass for bad speech. She is not the best singer or the best dancer, she is not the most beautiful nor the best actress. But it is he who defines, above those obstacles, the role of the super star in the world of pop, and who has managed to take on the ambitions of anyone who aspires to win that throne.
At soundtrack that she gave us, I have several hymns, some of which accompanied me in my exit from the closet and in the assumption of other decisions no less definite. And also, with those songs, he has earned my respect, because in that eagerness to survive he has let us distinguish his wounds, as he did when he sang his old hit Like a Virgin In the MDNA tour slowly, while the public paid with dollar bills his strange and pathetic surrender, so many years of that ceremony where he achieved his primary goal: not to leave anyone indifferent.
To many others wannabe we can define them with the speed of a caricature: stars without folds, barbies one-sided She, perverse and rabid, astute and spectacular, has been spinning her own myth with the patience, wisdom and charm of a spider that seduces us as she prepares to devour us. How not to thank her then, for so many exits of tone, for so many bravado against presidents of turn, so many bets for being herself under all those layers of masking. Maybe she can not even identify her true face anymore. But that's also part of its charm. Of his triumph. From her precarious eternity as queen in a world that is, precisely, increasingly precarious. A queen has died. Another still accompanies us. That they make us sing some of their songs, be it Respect or Vogue, is the proof of how we bow to them.
And as a climax, before saying the inescapable "Congratulations", my recommendation of the four discs of his is what I prefer:
- True Blue, 1986. It is the third album and the most solid step towards its definitive consecration. He had already rubbed himself on the floor at an MTV gala to sing Like a Virgin, and had achieved a scandal that made it known worldwide. But in True Blue, paid tribute to the female music of the 50s, there are several of his songs that seem recorded yesterday, as Open your heart.
- Erotica, 1992. With the production of Shep Pettibone, it is his first conceptual album. Accompanied by Sex, and a tour of scandalous borders, he was about to lose the race. He had to lower the tones, but on the next album he sang: Absolutely no regrets. And so we can hear it now, beyond the rejection of its moment, as a piece of firm and challenging sound.
- Ray of light, 1998. It is turning 20 years from its launch, and the agreement between William Orbit, Marius de Vries and Patrick Leonard worked the miracle of a true resurrection. There is Drowned World/Substitute for love, the ballad of his that I prefer. Ray of Light it is an immersion in the faith, in the Hindu texts, and in the effect of motherhood on a woman who learned to yield her jealous protagonism to a daughter whom she thanks in each of the letters. It's Madonna in its splendor. And he rerouted it to the top sales positions.
- Confessions on a dance floor, 2005. Under the supervision of Stuart Price, Madonna recovered from the bump that was her political manifesto, American Life, returning to its most comfortable environment: the party and the overflow. He did, however, several decades of Lucky Star and Holiday, with the wisdom of someone who has learned certain things but still wants to burn a moment of the night. As a single track that links the themes, it is an injection of amphetamines. A lucid proof that the Queen, despite the age and threats of other competitions, still dominates the dance floor, her undisputed empire.
Norge Espinosa Mendoza