Funny how things change with a little time seasoning. I did not appreciate Madonna when I first heard her, probably the song “Holiday,” finding her music too bubble gum and her vamp style too demeaning to women with her kitten sexo-fascist look and a less than subtle attempt to capitalize on sex. It was 1983, and I was still into Joni Mitchell and the Rolling Stones, suffering through Michael Jackson’s Thriller, admittedly a great album, though far too pop for me, rock-alternative elitist in my own mind and leftover feminist hippy. My heyday was in the 70s.
Like many amateur critics of the time, I thought the 80s were bereft of music with soul–all that techno machinery replacing actual musicians and musicianship swapped for computers. It wasn’t until her song “Live to Tell” from the movie At Close Range that I stopped to listen to her, her voice, her passion, her captivating eeriness. The movie was a tough movie, and I thought the song was rendered well against the backdrop of the grim and complex themes only one of which was rape. I did not see the movie–only read about it and opted out–but felt it in her song. I thought that was a telling tribute to her talent as a singer/songwriter (though a collaborative effort).
After that, I listened to her music through the years with a more open mind and attuned ear about both music and sex. Some songs I liked and some I did not. When I truly began to appreciate her was when I saw the imitators–ostensible innovators to the uninitiated–follow along on her coattails, thriving off the capital of her inroads into the hip and campy hypno-sex as music scene, only one of whom I consider the most famous and imitative, Lady GaGa. Imitation is not necessarily the litmus test of greatness but combined with prolific productivity and time, there is something there that will turn Madonna (yes, some would argue already is) into the icon she deserves to be, even in my mind. Maybe that something is maturity, mostly mine.