Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Passion of the Madonna

Madonna speaking to her dance troupe...
M: "
What's the difference between a pop star and a terrorist?"

"You can negotiate with a terrorist".

It is one of the many telling lines from "I'm Going To Tell You A Secret," the behind-the-scenes documentary of 2004's Reinvention Tour.
The last time M created a behind-the-scenes film of her traveling circus was 1990, and a lot has changed since those days. Fortunately for this fan, much too has not changed. Madonna is still mother hen of her flock, still requires royal treatment, and still shows all of us how hard work, attention to detail, and expecting perfection... creates perfection.

Madonna admits to having an enormous ego as she gushes with self-reproach. Of course, this is no secret to any of us, but it is the point. In this documentary she proclaims she has found a new way forward and that she is striving, that we all should be striving to take responsibility for our lives, actions, and speech. She espouses the basic tenants of all spiritual paths: faith, forgiveness, loving kindness, and
both the crucifixion and the resurrection—a not so subtle nod to her Catholic roots.
As aware as I am that many think Madonna is the last person to be dispensing pearls of spiritual wisdom to the masses, I am utterly transfixed by her evolution. Madonna is a Leo. I am a Leo. I come from a family of mostly Leos. I GET Leos. We need to communicate our insights, share our trivial revelations, be understood, and look hot doing it! It is natural for us to take our journey public.

And so she does. Just look at her podium! Center court at Madison Square Garden, a full-on production in which she and her dancers become tiny beams of light at the altar of her mega-church. They are there to touch off a fire storm of good will and radiant energy. This is their prayer.

As the disciples stand frozen before the altar, a platform begins to ascend slowly from the bowels of the stadium. A light beams down on a tiny glowing figure resting comfortably on her forearms, sustaining with apparent ease an upside-down Sirsasana yogic pose. The figure shifts slightly, looks directly
into the eyes of her followers, sixty-seven thousand of them—and strikes a pose. Vogue.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Death by Yoga Stick

I don't know why I find this so interesting. Linda Stein, a former punk-rock manager turned real estate broker and long-time friend of Madonna, was bludgeoned to death with a piece of exercise equipment in her Fifth Avenue penthouse. Her personal assistant, Natavia Lowery, has confessed to the murder.

Apparently Ms. Stein, who was sixty-two years old, blew marijuana smoke in Ms. Lowery's face and was verbally abusive. Stein uttered some racially-demeaning comments just moments before succumbing to a fatal blow to the head with a yoga stick.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Madonna Corp.

I happened upon this image while randomly surfing the net yesterday, and something about it made me smile. The implication is obvious sans the seven-paragraph hatchet job that accompanied it. It was an article chronicling why Madonna is the most overrated artist in the world and accusing her of having trace musical abilities, a fact obfuscated by the skills of her various & talented producers over the years.
Guilty as charged.
So what if Madonna isn't the best singer or dancer? So what if she hides her shortcomings behind big production values and a cutting-edge support troupe. So what if she she has amassed incomprehensible wealth by surrounding herself with the very best young talent available. I don't care quite frankly.

There are plenty of artists that sing, dance, act, and write more profound lyrics. But Madonna is a visionary; she has insight and she has power. Combine that with raw sexual energy—a male sexual energy. It's the kind of energy that doesn't give a shit who disapproves; in fact, the opposition serves as a tonic and increases her will to succeed. When she fell off her horse and cracked her ribs, what did she do? She got back on the effin' horse, hired Steven Klein to shoot her & the horse in an S&M-themed photo essay for W magazine, then went on to choreograph a solid one third of her world tour in a John Paul Gaultier-inspired homage to everything equestrian. She is brilliant. Talk about creating a spectacle from nothing! It is just this sort of branding that has helped Madonna establish and maintain her iconoclastic standing throughout the world for all these years.

When Madonna hired Shep Pettibone and Andre Betts to Produce Erotica in the early '90s, she essentially was making the shrewd decision to elicit the help of young talent who had their hands on the pulse of underground sound and House music—to help her bring that sound mainstream. The driving beat combined with the sensu-sexual theatrics Madonna created around the album snowballed into a firestorm that is felt worldwide even still. A few years later Madonna developed an inclination toward the metaphysical and she tapped William Orbit, master of atmospheric electronica, to produce a trance-spiritual epic of sorts. Ray of Light won four Grammys because of Orbit's multi-layered mastery, and yes, perhaps Madge was an incidental element with regard to those awards, but that music would not have been heard by the world were it not for Madonna. She put the deal together—she made it happen. Taking ambient electronica a step further, she pulled in Mirwais to produce both Music & American Life, both of which, incidentally, went to #1 world wide. All the while critics were panning our Queen as being "washed up."

It's more than the Music Stupid! Madonna embodies i n s p i r a t i o n. She represents to me how much is possible within a single lifetime, and how a life of magnitude can be whittled from a small and potentially insignificant epicenter.

Why do you love Madonna?

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Hey mr. Dj

The circuit party is dead. According to this month's issue of OUT magazine, this particular genre of dance party is biting it - primarily because the young party homos that sustained them are now middle aged . Like me. For a few years now I have lamented the loss of these outings in my life, but should I really care? Has the scene changed so dramatically that it would bare no resemblance to what attracted me to it in the first place? Are young homos really becoming more main stream and assimilating to a softer style of music on the dance floor?

The big parties are in decline: White, Black, Black & Blue, Red, Cherry, and the Blue Ball are barely generating a pulse. I remember these parties as incredible rides lasting days—18 hours but who's counting—and discovering the euphoria of constant motion, dancing in 40-minute blocks and being overtaken by the music. I fucking loved it. I was also really high. I think the drugs took away my compulsion to control the scene; they helped me put my faith in a higher power: The Dj.

My boyfriend and I would begin our night at the Roxy on 18th street. Initially we would separate: he headed straight to the main floor, and I would run to the Crystal room on the upper level to hit on the Dj. It was a ritual. The Dj loved it, I loved it, and my boyfriend couldn't have cared less. That was a relationship that really worked (well, not exactly, but that's another story all together). The Crystal room at the Roxy had a wall of glass that looked out to the arena below, a crystal chandelier that hung above clusters of leather sofas, and 70s-era disco that sang down on the comparatively small group (50-ish). I loved to dance on the platform behind that wall of glass staring down on the 1500 dancers below, especially if I was dressed for it.
One of my favorite dance outfits circa 1999 was a Raymond Dragon skin-tight sleeveless white mesh tank top and matching shorts, both pieces had a fat stainless steel zipper running up the front, with black Doc Marten lace-ups that nearly reached my knees. That was a hot number. So after an hour or so of flirting and pretending to be a circuit go-go boy up in the Crystal room, I would join Todd on the main floor and dance for a couple more hours before heading over to Tunnel on 11th avenue.

Junior Vasquez crafted Tunnel into an underground trance-techno train ride. Tunnel was the perfect midpoint; the music was far from the bubble gum of the Crystal Room, yet nowhere near the metallic sound of what would follow. Tunnel put me in a trance.

Around 8:00 a.m., the final leg of our club tour would land us at the Sound Factory. (Later, SF morphed into Twilo.) I loved both Twilo and Sound Factory. While SF had a more calm trance-house vibe, Twilo's sound became much harder, more industrial and repetitive. I loved it. Because of the emergence of meth in both that culture and my own life, I was even more drawn to Twilo and that sound; even sober, I still love that harder beat-driven style of music, despite OUT's insistence that the new generation has rejected it.

I stopped going out to the clubs when I got sober 5 years ago. I guess as one approaches 40 and beyond there are all sorts of reasons to give it up, but honestly, if I didn't feel that scene threatened my sobriety and if in fact that scene still existed, I would probably still be
hittin' it.

TWILO: Tough

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hard Candy: The M-Filer Review

Best Tracks:
Give it 2 Me
Miles Away
Beat Goes On

Someone wrote that Hard Candy is the non-stop dance record that Confessions on a Dance Floor promised to be, but wasn’t. Word.

I loved
Confessions, but it wasn’t a non-stop dance album, not in the way Britney’s Blackout was and certainly not to the degree that Hard Candy is.We were all so worried that Madonna would succumb to the hip-hop arm bending of those men., but it was Madonna who won those arm wrestling matches. Hard Candy is an authentic Madonna creation with some lite street cred tossed in to give it balls.. There are two throw-away tracks: Candy Shop and Spanish Lessons. Both are lyrically silly, one in English and the other in Spanish. Candy Shop however, does open the album and sort of invites us in, "come on into my store, I've got candy galore," and so, what the hell... I'll give it a pass.

On first listen, I’ll confess to disliking Four Minutes. But didn't we all, and what was that about anyway? Love it. HC’s third track is its best. Give it 2 Me takes everything I liked about new progressive music from the early eighties, infuses it with driving electro-trance rhythms, and then amps it up with a solid techno kick. As soon as I heard this one, I knew we were going to be just fine. Heartbeat continues with that electronic vibe I love so much. Still not sure how I feel about that refrain that has Madge rapping, “see my booty get down” over and over. It only lasts a few seconds, but I could really live without that part. Miles Away, She’s Not Me, and Incredible are each arguably the most autobiographical songs on HC. All three present stellar vocal performances by Madonna and in many ways are classic Madonna . Her signature selfconfidence drips off the edges of She’s Not Me, underscoring the singular reality that is Madonna: SHE'S FABULOUS! Incredible is simply that: Incredible. It starts off bubble-gummy and then morphs into a groovy little club tune that you gotta love the very first time you hear it. It's got single release written all over it.

Madonna catches a lot of shit for regurgitating her own lyrics from album to album and perhaps legitimately so. I have never, ever seen her finesse this tendency with the skill and success that is found on Beat Goes On. Madge deftly layers in lyrics from Deeper and Deeper—an all-time favorite of mine—gives a shout out to Donna Summers' Bad Girls, and then pulls into the background as Kanye West (and I can’t believe I am admitting this in public) rips out a kick ass solo to finish it off. This is an example of a song that when originally leaked was just plain garbage. This reworked version is one of the album's best.

Dance2Night continues HC’s tradition of beat-driven dance music (love the subtle nods to Starlight, btw) and is a back-to-basics 70s disco anthem with Madonna’s famously simple and marginally-inspirational lyrics: “You don’t have to be beautiful, to be understood.” A friend referred to it as filler; I give it more credit than that. It’s fun. The last two tracks, Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You and Voices, are beautiful ballads. Not exactly ballads really, but richly lyrical, somewhat haunting, and gorgeous send offs: "Who is the master and who is the slave?”

Fine. I’ll be the slave.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lessons I learned from Madonna: #47

#47 - P e r s i s t e n c e
or… don’t wait for an invitation, just barge in)

I made just one New Year's resolution for 2008, and that was to land a job in the fast-paced and glamorous world of property management. So, just before the New Year I made a list of all the companies in this town that deal with leases, both residential and commercial, and one by one began to interview with them. When I say "interview," I mean, barge in unannounced and ask to speak with the managing broker. It was a pretty effective line of attack in terms of opening doors, and not everyone has been offended by my tactics. In fact four of these brokers extended our conversation beyond my initial break-in. Ultimately, however, none were particularly interested in my colorful array of talents, not least of which was a penchant for starting businesses with limited applicable skills, experience, or required insurances.

After being picked off one by one, by eleven separate companies, one of them twice (unnecessarily mean-spirited phone calls, both of them!), I managed to arrange one last meeting. The initial contact was with one of this company's property managers; she was both curt and dismissive, suggesting I find a more appropriate jumping off mark for my “new career". What-a-bitch. I placed the telephone receiver on its cradle, rested for a moment as I exhaled long and hard, looked to the ceiling for strength, and began dialing once again—this time to that little bitch's boss, the President of the company.

B I N G O. Ms. Bitch’s boss and I had a nice long talk during which I was careful not to mention any lack of experience I might have in the field... and so he agreed to see me in person.
Without boring you with the details of our meeting, just one week after our initial conversation, I was offered the job that drove me to espionage. My new boss immediately introduced me to everyone on site. Ms. Bitch was away at Disney World at this point, but I was introduced to her desk regardless; Mr. President motioned me to it while rattling off her title. Always looking ahead... I couldn't help but take note of the dimensions of her windows—drapes really do finish a room.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Forsaken

If Mother Teresa was forsaken by God, what chance do I have? The bombshell out of Calcutta this month is that for five decades Mother Teresa felt abandoned by God. A lifetime of her personal letters have been compiled and published in Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light; it's a rather sad and depressing account, her own account, of a life lived in spiritual emptiness and driven by obedience. " I am told that God loves me—and yet the reality of darkness, emptiness, and coldness is so great that nothing touches my soul."

In 1946, Sister Teresa claimed that she was called upon by Jesus himself to devote her life to the poorest of the poor, the sickest of the sick. She never heard from him again. I won't go into the whole sordid affair. News of it is everywhere, but of all that is whirring in the world today—wars, famine, political scandal, etc.—it is this news that is most shocking to me. I cannot fathom a faith in a higher power so strong that it could last decades with no feeling of physical or spiritual contact, just a cerebral notion of its legitimacy; to sacrifice one's life based on this memory is beyond my comprehension. Given my capacity for comprehension, I suppose that's not saying much, and yet it is saying everything about this woman. MT wrote late in her life, as international recognition and praise were increasingly being directed toward her, "If I ever become a Saint, I will surely be one of darkness." There are a gazillion interpretations, lessons, and analogies applicable and readily available, custom-made actually, to this revelation. For now anyway, they fall upon my deaf ears.