Monday, May 19, 2014

W.W.C.I.I.T.M.I. Post 16.2: Madonna [from Ray of Light to MDNA]

This is a series dedicated to women who despite success in the U.S. Music Industry, have est. a very complicated image for themselves.

*This post is a continuation over Madonna; this is the second half of her career in a nutshell from a nutcase*

By the time of her next 6 albums, Madonna had become an international phenomenon. Winning VMA Moonmen, having a lot of successful singles and knowing how stir shit up to sell her image, the next half of her career seemed almost impossible to fuck up...

Her next studio effort, Ray of Light, was released in 1998. This was the album inspired by delving into Kabbalah, Hinduism and yoga (The only justification for a song called "Shanti/Ashtangi" to be on the album). Five songs were spawned from the album and 3 of those would chart within the Top 15 of the Hot 100.
The lead single was "Frozen". This is another one of Madge's regarded ballads. Like "Live to Tell" it was regarded as a standout track, but critics have said this song was delivered with sonic* grandeur...

*Sonic: in this context, from the word sonar; relating to sound*

The song would peak at #2 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Dance charts.

Second released from the album was the title track. This song is acclaimed as one of if not arguably her best by critics and by die hard fans (Who I like to call Ciccone-heads...because Madonna has a last name and it's Ciccone.)
The video has essentially been declared immortal as damn near every retrospective music video show has given love to this video for its imagery; people existing at a speed/crack/cocaine pace representing how people are fucking clueless or some shit...O_O Shade aside, the song and the rest of the album's electronica tropes were regarded in positive fashion as the single and album were seen as the best of fusing electronica with radio friendly things. The title track went to #5 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Dance charts.

Third, a song called "Drowned World (Substitute for Love)" was released internationally and not in the States due to the title track having been released late.
Fourth released was "The Power of Good-Bye". All that's really known of the song and/or video is Madonna playing chess. The song peaked at #11 on the Hot 100, #14 on the Adult Contemporary and #18 on the Pop Songs charts.
Finally, "Nothing Really Matters". Following the "Human Nature" tradition of poor charting on the Hot 100 [it peaked at #93...O_O] and going to #1 on the Dance charts, "Nothing Really Matters" is remembered as Madonna dressing up as a geisha (Something I'm betting Katy Perry would wish got Madonna flak for claims of cultural misappropriation.)
Success was Madge's yet again, as Ray of Light peaked at #2 and awards were given to her in two major ways; first this was the album that got her a Grammy. Second, she clenched the more important then VMA for Video of the Year.

Cut past her contribution to the Austin Powers: Spy Who Shagged Me soundtrack with "Beautiful Stranger" which despite no official single release to radio, went to #19 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Dance chart.

Her eighth overall effort, Music, was released in 2000. For a 10 track album, only 3 of the songs were released. All 3 would chart in the Hot 100 and go #1 on the Dance chart. By now, Madge had enlisted a producer by the name of Mirwais Ahmadza├»; a French techno producer. Popular Culture buffs remember this as the era Madge loved wearing cowboy hats.

First, the lead single and title track. The song and video despite some initial tackiness of the words "boogie woogie" propelled the album's success. Yet singles enthusiast would learn to savor the song's legacy because as of today, it's her last #1 entry on the Hot 100. O_O O_O O_O O_O O_O The video despite the tackiness of featuring strippers and Madge in a pimp meets Boss Hogg from the Dukes of Hazzard realness, did launch the career of Sacha Baron Cohen who appears in the video as his character "Ali G" (Which for posterity provided these soundbytes..."BOOYAKASHA!" "Big up yaself!" "Respek!" "One brovah, one honky and guy.")
Second released was "Don't Tell Me". Having a weird as hell beat certainly helped its success peaking at #4 on the Hot 100. Music video buffs remember this video for the following reasons:

- Dancing cowboys
- Treadmill walking
- Sand
- Being synchronized as fuck
- Did we mention the dancing cowboys?

Finally, "What it Feels Like For a Girl" was released...and went to #23 on the Hot 100. Not much is really remembered of it.
Music would begin a #1 streak of Billboard 200 albums that to this day has yet to be broken.

By now, Madge had been tasked with creating a path to true Popular Culture Immortality: creating a James Bond theme song. In her case, the 007 film was Die Another Day and her song of the same name...wasn't exactly met with accolades for 007 songs. Critics were split on this song; the consensus is essentially "For a Madonna song, great; for a 007 theme, it's not the first option we'd consider but it could reflect Bond being in the modern age."
Despite the criticism, the song went to #8 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Dance charts. Even the music video for the song got enough acclaim to justify it existing; even if showing off 007 props in a gallery like setting throughout the years while fighting yourself in said gallery is technically "cheating".

Then came her most derided work and with good reason thanks to the lead single and title track...
American Life was released in 2003 and man did this title track get raked over the coals. Weirdly enough, all four singles would hit #1 on the Dance chart. Remember the name Mirwais? He's the reason for this album's terrible reputation.
The title track was the result of him encouraging Madonna to rap verses of the song...most can see where this went wrong. For those who could actually stomach the song, they were inducted into sainthood because they had to deal with the following rap section...

"I'm drinking a Soy latte 
 I get a double shot-tay 
 It goes right through my bod-day 
 And you know I'm satisfied,
 I drive my Mini cooper 
 And I'm feeling super-duper 
 Yo they tell I'm a trooper 
 And you know I'm satisfied 
 I do yoga and pilates 
 And the room is full of hotties 
 So I'm checking out the bodies 
 And you know I'm satisfied"

Oh no...there's worse than this section...

"I'd like to express my extreme point of view 
 I'm not Christian and I'm not a Jew 
 I'm just living out the American dream 
 And I just realized that nothing is what it seems."
-Madonna on "American Life"

Amazingly, this was not a commercial flop as it peaked at #37 on the Hot 100. Yet the damage would soon be done in ways not possibly imagined. The second single "Hollywood" though able to survive this travesty [it was featured on a 2009 compilation] was at the time marred by just how awful the lead single was.
"Hollywood" though just as artistically inspired as any previous work; music video inspired by Guy Bourdin photography became her first single since "Burning Up" in the 80s to not chart on the Hot 100. The third and fourth singles "Nothing Fails" and "Love Profusion" would join "Hollywood" in no man's land Hot 100 wise.

Yet around this time, the MTV Video Music Awards had happened. Popular Culture buffs and damn near everyone remembers the reenactment of the "Like a Virgin" with relatively stable and "fresh" acts at the time Britney Spears & Christina Aguilera...and although Christina's wasn't shown, Madge and Britney cashed in on pearl clutching controversy by kissing each other on national TV. However, this wouldn't be the only way Madge would try to save this album and the single "Hollywood".
In a move seen as desperate, Madonna decided to do a commercial for Gap cord jeans.

"Madonna and Gap? Her teeth yes; clothing? BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA"

Even with the help of Missy Elliott, nothing could be done to save the album in its entirety. Yet despite a terrible lead single and a song that pulled a Mollie from Animal Farm and was able to be saved, American Life amazingly went to #1.

2005 saw the released of her 10th studio effort, Confessions on a Dance Floor. This is the era defined by a pink leotard and a Guinness World Record for her best lead single, and my all time favorite song from any of these eras and up there with "Like a Prayer" as my favorite Madonna song ("GASP! How can you choose?!" Because I have ears...and am a bit of a picky the fuck what?) Four singles were released and only one would make the Top 10 of the Hot 100.
The lead single from the album was "Hung Up". Sampling the ABBA song "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)", this song would end up in the Guinness Book of World Records for reaching #1 in 41 countries. The U.S. oddly, is not one of them (I blame this on a certain song that goes "Umbrella-ella-ella-ay-ay-ay"...) as it only reached #7. Following tradition, the song went to #1 on the Dance chart. Video wise, this helped rehabilitate Madonna's image to not suck as demonstrated on her previous effort. The video featured the French invented style of hooliganism on speed known as parkour (And made it that thing that made people hurt themselves on YouTube.) *Fun fact on this video: Madonna broke 8 bones due to a horseback riding fuck up and still managed to get the dance shots in three hours.*
Despite the lasting effect of the lead single and video, its subsequent releases didn't measure up; at least with the second song, there was an underlying cause to its minimal success.

Second released from the album was "Sorry". Song and video wise, this was made as a sort of sequel to "Hung Up" in that the same dancers were used to continue their fun adventures with a superstar who had only fucked up one album ago. However, despite going to #1 on the Dance charts, radio relating to the Hot 100 didn't give it the airplay needed to make this another commercial hit. "Sorry" peaked at #58 on the Hot 100 but at least it did make something of an impact on the charts.
Her last releases from the album "Get Together" and "Jump" would go the way of "Nothing Fails" and "Love Profusion"; #1 on the Dance chart and not even close to the Hot 100. Which leads to this; what the hell happened in this era of Madonna's career?

A 007 theme and even a Gap ad in 2002 and 2003, A Guinness World Record 3 years later; the lack of Hot 100 hits after "Hung Up" should not have occurred. [NOTE: Your local Ciccone-head has at least 3 conspiracy theories thought up as to why this was.] Maybe the suck of American Life and the title track had tainted her legacy While that's true, think back to the VMAs mentioned around American Life. Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera were among some of the "modern" pop acts to be featured as their careers were looking strong. Also in 2003, Beyonce would mark her solo debut. Add Rihanna becoming a thing from around Confessions on a Dance Floor and it's a little clearer.
Madge's consistency didn't mean much to the "youngun" she had to entertain at the time; so while it's plausible that at the time, they liked the performance and/or music videos, they weren't exactly keen on requesting her songs to radio or even waiting to hear her songs on the radio. It was something that Madonna picked up on (Give or take some poorly written lyrics, Madonna has always been known to start and/or capitalize on music trends.) for her next effort.
Confessions on a Dance Floor went to #1.

Madonna's 11th studio album, Hard Candy, was released in 2008. 3 songs were released from the album. This was the era defined by collaborations and a garish album cover. At this time, she had enlisted the assistance of two major producers/vocalists of the era; Pharrell and Timbaland. She also managed to get Justin Timberlake off of the Saturday Night Live set long enough to lay a vocal on the lead single [which I just flat out don't like.]
"4 Minutes" was the lead single for the album. Even with Timbaland on production/instrumentals...this song is just awful. I could never understand its popularity outside of the names on the song. Timbaland was commercially enjoying himself; Justin Timberlake was enjoying the fruits of his labor FutureSex/LoveSounds. Still despite the flaws of the song and lackluster music video; they escape a deteriorating world and dance on top of cars...-_- the song went to #3 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Dance charts. Though fans would learn to embrace this song's legacy as to this day, it remains her last Top 5 hit on the Hot 100.

Next released from the album was "Give It 2 Me". This was one of the many tracks with the hand of Pharrell on it. Yet following in her previous album's tradition of notable lead and subsequent releases getting shafted, "Give It 2 Me" peaked at #57 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Dance chart.
Finally, "Miles Away" was released as a promotional single in Japan. In the U.S. it went to #2 on the Dance chart. What the hell went wrong with Hard Candy? Did people think it tasted like butterscotch? *B-bad pun*
Well at the time, Timbaland and Pharrell had long been enjoying the fruits of their mid 2000s success, but no more than Timbaland. At the time, he had helped make Nelly Furtado a thing in 2006 with her single "Promiscuous" and the album Loose. Madge had realized that chart success would keep panning out as it had for the time. So she decided to call up the big name producers she felt could reinvigorate her career. With a #3 single that seemed to have happened, right? Kind of. Upon review, Hard Candy was blasted for sounding dated [by about 2 years thanks to Furtado & Timberlake's sound being heard first.] and for trying to "harness the urban market"; all that is, is bullshit that means "she tried way too hard by getting Pharrell and Timbaland to make her look cool."

Despite the initial trouble being absolved by the Sticky & Sweet tour being the second highest grossing tour...of all time, Hard Candy went to #1.

Cut past another greatest of compilation called Celebration, and its singles "Celebration" and "Revolver" ft. Lil' Wayne...not doing a damn thing on the Hot 100 as "Celebration" only peaked at #71 and going #1 on the dance chart while "Revolver" only went to #4 on the Dance chart.
Also, Hard Candy would be the last album she would do with Warner Bros. after 25 years with the label. Now that that's aside, this next effort and lead single would show that by this point Madonna simply phoned shit in when her Interscope deal began; oh guess who else is on Interscope that helped Madonna gain some press? Lady Gaga! More on that later.

MDNA is the 12th and most recent studio effort, released in 2012. Around this time she had just performed at the Super Bowl halftime show which artists take despite the fun fact...Super Bowl performers don't get paid to do the show (Also, the now defunct group LMFAO were tasked with joining Madge at the Super Bowl. Shameful decision.) 4 songs would be spawned; 3 would chart in the States while "Masterpiece" would be released in the UK.
The lead single for the album had enlisted more collaborative help from other Super Bowl assistants rapper M.I.A. [and her middle finger] and whatever that "Super Bass" chick's name is.
"Give Me All Your Luvin'" (Which until J.Lo released "I Luh Ya Papi" had clenched Most Unforgivable Spelling Error at the Swear Ball EXTRAVAGANZA) received just enough positive feedback from critics to reach #10 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Dance chart. Though it is unforgivable still for under utilizing M.I.A. for that other one on the record.

While subsequent releases "Girl Gone Wild" and "Turn Up The Radio" would go to #1 on the Dance chart, "Girl Gone Wild" got the accoutrement of controversy alongside existing. Creator of the Girls Gone Wild franchise, Joe Francis, took issue with the song title...because in his eyes it was deemed too close to his movies. The world shrugged "who cares" and we moved on.

MDNA upon reception was seen as Madge's edgiest album in a while, but was blasted for haphazard song content and half-assed production value. Still, MDNA went to #1.

After that album and performing at the Grammys with Macklemore X Ryan Lewis & Mary Lambert [while channeling Boss Hogg from the Dukes of Hazzard] during the mass wedding event, what of these eras and previous eras make up Madonna as one of many W.W.C.I.I.T.M.I.? Everything she proceeds to do.
In recent events, she proceeded to assert that Gaga had ripped off her song "Express Yourself" for her single "Born This Way" calling the sampling "reductive"; used the "n" word on her Instagram account when posting a photo of her son [then proceeding to provide this "classy" follow up...]

"Let's try this again. #Get off my dick haters"
-Madonna on Instagram

She then proceeded call both Russian source for American internet amusement, Vladimir Putin and the leafy green vegetable, kale "gay" in a word association game interview for internet playground for Mean Girls posts and lists upon lists of which things from the contributors rooms as a child grossed them out from least to most, BuzzFeed. While Putin being called "gay" was seen as a comical jest at the anti-gay reputation Russian politics is building itself, kale being called "gay" sprung accusations of Madonna being casually homophobic with her words (That is until BuzzFeed proceeded to cover her ass when Holy SPEAR-it/Godney Gregorian Monk, Matt Stopera "conducted" an interview with kale in which kale confirmed that it was indeed gay. -_-)
The reason BuzzFeed covered her ass so swiftly was that she had originally worked at BuzzFeed to help promote her project ArtForFreedom. Look it up, it's actually meaningful.

In terms of music, it's nothing different from any of the other major pop acts I've covered thus far. Accusations of skating by on image and/or dancing ability as opposed to singing ability? Madonna's heard that more than once. Assertions of cheapening sexuality to sell records and create buzz by shock value on songs and music videos? She's heard that too.
Yet what has Madonna regarded as a great was simply this; she was the first mainstream pop act to do all of these things on a level where media coverage progressed to what it is today. In essence, she's regarded as one of the best because she was the first. Hell, she's the reason this equation from a previous post exists...

"How to Have a Prosperous Singing Career"

Singing ability + Controversy + Sex appeal = Prosperous singing career

All in all, whenever Madonna breathes she attracts attention for better and worse and she damn well knows what she's doing by now. With a 13th album in the works, we should at least have an idea as to where this will end up.

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