In Salon the great critic and intellectual Camille Paglia rips apart Madonna for being creepy and old and trying to incorrectly recapture her angst and youth instead of blazing a path that matches her temperament and established philosophy of performance:
Even allowing for the fact that she must strenuously maintain her hipness for a busy husband 10 years her junior, Madonna is starting to morph into the mature Joan Crawford of “Torch Song,” still ferociously dancing but with her fascist willpower signaled by brute, staring eyes and fixed jawline. In cannibalizing her disco diva days, Madonna runs the risk of turning into a pasty powdered crumpet like the aging Bette Davis in “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” Will she become a whooping Charo shaking her geriatric hoochie-coochie hips on TV talk shows? Or should we expect a sudden, grisly collapse from glowing beauty to dust, like Ursula Andress as the 2000-year-old femme fatale in “She”? Too hungry to connect to the youth market, Madonna goes on childishly using naughty words and flipping the finger (as onstage at Live 8 last summer). Marlene Dietrich, her supreme precursor, knew how to preserve her dignity and glamour.
Paglia’s biggest sword rightly cuts into the meat of modern music as I have repeatedly argued here in your favorite Urban Semiotic blog time and again: Many popular singing artists
no longer care or accept that melody — the part of the song you hum
and sing to yourself all day — is the hallmark of a great song and the
tunefulness of a song is what gives it life beyond the mouth:
Nevertheless, the positive response to “Confessions”
probably signals a thirst on the part of the pop audience for emotional
directness and shaped melody, which have languished in the hip-hop era,
with its aggressive, incantatory rhyming and grinding percussive
effects. Even Madonna’s archrival, Mariah Carey, with her virtuoso
lyricism, is given to long, meandering vocal lines that assert
passionate feeling (stressed in performance by pentecostal hand-waving
and arm swoops) but in fact go nowhere. It’s a crooning, swooning,
melting style that makes too many of Mariah’s songs sound the same.
Melody has been dead
a long while now in popular music and I don’t see a return to standard
melody making any time in the near future. We are currying generations
of young people who think a syncopated rhythm and a thumping bass alone
make a great song.
They do not.
Melody, lyric and true rhyme are the
only vital ingredients to creating a standard song with the innate
ability to stretch across and bring joy to more than a single