My friend Kyle e-mailed me this past week. The subject line was Oh My God! and the e-mail itself was all about Madonna’s upcoming world tour. I guess he thought I liked Madonna. I mean, why else would he e-mail me about this?
Here’s the deal. I have never actually purchased a Madonna album, but I know 500 facts about Madonna. I know Madonna is Madonna’s real name, and her mom died when she was just a kid, and she studied dance, and when she showed up in New York City in the late 1970s she told the cab driver to take her to the center of it all and she only had $35 in her pocket or something like that. I know she was married to Sean Penn and now she’s married to Guy Ritchie. I know she wrote a children’s book and I know she played Evita in “Evita.”
I also have 500 memories associated with Madonna. I remember going to my friend Vanessa’s house circa 1986 and dressing up like Madonna and taking snapshots of ourselves. I remember a priest visiting my Catholic school classroom and telling us it was wrong to listen to Madonna because her name mocked that of the Virgin Mary. (“But Father,” Raffaela Sabato protested, “that’s her real name!”) I remember my BFF Lisa calling me totally flipping out after the “Like a Prayer” Pepsi ad had aired. (“She was like, burning crosses!”) I remember driving around with girlfriends in high school singing along to “Holiday.” I remember figuring out that “Papa Don’t Preach” was about teenage pregnancy. I remember staying up trying to catch a glimpse of the “Justify My Love” video on MTV just before they decided to ban it. (I never did see it.) I remember watching “Dick Tracy” and “A League of Their Own” in the theaters. I remember I was in college when Lourdes was born. I remember her kiss with Britney.
All that’s in the past, but Madonna is still around. And now she’s made this new album Hard Candy with Justin Timberlake and Timbaland and some other current hipsters. And everyone is freaking out about how awesome Madonna is even though she’s almot 50. And my friend Kyle is e-mailing me (Oh My God!) about her new tour dates.
But here’s the deal. I don’t like Madonna.
How is it possible to grow up completely surrounded by a pop culture icon and to have so much of my youth and childhood influenced by her, and yet not like her? How is it that I loved Cyndi Lauper, the Bangles, heck, even Paula Abdul more than Madonna, and yet Madonna takes up so much more of my brain than any of the aforementioned artists? And why do I know so much more about her?
I should like Madonna, shouldn’t I? Despite the phony British accent, the Kabbalah bullshit, and her insistence that her current state of beauty comes from yoga alone, I really should like Madonna, right? She paved the way for many current female artists to be taken seriously. She constantly reinvented herself and refused to back down when criticized. She owned her sexuality and blah blah blah.
But I don’t like Madonna.
Is it because of the fake British accent that she gets on my nerves? Is it because of Kabbalah? The adoption of an African baby? The way she got all snooty during that brilliant MTV moment when a high Courtney Love practically attacked her? The way she kind of seemed to latch on to Britney Spears when Britney was the shit and then dropped her when Brit Brit went all whacka whacka?
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Is it because her music never seemed that great to me? Because it all sounded the same and kind of overproduced? Because I didn’t like the cone bra? Because I thought she co-opted a lot of her shtick from gay men? Because she made everyone do that damn “Vogue” thing for too long?
I just can’t bring myself to like Madonna. And I feel kind of bad about that.
Sorry, Kyle. And sorry, Madonna. – Jennifer Mathieu