Madonna was on tv the other night and I wondered if she was an invention of Jacqueline Suzanne’s imagination: all that money and fame, all those lovers, the scandals, the mixture of taste and tacky. In case you haven’t heard of her, Madonna is the biggest pop star ever. Over 35 years of making music, images, waves. She looked astonishing on Saturday. I guess the surgery is settling down. It’s not to my taste, but I’m a month younger than Madonna and fewer people look at me. Jonathan Ross was his usual smirky, insinuating, wretched self. Madonna, I think, is always cleverer than the people who interview her.
I don’t imagine any pop star has rehearsed more thoroughly than Madonna. I don’t imagine she’d ever go on stage unless she was note, step and stitch perfect. She never seems to say ‘that’ll do‘. She talked briefly about her work ethic on Saturday. No one has as strong a work ethic as Madonna, not even her children, she said. Gay men all longed for Madonna to be their mother in 1992, but maybe it isn’t so easy being one of her children.
I haven’t loved one of her records since Ray of Light which was in 1998. But she keeps making them, keeps up with trends, keeps promoting the records. I think it’s me not keeping up that’s the problem. I must be wrong about this, but pop music doesn’t seem to have moved very far since around, oh, 1994. The same beats, the same echoes, the same kind of noise. She sang a couple of songs from her new record. They were nice. I’ve no idea how live her voice was, but even so, her singing has improved so much since Holiday, which she made in 1983. Her voice is stronger now, and still has a sweetness. It’s very easy to love that sweetness. I don’t really care how live her singing was. She is the biggest pop star ever.
Do you remember that eighty year old woman who went to Studio 54 every night in 1978 wearing sequined hot pants? Madonna won’t become like that. For one thing, she likes to be the first. But if she does, if she’s still showing her arse in fish nets when she’s 80, she’ll do it well, her arse will be perfect. She’ll have rehearsed it.
Did Madonna ever meet Princess Diana? Were they friends? Maybe they’re both too demanding, they’d cancel each other out like exploding stars. We loved them both, for similar reasons, in that wild decade after that other bottle-blond Margaret Thatcher left office. Diana was the only pop star that came close to Madonna’s global reach in those years. Does peroxide affect the brain, somehow? Give you thoughts of world domination? Madonna said that everyone should be blonde at some point in their life. I regret not taking her advice, although I dyed my musketeer beard shocking pink a couple of years ago.
Maybe Madonna and Diana were both very calculating, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t mean what they said. Divorces and confessions and behaving badly, stalking phone calls and swearing on Letterman. Diana threw herself down the stairs, Madonna danced down stairs in sugary pink in the video for Material Girl. They were Material Girls. They were both Looking For Love. They sat at the bedsides of young men dying of Aids and gay men loved them both. I’d take Madonna over Diana, though – better music, more stylish, bigger laughs.
One of the pleasures of ageing for me is how, gradually, I’m becoming more open about… well, about everything. Revelation is liberating. Lord knows what took me so long because Madonna has been telling us just this forever. If Diana was the Queen of Hearts, Madonna is the Queen of Confession. When I was a teen there was a lot of talk about how women were at their sexual peak at 30, men at 19. As if to support the argument, Madonna made both Erotica and Sex when she was in her early thirties. Sex was a book of saucy photographs of Madonna snogging Naomi Campbell and wearing lace-up boots and so on. The world, of course, was sniffy about both endeavours. It’s many years since I last saw the book, but Erotica is a great record, it has many of Madonna’s best songs on it.
It starts scratchily, both literally and figuratively, the crackle of vinyl, Madonna has an itch that needs to be scratched. Put your hands all over my body, she sings, I’d like to put you in a trance… She gets breathy about saucy things and moans sexily. I love all songs with fake orgasms in them – Je T’aime, Love to Love You Baby, and the rest. It’s a great addition to the orgasm canon and brilliant to dance to, as well. There she is on the cover, singing an orgasm.
The record continues like this, I’m sure you know. She wants to know what turns you on. She always wants to know that. She wants you to go deeper, somehow, and then deeper again. She thinks about having dinner – she could dine at home, but prefers eating out. Can you make a fire without using wood? Sometimes Madonna has the subtlety of a seaside postcard. Later she tells us Why It’s So Hard. Maybe she should have called the record Carry On Madge. I’m not complaining, I’ve loved this record since it was released. I’ve played it many times and I’ve never been bored by it. I don’t think there’s a bad track on it. Pop music has never been better. All her records are exquisitely produced. There’s much to dance to.
The slower tracks are lovely, too. Bad Girl, the perfect Madonna song title. She’s a very naughty girl. Waiting – I doubt Madonna waits long for anyone or anything. Only love can hurt like this. Rain, wash away her pain. In This Life is a sad, beautiful song about her friend dying of Aids. Maybe it’s not only love that hurts.
I love the sound of breaking glass at the beginning of Thief of Hearts, and we’re back up dancing. Now sit your arse down, she instructs us, like we could. Waiting For You is the funniest song Madonna has ever recorded. Hi-lar-ious. It all ends with a song called Secret Garden, in case we were in any doubt that Erotica is a hymn to Madonna’s vagina. A perfect flower, my finest hour, a rose without a thorn… What a fragrant and melodious place Madonna’s vagina must be.
Anyway, I’ve done extensive research (looked at the first page after searching Google) and discover that Madonna did meet Princess Diana, but only once. They were at a cocktail party when she was filming Evita, just a couple of years after Erotica; 1995 or so. I also found this, from 1985, where Madonna is Princess Diana. I don’t want to remind anyone of Madonna’s film career, but she was always better performing comedy than drama. She’s better at being a pop star than either, of course. And that’s why I love Erotica.