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    Every little thing that you say or do

    I was going to post about the Nikkei‘s acid editorial on the latest developments in the “trinity reforms,” but then I came across Camille’s Salon review of the new Madonna album. The restructuring of the Japanese government can wait.

    Paglia’s paradoxical reaction is funny–in effect: “This CD is such a trivial non-event that it’s moved me to write three pages and reexamine my entire collection of dance records on vinyl.” I’ve certainly expended energy over the last few weeks listening to Madonna’s hokey lyrics and her producers’ ripped-off rhythm tracks and thinking, This song should really be annoying me. Why am I not annoyed? Why am I SINGING ALONG? I don’t know that I’d go in the direction Paglia does in this climactic passage, though:

    Last summer, Madonna described her forthcoming CD as “future disco” — which raised the hopes of all die-hard disco fans that “Confessions on a Dance Floor” would be a masterpiece, a return to roots but also a visionary breakthrough.

    That’s not what we got — though you’d never know it from the gushing reviews, which applauded the CD for achieving Madonna’s purported aim of making people dance. My blood boiled at this insulting reduction of dance music to gymnastics — mere recreational aerobics. I for one do not dance to dance music; disco for me is a lofty metaphysical mode that induces contemplation. (Of course, this may partly descend from my Agnes Gooch marginalization in the old bar scene, where I was — as Nora Ephron would say — a wallflower at the orgy.) Giorgio Moroder’s albums, which I listened to obsessively on headphones, were an enormous inspiration to me throughout the writing of “Sexual Personae” in the 1970s and ’80s. Disco at its best is a neurological event, a shamanistic vehicle of space-time travel.

    I’m not sure what Agnes is doing in that paragraph. Her issue was that she needed to pull herself together and stop being a wrung-out ninny. Not a problem I can ever imagine Camille’s having. Anyway, maybe it’s because I’ve never felt marginalized at bars, but I don’t see why dancing at a club is to be dismissed as “mere recreational aerobics” because Camille couldn’t get a date thirty years ago.

    I wish Confessions on a Dance Floor had had more songs that are good just to listen to, too, the way Madonna’s un-remixed classic singles are. Straight-ahead pop melodies do come up, but only in the second half; the album is front-loaded with songs in which the choruses are connected by lots of chopped-up phrases instead of real verses. But whatever. Surely, having done all she’s done for dance pop, Madonna’s entitled to devote one album to giving the fags something to dance to, even if it’s not another Lasting Contribution to art. At least here in Tokyo, “Hung Up,” for all its flaws, is the first song since Kylie’s “Can’t Get You out of My Head” that makes all the guys of every age in a bar look up and react when it comes on. Some of the reactions, granted, are on the order of “This bitch never could sing and I wish she’d finally GO AWAY!” (Kylie got that, too.) But no one’s indifferent. There’s something very winning about Madonna’s sheer ability to keep convincing you you have to listen and watch.

    A few minor points: by the time Teena Marie made “Lover Girl,” her collaboration with Rick James was long over. And in her rush to credit Giorgio Moroder for everything good that Confessions on a Dance Floor rips off, Paglia seems completely unaware of the half-dozen early New Order rhythm tracks that Price has nicked. I can easily imagine her dismissing New Order as not warm and sensual and “visceral” enough to be truly Dionysian, or what have you, but the fact is that they’ve had just about as much influence on dance music over the last twenty years as Madonna has. (Not that they were always original themselves. The drum break at the beginning of “Blue Monday” is stolen directly from Donna Summer’s “Our Love.”) Given all the arm-windmilling Paglia does about Madonna’s lazily snagging ideas from obvious sources, you’d have thought NO would come up somewhere.

    Added on 3 December: Ann Althouse posted about the above passage, too; as always, some of her commenters are hilarious.

    8 Responses to “Every little thing that you say or do”

    1. jeff says:

      HA! I love Camille, but refuse to pay Salon. But the tracks I’ve heard do sound generic. I’ve never much liked the M, altho I thought the Amerikan Life single was interesting &catchy. But it flopped, so I think Camille is right, that this CD is a retreat, because M couldn’t bear to have 2 flops in a row because that would mean she’s full of shit &over

      Giorgio Morodor was brilliant. Even Robert Hilburn, the punkophile LA Slimes music critic, defended Donna Summer against her detractors. I still work out to “Lucky”

    2. Michael says:

      I’m fed up. I’m tired of waitin’ on you…

      Dammit! Thanks, Sean…

    3. jeff says:

      MEH! That Lovergirl song was GHASTLY. Many years ago I carpooled with these hilarious black women, but the music was dreadful. I particularly remember Lovergirl &that awful song that goes “She walked by me UNGH with painted on jeans UNGH.”

      Just kill me

    4. jeff says:

      Okay I read it. Why is there no mention of Gwen Stefani in that article?

      Bjork on Madonna:

      “There have been several occasions when it has been self-evident for us to meet, but my instinct always told me the situation would get bothersome and faked. She seems to be all brains and no instinct, even if it obviously can’t be so, since she has gotten herself to where she is now. But in the daily life it seems as if she isn’t aware of her subconscious, as silly as it may sound. I have tried to avoid her, as much as I could.”

    5. Sean Kinsell says:

      “I still work out to ‘Lucky.'”

      “Lucky” may be my absolute favorite song on Bad Girls. Over “Dim All the Lights,” even. I have to say I do like “Lovergirl,” but a little of it goes a LONG way, and it was seriously, inescapably, oh-gawd-not-again overplayed when it was out.

      As far as the retreat thing goes, yeah, I agree. I think the album’s fine on its own terms, but the PR machine is making it clear that Madonna can’t bear not being the center of attention, as measured in interviews and record sales. Camille very satisfyingly skewered “How High,” this album’s edition of the song on which she pseudo-ruminatively says that she used to chase fame but now realizes that other things–you know, deeper spiritual stuff–are more important. Yeah, right. If she were really interested in a soulfully quiet life as a wife and mother, she could just buy half a county in England, settle in, and do it. Instead, she seems to be doing this version of family life that’s like, “Mommy–sorry, we’re English now–Mummy, Mummy…Mummy will be back to make gingerbread tonight, just the four of us; but right now she has to go in front of the camera to show the world she’s still limber enough to fold herself clean in half at the vagina.” She was much more winning in the 80s, when she very forthrightly acknowledged that she thrives on publicity and playing with identities and accepted that people were going to say mean things about her.

      On the other hand, her quality control failures lately could be a good sign in a sense. If the reason she can’t focus on work is that she’s really devoting herself (in terms of mind space) to her family as much as she keeps blathering about, then it’s probably worth it from Lourdes and Rocco’s point of view.

    6. jeff says:

      If u haven’t yet, try to see the French &Saunders parody of the Madonna/Britney video, with Jennifer Saunders as M (“What am I doing here in Hollywood / I’ve been in movies &I’m not that good”) &the irrepressible Dawn French as Britney Spears

    7. Paglia’s confessions of no dance floor

      She don’t dance to disco and she’s the expert? I for one do not dance to dance music; disco for me is a lofty metaphysical mode that induces contemplation. (Of course, this may partly descend from my Agnes Gooch marginalization…

    8. Sean Kinsell says:

      “What am I doing here in Hollywood / I’ve been in movies &I’m not that good”

      LOL! I’ll have to give it a look.

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