Tag Archives: Madonna

Dear Artist: I’ve broken up with you. Please Don’t Cry

NPR has a pretty funny feature on breaking up with your favorite band.  When you become obsessed with an artist, it’s inevitable that at a certain point you might shake your head and wonder what the hell they’re doing.  Here’s a short list of artist I’ve broken up with.

The Killers

 The Killers started out like a great hook-up that keeps going – their songs were fun, and they seemed to be ready for a good time whenever you wanted it.  Then they discovered Bruce Springsteen, and like many hook-ups that last too long – got serious.  They made the Springsteen-esque  “Sam’s Town”, an album which is easily the most hubristic album of the 2000s.

The Strokes


Despite my inclusion of The Strokes in the 10 Greatest Artist of the Last Decade, The Strokes and I had a pretty bitter break-up.  Is This It was loud, brash, and exciting.  They cared so much about not caring, that in the end, nobody cared.

Kings of Leon


The worst offenders on this list.  As I’ve mentioned many times on this blog, I discovered Kings of Leon around 2005 or 2004, and they were the illegitimate children of the Stooges and The Allman Brothers.  The music had a country-twang, but was played at breakneck speed.  And then like The Killers, they too, got serious and needed somebody.  In a few short years they went from sounding like no one, to sounding like everybody else.

Lady Gaga


 Gaga’s antics didn’t really bother me until she decided to call herself a spokesman of a generation (or something like that).  You can’t declare yourself to be the spokesman for people or a group – they have to decide for you.  Even Madonna had a sense of humor – something Gaga should think about lifting as well.

What artists have you broken up with?

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The Ten Most Important Artists of the Last Decade: 4. Britney Spears

Whatever you think of her, it’s hard to deny Britney Spears’ impact in the past decade.  As an artist, she has numerous hit singles that have seeped into our consciousness whether we like it or not.  As a tabloid celebrity, it’s been impossible to look away from her downward spiral.  Her antics in the mid 2000s, are the stuff of legend.  She’s a 21st century Marilyn Monroe – a hyper-sexualized mild talent, who is naive enough to generate sympathy from her critics.

It was hard to escape songs by The Backstreet Boys, and N’sync in the early 2000s even if you wanted to.  Even before she became a house-hold name, Spears rose above the rest.  Most of this had to do with the infamous “Baby One More Time” video.  With a walk down a school hall-way and a Catholic School Uniform, Britney declared herself queen of the pop-world before she was 18.  It’s one of the last videos to be a significant event.  And even for pop the song itself was actually quite good – as proved by the numerous covers by artists outside of the pop world.

Even if she had never put out another single, Spears would still be remembered.  But she kept going, establishing herself as a pop juggernaut, not seen since Madonna.  At Britney’s height there were numerous women pop stars – Mandy Moore, Jessica Simpson, Christina Aguilera – but none of them were even in competition with Spears.  Not even close.  And while her peers attempted to label themselves – Aguilera the one who could sing, Simpson the virgin – Britney Spears was simply Britney Spears.  Eventually, if you said the name Britney – you meant Britney Spears.

Like many of her songs,  “Oops I Did It Again” the sexual undertones were at the forefront.  But the title also seemed to suggest she seemed perplexed that she was still there, even bigger than before.  When she kissed Madonna on the lips at the Video Music Awards – which sent many men and women too in a frenzy for various reasons – it was more than sexual.  Madonna officially handed her over her crown to Spears through the kiss.  For years even the most cynical music fans tried to ignore Spears.  Then there was “Toxic” – the song that even music snobs had to admit was really, really good.  It was catchy and weird, and you couldn’t get those synthesized violins out of your head.  The little girl who danced around a high school, had truly grown up in front of our eyes.

Spears seemed to go out of fashion musically in the latter part of the decade.  Her troubles got the best of her.  She was crazy, and seemed destined to self-destruct.  There were still album and singles from her, but none of them seemed to have the same impact.  In the meantime, other female pop-artists took up her mantle and captured audiences imagination.  And once again, her peers tended to label themselves.  Katy Perry – the cute tease, Lady Gaga – the weird art pop-artist, and Kesha – the trashy party girl.

When Spears announced that she would be releasing a new album earlier this year, critics and fans wondered if she would be able to compete with Lady Gaga, pop’s latest reigning queen.  No need to worry though. Unlike Christina Aguilera who desperately tried to reinvent herself with last year’s Bionic, Spear came back with Femme Fatale and boldly declared: “I am Britney Spears, and I am pop.”

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Lady Gaga’s Battle With Sincerity

When Lady Gaga took the stage for her acceptance speech on Sunday night at the Grammys, I was shocked at how sincere she was.  It was almost painful.  Tears were flowing.  She talked about how she imagined Whitney Houston singing her new song “Born This Way”.  Even Bruce Springsteen and Bono (two of rock’s most sincerest performers) have showed some humor when accepting awards.  And even Madonna, who Gaga models herself after – “Born this Way” is a re-write of Madonna’s “Express Yourself” – never gave a performance like that.

Most of Gaga’s previous songs I enjoyed because I always got the sense that there was some sense of irony in her performances.  There’s no way you could take songs like “Pokerface” and “Bad Romance” at face value. That seemed to be part of the appeal.  Unlike a lot of other pop that has been coming out of the airwaves, Gaga seemed intent on being mysterious.  Every interview I’ve ever read with her though, the opposite is true.

But on Sunday night, when Gaga accepted her award, her demeanor was more like a country-artist.  She had to let everyone that she was “thankful” and that everything that she does is for her fans aka the “little monsters”.  Despite her outward appearances and masks, the real Gaga is just a little girl looking for acceptance.

This sincerity is why “Born This Way” might be Gaga’s worst song, even over the tepid but hilarious “Boys Boys Boys” off of The Fame. It’s already been called a “gay anthem” and Gaga herself make claim that she is writing this for the outcasts everywhere, but its clearly about her own anthem for acceptance. Outward it seems as if she’s telling everybody it’s ok to be slightly freaky and different, but the reality is Gaga seems a bit insecure and “Born This Way” is her way of reaffirming herself to society.  Gaga has also claimed that she wrote the song “in 10 fucking minutes”, which sounds nice on paper, but the lyrics seem too forced for it to be written in such a fashion.  She clearly thought everything through several times.

Lady Gaga seems to be caught between two worlds: the post-modern kitschy trash of her wardrobe and stage antics, and the open heart of her real personality. She can’t have it both ways.  She desperately wants to be cool, and she was definitely not “born that way”.

 

 

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