It wasn’t that Madonna was just awful yesterday, though she was. It wasn’t just that she lip-synched her songs, which she did. Poorly. It wasn’t just that her dance moves were more a kind of sclerotic senior citizen’s attempt to be hip, without breaking one. Those things could essentially be excused, or at least laughed at. It’s that the whole half-time show was a metaphor and its symbolism stretched across the country, I’m convinced. Not one 40 or 50-something sat through that show with a hint of pride in what they might have liked about the pop princess 30 years ago.
Madonna was always in poor taste. She was interesting, I’ll grant you. And I have to confess that I have always found her an attractive woman. But even in the 80’s, while she was seen as a trend-setter and a cultural icon, her music was always–well–not music. It was muzak. It was poorly manufactured. Drummer Tony Thompson, formerly of Chic and later of the “super-group” Power Station, famously remarked that in touring with Madonna, “we’re not making fine china, here. We’re making paper plates.” Point well taken.
The paper plates were dripping with grease and shredding into pieces while the maw of the trash can stood below at the Super Bowl. It says something profound and bad that the demographic geniuses who choose a half-time show that may well be one of the most watched things on television each year chose her. She was almost as bad the Black-Eyed Peas last year and anyone making an argument that Black-Eyed Peas have talent really needs to take a serious personal and life inventory.
The show reeked of sclerosis through and through. It was a metaphor for the nation right now. It was heavy on production, but the production was large, lumbering and, well…bad. It was ugly in so many ways. Madonna’s dance moves looked like they pained her. They pained me, I know. But they weren’t even that good. There was nothing exciting about the dances. It was as if she was relearning the moves all over again and they happened on the downbeats of simplistic and silly music. Train wrecks compel you to watch. I was compelled to expectorate.
I actually have a soft spot for pop music. Some of it is wonderful and deserves attention. There are plenty of singers, Kelly Clarkson is one, who deserve the attention they get. Her National Anthem was beautiful. Madonna never had a great voice–she had an OK voice. Whatever she had that hooked audiences in, and she did by the millions–it has since gone the way of the do-do. Mind you, I never did find the appeal. I never sat and listened to a Madonna song by choice. And for the record, I’ll allow that people did and that she appealed to them. My wife is one of those. Nothing against that. I’m a Rush fan, but I get that Geddy Lee’s voice, akin to a hamster being squeezed in a vice, is also limited. So, to each his own.
But even fans must have been disappointed yesterday. Madonna was sluggish and slow, the opposite of creative and the epitome of old hat. Myriad dancers and guest performances by Nicki Minaj, among others, were in poor taste, low-brow, adolescent and confused. There is nothing worse than young rap stars rapping about themselves as though anyone cares about their lives and how “cool” they are. And here again I submit that anyone who does think they are cool needs to rethink their life. Minaj was profane, idiotic and a buffoon. If her career takes off, it will be yet another nail in the coffin of western culture. Justice would dictate that she disappear from the pop scene and leave it to those who can actually, you know….sing.
So, Madonna lumbered and struggled through a technology laden, media rich creation that had no meaning and carried no symbolism beyond extending the life of something that deserved long ago to die off.
We have become Madonna’s half-time show–a giant sloth. We’re top heavy–full of upper level managers, administrators and superintendents all earning money that doesn’t exist, all of them dancing and carrying the petty cab of a leader who is herself (or himself) falling apart. She’s simply the only one who doesn’t know it.
It was a sad statement and a serious oxymoron of juxtaposition against a Superbowl game that was marked by having to think fast, move faster and be light on one’s feet. The Patriots lost, in fact, because after the first half, they lost their speed, their momentum–and the Giants picked it up. Madonna was the opposite of that.
What Fitzgerald said of Gatsby is true of Madonna: He had come such a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close he could hardly fail to grasp it. But what he did not know was that it was already behind him, somewhere in the vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.”
Pray that it is not true of all of us…