I grew up on VH1 Behind the Music. My favorite and most-watched episode was the one on Madonna. Then I watched her Driven episode and Madonna Rising. I wanted to know as much about her as I could. I was around eight, maybe a little older. She was in her Ray of Light – Kabbalah – earthy-self phase. At the time, I wanted to be her. I would practice singing “Ray of Light” to whoever would graciously listen (ears suffering). Later, I would declare that whatever I ended up doing, I wanted to be the Madonna of it.
I had a very specific idea of what that meant: It meant hard work and no apologies for who you were. I’ve certainly failed both of these standards. I’m sure Madonna does not even reach the “Madonna Standards” all the time (“absolutely no regrets”? — I doubt it). Even at eight years old, it was never the glamorous lifestyle or fame that I wanted. I remember watching that interview of her, when she first began, on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. He asked her what she wanted. Her well-known response: “I want to rule the world.” It was her grit — although, I’m sure I would not have put in those words at the time. Many people I know would not call Madonna a roll model, but she was my first.
I’m not sure I would consider myself a Madonna-fan anymore. After Hard Candy, I quit listening. While I like Madonna’s more self-aware songs, Bitch, I’m Madonna is dreck. I think Camille Paglia has it right. I cannot relate to want-to-be-hip-and-young-Madonna. This is not because I’m old. I’m not at all. I’m 28, only a few years older than Madonna than when she came out with her first album. But I do think I’m more conscious of aging than I was ten years ago. I’m sentimental for the first Madonna I came to love. That was a woman I could grow into: deep, introspective, self-aware, thoughtful, and in a way, literary. Current Madonna is not someone I ever think I could age into. Or, would ever want to.
Still, I’ve been listening to Madonna all day in honor of the woman who showed me what hard work could make possible, who taught me “long stem roses are the way to your heart, but he needs to start with your head,” and that success may not be the be all end all. These are the true blue Madonna songs that I can listen to over and over.
- Bedtime Story.
- Ray of Light.
- Human Nature.
- Express Yourself.
- The Power of Good-bye.
- Hung Up.
- Drowned World/Substitute for Love.