Monday, August 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Madonna!

You may have heard that today is Madonna's birthday. The pop deity hits 52 this week and although she's an in between time for her pop career (she's left Warners, doesn't have an album in the immediate future) but that doesn't mean Our Glorious Leader isn't busy. There's the fashion line co-created with daughter Lourdes, modelling for the current D&G campaign while designing sunglasses for them and now directing her second film W.E. (head over to Madonna Tribe to keep up to date with all things Madonna) Madge is nothing if not busy!

Still with her birthday rolling around now seems the perfect time to celebrate all things Madge. But how you ask? Here are list of five Madonna moments, just some personal times when I had a "god Madonna you're kind of amazing" moment. The very reason why this woman is still a pop icon for millions around the world.

5: Madonna bumping into C.Love

I relive this one quite a bit as I still get great mileage out of Madonna running into Miss Courtney Love. "Courtney Love is in dire need of attention right now" she snaps at one point. It's hard to say who wants the attention more but it sure is fun to watch these two spar. It's also a neat summation of how Madonna is both in control, efficient but also a bit of a square. Hilarious stuff.

4: American Life

My first Madonna album and still a personal favourite, this is a powerful and highly underrated piece of work. Best described as acoustic electronica pop it brims with a wierd mix of negativity and unbridled expression of devotion to a partner. American Life never quite got off the right start with the title track as a lead single and promo imagery that was both agressive and hard to warm too. Still American Life has plenty of standout moments not least the beautiful Nothing Fails a lush and moving piece of balladry that Madonna has yet to top. Throw in the thumping pop of Hollywood, the sweeping closer Easy Ride and the the glitchy aggression of Nobody Knows Me and you've got some of Madonna's most honest and open work.

3: In Bed With Madonna/ Truth or Dare

This life on the road rockumentary following Madge on her hugely successful Blonde Ambition tour is still an astonishing look at a popstar laid bare. Behind the scene docs are now the life blood of Saturday morning telly, music channels and YouTube pages of upcoming bands but Blonde Ambition feels ahead of it's time aswell as being endlessly entertaining. The way Madonna happily puts her life on camera with little regard for how bad it may make her look is fascinating. At time she comes across as self obsessed, haughty and insensitive. But the overall portrayal is of a shrewd business woman and accomplished performer with a strong sense of self trying to cope with the whirlwind of being the world's biggest popstar. This is a engrossing and often hilarious film that you'd never get today in a world of micromanaged stars and bland PR sanitised interviews. And a good ten years before reality TV made fly on the wall popstar stalking de riguer this film feels like a signal of things to come.

2: The Confessions Tour

Seeing Madonna live is a bit like the last piece in figuring out what makes her so great. Particularly in recent years where some of her image choices can leave her looking slightly out of touch and awkward. In the live setting Madonna cuts an impressive and slick figure. Each tour is an elaborate combination of music, performance and large scale spectacle all controlled with perfect precision by the lady herself. The best example of this for me is The Confessions Tour where Madonna took tracks from the 2005's blindingly good Confessions On A Dancefloor. The eerie opening is stunning, the acoustic Drowned World is beautiful but the highlight is the mash up of Music with Disco Inferno, a pitch perfect example of the way Madonna remixes classic songs in a clever on each tour. The Confessions Tour is a must see for anyone even slightly interested in how a big popstar can put on an even bigger show.

1: Re-hearing The Immaculate Collection for the first time.

Madonna has obviously had a ridiculous amount of hit songs and so any greatest hits release is going to be top heavy with hit after hit. The Immaculate Collection does just that and is as good a summing up of the first ten years of Madonna's career as you're likely to get. I have a funny story about The Immaculate Collection. After I bought American Life I began the long road into Madonna fandom and soon picked up this timeless greatest hits release. Upon listening I had a wierd moment. Not only did I know lots of the songs on it (obviously) but in fact I'd grown up with it. I went swimming with my family at a leisure centre near my home from around the age of 5 until my early teens. They only ever had a handful of CDs on and one of their main ones was The Immaculate Collection. 

Without realising all the tracks on the album became a soundtrack to my childhood. The gentle opening of Borderline, the chunky synths of Lucky Star and the thumping chorus of Rescue Me were just a few tracks that feel hardwired into my brain. Hearing that album again post American Life was an odd moment where it felt like being a Madonna fan was always going to happen. It might sound ridiculous but it's always a nice moment when an artists feels like they were meant to be in your life.

And with that another Madonna birthday passes. Lord knows what she'll be up to next year but say safe to say she'll be keeping busy and keeping us entertained in some way. All hail the Queen.

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