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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
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Thursday, 29 March 2012

The voice gets better

Although I knew almost nothing – prior to Tone Deaf - about current pop music certain poppers are inescapable. Madonna for instance. I even knew of Material Girl which I vaguely applauded since that meaning of material is not an everyday word to be found in pop lyrics.

I knew she’d chosen to live in Britain which seemed vaguely commendable. Also that her professional longevity, her unsuitable marriages, her adoption of African children, her attempts at charity in Africa and her investment in poorish movies had caused the press to treat her as something of a joke. I felt inclined to like her. But what of her music?

Here’s the faintest of impressions. Especially the evolution of her voice. Since the imitation Betty Boop adopted for Material Girl is intended as a tribute to Marilyn Monroe the childish tone is understandable; less so for Like A Virgin (“touched for the very first time”) where M writhes on a gondola as it glides through the canals of Venice. Given the provocative title, which returns as a refrain, nobody can have been surprised by the repetition. Drumming still uninspired.

A lower, more melodious, more attractive voice emerges in Papa Don’t Preach where a working-class girl (details well substantiated in the video) announces she intends to keep her baby. There’s a story, a decent tune and a moral here. Anti-abortion activists were angered – I don’t know why.

But it’s easy to see why the RC church didn’t care for Like A Prayer where the toes of a weeping black icon are kissed and M suffers accidental stigmata. The mid-range voice is genuinely lovely and merges with excellent gospel singing at the end.

Erotica (“A certain satisfaction/In a little bit of pain”) opts for Sprechstimme and I for one was disappointed. Much lesbianism.


  1. Extraordinary song, Like a virgin. Hard to forget the sight or the sound however much you might want to. I don't like to use the word but an icon I suppose, of enegetic kitchiness. And what energy!

  2. I probably made a mistake trying one after the other "as research". I agree about the energy, the status (oh how I share your dislike of the word) as an icon and her devilish desire to play with the borders of lesbianism. However what struck me about Papa Don't Preach, apart from the revelation about her voice, were the lengths taken in the video to suggest she was working class: eg, black roots in her cheaply dyed hair and the crummy house she went home to. As you say, transcendental kitsch.

  3. Always had a soft spot for Madge myself...

  4. Occasional Speeder4 April 2012 at 12:13

    Didn't know you'd visited Madonna. What a strange person she is. Loaded with wealth yet still doing so much work (including touring)marrying vaguely successful men then (probably) terrifying them into divorce. And her music is pretty diverse and hits the button most of the time.
    Never watch the films though...

    (Like a prayer in my favourite - she looks so beautiful in that video)

  5. Lucy: Should a goddess be accorded a nickname?

    OS: I like the way she pursues her life without worrying too much about the snide criticisms. I was impressed by the blasphemy in Like A Prayer but the Vatican Kraut and I clearly have different views about that as an offence.

    The videos in general are remarkably physical.