by: Sidney Stokes
She knew everybody had been waiting, she knew we wanted to get up, that we wanted to dance and sing. She provided the music to do so. A voice preaching that we could lose ourselves in the music and feel real freedom. This was the voice of the woman who went from being a voice to being a Queen. No matter how many voices have come and gone, Madonna has remained. She faced down the wind of negativity and pushed it back. Her strength and legacy, combined with adoration by loyal fans, has earned her the title, “Queen of Pop.” As we enter the 30th year of the queen’s reign, I listen to the words she sings now and begin to think, “Uneasy lies the head the wears a crown.”
Madonna has given us the great hits of pop music. In some way, we have all benefitted from her, the barriers she broke gave way to a great change in music. We saw that pop music could have a meaning other than to make us move. When the landscape of music began to change, Madonna didn’t change with it; she reinvented it and herself, showing the world she could do so much more than just 80s music. She gave us dance music, so we danced, we danced for her, she had us. Then something happened: she realized she had us.
After decades of being exalted, she went from being our rebel queen to being a deity of her own world. She lost that ability to reach out and connect, expecting people to reach out to her. She became a Jewish mystic while not being Jewish. She began speaking with a British accent, while not being British. She began to act like a person of great privilege, in essence the antithesis of what she initially stood for.
Her latest song, Give Me All Your Luvin‘, she walks through singing a song she could have pulled off thirty years ago, but when she sings, “Give me all your love.” I wonder if it is meant for a lover or if Madonna is telling the public what to do and what she expects us to do. The day the video was released she posted it on her Facebook page, but in order to see the video, you had to “like” her first. This song comes off like someone desperately needing to be acknowledged rather than needing to be creatively expressive. She has become her focus as opposed to the music. She accepted the crown of queen but she seems to have abdicated the responsibility it came with. She is more consumed with the idea of adding jewels to it as instead of strengthening the crown’s meaning.
She isn’t breaking new ground or leading the pack, or any of the actions that earned her the ground but rather, she just brings people into her regurgitated sound. Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. are artists that have a unique voice in the modern music landscape, they are so much more than back up vocals and side players in a Madonna video. They are artists who understand a modern listening audience. It would seem they are only there to bring a younger demo, what Madonna seems to have forgotten is that people will listen, no matter who is or is not on the track, it really is all about the music.
The feel of her songs has changed. It is no longer a modest tongue as it once was. It has gone from a message of love and expression to ego and self loving. The Super Bowl performance is actually a pretty great summary of my point. It was everything we have always known about Madonna, she is one helluva performer but Madonna now isn’t about the music or the feeling, it is about Madonna. The Rebel Queen we once had would have taken this chance to celebrate music, fashion, and individuality. Except what we got was a mass celebration of Madonna. Everyone, even Nicki Minaj and MIA had to wear a giant “M” on their costume as they told everyone to “Luv Madonna” and while Madonna showed off her skills she wanted, no, expected people to give her all their love.
I do not want to come off as anything less than a Madonna fan. Madonna is worthy of the fame she has earned. I do not want Madonna to fade away, but I want her to return herself to the people. I want the rebel queen to rise up and declare war on the Empire of Madonna.
She will always remain relevant because of the doors she opened and the classics she gave us, but she must return to progressing as the artist we all know her to be. She needs to remember the very words that brought her to us, “let the music take control, find a groove, and let yourself go.”
Sidney Stokes came to Chicago from his home in Alabama. In Chicago he discovered his knack for GLBTQQI activism and has had the good fortune to have participated in planning and the execution of several major rallies and protests throughout Chicago. In addition to being a proud gay man and southerner, Sidney is also a proud Jew. Translation: He’s in film and has an honors degree from Columbia College Chicago and reel to prove it. He has been working on movies and television for the last five years and has been blessed enough to work on projects he truly believes in.