Grumpy Old Man

‘The greatness of art is not to find what is common, but what is unique.’
~ Isaac Bashevis Singer

‘Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.’
~ Scott Adams

‘The best artists know what to leave out.’
~ Charles de Lint

Madonna's Latte

The inspiration for the Hongoram Latte caricature was Madonna, if it must be known. It wasn’t the Madonna of today (or the noughties) albeit she is still an interesting character no doubt, it was the Madonna who burst onto the American music scene in the early 80’s. At that time, Culture Club, ABBA, The Police and the New Romantics were influencing the music genres to varying degrees of success. And then along came a bubbly, cheeky, mouthy young Italian-American girl, Madonna-Ciccone and she shook up the global dance floors with her attitude and incessantly energetic grooves.

As it transpired, Madonna was not going to be a one-record-wonder. ‘The Girl Next Door’ had something to say! She had passion and attitude. She saw her music as being the vehicle for her assertiveness, expression and empowerment. Empowerment for regular people who felt chained within the restricting societal norms of the 80’s. Inspiration for people who dared to dream – dream big! She challenged many preconceptions and established boundaries.

Recently, the Promoter read an article published in the Daily Mail (don’t shoot!) exclaiming how millennials find Madonna to be embarrassing, desperate, even a ‘toxic brand’. Harsh words indeed. Yes, she is an ‘elder stateswoman’ perhaps they are referring to her continual rejection to act like one (at least onstage!). Fair play to her. Madonna has always had cohones (easy, Tiger!).

So, in the week of the MTV Video Music Awards (VMA’s) how do the current ‘Queens of the Pop-scene’ compare to THE Queen of Pop, when she was in her ‘prime’? The assessment will be conducted with the view that art (and music) should provoke thought, stimulate action, challenge norms.

Notable observations from the VMA’s included:

  • Rihanna opening the show with tracks from her back catalogue. These tracks are floor-fillers oozing energy and sexualised energy to boot! (Madonna echoes!!!) She sang over the backing-track and made no attempt to mime!
  • Then Kanye West entered the arena, making a 7-minute speech (it might’ve been longer) consisting of an impassioned plea to ‘never forget your role models’, (where he compared himself to pioneers such as Walt Disney, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs even himself….yes, you read correctly, himself!), bizarre references to Chicago’s gun crimes interspersed with acknowledgements to ‘friendly faces’ in the adoring crowd. It was nauseatingly self-indulgent. What can’t be undoubted is the man’s self-confidence. Amazingly, the context of the whole debacle was to introduce his latest video!
  • Beyoncé opened her 5-track medley ensemble with a moving reference to the recent racially charged police shootings across America, before doing as only Beyoncé can – shaking her considerable derriere in all sorts of directions at break-butt speeds. Despite starting the ensemble on such a sombre tone, the finale was that of Armageddon. (Hell hath no fury like a Beyoncé scorned). The only thing is, the source of such angst remains unknown. (Answers on a postcard, correction, tweet to @Personal-a-Teas, please).
  • Did you know Britney Spears is making a comeback? Well, now you do! Britney’s much heralded comeback throughout proceedings proved to be like Mayo’s annual quest for an All-Ireland Football Title. Promising much, delivering little, a disappointment. There simply wasn’t any substance to it at all. It was flat. You see, what Britney lacks, (clearly nowadays), is stage presence. Minutes earlier we witnessed how an angry Beyoncé could stimulate a reaction close to panic. Britney’s performance almost prompted pity. She looked truly uncomfortable miming and cavorting about. It simply wasn’t working for her.
  • The Promoter viewed Rihanna’s third (from a total of four separate performances!) effort of the night from behind the sofa. She opened the track with so many expletives that he was considering contacting ‘The Cable Guy’, such was the extent of the (necessary) censoring interruptions. Drivel doesn’t do just to driviality.
  • The two main ‘comic’ presenters seemed to be speaking a different language. The dialect of Tweetish, from Tweetland, where people try to compress so many thoughts into the least number of monosyllabic musings, it sounds like there is more communication found listening to a bowl of milk laden Rice Krispies. Admittedly, there was one good one-liner amongst the ‘Snp, Crckl, and PoP’.

So, using the VMA’s as our indicator, what did we learn about the condition of the contemporary US pop-scene? In short, the spectacle was a very poor affair (similar to Britney’s jaded performance: shape-shifting manoeuvres bereft of emotion) and an alarming reflection of the lack of creative presence in the scene as a whole. We have heard it all before. There is only so much booty-shaking and materialistic ego-fests that the young intellect of America can take before they switch off. Ironically, Daily Mail millennials(!) the American Pop-scene is crying out for a Madonna, an ‘Immaterial Girl’, a wrecking ball to smash through this glittering marsh-mallowed dross. The industry needs a gargantuan kick in the butt.

Artists like Muse, Arctic Monkeys, and Adele carry the creative-integrity flag flying on this side of The Pond. And we are very grateful to have them. American music moguls must take note: dollars ain’t everything – imagination and inspiration is what keeps the music industry moving. In the right direction.

Madonna is now a ‘toxic’ figure for millennials who think she is ‘desperate’ and ’embarrassing’ and 17 times less influential than Taylor Swift