A salute to freedom-loving, self-promoting Madonna(Commentary)

April 30th, 2008 - 11:11 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Madonna
By Sevanand Gaddala
It’s time to turn our attention to pop diva Madonna again. She is not strikingly beautiful, has a mediocre voice at best, is a horrible actress, and yet is probably the most famous female pop star ever. Even those who don’t care much for her may either listen to her songs, watch her music videos, read about her, or explain vehemently why they don’t care about her. And this is the genius of Madonna, who has just featured in Britain’s 100 wealthiest women list.

She has the uncanny ability to push herself on to the forefront of mainstream culture. Also, in this world of saturated advertising and consumerism, she will manage to hold our attention for however long she really wishes.

Madonna is working hard now, doing promotional work on her upcoming album “Hard Candy” even as her single “4 Minutes” is being received tepidly. She is well past her prime and her fame peaked some time in the 1980s, but she will be forever discussed for how she manages to always be relevant.

Not that she has remained famous for being loved by everyone. She has managed to enrage some powerful sections like the Catholics with her video “Like A Prayer”, which featured burning crosses and sex in church. The conservative values crusaders have for years tried to destroy her. But one reason she has managed to not make herself reprehensible is because she has a genius for pushing the envelope, coming very close to the edge, and pulling back just before it can be labelled truly disgusting.

The single most important reason for her longevity is her genius for marketing. Madonna is a brilliant businesswoman. No other woman celebrity understands packaging or exploits the public’s consumerism like Madonna. By the time she is done, she will go down in history as a woman who most cleverly married art and commerce. Her image has always superseded her songs or the roles she has enacted in movies.

Madonna is a very successful brand.

Though at the turn of the millennium she was declared the worst actress ever by The Razzies (awards that salute the worst that Hollywood has to offer each year), she is primarily a musician.Her success lies in her ability to look out for trends still underground, bubbling just beneath the surface, and to make that her own. Her finger is always on the cultural pulse and so anything she creates immediately becomes relevant.

Her hit song “Material Girl” was released in the money-crazy decade of the 1980s, her 1997 album “Ray of Light” tapped into underground electronica and she has more lately turned her attention to the club dance music of Europe. She manages to stay ahead of the curve in all things trendy. She is always leading, never following.

Madonna has made her modus operandi so much her own that any other artist who comes even remotely close to mimicking her is immediately dismissed as fake.

If Madonna ever had a message, it would be freedom. She uses her music, intellect and even her sexuality to express the joys of freedom. She has taken self-expression to a whole new level and some of her most ardent fans are understandably women. But she is also a hard worker. She is incredibly disciplined and tireless in her self-promotion.

So, as we now invariably face the onslaught of all things Madonna, it would help to know that there is a method to this madness. There are many angles of looking at her and many aspects of her that can be truly appreciated. Her success merits that we at least pay attention to her.

(Sevanand Gaddala is a film writer and he can be contacted at - sevanand@gmail.com )

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