Material Man

So Madonna is probably over according to a recent New York Times article. Uh huh. Meanwhile, I spent the better part of a day trying to find at least one damn copy of the new W magazine with her on the cover at Capitol Hill newsstands. I dont care what the Times says, but dangling a 44-page-Madonna-in-mesh-nylons spread in front of a neighborhood of salivating fairies is still like telling a bunch of bored, hungry housewives that they can have double bacon cheeseburgers with Oprah if they just act now. American Life, Madonnas 10th album, is out on April 22, and its hard to explain to anyone who doesnt already understand it why so many homos make weekly deductions from their paychecks to support someone who makes shitty movies like Swept Away.

When she first came over the radio, Madonna sounded like the unconcerned girl who would go along with you to the gay bar after you first admitted to yourself that you never paid attention to the plot of Magnum, P.I. Her voicethat nasal, limited, I-might-hit-that-note-or-I-might-not force of ambitionseemed to come from someone who knew what it felt like to want to be more than what you were told you could be. And, amazingly, she was that girl: Unlike other beloved icons of gay yearning, who waited until their waning later years to fully embrace their queer audience, Madonnas expression of camaraderie was immediate. No, betterit was emphatically stated in a way that suggested our unashamed yearnings were what made us powerful. No matter how quaint and clich頩t sounds, you dont forget that if it ever moved you in the first place.

Unfailing musical instincts dont hurt, either. For anyone to whom a great pop record sounds more like liberation than the most trenchant of indie offerings, Madonna is still some kind of freaky revolutionary, almost despite herself. In the W interview, shes bordering far too close to an apology for her past egocentrism (something shes never regretted, and shouldnt have to), but the music is still all about her, thank Godher unflinching narcissism somehow always feels like an inclusive release. She raps on her new introspective single, and its completely ridiculous, even if its an ironic rant about how many servants she has. (When Madonna gets introspective, you know it means shell be pondering her mothers death, her fathers oppressiveness, the uncertainty of her marriage, and/or how guilty she feels for having a maid.) Yet you get a kick out of her anthemic honesty: As opposed to would-be rival J.Lo, who could purchase New Mexico if she wanted to, Madonna is never going to pretend that shes still Jenny From the BlockMadonna bought the block, shes living in the biggest house on the block, and you can just eat it if you want her to feign homelessness.

A long time ago, I embraced the fact that Madonna has slowly removed me of all respectability, about a gazillion dollars, and several intolerant boyfriends who didnt want to muss their AC/DC T-shirts. SureI couldve tried not to buy that goddamn collectible Dick Tracy doll, but you have to be who you are, dont you?

sweicking@seattleweekly.com

 
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