Published on March 27th, 2012 | by Hunter Schwarz0
How Expectations Cripple Madonna’s Reelection Campaign for Queen of Pop
As Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney inches closer to clinching his party’s nomination, his only real opponent left, a now-desperate Rick Santorum, has upped the ante in his attacks on the former Massachusetts governor.
But Romney doesn’t really need to worry about Santorum’s attacks. Instead, he needs to focus on the impending barrage of criticism that will come from President Barack Obama. Oh, and Madonna too.
Madonna’s new album, MDNA, was released Monday. It’s her first album since 2008’s Hard Candy, which also came out during a presidential election year. Madonna took advantage of this during her Sticky & Sweet tour by putting John McCain in a video interlude alongside Adolf Hilter (Such an original idea! And so true!) and leveling attacks on Sarah Palin (“You know who’s not invited to my party? Sarah f***** Palin! She’s not invited to this show,” she said at a stop in New York City). Romney, she’s coming for you next.
Obama will have to battle the overly optimistic tone of hope and change his campaign championed in 2008 with the reality that things might not have gotten as good as some voters thought it would. That could hurt him more than anything Romney could say. Similarly, Madonna has crafted one of the most vital and catchy bodies of work in the history of popular music. And just a few weeks ago, she called Lady Gaga’s song “Born This Way” “reductive,” indicating she thought it was a cheap melodic knockoff of her own “Express Yourself.” Expectations are high for whatever Madonna does, and if she doesn’t live up to them, it’s considered a failure.
Madonna’s “reductive” comment might have scored her a lot of press initially, but in retrospect, it was a major gaffe, because it perfectly describes MDNA. It’s sort of the musical equivalent of Romney trying to pin the label of “flip flopper” on Obama.
MDNA is a supposed play on the term MDMA, also known as ecstasy. It’s a fitting title for a collection of club tracks, but the title also works if you consider the album is the very essence of the singer — it’s Madonna DNA. Themes of Catholicism are re-explored on “Girl Gone Wild,” which opens with the Catholic Act of Contrition, and on “I’m a Sinner,” which name checks saints. She shouts American Life-style raps on “I Don’t Give A,” dances like she’s back in the pink leotard from Confessions on a Dancefloor in “Love Spent” (albeit with a little folk guitar — think Mumford & Sons meets Abba) and “Best Friend” sounds like an updated “Till Death To Us Part” about her latest divorce, but missing Prince.
Madonna is to the female pop star what the Beatles are to the rock band. She invented the job. She reminds listeners of her legacy throughout MDNA, making 18 lyrical references to past hits, but that also serves as a reminder that Madonna might be past her expiration date as the true Queen of Pop. Her last truly great song was 2005’s “Hung Up,” and her last No. 1 hit was 2000’s “Music.” This isn’t about ageism and a 53-year old woman singing “on the floor till the daylight comes,” it’s about a woman with impossibly high expectations. Is there anything she could do that wouldn’t be “reductive” anymore?
Her entire predicament can be summed up in four minutes with the music video for “Girl Gone Wild.” It’s like every Madonna music video ever was put into a blender and set to Gaga. Reductive indeed. ♦ ♦ ♦
Hunter Schwarz is a senior at BYU studying journalism. He is the editor of the Student Review, an off-campus alternative newspaper in Provo, UT. You can follow on Twitter at @hunterschwarz.