I’m not sure there’s any way to write about “Give Me All Your Love”—or, really, Madonna in general—without pissing off some gays. I’m prepared to for the wrath of the devoted but, come on guys, this is tripe. Seriously. Can we just agree on that?
No? Ok. That’s cool.
I’m not not the biggest Madonna fan to begin with but her older stuff—early ’80s to mid-’90s—is, I think we can all agree, unequivocally great. It’s classic modern pop music. Period. And no one’s got anything bad to say about Ray of Light. And, hand to God, I actually really do like Music and American Life. I think those albums get a bad rap. Confessions on a Dance Floor? Fantastic. So believe me when I say that none of this comes from a place of straight-up hateration.
Everything post-Confessions, however, is what I like to think of as Madonna’s midlife-crisis period. To me, Hard Candy is the musical equivalent of your dad going out and buying a Maserati: Madge entered her 50s, got divorced and put out an album of puerile, raido-ready pop songs.
While people may turn up their noses at the music Madge made in the Music/American Life era, at least she was doing something interesting. None of those songs were particularly experimental, but neither were they easy or predictable. She was working with this weird French producer to make slightly left-of-center electro-infused dance music. And American Life, while not the most cerebral of critiques of contemporary American culture, was challenging the listener about their views of this country similar to the way Erotica challenged our conceptions of sexuality.
But Hard Candy? She was working with freakin’ Timbaland and Kanye for fuck’s sake. Sure, they’re amazing producers, but I wouldn’t call working with dudes who churn out Top 40 hits a particularly interesting move.
They’re the easy out. They’re the inappropriately younger girlfriend to go with the sports car.
And now here’s “Give Me All Your Love,” a song that sounds like something a kid on a Disney Channel show would release. This should be the theme song of Amy Poehler’s character in Mean Girls. The thing is, Madonna’s core audience, like her, has aged over the past 30 years. And, hopefully, we’ve matured. But it doesn’t look like Madge has matured: as far as her music is concerned—and really, that’s all I’m willing to get into here—she seems to actually be regressing. I’m not saying she should go all Streisand and start putting out drippy jazz standards. But look at what she was doing in the Bedtime Stories era. Look at “Take a Bow” and “You’ll See.” Look at “Rain” and “This Used To Be My Playground.”
Don’t those songs seem like the work of an artist who was growing up, of a powerful woman who was confident in her work and her place in the industry?
By contrast, the music Madonna is putting out now is that of a desperate woman-child. We’re left with a fallen idol clawing for perceived relevance, desperate to be embraced by a generation reared on Justin Bieber’s sanitized tween appeal and Katy Perry’s cupcake tits.
Maybe this is why Madonna hasn’t been as warm and embracing of Lady Gaga as she was with Britney Spears. Britney never posed much of a threat to the Big M. She was never going to do much more than make hit songs. Prop her up in a recording booth and put some peanut butter in her mouth—cool, we’ve got an album! Slip her some Nodoz and push her out onto a stage—werk, it’s a tour!
People talk about Madonna sucking out Britney’s soul with that kiss on the VMAs back in 2003. But I wonder if, along with her soul, Madonna didn’t absorb a bit of Britney’s inanity.
Gaga on the other hand is using pop music as a vehicle to do something interesting and often challenging. She’s doing what Madonna used to do. She’s more extreme, more confrontational than Madonna has been in over a decade. That’s gotta irk the Material Girl, at last seeing the beginning of the end of her reign.
The world moves on, Madonna. Why can’t you?