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Madonna most vital performer of her generation

Ottawa Sun writers Denis Armstrong and Aedan Helmer go head-to-head as they attack and defend Madonna's place in pop music.

She is pop’s ultimate provocateur.

She has toppled stereotypes by becoming one herself, exploding the notion into the realm of the absurd as an overly sexualized caricature of femininity, a bleached blonde dominatrix in a cone bra armed with a microphone.

She’s taken on gender stereotypes, sexual cliches, corporate monoliths and religious ones, too.

And she’s crafted some timeless pop songs along the way.

She is, of course, the inimitable Madonna, and if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, she’s as relevant now as she’s ever been.

It would be overly simplistic to back that claim by trotting out a tally of critical and commercial plaudits — the bazillions in record sales as the world’s top-selling female artist, ranked fourth all-time behind only The Beatles, Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson, her continuing dominance on the pop charts, where her 38 top ten singles place her alone at the top, and her first-ballot induction into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

It would be easy to quantify her influence by the generations of pop stars created and groomed in her self-made image — without Madonna, the Britneys and Katys of the world simply wouldn’t exist — although it would be easy to argue that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Something to say

But here’s what sets the former Ms. Ciccone apart from the clones and wannabes: She has something to say.

And when she speaks, we listen. We may not like it, we may not agree with it, but we can’t deny that her words and actions fuel the public discourse.

She is perhaps the most significant artist of her time to routinely transcend the entertainment pages and garner front page headlines the world over, and she doesn’t take on easy targets.

Her refusal to hold a soda can in the accompanying “Like a Prayer” Pepsi commercial was an outright declaration of autonomy, and she still came out on top when the ensuing controversy reduced the multi-million dollar corporate cheque to ash.

Sure, many were offended.

But to just as many, Madonna spoke directly to a deep-seated pain and resentment in the most accessible and digestible medium: A pop song.

And judging by the wake of international headlines left by her latest MDNA tour – marked by swastikas superimposed over political faces, it’s clear Madonna has lost none of the fire and brimstone that has made her both a polarizing and iconic force.

Aedan Helmer's Top 5 Influential Madonna Songs

1. Like a Prayer: Madonna at her most controversial, twisting liturgical musings into sexual innuendo set to a throbbing beat.

2. Papa Don’t Preach: The dark tale of teenage pregnancy reflected her own “personal zeitgeist of standing up to male authority.”

3. Express Yourself: A declaration of independence and female empowerment, it’s an apt summary of the Madonna oeuvre.

4. Ray of Light: A straight up rock rave-up cloaked in a groovy electro-pop fusion and ultra-catchy chorus.

5. La Isla Bonita: Latin-tinged accompaniment provides the backdrop for dreamscape lyrics and resonant melody.

Madonna's music all about making money

Ottawa Sun writers Denis Armstrong and Aedan Helmer go head-to-head as they attack and defend Madonna's place in pop music.

The first time I saw Madonna was at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1984 when she wore a trashed-out wedding dress and crucifixes and was grinding on the floor like a possessed Barbie doll in heat while singing Like a Virgin.

It was like watching a John Waters’ film. It was horrifying and hypnotic at the same time. It wasn’t that her performance was so good that it fascinated me, but that she was so horrible that had me riveted to the TV. You didn’t know what she was going to do next.

That’s Madonna for me. The first big video pop celebrity to grace MTV, Madonna proved you didn’t have to be a talented singer, songwriter or even performer to be a pop icon. All you had to do was keep yourself in the public eye and success would be yours.

Madonna was never about the music. Her whole career has always been about making Madonna a big celebrity. She’s reinvented herself so many times you forget just how long in the tooth she really is and how long she’s been in the business. Strangely, her music hasn’t changed much over 30 years. Like a Virgin, Papa Don’t Preach, Justify My Love, Vogue, Like A Prayer. She rarely strays from the sexually empowering disco format.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d be a hypocrite if I complained about the way she uses sex. But it’s the sex I find interesting, not Madonna.

Queen of Reinvention

Face it. She really isn’t much of a singer or an actor. But over the years, she’s shown herself to be adept at surrounding herself with more talented people. She and her producers are so adept at recycling hits she’s become known disparagingly by industry insiders as the Queen of Reinvention.

I think Madonna’s more of a powerful businesswoman than a recording artist. Over her 30-year career, she’s shown an extraordinary knack for anticipating, and manipulating the marketplace. Her latest tour is a good example. MDNA. The European reviews have been mixed to lousy at best. Yet, she can still demand, and get, top ticket prices for her Monday, Sept. 10 at Scotiabank Place top out at $350+ a ticket.

I think she views music the way Calvin Klein designs jeans. While all music is a commodity, Madonna takes music marketing to fast-food giant McDonalds-scale levels. How many can I sell? And like Klein, she knows the quickest way to sell your product is with a sexy image. Madonna is the musical equivalent of Brooke Shields in jeans. When she kissed Britney Spears, it wasn’t sex. It was a business contract. An exchange of sex for power.

She’s like a champion boxer who doesn’t know when to quit. There seems to be something dark and hungry that drives her on. What that is we may never know.

Denis Armstrong's Top 5 Appallingly Bad Madonna Songs

1. Vogue - A song about posing, this has to be THE worst Madonna song ever. Without a decipherable melody or story, it’s actually not a song at all, but an instructional video on how many ways you can look like a constipated fool.

2. 4 Minutes - Not even Justin Timberlake can rescue this prodding mess, and she looks like his mother in the video. Not only is it pointless, it’s the opposite of sexy.

3. Give It 2 Me - Did she write this on Twitter? This disco dazzler was surely written using fewer than 140 characters, which is about 120 too many.

4. Girl Gone Wild - Wow. The act of contrition opens this bit of disco thunder best saved for the gay strip club. About as erotic as an oil change.

5. Justify My Love: Not for the song, which I think is cool, but Madonna’s performance as the hot temptress in the video. Pure lime-green Jello. About as sexy as kissing your aunt. I’m guess Guy Ritchie never saw this video


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Just posted on Twitter:

OMG Madonna is currently rehearsing Holiday at Scotiabank Place right now in sound check. Holy F


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Guest Not4Pussies

it would be awesome if from now on she does a special song before Masterpiece at all the shows

but no acapella, sing along shit like at S&S

just like she did Holiday in NY but the actual full song. she could do Holiday, Into the Groove, Music, Everybody etc.

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Do they neva learn Or5yi.jpg

That Girl Jill @Ottawa_Jill

Okay #Madonna, I realize you're the Queen of Pop, but I've been here since 7:30...it's 10:30...you can come on now. Please. #AndThankYou

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I actually love when she performs in new cities that she's never been to.

By the way, almost all those pics remind me of the first night in Chicago for the Drowned World Tour. So many female fans dressed like the early years.

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Ottawa is always so excruciating but TONIGHT :lmao:



Well. Madonna's fanbase does span generations......but looking at a few of these people in this pic I didnt know Madonna's fanbase spanned to generations that were born during WW2.

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the audience sucked (no surprise here). I had GT tickets and even there the ambience wasnt that great...people in the front row just staring and taking pics :megamanson: sigh..but it doesnt matter, i enjoyed the show to the fullest because it was my very LAST!!! Madonna complained several times about the lame audience.."Come on Ottawa, i'm working my ass off here"

Rocco wasn't there anymore, as he's at school...one of the dancers danced in OYH instead of him but he didnt have a clue and Madonna yelled at him "you are fired!"

No holiday or MG for us :(

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I wonder if she'll ever play there again. I'd say no, but she keeps playing Atlantic City and those crowds are always bad (per the reports).

:lol: Thats what I was just going to say. I am actually suprised she is going back there again.

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