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Madonna, Annie Lennox and 'Acting Your Age' (an excellent read!)


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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/keo-nozari/madonna-annie-lennox-acti_b_6652674.html

(by Keo Nozari)

It's far too common to pit women in popular music against one another. And, after Madonna and Annie Lennox delivered their respective performances on the 57th Grammy Awards on Sunday, that's exactly what happened. As both these strong female trailblazers came to prominence in the 1980s, many in the cyber sphere wanted to admonish one over the other.

But, first off, comparing Annie Lennox and Madonna musically is a false equivalence. They are, generally, two different types of artists, popular for different reasons, each with separate skill sets: one is a rock, blue-eyed soul vocalist about big vocal performances, the other is a dance-pop, self-proclaimed "show girl" with a talent for theatrics, messages, dancing and spectacle. Both are entertainment masters in their own right.

But, simmering underneath their performances was a vitriolic conversation online and in the media about age. With just four years difference (Lennox, 60 and Madonna, 56), there were countless remarks on how one was acting "appropriately," and one was not. One was "a class act" and one was not. But when it comes to aging -- just like their musical careers -- these women have two separate approaches and journeys entirely their own.

Annie Lennox is a spectacular musical talent, and she's pushed identity roles throughout her career through strong feminist activism. As she's matured, she has also, in many respects, "followed the rules" of aging as dictated by society: She doesn't try and disguise her age, she wears nice "age appropriate" attire on the red carpet, covering most her body (omitting the outrageousness of her neon-orange crew cut, 80s-breakout, Eurythmics "Sweet Dreams" era, and the dramatics of her 90s diva days), her "current" song "I Put a Spell on You" is a stunning rendition of a 1956 standard and her latest album of jazz standards is called Nostalgia. It's very comforting on a certain level because it's what we're used to experiencing with people "of that age." It meets our collective expectation. We've seen mothers and grandmothers like this. And there's a certain glorious-ness to Lennox seemingly accepting herself and meeting herself at her own age (or what being that age means to her).

Madonna has opted to go a more modern and, dare I say, subversive route. Physically, she tries to look the best she possibly can for her age, even decades younger (utilizing everything from intense workouts to diet to alleged surgery), and she dresses unconventionally and scantily (even cheekily flashing the Grammy red carpet her bare bum).

Musically, she works with younger producers and continues creating modern music. And she is not about to stop being the same provocative artist she's always been. "Is there a rule? Are people just supposed to die when they're 40?" she famously said in a 1992 interview at age 34 , lamenting how people aren't supposed to be "adventurous" or "sexual" after maxing their 30s. Madonna has always challenged culture norms and "rules" about behavior, particularly rules in relation to women and how people are told they can and can't express themselves.

And rules about age are rapidly changing. Marianne Williamson in her book, The Age of Miracles: Embracing the New Midlife, makes an invaluable point: While a rapidly growing segment of our population is living to be over 100, it's not that our lives are getting extended at the end, but in the middle. With the help of modern medicine, cosmetics and a better understanding of diet and exercise, we are staying healthier and looking better longer, and we are becoming more fully ourselves -- or, at least, we have the potential to do so.

This creates a new space to recreate what it means to be "you" in those middle years of life. Williamson says:

If we allow ourselves the power of an independent imagination -- thought-forms that don't flow in a perfunctory manner from ancient assumptions merely handed down to us, but rather flower into new archetypal images of a humanity just getting started at 45 or 50.
Madonna might actually be helping reshape the paradigm for what it means for people to self-express in their 50s and beyond. Her unparalleled success as a global cultural icon means she charts territory no one has quite navigated before at such huge level. It makes us initially uncomfortable. It pushes buttons. But, ultimately, it creates a path for people to choose outside what's expected and what current norms allow.

Her ability to do this throughout her career, to create paths for people previously untraveled, has been one of her greatest gifts. In the 1980s and 90s with her sexual politics, she helped redefine what it meant to be a "feminist," from the 70s stereotypical "bra-burner" into a woman who could be sexy and overtly sexual (even wear bras as outerwear!), yet still very much in control of her own destiny. It was a new way of being. She also deeply pushed boundaries of comfort by embracing gay rights at a time when nearly no celebrity would touch the topic (much less show it on stage, TV or in movies) and she was an AIDS activist and safe sex advocate in the early days of the 80s and 90s AIDS crisis -- she contributed to the advocacy of gays becoming commonplace as she played a role, remodeling minds and attitudes.

And in the 90s and 2000s -- from Catholicism to Kabbalah -- she has helped audiences rethink religion and spirituality and their ties to patriarchy and sexuality. Her hallmark has always been subversion. She is part of the system, of mainstream corporate pop -- which is her platform -- yet, she is often subverting it and its ingrained misogyny, homophobia and ageism.

There's a reason the current crop of pop princesses (Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus and even queen Beyoncé) all have made a point to pay respects: Madonna helped create the model of sustaining relevancy in a pop music career for over four decades. According to TiVO, Madonna's performance was the most-watched part of the entire Grammy night, and the day following the Grammys, three songs from her new album Rebel Heart hit the top three slots of the iTunes music chart, and her single "Living For Love" reemerged into the Top 40 after previously reaching the top in December.

She -- more than 30 years after her debut single in 1982 -- remains the definition of relevant. Madonna opened her Grammy performance with a quote that highlights her career-long message: Be who you are, "someone unique and rare and fearless." And part of her enduring appeal is people like witnessing someone fearlessly (and rebelliously) doing something outside the standards of conventions and cultural expectations. Even if some are keen on slagging it off in the press and on social media. After all, those that dare go against convention are often the most maligned and criticized.

Annie Lennox and Madonna have different paths. BOTH of these remarkable, self-empowered ladies' paths are valid. And we can honor and respect the choices each of the these women have made for themselves. Some will find it silly that one "doesn't act her age," but others will wonder why the other "acts so old" when people live past 100 these days. Both women have chosen what works for them. And let us celebrate them both for giving us all options.

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Loved that article. I am so tired of people asking Madonna to "act her age" I also hate that they are always comparing women in how they behave, act, dress and yes choose to "age" It would be refreshing to enjoy female artists without the continual analysing and comparisons. Madonna is my favourite singer of all time yet I don't expect other female stars to look or act the same way. Wish others would give Madonna the same respect and choice. They can be exactly who they want to be, just as Madonna should be admired for being who she wants to be. Anyway, Madonna has opened the door for all women in so many ways and not changing her attitude, personality and style as she gets older is just another way she is so ahead of the pack.

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Madonna is doing it the right way, by refusing to bow down to critics and the media. Annie Lennox, is a bitter old woman who criticizes others like Madonna who want to show society that age is just a number.

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Madonna is doing it the right way, by refusing to bow down to critics and the media. Annie Lennox, is a bitter old woman who criticizes others like Madonna who want to show society that age is just a number.

There is no "right way" in regard to how people choose to age. I don't think Annie is as bitter or anti-Madonna as people make her out to be.

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I am so tired of people asking Madonna to "act her age" I also hate that they are always comparing women in how they behave, act, dress and yes choose to "age"

those, usually, are envying or sad people that feels menaced by her persona (and often, i must say, they are women)

they're so boring now i don't pay attention....

on the other end...having said that i really love annie lennox, i don't understand all the love for her performance...it fell pretty flat, and all screamed (in the first part)...maybe because was "classy" and "safe"...

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I don't think it is just women who mainly comment this way. Can't count the times I have seen middle aged unattractive males on Television, radio and articles, making jokes of Madonna's age and wanting her to "age gracefully" etc while admiring older male stars for having young girlfriends wives etc. Often the females on the same show as them, defend her to the hilt. It is just a society thing that both sexes comment on. Something that always amazes me too is people comment negatively on women who seem to defy looking their age but then also criticise other women for looking old and ageing. So what do they want ? Plus, this obsession in the media in telling people they should dress "age-appropriately"

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Great artical. I agree with everything, I was actaully making the same point to a friend earlier today. I've been a fan of M since About 1999 and back then people critized her for being old and not retiring, hasn't it gone on long enough??

I also love Annie Lennox, but she should really take a leaf out of Madonna's book. It's like the Eurythmics and Diva days never happened, like she's too old now for any fun!! it's all mummsie short crop to prepare for the grey, Christmas albums, american song book covers (the perfect gift for Mother's Day)!! Which isn't that bad I guess, but it's just so boring. And it's also boring having only 21 year-olds singing pop music!!

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I don't think it is just women who mainly comment this way. Can't count the times I have seen middle aged unattractive males on Television, radio and articles, making jokes of Madonna's age and wanting her to "age gracefully" etc while admiring older male stars for having young girlfriends wives etc. Often the females on the same show as them, defend her to the hilt. It is just a society thing that both sexes comment on. Something that always amazes me too is people comment negatively on women who seem to defy looking their age but then also criticise other women for looking old and ageing. So what do they want ? Plus, this obsession in the media in telling people they should dress "age-appropriately"

If you ever have this misfortune of looking on the comments section on Facebook of an artical on Madonna, you get a pretty decent understanding of people who say "retire", "put some clothese", "shouldn't she be looking after her kids", "desperate granny" - you guessed it - fat ugly white men!!

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Great artical. I agree with everything, I was actaully making the same point to a friend earlier today. I've been a fan of M since About 1999 and back then people critized her for being old and not retiring, hasn't it gone on long enough??

I also love Annie Lennox, but she should really take a leaf out of Madonna's book. It's like the Eurythmics and Diva days never happened, like she's too old now for any fun!! it's all mummsie short crop to prepare for the grey, Christmas albums, american song book covers (the perfect gift for Mother's Day)!! Which isn't that bad I guess, but it's just so boring. And it's also boring having only 21 year-olds singing pop music!!

Exactly. Madonna seems like the same person and artist I first fell in love with back in the 80's. I can barely recognize Annie now from the type of artist she was when she was in the Eurythmics. She was a "gender bender" along with Boy George and did synth pop music and wore bright colors and interesting outfits. It just seems odd to me. It would make more sense me if she had always been a very MOR artist doing ballads and standards like Adele or someone. But Annie in the 80's was not like Adele at all. It's almost like she's ashamed of her pop flamboyant fun past.

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I don't think it is just women who mainly comment this way. Can't count the times I have seen middle aged unattractive males on Television, radio and articles, making jokes of Madonna's age and wanting her to "age gracefully" etc while admiring older male stars for having young girlfriends wives etc. Often the females on the same show as them, defend her to the hilt. It is just a society thing that both sexes comment on. Something that always amazes me too is people comment negatively on women who seem to defy looking their age but then also criticise other women for looking old and ageing. So what do they want ? Plus, this obsession in the media in telling people they should dress "age-appropriately"

Yeah, I see a lot of ugly middle aged men calling her old and embarrassing

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Exactly. Madonna seems like the same person and artist I first fell in love with back in the 80's. I can barely recognize Annie now from the type of artist she was when she was in the Eurythmics. She was a "gender bender" along with Boy George and did synth pop music and wore bright colors and interesting outfits. It just seems odd to me. It would make more sense me if she had always been a very MOR artist doing ballads and standards like Adele or someone. But Annie in the 80's was not like Adele at all. It's almost like she's ashamed of her pop flamboyant fun past.

This. I can totally see the 80's M at this age and time. She loves what she does and was born to be a megastar.

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Exactly. Madonna seems like the same person and artist I first fell in love with back in the 80's. I can barely recognize Annie now from the type of artist she was when she was in the Eurythmics. She was a "gender bender" along with Boy George and did synth pop music and wore bright colors and interesting outfits. It just seems odd to me. It would make more sense me if she had always been a very MOR artist doing ballads and standards like Adele or someone. But Annie in the 80's was not like Adele at all. It's almost like she's ashamed of her pop flamboyant fun past.

X10000 YES!!

Look at M's albums, it's like one long pop journey!!

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Guest Hunterlas

Guys this is not about whos right or wrong between Madonna and Annie. This is about people having the right to be happy doing whatever they want without people passing judgment.

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If you ever have this misfortune of looking on the comments section on Facebook of an artical on Madonna, you get a pretty decent understanding of people who say "retire", "put some clothese", "shouldn't she be looking after her kids", "desperate granny" - you guessed it - fat ugly white men!!

The hate and putting down of M appears to come from almost everybody equally, but I've always been disturbed about the way plenty of M worst critics are women. Women can be just as vicious or even more so than men when critiquing women on their appearance and sexuality.

You can also look at any site online and it's just not "fat ugly white men" who are f**ked up about ageism and sexism. There are "fat men and women of color who happen to be african american, hispanic, arabic, etc who think she's a freak as well.

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I think everyone is missing the point by trying to look at who is being ageist. It is something that it noticeable everywhere and from all kinds of people. I see it at my workplace with a woman who is 50 who dresses beautifully and very young. She looks lovely but others get stuck into her behind her back for not dressing her age and trying to retain her youth. It makes me angry. And the people getting stuck into her are of all age groups and types. Same with the Madonna complaints. Just watch Fashion Police for example. How often is "age appropriate" comments bought up by the panel. Something society has to look at, not just certain groups of people.

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I don't think it is just women who mainly comment this way. Can't count the times I have seen middle aged unattractive males on Television, radio and articles, making jokes of Madonna's age and wanting her to "age gracefully" etc while admiring older male stars for having young girlfriends wives etc. Often the females on the same show as them, defend her to the hilt. It is just a society thing that both sexes comment on. Something that always amazes me too is people comment negatively on women who seem to defy looking their age but then also criticise other women for looking old and ageing. So what do they want ? Plus, this obsession in the media in telling people they should dress "age-appropriately"

Well, there's no winning here. When she dresses more conservatively, people make fun of her for wearing "granny clothes", then when she looks hot and amazing, they label her as "desperate" and "clinging to youth". I hate the term "age appropriate" because everyone should dress however they feel comfortable. It would be a different thing if she was fat and trying to stuff herself into skimpy clothing, but she's not. Most women especially who rag on her are just jealous that they would never in a million years be able to look as amazing as M does, no matter what their age is.

As for attention seeking, I love that M does what she wants when she's in the public eye to show people they can be comfortable to be themselves and push the boundaries of social expectations, but in her private life she also wears whatever she wants even if it's baggy sweatpants. That's a woman comfortable in her own skin who doesn't need the approval of the masses to get on with her life. While everyone else is busy tearing her life down, M is enjoying hers and having a good time, and she's not hurting anyone by doing it.

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Well I admit the "too old" and especially "desperate" labels placed on M this week from social media to hip media types made my blood boil.

Agree there is no winning with her because M gets s**t no matter what she wears or how she chooses to present herself.

M is a truly amazing role model in regard to how she never allows herself to be oppressed by what the dominant patriarchal society demands from women in general.

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It is a great article. I agree w/ both Madonna and Annie Lennox's "philosophy." But, really, the whole topic of whether Madonna is acting appropriately or not is completely irrelevant to me. I just don't ever want her to stop doing what she does. I do think she's blazing new territory though and it's exciting to watch.

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Great Article and for me it's a personal choice . Annie chose to be that way and she should not be judged neither should Madonna.

Who says you have to cover yourself from head to toe after you've reached 50s ?

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In 30 years these pop bitches better be grateful towards M when they'll be able to go around the stage in their underwear without being bashed (if they last that long)

:goodbye: Many of the wannabes will be disappear forever much sooner. :goodbye:

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I'm so happy this article finally got written. It sure took long enough for any major media site to finally start to address this topic of ageism. I agree with the author that both Madonna and Annie Lennox, as well as everyone else, should be free to grow and evolve and age however they choose to. I just think it's a pity Annie Lennox wasn't as open-minded and tolerant in her thinking when she made those comments after M's Interview mag pictures. I remember being so inspired by her when Sing came out and found the recent comments very disappointing.

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