How long has Madonna been with us? A million years already, I suppose — for she’s as common to us now as our livingroom furniture. And in all those years, to borrow a line from the musical “Evita,” she indeed “had her moments, she had some style.” Just recently, her latest CD went to #1 and her single tied her with Elvis in terms of Top 10 appearance. Great — but not THAT great, especially if you compare these recent little accomplishments with her huge glories from the past. Most especially if you compare these meager achievements with both the past and recent achievements of her arch nemesis and constant thorn in her side, the over-achieving Mariah Carey. All these taken into consideration, her recent #1 CD and Elvis tie are really rather pathetic. Nothing is more pathetic than a 47 year old has-been wearing leotards and emerging from gigantic disco balls and then failing.
So we ask ourselves now (again borrowing from “Evita”): So what happens now? Well, it’s all too predictable now at the Madonna camp: Both CD and single are uncontrollably spinning out into chart oblivion, the second single “Sorry” will flop (sorry — really — for that), and the whole “Confessions of an Old Hag”…err, i mean “Confessions on a Dance Floor” affair will be forgotten. Then, of course, Madonna will work again with the horrible Mirwais and the boring Stuart Price, the CD will flop and the repetitious cycle of failures will go on . . . until Madonna herself admits defeat and make a graceful exit while she still has a face.
True, Madonna has been written off several times only to reemerge again triumphant. But now — really — the writing is on the wall. Is Madonna just stubborn not to notice it? Or does she have too many “Yes People” shielding her from reality? True, with all her achievements, she has nothing left to prove. But with all her recent failures, she’s just giving herself something to prove: that she still can do it in this day and age. And, really, she cannot win that challenge anymore. Not in this day and age.
I believe Madonna reached her peak during the “Ray of Light” and “Music” years. It was then then that she achieved critical acclaim as well. Critics started to respect her as a musician. She won Grammys. The film “Evita” even gave her a shot at the chance of being an actress (an ambition she never and may never fulfill). There was also a hint of her becoming a better person, thanks to Kaballah. But something went wrong. The politically-charged and anti-American sentiments of her “American Life” CD suddenly ended the promise of her blossoming prime. Was it the horrible and ugly songs in it? Or could it be political conspiracy, the power-that-be deciding that she will never work in this town again as long as they are in power, a la Orson Welles and the “Citizen Kane” controversy? That’s all open to debate, but one thing is certain: “American Life” marked the beginning of the end for Madonna.
After “American Life” failed miserably, Madonna desperately tried to stay in the limelight. She started doing embarrassing things: her involvement with Britney Spears, that horrible GAP commercial, touring with old his that she already disowned, writing books for children and releasing a horrendous “all”-dance CD. She traded critical acclaim and respectability for hipness and street cred. In short, she sold out and failed bigtime.
From this point, there are two paths Madonna can take: Path #1 is the Path of Street Cred, a path that she herself helped build. This is where she goes on embarrassing herself and her poor growing kids. This is where she continues to prove herself. Unfortunately for her, this path is now ruled by the Mariah Careys, the Gwen Stefanis, the Kelly Clarksons and the Beyonces. They’re gonna eat her alive.
Path #2 is where she reunites with Patrick Leonard, Stephen Bray and William Orbit, comes up with a farewell CD and tour a la Cher, devotes her time to her family and worthy causes a la Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and even Bridgette Bardot, becomes a respectable and mysterious private person a la Greta Garbo, and dies a venerable icon.
Again, it is true Madonna has been written off several times only to reemerge again triumphant. But it is clear now that there won’t be any more re-emergences or Mimi-style comebacks. It’s only gonna be little triumphs or huge failures from now on. So which path is Madonna gonna take? I really hope it’s Path #2: “Take a bow, the night is over. This masquerade is getting older. Lights are low. The curtains down. There’s no one here.” I hope her fans would reflect on this too, and that they would come out of the denial stage that their icon is still tops. Truth hurts, but once you accept it, it is the most beautiful thing. After all, what more could Madonna ask for when she wakes up everyday next to Guy Ritchie?