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Apr 15

MADONNA – “Music”

Popular67 comments • 5,031 views

#872, 2nd September 2000

madonna music “Her whole career’s been like, oh, they’re the trendy person of the moment, I’ll work with them to make me younger. They’re using you.” – Aphex Twin on Madonna, 2001.

I am the same age now – just turned 42 – as Madonna was when she released “Music”. Last week, with delightful serendipity, Spotify released a study suggesting that listeners hit a “musical mid-life crisis” at 42, as their tastes suddenly skew (a little) back towards the mainstream: are they trying to keep up? Was Madonna? The image of her as trend-chasing, desperate, even “vampiric” (as that Aphex interviewer glossed it) has hardened as the hits dried up. But the Aphex quote shows it was current in the Music era – how he framed the singer’s interest in working with him.

As I said writing up “Frozen”, it’s a bad model for Madonna’s career, designed to diminish her. It’s a particularly poor fit for Mirwais Ahmadazai, her main collaborator across the early 00s. Mirwais was neither trendy – only the most dedicated of French house followers knew much about him – nor young: he was approaching 40 himself when he started working with Madonna. He’s a choice that sheds light on what she was actually up to across the 90s and 00s: she had a sound in mind, and found someone she was comfortable working with to explore that sound and what she could do with it. When she had a different idea, she eased her collaborator out of the deal. As with William Orbit, she valued experience, not youth.

The reference point I used for the Orbit collaboration was James Brown in funk taskmaster mode. But if you’re keen not to flatter Madonna – especially since Mirwais is the only one of Madonna’s sidemen not to shine much outside their work together – there’s another comparison (and contemporary) you might use: Morrissey, who from his mid-30s settled into a steady collaboration with a bunch of rockabilly journeymen. Like Madonna’s partnership with Mirwais, Morrissey’s work with ex-Polecat Boz Boorer et al hovers from steady to dubious, though Madonna’s bolts of genuine inspiration are more frequent.

So what about “Music” itself – the single that opened this phaselet of Madonna’s career? Is it mid-life crisis, determined change of direction, or an artist finding a comfort zone? Bits of all three, maybe. It’s bracing, aggressive even; clattering robot bop and the rawest-sounding electro we’ve met since Flat Eric. “Music” is certainly doing its best to make you think this is a harsher Madonna than the crowd-pleasing swirl of her soundtrack work with Orbit. The first thirty seconds or so past the spoken-word intro are terrific: machines grinding out a lop-sided groove, descending vocoder pleas (”DO YOU LIKE MY ACID ROCK?”) and enter Madonna, cool as you like, from stage left: “Hey Mr. DJ, put a record on…”

After that, though? The alienation doesn’t let up, and Madonna is in no mood for concessions. “Music” works its groove remorselessly, refusing you anything much in the way of melody musically or vocally: this is as Kraftwerkian as she ever got, except Madonna’s robot rock has more grease and grime to it, less beauty. But it’s also too busy, piling up sounds, and some of its tricks are determinedly ugly in ways I can’t appreciate – the overlapping, out-of-phase vocal lines on the chorus, for instance.

The other problem I have is that all the disorientation tactics hide one of Madonna’s most boring, least inviting songs emotionally. Madonna likes music, you see, and most of “Music” is a restatement of that, at length, to the point where it starts feeling – unthinkable for her! – defensive. “Don’t think of yesterday and I don’t look at the clock” – it’s OK, really, we believe you! That monotonous vocal line, and the clank and grind of the backing, make loving music sound awfully hard work, like a really brutal workout regimen. (So maybe my 42-year old self can relate – “Music”’s awkward, gritted-teeth forward momentum does capture what it feels like when the pleasures of youth need more and more effort. But I don’t believe that’s what she was going for.)

The irony is that as a concept for a song, ‘think of yesterday’ sums it up too well. From Chuck Berry to ABBA, the rock era was scattered with songs about music in the abstract, as a force of life-changing or world-changing power. They’re part celebration, part self-justification: “It swept this whole wide land / Rock and roll forever will stand”, as The Showmen put it. That’s the vibe I get from “Music” – and the “bourgeoisie and the rebel” bit does sound great, whatever it actually means. But Madonna herself pushed beyond that a long time ago. “Into The Groove” is better than “Music” not just because it has better hooks but because it feels more lived, more personal, less monolithic – it doesn’t try to switch clumsily from personal testament to grand idea, it has the self-belief to trust that you won’t need that.

“Music” was a statement, and did its job, at the time, of underlining Madonna’s late-90s renewal by confirming that her sound would stay mutable, her ambition remain obvious. This was important: for all the excellence of Ray Of Light, it had the feel of a mature record, the kind of album that caps careers and might herald a gentle fade. “Music” ruled that out. Fifteen years on, it still crunches enough for me to enjoy despite its large flaws. But the only statement this song can make now is its central one – “Music makes the people come together” – and while it’s no less true, it’s no less banal.

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Comments

  1. 1
    Alan on 26 Apr 2015 #

    I mostly remember the interminable performance of this during Live 8 http://freakytrigger.co.uk/pumpkin/2005/07/pub-8-3-the-elgin/

  2. 2
    Kinitawowi on 26 Apr 2015 #

    Insert innumerable jokes about calling this thing “Music” being a breach of the Trade Descriptions Act.

    As with Oops I Did It Again all that time ago, my primary exposure to this song was always with its video, its incredibly 60s tone seemingly a conscious attempt to recreate the success of Beautiful Stranger. (Think Of Yesterday, indeed.) But then there’s the hideous touch of modernity, Ali G’s cameo, and suddenly this Madonna is – for possibly the first time in her musical life – confused. A record that looks to the past and the future at the same time, and catches the best of neither.

    2.

  3. 3
    lonepilgrim on 26 Apr 2015 #

    I like the Lipps Inc/Kraftwerk style of the production and perhaps it sounds great in a club or remix but once this gets started it sounds a bit monotonous (and not in a good way) – something that the video appears to try to gloss over with Ali G’s comedy stylings, a cartoon sequence and strippers. I loathe most of Sacha Baron-Cohen’s ‘characters’ so his contribution is particularly irritating for me and hard to ignore.

  4. 4
    thefatgit on 26 Apr 2015 #

    I disagree with Aphex Twin’s statement. It screams of ageism and underlines a belief that if you find a style that works for you, you must follow its path to its conclusion. Last year’s album suggests he has found his style and is sticking rigidly to his path. The Aphex path is a pretty fascinating and unusual path, but a path all the same. Madonna has no respect for paths. She will continue to kick over the KEEP OFF THE GRASS signs and wander among the flowerbeds into her twilight years and more power to her.

    Tom pretty much nails it for me, but I’m taking my score a notch higher. (7)

  5. 5
    mrdiscopop on 26 Apr 2015 #

    A record that aches to have its finger on the pulse of dance culture but deploys the phrase “boogie-“woogie”.

    Music has nonetheless had a surprising longevity in Madonna’s repertoire. The qualities that see it marked down here (repitition, monotony) make it eminently adaptable.

    Even in the original form, I like how the hi-hat pattern goes slowly mental; and the theremin-esque refrain at the end is still a thrill. A five or a seven, depending on how irritating Madonna is being on any given day.

  6. 6
    Tom on 26 Apr 2015 #

    Did I make it obvious enough in the review that I think Aphex is wrong? Maybe not, in which case I might amend it.

  7. 7
    Tom on 26 Apr 2015 #

    #5 “Boogie-woogie” is ridiculous, but it’s surely knowing – for one thing, why would she suddenly use it at this point after 18 years of making records for the dancefloor? It doesn’t work, but I don’t think it’s straightforwardly trying to sound hip, or unaware it doesn’t.

  8. 8
    Tom on 26 Apr 2015 #

    Actually, is there anything in the record and its rhythm that could make “boogie-woogie” apt? This is one of those times my lack of musiciology really tells, unfortunately.

  9. 9
    Mark M on 26 Apr 2015 #

    I’m struggling to think of a song my opinion of changed so completely, so completely. First time I heard it was when I’d dropped by The Face offices, and was told, ‘You’ve got to hear the Madonna single – it’s amazing.’ And that first time I heard it, it did seem amazing – machine-y, daringly extreme for a big star, excitingly retro-futurist. Went away telling other people, ‘Wow, wait until you hear what Madonna has done.’

    Around a week after it had hit the TV channels, I was growing tired of it. Those same elements – especially the treated vocals – started to become grating. Rather than a radical collision of interesting elements, on repeated exposure, it felt like a grab-bag of attention-seeking sonic gimmicks.

    Another week on, and I absolutely hated it. Still do. Madonna hasn’t done anything I’ve liked since.

  10. 10
    AMZ1981 on 26 Apr 2015 #

    Firstly a couple of stats. Music was Madonna’s tenth number one single making her the fourth artist at that point to break double figures after Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Cliff Richard. She also became the third female artist to feature on ten UK number one singles, just two weeks after Melanie C became the second (Geri Halliwell of course being the first). Last but not least Music gave her back to back number ones for the first time since La Isla Bonita and Who’s That Girl.

    Madonna’s image has always been that of an untouchable pop goddess, willing to take risks (and end up with egg on her face when it goes wrong) but ultimately proving stronger than her critics. However every so often the mask slips as it did on the Like A Prayer album and again on Ray Of Light and it’s probably unsurprising that her confessional albums are her most highly regarded. However there is a case for Music being her best straight up pop album and almost certainly the best post Like A Prayer. Rolling Stone even ranked it on their Top 500 Albums Of All Time List. And yet fifteen years after release it’s rarely mentioned in dispatches.

    Music the song was never the best advertisment for the album at the time and hasn’t aged well. The album also suffers from rather too obviously singing Guy Ritchie’s praises (eight years later she’d write a song about him called The Devil Wouldn’t Recognise You. And yet I listened to Music the album a few nights ago and was reminded of how fantastic it was; the title track sits better in an album context and the magnificent almost closer (American Pie being tagged on at the end of the UK version) Gone may be her most undervalued song. It is perhaps surprising that she waited until three singles in before releasing the album’s astonishing centrepiece, What It Feels Like For A Girl.

    Going back to chart stats but had Music been released a week later the whole top ten would have stayed static; as it was she entered at the top and the previous week’s top ten all dropped a place. I might be wrong but leaving aside the occasions where no chart was published and the previous chart carried over this might be the closest we ever came to a completely static top ten. For this to have happened in 2000 would have been a delicious irony.

  11. 11
    Doctor Casino on 26 Apr 2015 #

    The video is as silly as it ever was – at the time I remember being annoyed that it was hijacked by some weird comedian I’d never heard of, but even without him it’s just a blizzard of distractions, transition graphics and an unconvincing table dancer scene meant to convince us of… what? Madonna is shocking and transgressive? Not much there for the year 2000, and anyway, she receives the attention from the dancer like a bachelorette party from Dubuque and the effect is spoiled. Better: Madonna is in drag as a present-day pop star? If so, she treads a fine line between trite jokes about pimps and bling, already well worn out, and just being offensive. On the whole I think she errs on the side of dullness here and that more or less applies to the song too; it sounds better than I remember it, and I like the squelchy voices and bloops and bleeps, but it’s really not much of a song. For me the paean to an abstraction just feels like an admission of being out of ideas. I vote 3 or 4, nice soundscape but nothing besides its performer to make it a #1.

    The parallels to Discotheque might be worth probing.

  12. 12
    Doctor Casino on 26 Apr 2015 #

    I should add that this was played a LOT on what was left of the American video channels at the time, so I had many chances to build up annoyance at “Is you…Madonna?”

  13. 13
    mapman132 on 27 Apr 2015 #

    The first transatlantic #1 of the 21st century…and unless I’m forgetting something, Madonna’s last US #1 to date…

    I’m a bit surprised at Tom’s lukewarm reaction, but perhaps I shouldn’t be. I didn’t like it myself as much as the Ray of Light trilogy – too hip-hoppy for my tastes perhaps? Still, I guess I could go as high as 7/10.

    Some random notes:

    – Unsurprisingly, the first song simply named “Music” to hit #1. Surprisingly, a quick Ctrl-F on the index page reveals it’s the first song with “Music” in the title at all to hit #1. Amusingly, if we don’t count MusicAL Youth, the only two acts with Music in their names were back to back.

    – Anyone else notice this is the second #1 in a row in which the video contains the artist getting annoyed when a taxi driver lowers the volume on their song?

    – I quite like Madonna’s current record back here in 2015. Doesn’t seem to be doing anything on the charts though :(

    Finally, haven’t seen the article, so my only thought on “musical mid-life crisis at 42” is that certain postings of mine in recent months may well speak for themselves….

  14. 14

    I feel that I can hear a trace memory of A Taste of Honey’s “Boogie Oogie Oogie” in feel and shape (more the way AToH played it live than the original single)?

    It’s this kind of boogie-woogie — as invoked by AToH or The Fatback Band or Baccarat in highly arranged late 70s disco, rather than the piano style that e.g. Pinetop Smith was famous for in the 1920s.

  15. 15
    flahr on 27 Apr 2015 #

    “radical collision of interesting elements […] grab-bag of attention-seeking sonic gimmicks” but surely these two phrases mean exactly the same thing???

  16. 16
    Andrew on 27 Apr 2015 #

    I feel like the “boogie-woogie” lyric is a knowingly cheesy throwback, ridiculous within the context of (what was at the time) a very modern-sounding pop song.

    After the almost imperious majesty of the Ray of Light album and the earnest reading of ‘American Pie’ (both of which I love) it was refreshing to hear Madonna being fun and frivolous again on ‘Music’.

    ‘Beautiful Stranger’, held from the top spot by S Club 7’s debut, was just as joyful, and a much better song than ‘Music’, both melodically and thematically, the tension of its verses snapping away to a euphoric chorus. ‘Music’ is sort of *all* release, and feels like more of a groove than a song per se. In that sense, it has direct parallels with the boppy, languid post-disco of Madonna (the album), although the Madge of 1983 probably wouldn’t have shoe-horned in a lyric about “the bourgeoisie”.

    There was a time when it wore on me a bit, with Madonna performing it for four tours in a row at the expense of neglected gems. Although mixing it up with ‘Disco Inferno’ (on the Confessions tour) and ‘Last Night a DJ Saved My Life’ (Sticky & Sweet) was novel, when you take away the song’s musical backbone, the top line isn’t really all that strong.

    However, I’ve come around to it again – a strong 7.

    (‘Impressive Instant’, from the Music album, is a highlight of this era. “I like to singy singy singy, like a bird on the wingy wingy wingy” is perhaps my favourite nonsense lyric of all time.)

  17. 17
    swanstep on 27 Apr 2015 #

    Ha! I never noticed the ‘acid rock’ line before. Thanks Tom.

    Signs of the music-business models changing: I picked up the album Music first week of release at Walmart on some exclusive, frighteningly good special deal. I think it was $5.99; at any rate, cheap as chips or so it seemed. And, as AMZ1981 has conveyed, the album was pretty jolly good: beyond the tracks he mentions, ‘I Deserve It’, ‘Amazing’ and ‘Don’t Tell Me’ (a personal fave among M’s vids too) are all good to excellent. The album version of ‘What It Feels Like A Girl’ is indeed superb; the single/video mix, however, was dreadful, as was Mr Ritchie’s video for it – the only real botch-up of this album release cycle for M.

    The triad of Bedtime Stories, Ray Of Light, and Music is M’s ultra-impressive second career peak in my view. As for ‘Music’ itself, however, I broadly agree with Tom’s assessment: it’s got charm and brutal robotic energy and the intro’s especially inviting… but the ultra-locked-in faux-primitive beats and synths and empty spaces between them (rather like much of Kanye’s Yeezus) make it hard to listen to repeatedly. The upshot: I don’t come back to ‘Music’ very often, but I really enjoy it whenever I do, then I don’t need or want to hear it again for a while. ‘Music”s an impressive and deserved worldwide #1, but like wasabi one doesn’t want too much of it:
    7

  18. 18
    weej on 27 Apr 2015 #

    I always heard it as ““bourgeoisie and the rabble” – which makes a little more sense, though it’s still odd in a Madonna song.

  19. 19
    Izzy on 27 Apr 2015 #

    10: that static top ten stat is weird. Was TOTP still going in 2000? Considering it didn’t play records which were going down, that must also have been about its most also-ran episode ever.

    As for Music, it’s okay but notably short of singable hooks. I was going to suggest that that renders a Madonna record pretty much pointless, but given that she was always the weakest singer of all elite stars, I’m not sure why that should be so. (5)

  20. 20
    Steve Williams on 27 Apr 2015 #

    #19 For that reason, Top of the Pops dropped the rule that it could only play records going up the charts in the nineties, and it would regularly play the previous week’s number one for example. Indeed by this point you could argue that the definition of a big hit was one that went down the chart slower than the others.

  21. 21
    Tommy Mack on 27 Apr 2015 #

    “Yeah, the bourgeoisie are the ones still buying your records” I churlishly thought to myself at the time but then this grew on me.

    Covered by Goldblade, topping the bill at Manchester’s Night and Day Cafe’s Madonna night. ant man b were asked to play but I said we’d only do it if we could do Material Girl and someone else had already bagged it. Not my smartest move but I didn’t really know my Madonna back then.

  22. 22
    DanusJonus on 27 Apr 2015 #

    To take the static top 10 thing and make a bit of a leap (just for fun and because for some reason I love those kind of statistics), in June 1994, we had the rare occurrence of there being no new entries in the top 20. Although Wet Wet Wet were number one at the time so I suppose the whole record industry could have just given in and decided to wait until it finally started dropping down the charts.

    Obviously around Christmas and New Year, you get a new chart each week although there’s often no new releases and the positions generally swap around slightly with no major changes. Without wanting to go through every festive chart, there might have been a fairly static top 10 during these periods?

    The no new entries in the top 10 would happen again in a couple of years from where we’re up to at the moment. I think once downloads started to be counted in 2006 it happened a lot more regularly. If memory serves the downloads would count for the week before the CD was released, hence you got some good old fashioned chart climbers, which had become a rarity over the previous 15 years or so.

    While not quite static charts, I felt the need to share this information nonetheless.

    I suppose my desire to share this also underlines my lack of love for ‘Music’.

  23. 23
    Steve Mannion on 27 Apr 2015 #

    After ‘Ray Of Light’ I found, unlike before, Madonna would really struggle to ‘keep up’ with who she was working with in terms of bringing something interesting and intriguing to the record…at least when there was enough of that in the music itself. She does manage it better on two or three of her later #1s compared to this which is just too carried by Mirwais and his crafty knobs. I liked ‘Impressive Instant’ more.

    The Ali G stuff was cringeworthy too – the character already tired by that point. I loathed Madonna’s Anglophile (although you may well argue it was more tasteful than her prior Geisha dalliance(s) phase and this was its height. Still this is sparky fun in spite of it all.

  24. 24
    glue_factory on 27 Apr 2015 #

    The machine squiggles and gradual crescendo in this make it seem like the first acid house[1] number one to me.

    [1] Apart from whichever ones I’ve forgotten, obviously.

    It’s not my favourite Madonna number one, but it’s still up there. 8/10

  25. 25
    anto on 27 Apr 2015 #

    In total agreement with both the score and the review here. It’s a game attempt to enter middle age with a bit of sparkle but calling this song Music reminds me a bit of the Fast Show’s part-time football fan shouting ‘SOCCER!!’ (before leaving at half-time because the home team were a goal down and he had better things to do).

  26. 26
    Phil on 27 Apr 2015 #

    I’d never seen the video before, so thanks for that – really awful. I like the song, though – it does have the sound of an established star going down the New Stuff Emporium, but it wears it lightly (as in all the lyrical naffness) and, I think, carries it off. 7 for the song, 1 and let us never speak of it again for the video version.

    Re the video, I wonder if they started with the lap dancers & worked out from there? As I watched that section of the video in appalled fascination, I did think the relentless mechanical bounce of the track fitted it horribly well (and Madge tried something similar but marginally more decorous with a 2005 bunny).

  27. 27
    Andrew on 27 Apr 2015 #

    Madonna was around five months pregnant when the video was filmed. This would explain the cartoon sequences and the awkward limo shots with Madge in a big coat. (Has me thinking about a pregnant Jane Danson as Leanne Battersby in Corrie, carrying a strategically placed outsize clipboard around the Underworld factory for months on end.)

    The Ali G stuff is very cringeworthy. On the one hand, I suppose it’s difficult to know how badly comedy will date. On the other, Ali G really had already peaked some time ago in summer 2000.

    Then again, you could argue that music videos have dual purpose: art and advert. As an advert for the song, it doesn’t matter at all that it hasn’t dated particularly well, it clearly served its purpose at the time in helping the song to the top of the charts.

    It doesn’t seem like the intention with the ‘Music’ video was for it to be one of Madonna’s artier efforts. It’s certainly no ‘Frozen’.

    It did get a DVD single release, though (remember them?). I think the only other Madonna single to get one was ‘What It Feels Like for a Girl’.

  28. 28
    Izzy on 27 Apr 2015 #

    I don’t remember DVD singles! Were they common?

    I’d have appreciated the option a few years earlier – VHS singles I guess – as much of my ‘digging deeper’ music consumption came about through taping the Chart Show Indie Chart, which meant even in the best case scenario I only ever saw the middle two minutes of any of these clips. From memory these were generally not of a quality such that I ought to have been aching over the loss.

    All are now permanently on offer on youtube of course. I was kind of heartbroken when I recorded over the indie chart introductory carousel, and then next time around they’d changed the graphic to some kind of space theme. I’d loved it and never thought I’d see again, but thanks to the modern world I can watch it any time I like, followed by ten blurry seconds of Northside.

  29. 29
    Andrew on 27 Apr 2015 #

    From around 2000 the DVD was exploited a little as part of the multi-format boom/chart hype exercise, before the physical singles market died on its arse. Madonna may well have been one of the first.

    DVD singles were often released in a jewel case (like a CD album) rather than the slimline ‘J’ case of a typical CD single, and retailed at about £3-4, although Madonna’s were both in full-size DVD cases that you could slot in with your films (albeit slimmer and with a tougher plastic) and were a quite preposterous £6 or £7.

    As a Spice Girls fan I have a few by Victoria Beckham and Emma Bunton from 2001, Mel C from 2003 and Geri from 2005 (really past the point where they were at all common, I reckon).

    None of them number one singles, incidentally (Emma’s bunny didn’t have a DVD).

    Annoyingly, the only DVD player in our house in 2001 was my brother’s Playstation, so I probably only watched them once each. Also irritating were the b-sides exclusive to DVD, accompanied by a rotating slideshow of about four photos.

  30. 30
    Tim Byron on 27 Apr 2015 #

    This song seemed pretty omnipresent to me in Australia – all over music TV, and on radio in shops, etc. I feel that the song still has some of Madonna’s oop magic – it still has a certain pull and a certain knowledge of a good hook. But yeah, it is a bit of hard work, a bit boring, as Tom points out. And you suspect that Madonna wanted it to be more profound than it is, and that she didn’t have the kind of collaborator in Mirwais who could focus her thoughts and energies on that kind of thing. I much prefer ‘What It Feels Like For A Girl’ and ‘Don’t Tell Me’. (I don’t think I knew who Baron-Cohen was at this point – he might not have gotten much press by this point in Australia – so I remember seeing him in the video clip presented as someone I was meant to already know, and mostly being confused by him rather than finding him funny or offensive).

  31. 31
    Andrew on 27 Apr 2015 #

    actually a Google image search reveals that only ‘Music’ was in that different kind of case.

    Small photo but you can hopefully kind of see what I mean: http://www.iconic-music.com/ekmps/shops/iconicmusic/images/madonna-music-dvd-with-ali-g-rare-dvd-single-see-dvd-collection-lots-more-dvds-1766-p%5Bekm%5D204x153%5Bekm%5D.jpg

  32. 32
    Jonathan on 27 Apr 2015 #

    #30: Yeah I think it was in 2001 or 2002 that we got the big “coming to Australian TV, hit UK comedy phenomenon Ali G!!1!1!” push, and it was only in retrospect that I watched the Madonna video and noticed that the rando in it was actually Baron Cohen. (As such, I was under the impression she was ahead of the curve.)

  33. 33
    Tom on 27 Apr 2015 #

    I think she wasn’t as far behind the curve as Steve M is saying, actually. Da Ali G Show only started in 2000 – he’d had two years on the 11 O’Clock Show, so he was a known quantity (though only if you could force yourself to watch the 11 O Clock Show). But for a mainstream audience we’re some way off peak Ali G still.

  34. 34
    Izzy on 27 Apr 2015 #

    Never saw the 11 O’Clock Show but his own show was repeating itself by about episode three, so it didn’t take much of a feel for the zeitgeist to know the jig was long up.

  35. 35

    I loved this at the time and the LP it’s from (tho I too prefer the singy-singy-wingy-wingy song) and still do, really. Somehow didn’t see the video till yesterday (I avoided most forms of music TV back in the day, in the belief that if I ever succumbed I’d just sit watching them all day long): anyway, it’s terrible. (Never been a fan of ambush comedy really, so that side of Ali G’s shtick rankled; and — at least now — the precision of the attempted accent seems not really there either, at least in this performance.)

    Maybe the vid has a hint of Charlie’s Angels about it (the reboot — which I’m fond of — was in 2000)?

    I like the “bourgeoisie” lyric: lyric sites tidy up and trite-ify the logic (“Music makes the people come together. Music mix the bourgeoisie and the rebel”: so that the second sentence becomes an imperative — but myself I prefer “makes” for “mix”, because the claim is larger and more mysterious; it feels as if it has meaning but this meaning is just off round the corner of your mind. How does music “make” the bourgeosie? E.P.Thompson says somewhere that class is when a group of people recognise themselves as a group (with shared interests and shared threats and etc) (something like this anyway, I could look it up): that it’s an act or anyway an active response, and requires a medium of communication and reflection. Political people don’t usually consider this medium to be music of course. But somewhere in this couplet there’s a bold if buried er er utopian-Gramscian claim about the future beyond the economic classes that divide us….

    (Not that “rebel” is an economic class um)

    I don’t know, it always slips away. But I like playing with how it might work.

  36. 36
    Tom on 27 Apr 2015 #

    Fair enough, but if “I’ve got the point of this now, thanks” was enough to dismiss comedy Little Britain (say) would have managed barely two episodes: whatever the cameo’s merits as a hipster move I think it was finely timed in terms of Ali G’s public appeal.

  37. 37
    chelovek na lune on 27 Apr 2015 #

    The notion that the “bourgeoisie” and “rebels” are opposed to one another, and, more particularly, mutually exclusive, would appear to be based upon a curious and extremely partial reading of Western history.

    The record – similarly to that statement – sounds like it is trying too hard, but hasn’t really been considered as well as it might. Was Madonna here trying to be modern? Robotic? Witty? Snappy? Dancing with her baby (as in her, real?, baby) , up to date, celebratory of new life stage and position?

    The track felt kind of inescapable, if kind of persistently irritating at the time (it is still is the latter to my ears), and, while I suppose there is something to be said for experimenting with different styles, rather than sinking into complacency, this is really not Madge anywhere near the top of her (frequently quite exhilarating) game. Her “Rudebox”, perhaps, but, well, nowhere near as good as “Rudebox”. 4, or maybe, 5.

  38. 38
    Steve Mannion on 27 Apr 2015 #

    Even if it was timed well enough what was the actual point of Madonna involving Ali G? Who needs who here? What did we get out of it? “Leave Brits Alone!” I tearfully implored her.

  39. 39
    Ed on 27 Apr 2015 #

    @35 Not sure if this is what you’re getting at, but I always heard it as “music makes the bourgeoisie and the rebel”, in the sense that it’s music that creates those socio-political categories and roles.

    In other words, it’s the opposite of the “mix” hearing: music is a divisive force, and your taste puts you on one side of the barricades or the other. I know that reading might contradict the previous line, but like you I can’t un-hear it. Maybe the only people who come together are the rebels. The MC5 and John Lennon clearly meant it that way.

    Where Madonna’s own music would line up in that class struggle is open to debate. The idea of being a rebel is obviously very important to her: it’s in the title of her new album.

    @37 True. But I think Marx would say that the bourgeois rebellions were what we had in the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries, creating market economies. It’s hard to think of any countries today where the bourgeoisie is still a revolutionary class. I think that’s what Madonna meant.

  40. 40
    Tom on 27 Apr 2015 #

    I don’t think there’s any contradiction in the chorus if we take the Mark/Marx reading. It becomes, here are two things music can do, unite and divide. The bourgeoisie/rebel thing lets you frame both these things as positive, if you like.

  41. 41

    hi ed: yes and no — i agree that line two very much pushes in the opposite direction, but i feel that there’s a hidden concordance here too, because it’s music playing the identical role in both case… a gesture at the utopian potential of any music audience, that it’s more than just “our crowd” here

    as i say, it slips away every time i try and pin it down :)

  42. 42

    of course originally the line “i like to boogie woogie” was “i am the dialectic”

  43. 43
    Rory on 27 Apr 2015 #

    I am the dialectic and I am the light, I couldn’t ever bring myself to hate you as I’d like…

  44. 44
    Pink champale on 27 Apr 2015 #

    I always heard it as “music makes the bourgeoise have a revel”, which has the virtue of being fact-based (middle class enjoyment is often accompanied and encouraged by music) if less mysterious and poetic.

  45. 45
    thefatgit on 27 Apr 2015 #

    Ed @39,”It’s hard to think of any countries today where the bourgoisie is still a revolutionary class.”

    In 2000, Russia was coping with the effects of the largest private asset-grab the world has seen since the East India Company. Probably the ugliest revolution of them all.

  46. 46
    chelovek na lune on 27 Apr 2015 #

    ” It’s hard to think of any countries today where the bourgeoisie is still a revolutionary class. I think that’s what Madonna meant”

    Hmm, the liberalizing “revolution” in social values since the 1960s in the west is arguably that.

    But if you want old-school “revolutions” that resulted in a change of governing power, arguably those in Serbia (2000), Georgia (2003), Ukraine (2004 and 2013/14), Kyrgyzstan (2005 and 2010) maybe fit the bill… Depending on how narrowly or widely “bourgeoisie” is defined, of course.

  47. 47
    Andrew on 27 Apr 2015 #

    #44 or even a Revel, which would make ‘Music’ the first no.1 since Chef’s salty balls to reference chocolate in a literal sense (Shanks & Bigfoot’s simile wouldn’t count).

    Anyway, the line is awkward, isn’t it? “music makes the bourgeoisie and the rebel” makes them …what?

    I don’t think the reading that music actually shapes these (ostensibly opposing) factions of society would have been intended. The idea is that music makes everyone come together. Music makes them both dance? Love? Celebrate?

    The robotic backing vocals after the line (quite low in the mix) say “never gonna stop” but this doesn’t scan grammatically either.

    In some live performances Madonna has sung “music makes the bourgeoisie and the rebel come together”, which is probably the easiest explanation. Good old Occam’s razor.

  48. 48
    AMZ1981 on 27 Apr 2015 #

    #35 The Charlie’s Angels reboot was in 2000 although a little later in the year; the theme song is a fairly significant bunny.

  49. 49

    haha yes of course (for some reason not involving actually looking or reading carefully i thought we were already in 2001)

  50. 50
    JoeWiz on 27 Apr 2015 #

    I never cared much for this. It worked well enough for the moment, a ‘its me back again’ almost Eminem type angle, but sounds a bit empty to my ears now. As Tom says, its opening is by far its strongest card, it peters off into whirls and noises and shouts and stuff and limps to a conclusion.
    The album its from is OK, I’d go along with most peoples highlights, but it was a long, long way short of ‘Ray of Light’ in my view, and foreshadowed embarrassments like ‘MDNA’ and (most of) ‘Hard Candy’. She’d made this really mature yet forward thinking album, then regressed to pursuing a contemporary sound which dated, in the main, pretty quickly.
    Is peak Ali G considered to be his film?

  51. 51
    JLucas on 27 Apr 2015 #

    For me ‘Music’ is Madonna’s last real imperial phase. She’d have big hits after this, but even in 2005 she felt a lot more like she was playing catch-up, if not necessarily musically then with a grip on the charts that was rapidly slipping away from her – in America she found it particularly difficult to score major hits after this. I’d argue she only really had two significant US hits after this era – the lead singles from her 2005 and 2008 albums. Neither of them were #1s – as mentioned, this was her last.

    Maybe it’s a timing thing, but for me it really does vie with Ray of Light as my favourite Madonna album. I think it’s brilliant. Superficially gaudy with this lead single and the cowboy chic (the last time she was a real fashion trendsetter too, I’d wager), but with so much hidden depth. The title track has never ranked amongst my very favourite Madonna singles, but I think it’s cool and silly and fun in a way that she just can’t seem to afford to be any more. I definitely read the ‘Boogie Woogie’ lyric as knowingly daft rather than awkward – the next track on the album finds her deadpanning “I like to singy singy singy / like a bird on wingy wingy wingy” through thick, muddy vocoder treatment. (It’s brilliant).

    Don’t Tell Me was such a huge radio hit at the time, but feels like one of her more undervalued hits now. I’d rate it as one of her best songs ever, and a quintessential Madonna hit. The strings are just gorgeous.

    I know some people find the whole ‘I love Guy’ theme on the album a bit much, but for me songs like ‘I Deserve It’ and ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ are among her sweetest, most sincere songwriting efforts, certainly of her post-RoL catalogue. A lot of this album is as close as Madonna ever got to making a folk record, and Mirwais electronics actually enhance that effect rather than burying it. It was such a striking mix, I’m surprised more people didn’t imitate it – although you could argue the likes of Imogen Heap did similar things a few years later. It makes the music on this album sound so much more distinctive in retrospect though.

    ‘Amazing’ and ‘Runaway Lover’ are cute little throwback to RoL’s more carefree moments. The former is perhaps a little too much of a Beautiful Stranger retread, but I love William Orbit’s production on the latter, and it’s one of Madonna’s best vocals on the album.

    What It Feels Like For A Girl is another lovely vocal, and along with plaintive album closer ‘Gone’ (I don’t acknowledge the tacked-on American Pie), the most stripped back moment on the record. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that those two tracks strike as the most intimate and personal moments on the album, and it’s correct that Mirwais’ production stays largely out of the way for them.

    The most startling track on the album comes just before the end, the chilly, haunting ‘Paradise (Not For Me)’. Madonna’s vocals are so desolate that at times the effect verges on camp – particularly on the verses – but the ghostly, disorienting chorus is as moving as anything in her catalogue. She definitely feels like she’s playing a role compared to her delivery of stuff like ‘Gone’ and ‘I Deserve it’, but it still manages to sound more emotionally naked than she ever has subsequently. One of the strangest things she ever recorded, it would never have worked as a single, but it’s easily one of the best album tracks she’s ever done – and I think she’s had plenty of great album tracks.

    8 for the song, 9 for the album. Of all Madonna’s incarnations in my lifetime, this is the one I miss most.

  52. 52
    AMZ1981 on 27 Apr 2015 #

    It will be interesting to see how many transatlantic chart toppers there are in the years ahead, leaving aside those by RnB artists. From Madonna’s point of view her next album (two near bunnies) would a) perhaps be a little too strident in its Bush bashing – whether we like it or not he didn’t start losing popularity in the States until midway through his second term and b) not be strong enough on the song front to cross over beyond her fan base. The next album along (two bunnies) obviously repaired her commercial fortunes in Europe – one wonders whether she planned the fall and rise all along – but courted the disco and gay audience which was always going to make her a cult concern in her own country.

    I might be opening a can of worms here but might it be the case that European and American tastes diverged in the early noughties when it came to established artists. Taking a case in point; my favourite artist (and arguably the biggest name we never meet here in any way shape or form) is Bruce Springsteen who commands a sizeable following in his home country but to a slightly different audience – it’s mainly in Europe where he’s revered as a rock and songwriting icon.

  53. 53
    Izzy on 27 Apr 2015 #

    What is Bruce’s status in the US, exactly? Speaking from here it seems almost unfathomable that he shouldn’t be an open-road rock icon, but I think I’ve begun to realise that his politics have come to look too suspiciously pink to qualify him as a real American.

    If that’s right, then of all the demented consequences of polarised political rhetoric this feels like the most absurd – if America, specifically mythic rock America, isn’t about blue-collared guys standing together, what is it about?

    (PS apologies for my inevitable misunderstanding)

  54. 54
    James BC on 27 Apr 2015 #

    Ugh. Massive alarm bell whenever someone talks about “music” as an undifferentiated mass. I remember hearing a quote around this time that Ronan Keating “loves music” and thinking “yes he is exactly the kind of person who would say that”. See also the Onion article “I Like All Types Of Music”.

    Basically if you claim to “love music” or even talk about just “music” then you are, wittingly or unwittingly, part of the malign tendency that will lead to the destruction of all music, and other culture, of any value.

    I don’t necessarily include Madonna in that but then again, this is no Like A Prayer. It is better than American Pie, but people who enjoy American Pie are possibly worse than (and would significantly overlap with) people who talk about “music”.

  55. 55
    Ed on 27 Apr 2015 #

    Incidentally, while I agree the vampirism argument is stupid – her collaborations are mutually beneficial relationships* – I do think it’s highly unlikely that Madonna and Mirwais never heard this: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=tDBgbFk2d-A

    (*Although I guess vampirism could be considered a mutually beneficial relationship in some cases. “Take me away from all this death” and so on.)

  56. 56
    AMZ1981 on 28 Apr 2015 #

    #53 we’ve gone a bit off topic but I suspect in America Bruce Springsteen plays the Stars and Stripes card a bit more than he does over here and – to be fair to all involved – some of it is dictated by cultural differences generally. Perhaps the division is best viewed from the US side; I think many of his US fans are perplexed that somebody so quintessentially American has such a following in Europe and some even resent the fact he spends so much time touring here. It’s worth noting that his immediate contemporaries such as Southside Johnny and John Mellencamp have never really caught on here.

    He’s not directly comparable with Madonna and a look at her singles discography suggests that by her phenomonal standards she was never quite as dominant chartwise there as she was here. She did become quite Anglicanised during the Guy Ritchie years and maybe she found a niche with the European gay audience.

    Many people have picked up on the fact that Rebel Heart (certainly her best record since Confessions From A Dance Floor and for me her best since Music) is an album of two halves and one wonders whether the collaboration heavy RnB numbers are pitched at her US audience while the world weary numbers speak to her UK fans.

  57. 57
    mapman132 on 28 Apr 2015 #

    If Bruce Springsteen isn’t a big deal in America, it’s certainly news to me. He famously has never had a number one single in the US, but he has had 10 number one albums – tied for third most in history. His tours still seem to be big business. Of course, I grew up/live relatively close to Bruce’s home base so my view may be skewed, but still…

    Also, contrary to popular belief, not all of us are hard-right rednecks. A lot of us share Bruce’s left-of-center views. Remember we did manage to elect Obama twice.

  58. 58
    Jonathan on 28 Apr 2015 #

    Born in the USA especially was huge worldwide, but it looms even larger in the US consciousness, and in a way that crosses party lines: not just in terms of the attention it infamously received from Reagan and George F. Will, but even today Chris Christie is famous as a Springsteen fan. Springsteen was a big part of the public grieving post-9/11 as well — he played the Tribute to Heroes TV special and The Rising captured the nation’s wounded Zeitgeist. The idea that left-leaning pop culture is unwelcome in America — or was even just in the period following 9/11 — is a bit simplistic, deriving as much from European condescension and a liberal victim-complex as from reality. For instance, Green Day’s American Idiot outsold Toby Keith’s Unleashed (the album from which “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” comes) by a couple of million copies.

  59. 59
    Erithian on 28 Apr 2015 #

    #52 And don’t forget we did meet Bruce, albeit briefly, via “We Are The World”!

  60. 60
    Cumbrian on 28 Apr 2015 #

    Previous discussion on Bruce touching on some of these subjects is on the Don’t Look Back In Anger thread.

    It is inarguable that he is less popular in the US than he used to be – but then at his height he was ridiculously popular, so the only way was down from there. Still, he’s not had venues curtained off on tour in Europe as far as I am aware and has had in the US in the recent past (Raleigh, NC, I believe was at least one example) and he’s still selling out multiple dates worth of football stadiums across Europe and not doing that as much in the USA – outside the North Eastern states at least.

    Some of this will be his politics more explicitly coming to the fore, I would say (Wrecking Ball is a brilliant album, up there with his best, and wears its politics on its sleeve, the Vote for Change tour in 2004 holed his boat with some of his more conservative fans) but a decent amount of his reduction in ticket selling power in the US is probably just because his fans are getting old and dying off, plus the tickets are not exactly cheap. Meanwhile, I look around his gigs in Europe and there are plenty of people my age and younger (i.e. early 30s and below) knocking around. I suspect that the brief period where he was being name-checked by The Killers, Arcade Fire, etc, could well be the starting point for that.

    I agree with the naysayers on Music, the song, and also with those praising Music the album. I like almost everything on the album more than this lead single (I’ve never really been able to get on with the clattering disjunction of the music for Music). What It Feels Like For A Girl, in particular, is sublime.

  61. 61
    AMZ1981 on 28 Apr 2015 #

    I didn’t want to extend several lengthy comments above by noting a) Bruce Springsteen’s one brief appearance on a UK number one single and b) that I was making a few sweeping generalisations. #57 I’m happy to say that I certainly wasn’t implying all Americans are red necks and apologise if that’s the impression I gave – I’m proud to have many American friends and have visited liberal America myself.

    I suppose the key point is that with every year we become more distant from Beatlemania, American and European tastes become more polarised (perhaps not helped by the fact that popular music becomes more fragmented as well). I’m certainly not disputing that many, many American recognise Springsteen as a liberal icon in the tradition of Steinbeck and others as well as a rock icon but there is a cultural divide he has to straddle (it’s worth noting as well that he fell off the radar in the late nineties as far as the UK was concerned which is how he might have picked up a younger following upon his comeback) . I think it’s fair to say he derives some of his American fanbase from the C&W scene there and I stand by my point that the strain of American blue collar rock he leads has never really crossed over here, the man himself aside. At the same time there is plenty of British rock that hasn’t exported in the other direction – Paul Weller being a case in point.

    I raised the question as an example when I asked the question of whether Madonna’s American and European audiences diverged post Music.

  62. 62
    Paulito on 28 Apr 2015 #

    @61 I know this is a further digression but I’ve often seen it argued that – as measured in chart terms at least – US and UK tastes in popular music were in fact at their greatest level of alignment in the early to mid ’80s, rather than during the Beatlemania era.

  63. 63
    IP on 28 Apr 2015 #

    Another vote for “I liked this a lot at the time, sounds a bit boring now”. Kind of the opposite of Die Another Day, which started off embarrassing and now sounds absolutely fantastic.

    On the plus side, “Music” felt like the first proper hedonistic disco-dancey floorfiller Madonna single in a *really* long time – maybe since “Vogue”? And in retrospect, it’s a satisfying foreshadow of the big hit in 2005 – possibly my favourite single of the ‘00s.

  64. 64
    mapman132 on 30 Apr 2015 #

    #61 I know you and others weren’t trying to offend, but sometimes I feel the need to point out how diverse the US really is. Notably, I felt more “at home” last fall in London and its environs than I do in places only a few hours drive from where I live!

    I’m not certain I agree though with the idea that American and UK/European tastes are diverging wrt pop music. It certainly was true in 2000, and will become more true as the 2000s continue, but it seems that things have snapped back somewhat in the 2010s. I credit the Internet, especially Youtube, iTunes, and Spotify, with this. Of course, I primarily focus on the singles chart, so probably album sales give a different view – which is where Springsteen would show up these days anyway.

  65. 65
    Steve Mannion on 1 May 2015 #

    I don’t agree that tastes have diverged between ‘here’ and ‘there’ either. The music press here are obviously keen to foghorn the success of British acts in the US but there’s been a steady stream of this over the last ten years from Coldplay’s praise peak to Adele and Mumford Removals or Whatever to the more recent post-EDM crossovers of your Calvin Harrises and Disclosures. ‘Music’ does feel prescient due to the latter aspect – if you think of it as Daft Punk-inspired and how their influence has ballooned remarkably in US pop since.

  66. 66
    Alfred on 4 May 2015 #

    #58: and Toby Keith’s politics (in his music) are complicated too.

  67. 67
    Izzy on 4 May 2015 #

    I’ve been bingeing on Bruce the past few days, and thinking about what’s upthread. I got to wondering – does the America he wrote about exist anymore?

    Obviously he covered a lot of ground, but what I hear as the main themes – desperate people let down by the institutions they placed faith in, the way out heroic but doomed – seem like they don’t really work if you never trust a higher power that you don’t have to keep cheerleading for no matter how it may fail you, or you never have to face up to there being no more self-determining to do.

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