Monday, December 28, 2009

Holiday--Madonna and the Season

It is strange that in later life I take Madonna's song "Holiday" as worthwhile a post. After all, when Madonna first came out in the '80s I was in high school and jaded beyond belief. To my artificial worldly wisdom, Madonna seemed to be the mere passing parade (which remains the case today, except her huge influence over decades makes her more parade and less passing). Back then, what did I have to gain from being wiled by Madonna's obvious gifts? Nothing. It was the nerd in me or at least the unpopular guy's music of the day--such things as Husker Du and Black Flag--that made me deny Madonna's true excellence. But all this is a lie, because I was as virile as the next young man. Looking back I see that I was incapable of admitting that Madonna excited in me passions of which I wasn't sure what to make in my sixteen year old body. I secretly loved Madonna, but this was not considered to be cool as a male who listened to "serious" music outside the mainstream. Madonna was obviously popular amongst the girls in my circles, and cool guys didn't listen to popular music like that. Only gay guys admitted to listening to Madonna. So, given these factors, how could one ever listen to Madonna?

This became a problem for me because, as I've admitted, I secretly loved Madonna. She was obviously the version of some woman for whom I would have been willing to submit. There was something about Madonna that truly aroused my nascent sexual passion. No wonder I hated her so much--she introduced a pain in my life that would never know requite. Like Don Quixote in his argument that all knights errant require a fair lady, I felt that Madonna was a cruel mistress who would never know of my own noble love for her. To defray the costs against the Manchegan, I thought of her as some cheap slut, albeit with obvious charms. So I listened to Meat Puppets and Dead Kennedys because Madonna was beyond me and my desire, and following my interest in her would only cause me pain. The agony she would have caused me was beyond belief. It was best to deny it.

I suspect I'm not alone in this--i.e, straight white males who like to think of themselves as listening to "punk" or "college" music (later called "alternative"), but who secretly comprise a tribe of Madonna lovers encompassing every nerd from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon. I have no empirical basis from which to make such a remark, but Madonna was secretly loved by me in Galveston, Texas. Maybe most nerds are happy with Marillion, but Madonna's song "Holiday" was and is a truly joyous song. To be sure, it's not a Christmas song, but it may as well be. Every time I've ever had a party with males and females of the human species in one room, the dance floor gets full fast when I put on "Holiday." Madonna's "Holiday" is truly a party song--and this happens twenty years after the song's release. I would call this feat brilliance.

As I listen to Madonna sing "Holiday"--with Jelly Bean Benitez providing his superb production--I think that there needs to be more music like this. And this comes from a guy who would rather admit to listening to Husker Du or Black Flag (as great as they are). Hell, I'd rather admit to listening to Marillion (at least in some moods).

That being said, Madonna's "Holiday" is superior to any of that so-called "deep" rock that I compare it to. In fact, in a minor respect Madonna's song suggests the same freedom that these Christian holidays provide for us. With the holiday's joy and blessings there is a moment in this song of Madonna that speaks to the most hopeful aspirations. While it may remain unspeakable, it represents a beautiful means to escape from our own insignificance. "If we took a holiday...just one day out of life. It would be so nice." I can't agree more, especially coupled with that song's funky beat.

Update: As is typical with Madonna, the live version is not as good as the studio/album version (pace Elton John on her lip-synching), but at least here you get a pre-concert prayer for the song which, in typical Madonna fashion, is ambiguous regarding her own humility or hubris--let alone narcissism.

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