“THERE’S SOMETHING remarkable about Madonna’s decision to share her suffering the way she once shared her pleasure. Her music has always been about liberation from oppression, but for the first time the oppression is internal: loss and sadness. Stars — they really are just like us.” That is Rolling Stone’s Joe Levy reviewing Madonna’s upon-us-any minute album “MDNA.”
This record is dance-driven, revenge-driven, regret-driven and self-referential to the max. It has already received a batch of impressive reviews; those who have heard it agree it is disconcertingly dark, eminently danceable, and delicately mournful. A wild mash-up.
Madonna, who is only 53, is not going quietly into that good night of ballads and a single spotlight. (Although “MDNA” does contain three ballads — one of which, “Falling Free” is among the most intimate and well-sung of her career.)
But the beat goes on for M. The album is chock full of 21st century in-your-face techo — it thumps relentlessly, the bass booms, and they do odd, computerized things with her voice. Yet it often recalls her earlier efforts, during the halcyon days of her recording career. Her pure, unaltered voice is heard enough to reassure the fans who loved her in the 80s or in 1997’s “Evita.”
“MDNA” is not my kind of music, necessarily. But it is impressive. Impressive in that Madonna does what she wants to do, and says what she wants to say (Guy Ritchie, when you hear “Gang Bang,” duck for cover!) And she says it — haters be damned — against throbbing dance beats.
Listen, Marlene Dietrich spent her entire career — well into her seventies — attempting to maintain the illusion of the fabulous femme fatale image created for her by Josef von Sternberg in the 1930s. At Madonna’s age, she was wearing semi-transparent gowns and singing the same old songs on stages around the world. And looking increasingly bored doing it, too.
Madonna was the sexy, controversial pop star. So she’s still doing what she knows how to do. Difference? She doesn’t seem bored. In fact, “MDNA” announces her revitalization.
She’s always supposed to be over, but somehow she never is. And I abhor the ageism and sexism so resonant in criticism of her.
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OUR PR friend in L.A. Hal Lifson reports that his new client, Maggie Vessey, a world-class runner now training for the London Olympics, has real “crossover” possibilities. She’s blonde, sexy and clever. She runs like the wind and wants to win some gold or silver for the sport she loves. But an athlete’s life is short. There are possibilities beyond the track. Especially these days, with reality TV still dominating the airwaves. Hal says, “Maggie is a stallion. But she needs to be a show pony as well as a runner to get into the mainstream media!”
Lifson, who also promotes Kara Goucher — known as “the Julia Roberts of runners” — feels certain Miss Vessey will soon earn similar nicknames. Aside from his repping duties and his historical interest in all things 1960s, Mr. Lifson is also a runner.
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ELLEN DEGENERES showed a bit of Tim Burton’s upcoming film “Dark Shadows” the other day. This is Burton’s take on the cult TV series that ran from 1966-71. It starred Jonathan Frid as the vampire Barnabas Collins. 1940s screen star Joan Bennett was also on hand as the usually bewildered matriarch of a gloomy old mansion. The TV series was Gothic horror soap opera. (Another cast member, Alexandra Isles, would later star in a real-life Gothic soap opera as the mistress of Claus Von Bulow, who was accused of attempting to murder his rich wife.)
Mr. Burton’s version of “Dark Shadows” looks to be high-camp weird. Quite like “The Munsters” or “The Addams Family.”
Johnny Depp stars as Barnabas in Burton’s movie, and Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter and Christopher Lee are also on hand. So how does Johnny look as a vampire? Much as he does in everyday life, really. (No sexy Frank Langella here!) Instead of that weird greasy hair hanging annoyingly down his face, as Barnabas Johnny has weird greasy hair hanging down in spears all over his forehead.
He looks equally strange in the first photos released for “The Lone Ranger,” in which he plays Tonto, opposite Armie Hammer as the masked hero. Johnny’s Tonto has a dead white face, dark stripes running from brow to chin, and wears a black bird on his head. His hair is long and greasy. Of course his physical interpretation of Captain Jack Sparrow in the “Pirates” movies is famously over the top.
I yearn for Johnny to play a Marine. Just for the scrubbed face and a buzz cut!
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ENDQUOTE: “I’m thinking … the dance. Perhaps a musical!” That was George Clooney answering David Gregory’s “one career question” during Clooney’s “Meet The Press” sitdown on Sunday. Clooney was there — and everyplace else! — talking up his efforts in the violence-riddled Sudan.
Of course, George was only kidding about “the dance.” But he was so wonderfully composed and intelligent making his points on this cause; not at all egotistical, not in-your-face ranting and criticizing. He is somebody who puts his money where his mouth is, but doesn’t rub your face in it.
He was a gent even as he and his father, Nick Clooney, were arrested outside the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C. Clooney has often said he would never run for office, citing his movie-star life and experiences being deal-breakers. Too bad. At least his carousing and la dolce vita wouldn’t come as a surprise to voters.