My Life with Madonna is a compilation of covers and other types of reimaginings accompanying issue 34 of the Incredibly Hot Sex with Hideous People zine by Massey School of Fine Arts lecturer Bryce Galloway and features a fair few Massey students – past and present. It’s the sequel to My Life with John Lennon whom, doubtless, more of the contributors felt some level of kinship towards. Whereas Madonna well… Madonna has always stolen whatever was cutting edge then hacked at it until blunt.
While Lennon was politically engaged (if overly idealistic) Madonna has essentially only been engaged with one thing: Money. Madonna represents the Singer as ATM. In 2007 she signed a ten-year 360° contract to professional overchargers Live Nation which has recently transmogrified into uber corporation Live Nation Entertainment. This deal is expected to bring a minimum US$120 million through tours, releases and lots of lovely merchandise. Let’s face it, a Madonna T-shirt in 2010 would probably be more interesting than a new record taking the best bits of dubstep or whatever else might be fashionable. She’s basically the worst aspects of capitalism and the music industry – in one leotarded body – the perfect ‘80s popstar.
So it’s interesting to hear what unknown NZ artists make out of Madge’s oeuvre with their crappy 4-tracks, free downloads of Audacity, and no-budget home studios. Common threads are that most of the bands go kinda freaky and unless the track samples the original it generally only retains the lyrics. In terms of production effectiveness Maya Haettenschwiller’s version of Frozen is perhaps the strongest contribution. The multi-tracked vocals stretch out at odd points nicely counterpointing the straight ahead acoustic guitar.
Both covers of Papa Don’t Preach have girlish voices taking Madonna’s place with the addition of a father figure. It’s an interesting interpretation for the subject matter as Voodoo T Savage highlights on The Doll’s version “You is only four years old girl what you thinking… I go out and steal myself a horse one night and I come home and find out that you is knocked up”. Rubber Banana’s version is a drastically different take on the song – an acapella – save for the backing of cicadas. A rather tender scene is painted as father coaches his young daughter through the song, the original meaning of which becomes irrelevant.
My Life with Madonna perhaps doesn’t quite succeed in reclaiming the avant-garde back but has enough choice interpretations to change how the listener hears the originals. No one need ever listen to Like a Virgin again now that Feline Groovy has given the world “Like a vegan/Eating cheese for the first time”.