They say nothing is certain but death and taxes. I would add another certainty to that list, which is that wherever there is art, teenagers will spend their parents’ money on art about sex. But for most of history, the sex had to be tastefully disguised.
During Shakespeare’s lifetime, his non-theatrical poetry was especially beloved by college students. When it comes to lust, Romeo and Juliet has nothing on Venus and Adonis. Says Venus to her lover: “I’ll be a park, and thou shalt be my deer/ Feed where thou wilt, on mountain or in dale.” Which parts might be mountains and which might be dales is left to the reader’s imagination, and if mom walks in, then everyone can pretend that only the deer is horny.
The story of Madonna’s success is, in large part, a story of sex. When it comes to songs about that most-popular of recreational activities, the woman born Madonna Louise Ciccone was more tinkerer than trailblazer. In 1963, The Beatles may have only wanted to hold your hand, but by 1969 they were asking, “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” Al Green and Teddy Pendergrass treated intercourse with all the reverence of a medieval artist painting Jesus. And while there were many performances that preceded this moment, Olivia Newton John’s 1981 music video for “Physical” was a watershed moment in the expression of female sexuality. Newton John wears a skintight leotard, and sometimes the camera lingers on her legs or groin. But most of the attention is on the many handsome hunks, wearing little more than Speedos, who are stretching and flexing and glistening in the shower.
Newton John is more observer than observed. And that’s the big difference between her and Madonna. Madonna would never want you looking at someone else.
After the release of her 1984 debut album, Madonna, critics mocked her “helium” voice. But she instantly connected with teenage girls, and became a big draw for MTV. She dressed in fishnets, chains, and fingerless gloves, bulky cargo shorts, and midriff-baring tank tops. Her hair was messy and hip. Her earrings dangled past her kneecaps (well not quite). But her look was instantly iconic. Critics suggested she had more style than substance. Critics predicted she would be a one-hit wonder. Critics, if you can believe it, were wrong.
The genius of Madonna was the genius of reinvention, and the postpunk fishnets didn’t last long. Soon she was a material girl, for whom not even diamonds could ever be enough. She released two No. 1 albums in a row, buoyed by some of the best pop songs of the ‘80’s or any decade: “Material Girl”, “Papa Don’t Preach”, and “Like a Virgin”. Did you ever think the word “Like” could change the meaning of a song that much? With Madonna, sex was always part of the appeal.
The cover of her fourth album, Like a Prayer, showed a bare spanse of skin somewhere between mountains and dale. In anticipation of the album’s release, Pepsi signed Madonna to a $5 million promotional deal that included a two-minute commercial. The day after the commercial aired, Madonna released the first music video for her new album, “Like a Prayer”. And the day after that, she had been personally condemned by Pope John Paul II, and a worldwide boycott of PepsiCo products had begun.
Read full article at Consequence of Sound