Saturday, February 11, 2012
When I think back to my tween years - when I started actively listening to music and knowing the words to songs - there are 3 performers who come to mind: Madonna, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. They provided about 90% of my soundtrack. I had posters of Michael on my wall, books about Madonna - I memorised her life story - and I knew all the words to Whitney's songs. When I got dumped by my first boyfriend, a friend wrote me a letter and enclosed the lyrics to 'Where to broken hearts go'. I even sang 'The Greatest Love of All' at an Eisteddfod once!
Michael died the day after my son's 1st birthday and I remember feeling a sense of loss - like part of my childhood had been extinguished. Today, Whitney Houston is dead and I have that same feeling of loss. Yes, she has cut a tragic figure for many years. Her career waned from the moment she met Bobby Brown and became an addict. But her songs resonate - they bring back endless memories of slumber parties and slow dances, shuffle socks and scrunchies.
My husband and I started discussing Whitney, Madonna and Michael as we drove home today from a night away. While Madonna is arguably the least talented of the trio, she is the one who remains at the top of her game. Her career has lasted the longest, transcended all musical genres and fashions and she continues to thrive. It is incredible to me that in the very same week that Whitney (probably) overdosed, Madonna has launched an extensive world tour and a new album. While Michael and Whitney were fragile and broken, endlessly searching and becoming increasingly lost, Madonna seems to be bullet-proof. She has survived failed marriages, dismal reviews, questionable career moves (and fashion choices) and has never ever backed down, seemingly never even floundered.
What is that thing that she has in abundance that the others lack? Is it because she entered the industry and treated it wholly as a business? She wanted to rule the world (she said it herself). She had no famous relatives, she didn't have a famous surname (she has no surname at all) and she isn't even especially good at singing or acting. Yet she's not only still alive, she's at the top of her game. Michael Jackson was the product of a fame hungry father. Whitney's entire family were well-known gospel singers and Dionne Warwick is her auntie. Madonna headed to New York a complete unknown and worked her arse of. She is above all things a skilled and brilliant businesswoman and she epitomises indefatigable resilience.
It will be very interesting to see what happens next. How will this fame monster affect Gaga, Beyonce and Kanye? Who will be the Madonna and who will be the Whitney/Michael? We will probably know way too soon.