Blog

The Madonna Timeline: Song #136 – ‘Graffiti Heart’

{Note: The Madonna Timeline is an ongoing feature, where I put the iPod on shuffle, and write a little anecdote on whatever was going on in my life when that Madonna song was released and/or came to prominence in my mind.}

IF GRAFFITI ON THE WALL CHANGED ANYTHING AT ALL THEN IT WOULD BE ILLEGAL.

IF SCARS COULD GO AWAY, WHAT WOULD YOUR BODY SAY, DON’T EVER HIDE YOUR FEELINGS.

DON’T EVER TRY TO TAKE MY FREEDOM, YOUR IMPERFECTIONS, THIS WORLD NEEDS THEM.

A throwaway bonus track from the brilliant ‘Rebel Heart’ opus, ‘Graffiti Heart’ is a wild ride, beginning with a sweet sing-song melody before transforming into a gloriously racing whirligig that reaches breakneck speed and velocity. It’s got a retro-80’s vibe to it, and the friends and figures Madonna invoke – Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat for example – are perfectly suited to its raw reminiscence.

Madonna once told the story of when she first arrived in New York City in her early twenties. Intent on being heard, intent on being seen, intent on being someone, she said she would walk through the city staring everyone straight in the eye, willing herself to be remembered by them because she “was going to be somebody”. We should have known then…

WHAT DO YOU GOT, SHOW ME YOUR BASQUIAT

HE DIDN’T KEEP IT ALL TO HIMSELF

EVEN WITH KEITH OUT ON THE STREET,

HE DIED FIGHTING SO YOU CAN DO IT AS WELL 

It was a different world, a different time. As raw and gritty as it may have been, there was a freshness tinged with innocence at the start of the 80’s, but maybe that’s just my nostalgic childhood shading things into something sweeter than they ever were. But if Madonna could feel like a virgin as she embarked upon her world-rattling career, why shouldn’t the rest of us join in on the shiny and new?

LOVE IS PAIN AND PAIN IS ART!

SHOW ME YOUR GRAFFITI HEART

LOVE IS PAIN AND PAIN IS ART!

SHOW ME YOUR GRAFFITI HEART

Madonna has spent a lifetime surrounding herself with artists – gypsies, shape-shifters, chameleons, and tricksters – soaking up their inspiration and creativity, taking it in and transforming it into something new, or at least hybridized. Singers and actors and writers and models have remained constant in her world, and after three decades of success as an artist, she in turn has inspired others. It can’t be said that she hasn’t been selfish at times – a great degree of that is necessary to have remained such a potent force for such a long time – but as she eases into this stage of her career, the collaborations and investments in artists other than herself are becoming more apparent.

On her recent Rebel Heart Tour, during the emotional centerpiece of the show (an almost-acoustic straight-forward reading of ‘Rebel Heart’), she introduced a series of fan-made art of her various guises through the years. As much as Madonna has made her relationship with her fans the one real lasting romance in her life, her acknowledgment of that in her concerts and interviews has always come off as somewhat trite and obligatory. This brief moment of sharing the stage with those who have loved her the most was one of the more authentic and genuine shows of affection that she’s given to us over the years.

FRIDA SHOWED HER FEELINGS, PAINTING FROM THE CEILING BACK IN THE BEGINNING.

NOTHING’S WHAT IT SEEMS, SHE PAINTED ALL HER DREAMS, SHE MADE HER OWN REALITY.

DON’T EVER TRY TO TAKE MY FREEDOM, YOUR IMPERFECTIONS, THIS WORLD NEEDS THEM.

‘Graffiti Heart’ does a little bit of that too. Madonna is nothing if not the lucky vehicle for her muses. This song brings back the early eagerness and hunger for making an impact through artistic expression. It’s very much a sentiment of youth, but one that Madonna has managed to retain throughout her ever-extending run. Her best moments come when she is thirsty for that explosion of art and music, when she remembers walking down the streets of New York wanting nothing more than to make a memorable mark.

Whether you love or hate her, you cannot deny that Madonna has contributed a magnificent amount of pop art to our culture. Her amalgamation of music and image paved the way for every major artist today, and she made herself and her image into her own work of art. The world will never be like it was in the 80’s, when Madonna and Michael Jackson and Prince could hold the pop culture trinity in their hands and gain the collective focus of a moment. We have splintered into too many pieces, with too many options, and it’s unlikely that any single entity will hold the rapt attention of the world as a whole in such a manner again. That won’t stop Madonna from trying, and every now and then she’ll do something (like calling out the so-called president on his bullshit) that acts as a lightning rod moment.

THEY CAN BREAK DOWN AND TAKE DOWN

BUT THEY CAN’T DESTROY OUR HISTORY

THIS WALL, IT MUST FALL

TO MAKE ROOM FOR OUR MASTERPIECE

She’s never been afraid to express herself. There is a boldness and a rebellion to that, especially at a time when some of us are being told to be quiet. It is the job of the artist to push against that, no matter what the consequences. Our graffiti hearts bleed a little every time we put our art out there. It’s something the more wisely-guarded and private people never have to experience, and for every rare success there are a multitude of painful failures and misunderstood endeavors that have left their scars. We cry, we wail, we scream, we fight, and in the end we are battle-worn and sometimes defeated. A true artist doesn’t stop there, though. We rally through. We create until the death – of our impulses, our visions, or the imperfect vessels of our human form.

IF GRAFFITI ON THE WALL CHANGED ANYTHING AT ALL THEN IT WOULD BE ILLEGAL.

SONG #135 – ‘Graffiti Heart’

Back to Blog
Back to Blog