Category Archives: Music

Night & Day, Winter-Style

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It’s a song that features prominently in ‘Grey Gardens‘ but before that it was, and remains, a Cole Porter standard. Such a classic is in vogue for all seasons – as effervescent in summer as it is cozy and comforting in the winter. This is ‘Night and Day’ – illustrated by two photos from the vantage point of the Boston condo.

LIKE THE BEAT BEAT BEAT OF THE TOM-TOM WHEN THE JUNGLE SHADOWS FALL

LIKE THE TICK TICK TOCK OF THE STATELY CLOCK AS IT STANDS AGAINST THE WALL

LIKE THE DRIP DRIP DRIP OF THE RAINDROPS WHEN THE SUMMER SHOWER IS THROUGH

SO A VOICE WITHIN ME KEEPS REPEATING YOU, YOU, YOU

Aside from the ‘Grey Gardens’ soft spot I have, I also love this song for the brilliant multi-level meanings in the lyrics. The line between night and day is a tricky one – what a difference a day makes, indeed. Things somehow feel safer when the sun comes up, and at that time I think back on the darkness and sometimes I shudder.

NIGHT AND DAY, YOU ARE THE ONE, ONLY YOU BENEATH THE MOON OR UNDER THE SUN

WHETHER NEAR TO ME, OR FAR, IT’S NO MATTER DARLING WHERE YOU ARE, I THINK OF YOU

For many reasons, I feel safe in the condo, night and day, winter and summer, year after year. This song plays on the stereo in the morning or the evening, as a pot of tea starts whistling on the stove. A candle glows in front of the window. A book waits on the sofa, next to a soft blanket, and the world can be kept at bay for the duration of a night.

DAY AND NIGHT, NIGHT AND DAY, WHY IS IT SO THAT THIS LONGING FOR YOU FOLLOWS WHEREVER I GO

IN THE ROARING TRAFFIC’S BOOM, IN THE SILENCE OF MY LONELY ROOM I THINK OF YOU

DAY AND NIGHT, NIGHT AND DAY, UNDER THE HIDE OF ME

THERE’S AN OH SUCH A HUNGRY YEARNING BURNING INSIDE OF ME, AND THIS TORMENT WON’T BE THROUGH

UNTIL YOU LET ME SPEND MY LIFE MAKING LOVE TO YOU

DAY AND NIGHT, NIGHT AND DAY.

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Hunk of the Day: Donnie Rust ~ The Naked Busker

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For those brave souls who have the courage to get naked and go their own way, I usually like to do an extensive write-up honoring them in some way as Hunk of the Day or some other celebratory-type post. In the case of Donnie Rust and his first Hunk of the Day honor, I’ve decided to let him speak (well, sing) for himself. Known as The Naked Busker, he gets quite a bit across in a single song. Listen to his ‘Scrapbook’ below.

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The Madonna Timeline: Song #119 – ‘Wash All Over Me’ – Winter/Spring 2015

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{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.}

There’s a sea anemone exhibit at the New England Aquarium in which the sea anemones are delicately lit, their tentacles waving gently in the current, while tiny bubbles float daintily to the surface. It’s tucked into a dim corner and the surroundings and the anemones themselves are so tranquil they are like sweetly-singing sirens, beckoning the unwary into their peaceable kingdom.

Yet if you watch long enough, lulled into a sense of stillness and calm, you will be harshly shocked by a sudden splash of a wave that bursts into the tank in a deluge of bubbles and tumultuous churning. It’s a rather effective mimicking of the ocean shoreline. The first time it happened I jumped back. Just a little kid, I had been peering intently at the magnificently-arrayed tentacles, my vision narrowly focused on this anemone world, so when that wave crashed into the tank, it was an unexpected explosion. Yet after my surprise, after the jolt of displaced water and air, things settled down again. The anemones remained in their places – only their pretty tentacles had waved wildly in the current. Anemones know how to anchor themselves, attaching to rocks and holding on with a tenacious grip that defies the most powerfully turbulent wave. I think of them when I hear this song.

IN A WORLD THAT’S CHANGING, I’M A STRANGER, IN A STRANGE LAND

THERE’S A CONTRADICTION AND I’M STUCK HERE IN-BETWEEN.

LIFE IS A LIKE A DESERT, AN OASIS TO CONFUSE ME

SO I WALK THIS RAZOR’S EDGE, WILL I STAND OR WILL I FALL? 

TURN A BLIND EYE, TRY TO PRETEND THAT NOTHING IS WHAT IT SEEMS

TORN BETWEEN THE IMPULSE TO STAY OR RUNNING AWAY FROM ALL THIS MADNESS

This Rebel Heart cut – the final song on some versions of the album – was originally conceived as a racing dance-stomper, but that demo was transfigured into this power ballad, complete with dirge-like marching drums, signaling the end of something.

Madonna has often hinted at the end, in all its myriad forms.  ’Live to Tell‘, ‘Spanish Eyes’, ‘Something to Remember’, ‘Mer Girl’, ‘Lament’, ‘Gone’, ‘Falling Free‘  and perhaps most daringly in ‘Take A Bow‘ (at a critical period in her career – when the post-Sex/Erotica backlash had public opinion dwelling on whether or not her career was finally over) Madonna has never shied away from questioning her own mortality, or the notion of an ending in abstraction (including the oft-predicted and ever-wrong end of her career). She has attributed some of this obsession to the death of her mother, which left her with an ending, but no real notion of how to begin again. Instead, she filled that hole with a race to live the fullest and most daring life she could, not wasting a moment, as if the ticking of the clock and her own impending end were things she could outrun. Thus far, she’s succeeded, but that hasn’t stopped her from occasionally confronting it in her work.

WHO AM I TO DECIDE WHAT SHOULD BE DONE?

IF THIS IS THE END THEN LET IT COME,

LET IT COME, LET IT RAIN, RAIN ALL OVER ME

LIKE THE TIDE, LET IT FLOW, LET IT WASH ALL OVER ME, OVER ME…

For Madonna, things have always had to get a little crazy from time to time. She yearns for that tumultuous wave to come crashing down on her every so often, knowing that a jolt that shakes you to your core is the best way to rebuild. Like those beautiful and seemingly-delicate sea anemones, she relishes the rough and tumble push and pull of life’s current. Those anemones may look like exotic flowers blooming beneath the ocean’s surface, but they know how to hang on, and they carry a stinging poison in those pretty tentacles.

ALL OF MY ILLUSIONS COULD BE SHATTERED IN A SECOND

YOU COULD THREAD A NEEDLE WITH A TEARDROP FROM MY EYE

IT’S A CRUEL INJUSTICE TO BE WITNESS TO THE THINGS I SEE

LOOKING FOR THE ANSWER WHEN IT’S RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME

FROM THE TOWER OF BABYLON WHERE NOTHING IS WHAT IT SEEMS

GONNA WATCH THE SUN GOING DOWN, I’M NOT GONNA RUN FROM ALL THIS SADNESS

Outside the New England Aquarium, the wind whips around Boston Harbor with a viciousness only the ocean can unleash. Standing at the water’s edge, the city behind me, I recall other times when standing here was all I could muster. In the aftermath of heartache, in the despondent longing and hopeless wish for a pair of arms around me, I would go to the harbor to feel the sting of salt water. Outside the aquarium there was no glass wall keeping the waves from reaching us. There was nothing to stop the wind from pricking any exposed skin with that mineral-spiked water.

WHO AM I TO DECIDE WHAT SHOULD BE DONE?

IF THIS IS THE END THEN LET IT COME,

LET IT COME, LET IT RAIN, RAIN ALL OVER ME

LIKE THE TIDE, LET IT FLOW, LET IT WASH ALL OVER ME, OVER ME…

On certain nights, after trying to be as pretty and tenacious and dangerous as those sea anemones, I’d stand there feeling nothing but weakness. I thought the cold and the water and the winter would knock me down. I thought I’d never move beyond that demarcation, where water and land and sky met, where the shame of the past mingled with the possibility of the future. Yet I didn’t fall down. I stumbled a bit, and I’d stumble again, but I somehow kept going. The wind and the water rushed over me, but I was still there. A little bedraggled, a little beaten down, but still alive.

LET IT WASH ALL OVER ME, OVER ME…

LET IT WASH ALL OVER ME.

SONG #119 – ‘Wash All Over Me’ – Winter/Spring 2015

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Saturday Dose of Cool

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Watch it. Just watch it. And listen.

I love what music can do for the soul.

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Hunk of the Day: Charlie Puth

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There was a time when I would have known who Charlie Puth was, and that he was one half of the duo responsible for the catchy pop song ‘Marvin Gaye‘ that saturated the radio airwaves last year. Gladly, my obsession and immersion in the culture of pop has been supplanted by more concrete concerns, so I had no idea that the tune I’d sometimes sung along with was performed by the Hunk of the Day, Charlie Puth.

Unlike some musical performers who are more Mickey Mouse Club than Mozart, Mr. Puth is a graduate of Berklee College of Music, and writes, produces and performs his own songs. Congrats to a young man who is making his own way.

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The Winter of Evita

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“One shouldn’t ask oneself how a person flies or why, but simply start flying.” 
― Tomás Eloy Martínez, ‘Santa Evita’

It was a frigid evening in Rochester, New York in the earliest days of 1997, made more brutal by the fact that I had just come from a spell of 80 degree days in St. Croix. The sky was dark, even with all the snow on the ground. No more snow would come tonight – it was too cold. Strange, the way that works, and the way we understood it. I pulled the ridiculous faux leopard fur coat tighter around me, its satin lining sliding against my fuchsia satin shirt. Along with my dark tan from the few days of sun that now felt so far away, I made quite an absurd visage. A heavy black cross topped with a silver Christ figure dangled from my neck on a black silk cord. Taken together, this was my get-up for the Rochester stop of The Royal Rainbow Tour 1997, and I was heading to the movie theater with friends to see ‘Evita.’

The lead-up to the new Madonna movie – the pre-comeback to ‘Ray of Light‘ – had been incredible, and I was visiting all my friends and making sure they watched the movie. (Super-fandom in full effect.) This time around the stop was Rochester, city of several watershed moments over the years, and that night we were making another one. Madonna was wowing audiences and critics alike with her star-powered turn as Eva Peron in the cinematic version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic musical. She’d fought hard for the role, and her performance proved that she deserved it.

With each red-carpet event, she appeared in Eva-inspired fanciful dresses. Demure yet glamorous, elegant yet over-the-top, classic and timeless. Madonna had just had her first child – a daughter named Lourdes – and her focus was also on that joyous event. I had nowhere near as important events going on in my life: a fake tour, a shambles of a romantic history, and a rudderless idea of any career. Looking back, however, I don’t think I’d been happier. I couldn’t see that then, even as I tried.
The bright, bouncing beats of ‘Buenos Aires‘ and its wondrously escapist theme lent the world endless possibilities. I criss-crossed the country, from New England to California to Florida and back – and then the world – jetting from Puerto Rico to Canada, London to the Philippines, Ireland to Hong Kong, and ended up right where I began. Whether I admitted it to myself or not, I was on the hunt for love. For the one person who would make it all ok, who would put me back together and reclaim the person I’d once set out to destroy.
Yet every one-night-stand or doomed affair took its toll, in ways apparent and hidden. ‘Another Suitcase in Another Hall‘ seemed to be the way a life lived on the road might be. I sent postcards to friends, quoting the song in a vaguely-veiled cry for help: “Call in three months’ time and I’ll be fine, I know. Well maybe not that fine, but I’ll survive anyhow…” Surely there was more.
I practiced my powers of seduction, such as they were. Obsessed with being someone that somebody could love, I honed heartless nonchalance, casual apathy, and a killer wardrobe. I wanted to walk into any room and be the one that all eyes traveled to, whether or not they wanted me. The art of being fascinating. It was something that proved elusive to me whenever it mattered, whenever I most wanted to impress someone. More than anything, I wanted that person to know ‘I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You.’
In between my travels, I stayed up late into the night, reading ‘Santa Evita’ by Tomás Eloy Martínez, which followed the tracks of Eva Peron’s preserved body as it made its storied journey amid mystery and intrigue. Macabre stuff, and it haunted me into the early morning darkness. I was as lost as her embalmed body, traveling under the cloak of anonymity, grasping for something, but what… I did not know. I still don’t.
Madonna seemed closer to finding her way to it, whatever it was. When she sang ‘Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina‘ the world bowed down to the balcony of the Casa Rosada, and we were all, for that one electrifying moment, Argentina. If we couldn’t help but cry, it was because she so moved us. Through it all, we only wanted to be ‘High Flying, Adored.’
I made my way in the only fashion I knew: shake it, fake it, and try not to break it. Soaring above the world and removing myself from the confines of reality and the constrictions of common sense, I crafted a persona  that would carry me over the rain-soaked dreariness of a love-barren land, catapulting me into the light-filled realm that rose ‘Rainbow High‘ and outshone any blood-letting past.
In the end, it was fantasy, like so much of my life. When I danced the ‘Waltz for Eva and Che‘ I did so by myself. I moved alone, and no one saw my fancy footwork. Such a wonderful waltz brought me around the world, but in the end I wound up exactly where I was at the beginning. My heart had been broken, or so I thought, and everything I did at that moment was done to impress the ones who got away. There was always more than one, always more men unmoved by anything I could muster. I didn’t know how to make my favorite song come true: ‘You Must Love Me.’
On that wintry night in Rochester, as I sat in the movie theater flanked by friends on each side, I watched the life of Eva Peron – and the life of Madonna – play out on the screen, so much bigger and grander and better than I could ever hope to be. At that instant, it was enough to simply brush such greatness. It made one feel less alone.
My biggest fear in life is to be forgotten. ~ Evita Peron

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The Madonna Timeline: Song #118 – ‘Living For Love’ – Winter 2015

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 {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.}

THIS WILL BE A REVOLUTION OF INQUIRING FURTHER

OF NOT WORRYING ABOUT WINNING OTHER PEOPLE’S APPROVAL

OF NOT WISHING YOU WERE SOMEONE ELSE BUT PERFECTLY CONTENT TO BE WHO YOU ARE:

SOMEONE UNIQUE, AND RARE, AND FEARLESS.

I WANT TO START A REVOLUTION OF LOVE

A grand orchestral introduction and a parade of shirtless minotaur-men ushered in the Madonna of 2015, as she took to the Grammy stage to kick off the ‘Rebel Heart’ era. Most pop stars have only one or two ‘eras’ for which they are known. Madonna has had many: ‘Like A Virgin’, ‘True Blue’, ‘Like A Prayer’, ‘Blonde Ambition’, ‘Erotica/Sex’, ‘Evita’, ‘Ray of Light’, ‘Music’, and ‘Confessions on a Dancefloor.’ Her ‘Rebel Heart’ era may be the most interesting and compelling, at least for long-time fans, as it is the first in which she has not enjoyed major mainstream success. And yet it may be her most artistically powerful and critically lauded.

In early 2015, after the gut-wrenching leak of much of the ‘Rebel Heart’ album, she set out to do a proper intro to her new work with the first single ‘Living For Love.’ With an updated 90’s house feel and some gospel backing, it was first-rate Madonna – an ‘I Will Survive’ for the current generation – rousing, empowering, and gloriously uplifting.

FIRST YOU LOVE ME AND I LET YOU IN,

MADE ME FEEL LIKE I WAS BORN AGAIN

YOU EMPOWERED ME, YOU MADE ME STRONG

BUILT ME UP AND I COULD DO NO WRONG.

 

I LET DOWN MY GUARD, I FELL INTO YOUR ARMS

FORGOT WHO I WAS, I DIDN’T HEAR THE ALARMS

NOW I’M DOWN ON MY KNEES, ALONE IN THE DARK

I WAS BLIND TO YOUR GAME, YOU FIRED A SHOT IN MY HEART.

This was a Madonna draped in the richest red, her passion and heart on full unabashed display, but shot through with a prickly world-wariness that read less as bitter and more as wise. The anticipation and excitement for new Madonna music was always grander than it was for others, and this lead single was a throwback and a step forward. Like a phoenix, she would be called upon to rise a few times, and even though she’d always succeeded, nervousness greeted the arrival of any new work. It was as if I had some vested stake in the reception and success of one of her projects, as if somehow my existence depended in part on the existence of Madonna, as if a failure for her would somehow be a failure for me. That’s a little crazy, but that’s true fandom, and I’ll never apologize for it.

Thanks in no small part to its early leak, the song and video for ‘Living For Love’ failed to catch fire on the charts (with the notable exception of the Billboard Dance charts, where she would land a history-shattering #1, breaking her own record). In a landscape where melody and meaning are losing out to shock and salaciousness, the OG shock mistress barely made a dent. As for the video, I find it may be too deeply beautiful and symbolic to find a place in the current pop world. Yet it appears that Madonna is far beyond that, and has been for some time. For die-hard fans such as myself, the charts no longer as much, if anything at all. The lack of airplay and Billboard numbers has not diminished my love for Madonna’s music; if anything, I listen to it more intently and defiantly.

TOOK ME TO HEAVEN, LET ME FALL DOWN

NOW THAT IT’S OVER I’M GONNA CARRY ON

LIFTED ME UP AND WATCHED ME STUMBLE

AFTER THE HEARTACHE I’M GONNA CARRY ON

 

LIVING FOR LOVE,

I’M LIVING FOR LOVE

NOT GIVING UP

I’M GONNA CARRY ON

LIVING FOR LOVE

I’M LIVING FOR LOVE

NOT GONNA STOP

LOVE’S GONNA LIFT ME UP

As for my own little maelstrom of a life, at the time of this song’s release – right around the holidays – I had my own bit of family business to move beyond, so this song doubled as more than just a break-up rebound anthem. It was a clarion for anyone who’d been hurt or wronged, a way of working out the pain in a piece of pop music, the kind of therapy that Madonna has been giving me for years. The best kind.

I COULD GET CAUGHT UP IN BITTERNESS

BUT I’M NOT DWELLING ON THIS CRAZY MESS

I FOUND FREEDOM IN THE UGLY TRUTH

I DESERVE THE BEST AND IT’S NOT YOU

 

YOU’VE BROKEN MY HEART, BUT YOU CAN’T BREAK ME DOWN

NOT FALLING APART, ONCE WAS LOST NOW I’M FOUND

PICKED UP MY CROWN, PUT IT BACK ON MY HEAD

I CAN FORGIVE, BUT I WILL NEVER FORGET

The best revenge is happiness. The best way to finding peace is to put your faith in love. Not in being loved, but in loving even when it’s not returned. It’s a waste, and, worse, a source of anger, to continue to wish for people to be fair and righteous, to love you as you have loved them. It’s a certain guarantee of heartbreak to rely upon others to provide such a safe haven.

Yet in spite of this, I will love, without condition or expectation, and I will put my faith in that.

TOOK ME TO HEAVEN, LET ME FALL DOWN

NOW THAT IT’S OVER I’M GONNA CARRY ON

LIFTED ME UP AND WATCHED ME STUMBLE

AFTER THE HEARTACHE I’M GONNA CARRY ON

 

LIVING FOR LOVE,

I’M LIVING FOR LOVE

NOT GIVING UP

I’M GONNA CARRY ON

LIVING FOR LOVE

I’M LIVING FOR LOVE

NOT GONNA STOP

LOVE’S GONNA LIFT ME UP

As I watched Madonna at the Grammy Awards last winter, premiering her new song for most of the world, I felt a little better, the way Madonna always made me feel a little better. At one point she spun in a circle, tossed her hair forward and back, then led her dancers in sweetly-choreographed abandon, much the same way she bounced around to ‘Like A Virgin’ three decades ago.

The spark was still there. The girl was still inspiring. Best of all, I still needed her.

LIVING FOR LOVE,

I’M LIVING FOR LOVE

NOT GIVING UP

I’M GONNA CARRY ON

LIVING FOR LOVE

I’M LIVING FOR LOVE

NOT GONNA STOP

LOVE’S GONNA LIFT ME UP

SONG #118 – ‘Living For Love’ – Winter 2015

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The Madonna Timeline: Song #117 – ‘Bitch I’m Madonna’ – Now 2015

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{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.}

YOU’RE GONNA LOVE THIS

YOU CAN’T TOUCH THIS

CAUSE I’M A BAD BITCH!

Here is the colorful set of stairs she playfully climbed.

Here is the red water fountain from which she sipped.

Here is the bar where she dumped a drink down a cute male model’s throat.

This is the Standard High Line, where Madonna filmed her latest video – ‘Bitch I’m Madonna’ – the last single from the amazing ‘Rebel Heart’ album. For some of us die-hard Madonna fans, every place she inhabited – no matter how fleetingly – is sacrosanct ground. We worship such locations as though they were little shrines to Our Lady of Perpetual Reincarnation. (The only reason we ever went to the Gaiety was to be in an actual place that Madonna had also been in. I swear.)

When I found myself ensconced at the Standard, I made a point of seeking out some of the spots where she filmed the video, and I felt the same thrill as I did when passing into that seedy theater where some of ‘Sex’ was shot. Decades later, I am riding up in the elevator to the top of the hotel. Psychedelic and surreal videos play on the walls, while foreboding orchestral music taunts from the blackness above.

Here she may have risen, I think with a giddy burst of excitement.

The floors of the Standard, accessible only by those with a proper key card, silently and invisibly zoom past. Pop scenes continue to unfurl on the video screen – Julie Andrews in ‘The Sound of Music’ juxtaposed with an abundance of bare-breasted ladies – as I reach the upper floors. The doors open to a brilliant white hallway. Everything is brighter this high in the sky.

WE HIT THE ELEVATOR RIGHT UP TO THE ROOFTOP

THE BASS IS PUMPING, MAKES ME WANNA SCREW THE TOP OFF

YEAH WE’LL BE DRINKING AND NOBODY’S GONNA STOP US

AND WE’LL BE KISSING ANYBODY THAT’S AROUND US.

Like the greatest Madonna songs, ‘Bitch I’m Madonna’ is, more than anything else, inspirational. It makes me feel like I can do anything. Act like a forty-year-old fool. Be brave. Take all my clothes off in front of an entire city. It’s the same feeling Madonna inspired when I was a frightened little boy, dancing in a neighbor’s basement and forcing myself to be seen and heard, the same feeling I had when I traveled to Russia at the height of summer, and the same feeling I had when I drove through an early spring night blasting her ‘MDNA’ album. It’s something that no other artist has yet to inspire in me, this sense of courage to be completely myself in the face of a world that wants us only to conform. Madonna does that for me, and no matter what anyone else might say or think of the woman, it’s something that has literally saved my life. Best of all, it’s something that can never be taken away.

I JUST WANNA HAVE FUN TONIGHT!

PULL ME UNDER THE FLASHING LIGHT!

LET ME BLOW UP THIS HOUSE TONIGHT!

I walk around the hallway where some of the video was shot. Bending over to take a sip of water from the red fountain, I pause while my friend Chris takes a picture. Outside the gym area, a circular window looks out onto water. In the center of it, far in the distance, stands the Statue of Liberty – the same one that made a cameo in Madonna’s ‘Papa Don’t Preach’ video. At this point in her career, it is almost impossible to avoid self-references, and there’s a certain sadness in that. A sorrow in the way that it must feel constricting. Memories can be chains that bind, and the past can be a lugubrious albatross that lurks behind every turn, showing up just when you think you’d gone far enough beyond what you wanted to escape. I look out the window and wonder if Madonna looked out the same one, longing for something.

WE GO HARD OR WE GO HOME

WE GON’ DO THIS ALL NIGHT LONG

WE GET FREAKY IF YOU WANT

NAH, NAH, NAH, NAH, NAH…

WE GO HARD OR WE GO HOME

WE GON’ DO THIS ALL NIGHT LONG

WE GET FREAKY IF YOU WANT

BITCH I’M MADONNA.

Brazen, blistering and bodacious, ‘Bitch I’m Madonna’ manages to be classic and new Madonna at once. The sound is of the moment; the attitude is one she’s had from the beginning. A rallying anthem for fun and good times (much like ‘Turn Up the Radio’) it’s a desperate plea for throwing caution to the wind, and for proving that we can still go hard all night long and meet the break of dawn. In the city of New York, it’s the perfect music of the night.

WE’RE JUMPING IN THE POOL AND SWIMMING WITH OUR CLOTHES ON

I POURED A BEER INTO MY SHOE AND GOT MY FREAK ON

THE NEIGHBOR’S PISSED AND SAYS HE’S GONNA CALL THE FIVE-O

IF THEY SHOW UP THEN WE ARE GONNA GIVE A GOOD SHOW

I JUST WANNA GO OUT TONIGHT!

PULL ME UNDER THE FLASHING LIGHT!

LET ME BLOW UP THIS HOUSE TONIGHT!

Many of us have had such nights in the city, when the phone is telling you it’s 4 AM and you don’t believe it, so you end up crawling to some diner because you still don’t want it to end. It’s that romantic possibility of a few more minutes of the moment, when anything still might happen, or when you know it won’t but you like the company and feeling so much you can’t face closing your eyes to it. A night that’s so good that the arrival of morning is not met with relief or rejoicing, but almost sadness.

WE GO HARD OR WE GO HOME

WE GONNA DO THIS ALL NIGHT LONG

WE GET FREAKY IF YOU WANT

NAH, NAH, NAH, NAH, NAH…

BITCH I’M MADONNA.

Whenever I feel down or apprehensive about something, when the world is waiting to strike through the heart with its cold indifference, I put on a song like this. It builds me up from within, giving me an internal armor that lets me be the man everyone thinks I am – the guy who doesn’t care, who can charge through life confident and collected, put-together and perfectly secure in who he is.

It doesn’t matter that it’s not exactly true. Confidence can be built from the ground up. On the roof-deck of the Standard, looking out over what might as well be the whole world, I feel invincible – and for that one moment, I am.

WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?

YOU CAN’T MESS WITH THIS LUCKY STAR.

WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?

SONG #117 – ‘Bitch I’m Madonna’ – Now 2015

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Steve Grand and His Big Xmas Balls

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Available only on Bandcamp, this is Steve Grand‘s take on Mariah Carey’s ubiquitous ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You.’ (More of that tune later this week, whether you like it or not.) He slows it down in a piano ballad style, and gives us this cute and romantic holiday themed video. Made in literally a matter of days, if this is what Mr. Grand can produce under time and budget constraints, I can’t wait to see what he’ll accomplish in the years to come. (Oh, for much more of Mr. Grand, see his Hunk of the Day post – and then check out even more skin here.)

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In the Words of Cher

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I like Cher. I don’t love her. Not in the all-encompassing life-long way I love Madonna, but in a friendly thanks-for-being-a-gay-icon-all-these-years and thanks for more good music than most of us realize she’s put out. Case in point is one of her latest, a wistful well-wish for a former paramour, the kind of love that sets someone else free, and in doing so sets yourself free. There’s no greater soul-service than genuinely wishing someone else happiness and love. Most of the times I’ve done so, I’m rather ashamed to say, have been fraught with ulterior motives. It’s so hard to be purely good, to do things with absolutely no self-preserving agenda somewhere in the background. Think of any good thing you’ve done and tell me there weren’t auxiliary benefits or joy for yourself as well. It’s pretty impossible. Yet I believe that’s the sign of grace and goodness.

I’m still working on it…

I hope I find it.

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In the Midst of Rain, Winter Approaches

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The days are diminishing to their shortest duration.

Night comes sooner and sooner.

Yet in the bleakest and darkest of hours, a crystalline secret unfurls feathery ice blossoms.

Underneath a winter sky

a distant train sings out the miles. 

And so I wonder can it be, 

will every mile bring you to me?
A promise made may still come true,
so I am waiting here for you.
If you don’t come, what will I do?
Who shall I tell my secrets to?
Christmas bells ring out their chimes,
I hear them echo through the night.
And moonlight shines upon the road,
and trembles on the falling snow.
I look into the midnight blue,
so many stars I never knew.
If you don’t come, what will I do?
Who shall I tell my secrets to?
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When We Were Young ~ Adele

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EVERYBODY LOVES THE THINGS YOU DO, FROM THE WAY YOU TALK TO THE WAY YOU MOVE…

EVERYBODY HERE IS WATCHING YOU CAUSE YOU FEEL LIKE HOME,

YOU’RE LIKE A DREAM COME TRUE

BUT IF BY CHANCE YOU’RE HERE ALONE, CAN I HAVE A MOMENT BEFORE I GO?

CAUSE I’VE BEEN BY MYSELF ALL NIGHT LONG

HOPING YOU’RE SOMEONE I USED TO KNOW…

LET ME PHOTOGRAPH YOU IN THIS LIGHT IN CASE IT IS THE LAST TIME

 THAT WE MIGHT BE EXACTLY LIKE WE WERE BEFORE WE REALIZED

WE WERE SAD OF GETTING OLD

IT MADE US RESTLESS

I’M SO MAD I’M GETTING OLD IT MAKES ME RECKLESS

IT WAS JUST LIKE A MOVIE, IT WAS JUST LIKE A SONG

WHEN WE WERE YOUNG.

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The Madonna Timeline: Song #116 – ‘Hold Tight’ – Spring 2015

mad hold tight 01

{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.}

A million miles later
We walked through the valley of the darkest night
We made it through the fire
We’re scarred and we’re bruised, but our hearts will guide us
Together
I know our love’s gonna last forever
We’re gonna be alright
Tonight

In a record-setting fourth-song-in-a-row-from-a-single-album, the Madonna Timeline has once again randomly skipped to a ‘Rebel Heart’ track. This time it’s ‘Hold Tight’ which features a straight-from-the-radio-even-if-it-won’t-be-played-on-it percussive percolator that finds Madonna espousing clichéd-verses of the everything’s-gonna-be-all-right sort. For me, it’s pure filler, but I think if she found a live venue for this (with some serious drums filling the stage, as seemed to be a possibility in the advance video peeks of tour rehearsal footage) it might make me a bigger fan.

For the moment, this is a filler in the Timeline too. We are getting closer to the final twenty-five percent of Madonna songs left on the iTunes circle for this Timeline, but there are still a few gems and jewels with memories to rival the best – after all, we have yet to hit ‘Express Yourself’ or ‘Vogue’ – two monumental songs from the Madonna canon that speak wonderful words, elicit lovely memories, and conjure some life-changing moments. For now, just hold tight…

We’ll live with no limits
We’ll dance in the middle of the freezing rain
With you and I in it
Survive the eye of a hurricane
Together
We’re gonna make this better
We’re gonna be alright tonight

Hold tight
As long as you’re by my side
Hold tight
Everything’s gonna be alright

Only love, only love tonight
Lights off, we’re burning so bright
Hold tight
Everything’s gonna be alright

SONG #116 – ‘Hold Tight’ – Spring 2015

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A Decade of Confessions

mad confessions 101

There are two widely acknowledged but mostly-just-perceived failures in the course of Madonna’s long and winding career. The first and most spectacular would have to be her ‘Sex’ book. Along with her ‘Erotica album, it remains the most striking milestone in three decades of controversy. After that the most notable failure would probably be considered the ‘American Life’ album and video. In the aftermath of each she put out fall albums that resurrected a career that wasn’t quite prepared to be nailed to the cross. The first was ‘Bedtime Stories‘ following ‘Erotica.’ The second (and the one for which we are celebrating a 10th anniversary this week) is ‘Confessions on a Dance Floor’ following ‘American Life.’

To be fair there were successful endeavors after those low-points (the ‘Girlie Show Tour’ and the ‘Reinvention Tour’ were actually the most immediate follow-ups – evidence that Madonna on tour is a foolproof way to win over everyone all over again) but I think it’s her musical output after each questionable career lull that is the true mark of her merit.

Despite the crowd-pleasing closest-to-a-greatest-hits-tour-she’ll-likely-ever-do ‘Reinvention’ jaunt of 2004, the reparation to the ‘American Life’-scarred Madonna only came to full fruition in the fall of 2005. She’d just broken a bunch of bones falling off a spooked horse, and the weeks of recuperation in advance of her new album left her chomping at the bit. When she is hungry for a hit – commercial or artistic – Madonna is at her best. When the world has counted her out, she comes back better than ever. By the time ‘Confessions on a Dance Floor’ was released, the time was ripe for a Madonna Renaissance.

With its brilliant, if somewhat predictable, sampling of the classic Abba arpeggios, lead single ‘Hung Up’ was huge. An immense international hit that brought Madonna near the top of the charts again, it barreled into November with a stomping bass-line and catchy chorus that stampeded dance clubs and brought back a bit of glamour to a tired scene. The video was a cheeky ode to ‘Saturday Night Fever’, and no one but Madonna could have melded the 70′s, 80′s and current dance music so effectively.

Dance music was where she had first made her indelible mark, and whenever she seemed to be losing her way, a dance classic brought her back home. (See ‘Ray of Light’.) ‘Confessions’ was literally a non-stop dance explosion, each track segueing seamlessly into the next, yet the songs were gorgeously distinctive enough to stand on their own – a nifty hat trick that’s more difficult that it might seem.

No matter what transgressions Madonna may have perpetrated in the past, all is forgiven when she returns to the dance floor. ‘Confessions’ was a love letter to her most die-hard fans, but a brilliant record on its own terms, garnering almost universal praise and re-establishing her prominence in the fickle pop culture world.

 

1. Hung Up

2. Get Together

3. Sorry

4. Future Lovers

5. I Love New York

6. Let It Will Be

7. Forbidden Love

8. Jump

9. High High

10. Isaac

11. Push

12. Like It Or Not

The ‘Confessions’ era of 2005 was a pivotal return to form for Madonna, one that winked at the past while looking unflinchingly toward the future. With its perky pastiche of dance music inspired by the previous three decades, it was a pleasant reminder of what Madonna did better than anybody else. Yet there were deeper things at work too, with admittedly-confessional lyrics that brought some substantive heft to the twinkling mirrorball surface. When she snarls, “Just watch me burn” in ‘Let It Will Be’ and invokes the listener to “Wrestle with your darkness” in ‘Isaac’ she’s not just laying down meaningless word-play over driving beats – she’s seeking something closer to a spiritual exercise, some essence of the human experience that might remain when the lights come up on the dance floor.

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The Fight Within

FIGHTSONGNEW

This is the sort of shit that inevitably reduces me to a puddle of wussy tears. It helps that the song being transformed here is one that I already loved and wrote about, cheese-factor and all. At my heart, I’m a pop-music junkie, so throw me a hook and an empowerment theme and let the waterworks rain down. Add some bagpipers walking in unison over a bridge in Scotland, and a segue into ‘Amazing Grace’ and just wipe me up off of the floor. I mean, come ON – why not just inject tear gas directly into my eyeball?

On a mid-week morning, we all need a little extra fight in our routine. (Just don’t turn into a weeping cry-baby like yours truly did.)

 

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