Having followed Madonna's career with enthusiasm and then disappointment for the past 25 years, it's difficult for me to avoid making comparisons. Madonna and Daniela (seven years younger) are both theatrical Leos who were born in provincial obscurity, began their careers as dancers and became singers and major impresarios of their own troupes. Madonna remains the most visible performer on the planet, as well as one of the wealthiest, but would anyone seriously say that artistic self-development is her primary motivating principle? She is too busy with Kabbalah, fashion merchandising, adoption melodramas, the gym, and ill-starred horseback riding to study art. Madonna can still produce a catchy pop song, but she hasn't expanded her artistic vocabulary since the 1990s. Her concerts are glitzy extravaganzas of special effects overkill. She leaves little space in them for emotional depth or unscripted rapport with the audience.
Compare the two photos, above. Daniela, holding her 2007 Latin Grammy award, is, despite her excitement, warm, open and observant. Guess what: Daniela, unlike Madonna, actually recognizes the existence of human beings in the real world outside her ego. She has a graceful, natural, ripe womanliness (she has two grown children and recently became a grandmother), but there is often an undercurrent of something boyish, mischievous and subversive. Energy, spontaneity, humor, candor and hospitality are leading values for Daniela onstage and off...
Now behold Madonna, arriving muscular and veiny-armed at the Vanity Fair party after this year's Oscars in Los Angeles. Trying to be fair, I am not posting the horror candids of a skeletal Madonna in gym rags, nor am I showing her glassy-eyed at the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame Awards last year, when she was reeling through a bad pre-divorce patch. But Madonna, like Joan Crawford or the late Marlene Dietrich, has become a mask whose eyes see nothing but itself. Her life, for all her globe-hopping, has become rigid, predetermined, suspicious and claustrophobic. Despite her spiritual talk, Madonna is a voracious materialist and status-monger who is as addicted as Leni Riefenstahl to her triumph of the will. Persons have become mere instruments to her -- which is why she cannot communicate with them heart-to-heart. And it is why Madonna's creativity has tragically withered.
May 14, 2009
Tale of Two Divas
Camille Paglia opines: