AHEAD of Madonna’s Edinburgh show next weekend, Scottish fans explain what the Material Girl means to them
David Leddy, writer and director
Martin Amis once said that Madonna is the most postmodern person alive. So when I would teach, I would ask my students to guess who the most postmodern person alive is, and they would all give really intellectual answers: “Derrida,” “Pina Bausch,” “What about Bertolt Brecht?” It took them a while to get it. We would use her videos as teaching tools, particularly from what many consider her peak period – Vogue, Express Yourself, Like A Prayer, the ones she made with David Fincher. They’re about parody and pastiche, irony and intertextual reference. They’re about copying something and turning it into something new, and messing up high and low culture.
When you try to judge what she does by the rules of other forms of art – she’s a terrible singer, an all right dancer, a terrible, terrible lyricist. But actually there’s this other thing she’s almost superhumanly good at, which is just being Madonna, the ultimate pop star, the ultimate manipulator of image and the way the media discusses her. I find that fascinating. I don’t know if this is true, but it’s said that years ago George Michael said that he, Michael Jackson, Prince and Madonna were the four biggest stars in the world, and that in 20 years’ time only Madonna would remain. Great foresight, if it was true, and an interesting idea that she was almost pre-programmed to remain on top no matter what.
David Leddy’s theatre shows include Susurrus, Sub Rosa and Untitled Love Story.
Malcolm Middleton, musician
It was her first three albums I loved. I think I fell out of love with her after True Blue. I guess that’s when I discovered rock music. But I’ve certainly got lots of fond memories of Madonna, she was a big part of my life when I was about nine or ten. Like A Virgin was the first album I bought that was my own, not just a copied cassette, and I’ve still got it. I remember really cherishing it, reading all the words and the production notes, and listening to it five times a day. Besides the fact that as a young male I was attracted to her, I loved the way the albums looked, I loved the songs. If you listen to Like A Virgin now, it’s not happy music: the chord progressions, the lyrics, the strangeness of the words. Maybe that had some appeal to young, melancholy Malcolm.
I thought she was flawless and untouchable, but the more she was in the media, the more the reality of her came through. I used to think she’d done great things for women in music, but you look at pop acts now who are one step away from porn and you wonder – is this Madonna’s fault? For putting traffic cones on her chest? I’ve covered Stay [on the album Sleight Of Heart] and Vogue [live for the JD Set alongside Silver Columns], and I love Live To Tell. Maybe I’d give that a try one day.
Malcolm Middleton’s new Human Don’t Be Angry album is out now on Chemikal Underground.
Jo Caulfield, comedian
Madonna gets an unfair amount of snide criticism. All those detractors, she wasn’t for you, you had U2. The joy and fun I have had with girlfriends and gay mates dancing to Madonna will always give her a special place. Nothing is more fun than drunk “vogueing” or jumping about to Like A Virgin. Being raised Catholic I was a sucker for all the Christian imagery. Jesus was a sexy black man! Loved that video.
She’s always reinvented herself which, when David Bowie did it, was “genius” but she gets no credit. Also, she never did an embarrassing novelty song like Paul McCartney, or a cringeworthy collaboration like Bing Crosby and David Bowie. She’s just put out good pop music for a long time. It’s horribly sexist the way people have a go at her because of her age – long may she, and all of us, behave badly in leotards!
Jo Caulfield’s new show, Thinking Bad Thoughts, is at the Stand Comedy Club, 3-26 August.
Meaghan Delahunt, author
The thing that gets missed out in a lot of discussion about her is that she’s an artist and the role of the artist is to keep changing. This notion of her reinventing herself all the time, it’s not reinvention, it’s just her testing her boundaries and interests. As I writer, I like that. She references literature and art and other music too, until recently at least. She knows her 19th and 20th-century art history, people like Fritz Lang or Diego Rivera or Tina Modotti or Frida Kahlo, and a lot of that comes out in her visual aesthetic. Naomi Wolf wrote that if she was a man, we wouldn’t question that she wants to be an actor and director and a musician and a dancer. I think we’re always aware that a lot of work goes into being Madonna and that’s quite compelling, that in a way she’s a body artist and a performance artist, and that her body is a part of what she does. I hope she plays Get Into The Groove at Murrayfield, because I love that song. Patti Smith even referenced it recently – she said she can’t hear it without getting up to dance. It’s the song I’d like played at my funeral.
Meaghan Delahunt’s latest novel, To The Island, is published by Granta.
Johnny Lynch, musician and co-founder of Fence Records
I’m an out-and-proud Madonna fan, my older sister’s compilation tapes, her Now… tapes, the Immaculate Collection, these were all big in my early listening. Borderline, Holiday, Lucky Star. My favourite song of hers is Into The Groove. Lots of amazing melodies, really sharp, trebly production – it just cut through everything else. She gets accused of not being a good singer, but she’s got one of those really distinctive voices. Listening back to the songs now they were quite adult, there was something quite dangerous, quite sexualised. Of course, this didn’t figure at the time for me, but it means you’re not afraid to listen to them now, they’ve stood the test of time. More so than her new stuff – back then it was pop with an adult edge and now she’s like an adult trying to make pop. The last thing she did that felt new and exciting was Frozen from Ray Of Light, but I’ve lost interest since then. It feels like she’s trying to catch up with what’s relevant, like the MIA and Nicki Minaj collaboration (Give Me All Your Luvin’), rather than define it. Although if you listen to a lot of really cool Pitchfork stuff, like Grimes for example, it has that DIY synth-pop sound that’s heralded as being a new thing, but it all just sounds like Madonna to me.
Johnny Lynch’s new Pictish Trail EP, The Summer Is Empty Of Idiots, is out on Fence/Buff Tracks on 6 August.
Johnny Mcknight, writer and performer
I’m going to see her at Murrayfield and I’ve already seen her in Paris, London, Amsterdam. I’d like to think that’s devotion – it’s probably the longest relationship I’ve had with someone. When I first loved her as a wee boy, it was because she was causing a stooshie all the time: saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing. I remember when I first watched In Bed With Madonna it was the most shocking thing I’d seen. I’d never seen men kiss before, it was the first time I was aware that happened. I had never known a pop star, particularly a woman, who had that “I don’t give a f***” quality, you know? She’s still amazing, I can’t understand why people give her flak. She’s relevant, she’s ahead of the game with the producers she works with. There’s a weird ageism, a lot of people mock her because they think it’s all right for someone like Mick Jagger to still be stoatin’ about like a young thing but it’s shameful for a woman in her fifties to be doing it. It’s ridiculous. I think the Blonde Ambition show is pretty much perfect, and also In Bed With Madonna. The first time I saw that I realised, oh my god, she’s actually a bit if a bitch. Which I loved. It was like watching Dynasty and realising she was just like Alexis. Brilliant. I was too young to understand it, mind you. I was thinking, that’s a weird way to drink a bottle of Evian.
Johnny McKnight’s work includes Love Hurts, Smalltown and Little Johnny’s Big Gay Adventure
Shona Reppe, puppeteer
What she gets slagged off for nowadays is what I admire most about her: she’s fit, she still makes good music which has its finger on the pulse – my husband might disagree – and she tries to constantly find new ways to express herself. She doesn’t like to stagnate, to rely on what people once liked her for, and because she reinvents herself so successfully each time, people go with it. She’s done some daft things, mostly in her personal life, but when she keeps out of politics I really admire her, she’s an inspiration as a female artist.
Shona Reppe’s latest show, The Curious Scrapbook Of Josephine Bean, is at the Scottish Book Trust, Edinburgh, 3-29 August. «
• Madonna plays Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, on Saturday
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east