Letters from Rosie 10 | I am perhaps the last Madonna fan on earth. That’s as may be.
I’ve come to talk about Madonna.
I am perhaps the last Madonna fan on earth. That’s as may be.
“Meeting him was like running into a tree” – Marilyn on Arthur Miller
Lately, since last Christmas to be precise, I have been consuming and thoroughly enjoying Chris Ott’s series of Shallow Rewards vlogs on Vimeo. With the most sincere, steady, paternal tone he addresses the viewer directly in close-cropped frame and he tells the kind of stories that just rock my fucking world. He is the best voice out there. Fantano and all these hyper brand aware critical mafia types need to take a lesson because if you want to truly affect change with your words – reach a person and move them into checking out a record that you like – do like Dolly Parton and Chris do. Learn how to tell a good fucking story.
Now – I don’t agree with everything he says, like, he dismisses Azealia Banks (‘212’ is a song that really set this generation on fire and I have this sinking feeling that if her record hits, Rihanna will start screaming and fast-rapping over aggressive beats and pop ballads will be put to sleep for the next five years = game change), but suffice to say I have been learning A LOT and have been mostly nodding in agreement and laffing and getting it and really thinking music is awesome and there is HOPE. Hope for music. So everyone go now and watch them and then Tweet him and let’s get him to make more.
One of the reasons why Chris is making these pieces is because he is concerned that the particular niche of music history that he considers his home turf (the obscure) is in danger of disappearing because not enough of those who remember it are sharing the knowledge.
“Much of what once was is lost. For none now live who remember it” – Galadriel, LOTR
He is quite right, this is how cultures die.
The music that he’s talking about, some of this stuff was huge. Four or five of his best vlogs are about Boy George, Duran Duran and Prince Nico Mbarga(!), but a lot of it is pretty unknown stuff. AR Kane to Alien Sex Fiend. Then there are big records that we all know about and are by now totally bored of, yet the industry of canonisation continues to try to re-sell these records to us over and over again. You know what they are: Loveless, Nevermind, Unknown Pleasures. The top two percent of indie music history is remembered and the median is just disregarded. He laments a world in which kids are educated to remember The Pop Group and Gang Of Four OVER the likes of Killing Joke. Just because post-punk was earmarked credible material come the Paul Morley, Simon Reynolds pop/crit trickle-down, but goth never has been, cos it never had any champions. (Actually I disagree with this cos recently I am always reading Venus X tweeting about Christian Death and since appearing in V mag I am pretty sure Venus X defines the term ‘turbo hipster’. This girl is fighting the good fight, though. She’s a feminist and out.)
“The lover of myths is the one who enjoys the mythologies whilst simultaneously seeking to destroy them” – Roland Barthes
But this is what got me thinking.
We all spend a lot of time on Tumblr where images are shared without context. Meaning is detached and we just experience and react to surface. If you like the image, you reblog it. You’re nothing more than a curator of a bunch of free moving signs. You can pin your own meanings onto them or you can just set them loose, and over to the next person.
Is this cultural decadence? I am being a total drama kween when I think, “As a generation, I feel we are hurtling towards the disintegration of meaning and the end of history”.
Honey, come down a little, it’s only Tumblr.
However, when meaning and history are allowed to slide as part of your casual daily training, and when there is SO MUCH to remember at this point in time, how can teenagers be expected to navigate it all and cram in the supposed good stuff? It’s not just The Television Personalities, Mummy You’re Not Watching Me that they are missing. This generation is skipping Achilles-sized cultural heroes, like Madonna.
Who is Marilyn Monroe? She’s the greatest Hollywood Star of all time is she not? You know her beautiful face.
But tell me guys, honestly. Have you seen her best movie – Bus Stop? Guys, have you seen her in this fucking movie? Don’t watch The Hangover, watch Bus Stop. If you can even FIND it online.
Madonna’s image will most certainly endure. She’s made sure of that yet again – even as recently as this week at the Met Ball. (Jesus. Hologram. Christ.)
My concern is that the music is not enduring as steadily.
It’s not just the obscure stuff that is floating away from us like bits of wreckage on the ocean of history. It’s huge, readily-assumed culturally important stuff too. Not just because we don’t have good shepherds, but because we are raising a generation without the commitment nor the rationale to absorb and use context.
We have to change this. There should never be a moment when Madonna isn’t relevant. Even if she’s not cool right now. It’s not enough that Natalia Kills might tweet about Greg Araki movies in the name of everything on-trend and 90s. Context is everything. It is one’s most potent opportunity for a display of applied intelligence. It is the answer to the most interesting question in the world: WHY? What is art but the ability to extract meaning from experience?
Meaning. I need it. I really do.