Hello readers, JB here with another fun recurring feature. That’s right, we’re killing it in the influential world of book blog recurring fun features. This one’s about pop culture loyalty and our differing approaches to it. Lori is a faithful friend and and even more faithful, some might say, and verging on psychotic, fan. The artists and songs in our book she has held dear to her heart since her formative years and still shows genuine interest in their current material. I, on the other hand, have a short attention span. I lose interest fast. But am I really that fickle? And is Lori really so loyal? To find out, we decided to take a random sample of bands, books, movies, TV shows and magazines we have professed to love over the passing of the years. How long did we stick with them? When did we decide it wasn’t working anymore? What was the deciding factor? When did we break up with….
JB: I got on board with 1999, which came out in 1982. Called it a day after The Gold Experience. Which came out in…1995? Wow. I hung in through the Graffiti Bridge soundtrack? Through the symbol album that came out around the time of the whole Artist Known As Prince caper? Through Come? That can’t have happened. I have no recollection of ever hearing Come. Not only that, I blindly purchased everything by The Time, one of Morris Day’s solo singles (“Oak Tree”!), Wendy & Lisa’s records, Sheila E, Sheena Easton and a lot of the stuff that came out on Paisley Park, including Jill Jones’ fantastic album. If I stuck it out that long, what would convince me otherwise? Tony M? Nope, “Pussy Control.” It was the opening track on The Gold Experience and it was unremittingly rancid. So horrendous that it infected “Eye Hate U,” “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World” and “Gold,” all of which were better than anything he’d done in a while. But I’d done my time. I’d put in way too many good years.
LM: I got into Prince during 1999 as well. Though, as with most songs at that time, the sexual inneuendo went right over my head. I thought “Little Red Corvette” was about, well, a little red Corvette. And way back in 1982, 1999 seemed so far away, didn’t it? Then came Purple Rain, the first R-rated movie I was allowed to see in the movie theater (if you don’t count Saturday Night Fever, which my mother took eight-year-old me to see as a part of a double-feature with Grease before dragging me out of the theater when she heard the first few curse words). I absolutely loved what came next — “Raspberry Beret” and “Erotic City” — but I can’t say I was as loyal to Prince’s gang as I was to him. Tony M who? Though I do recall being at the Limelight for the Diamonds and Pearls party. It annoyed me that there were two non-musician model-esque chicks called Diamond and Pearl. Wendy and Lisa they were not. That’s where Prince lost me. About 16 years later, though, we briefly reunited during his mesmerizing performance of “Purple Rain” at the Super Bowl in the middle of a down pour.
JB: Didn’t I say exactly one post ago that we’d sworn off picking on Madonna? But this is far more of a condemnation of my character than hers. I’m learning something about myself doing this featurette and I don’t particularly like what I’m finding out. It seems that I’m far more tolerant than I imagined myself to be. Which is to say, much less discerning. I got on the Madonna train, so to speak, in 1984: Like A Virgin. Didn’t disembark until 2005’s Confessions on a Dancefloor. Which means one thing. I listened to American Life. Probably more than once. And this was smack-dab in the middle of the guitar-and-Kabbalah phase. Remember the title song? The rap in the middle? Let’s remember it together: “I get a double shot, it goes right through my body, and you know I’m satisfied. I drive my Mini Cooper and I’m feeling super duper, they tell me I’m a trooper, and you know I’m satisfied. I do yoga and Pilates and the room is full of hotties so I’m checking out the bodies, and you know I’m satisfied. I’m digging on the isotopes, this metaphysic shit is dope and if all of this can give me hope, you know I’m satisfied. I got a lawyer and a manager, an agent and a chef, three nannies, an assistant and a driver and a jet, a trainer and a butler and a bodyguard or five, a gardener and a stylist, do you think I’m satisfied…” I could go on. (She does.) But I didn’t call it a day with Madonna until her full-on back-to-pop Confessions on a Dancefloor. You know that movie that Joseph Gordon-Levitt directed, Don Jon? The one where he and Scarlett Johansson knocked themselves out trying to convincingly play people way dumber than they are? I feel like that’s what Madonna was doing on that record. But there’s one place I’d look forward to hearing Madonna in the future: on The Voice. I think she’ d be a great coach. She has an opinion, an unstoppable ego, a burning desire to be seen and to win and she’d kick her protegés’ asses. Writing this almost has me back on her side again.
LM: I have a very complicated relationship with Madonna. Even when I liked her, I didn’t like her. But I can’t deny 90% of her discography. Loved “Live to Tell,” “Oh, Father” and “You’ll See.” Gave her a standing-O for her star turn in Evita. Was obsessed with “Music.” Then came American Life. I don’t think I’ve ever even listened to the whole thing. She briefly won me back with “Hung Up” and Confessions on a Dance Floor, but Madge followed those with “4 Minutes to Change the World” and “Hard Candy” (ugh, what an awful title). Up until then, Madonna was always moving forward, always a leader. No one else used WIlliam Orbit. No one else used Mirwais. But then she used the producer that everyone uses, Timbaland, and that’s when she became a follower. Don’t get me wrong — I’m a huge Timbaland fan. But they broke no new ground there, so that’s where I got off the bus. Today, Madonna’s a vampire who’s sucking the blood of Disney-bred popsters: Britney, Christina, Justin Timberlake and, most recently, Miley. (I wouldn’t be surprised if her next boyfriend turned out to be Ryan Gosling.) At last year’s Super Bowl half-time appearance she was waving pom-pons and spell-chanting her own name and rhyming it with “U wanna.” At this year’s Grammys she wore a grill. She’s like the drunken mom who doesn’t know when it’s time to leave the kids to have their own party. But I tell you what: If Madonna releases another white-hot track, I’ll be round there like a shot. And I think she still has it in her.
JB: She definitely still has it in her. Also, she might release another decent song.
JB: Remember that outpouring of affection in those pre-Beyoncé album days of early last year when “Where Are We Now?” appeared out of nowhere? Remember realizing how much you missed David Bowie? What an icon and an innovator he was? How his talent and towering imagination dwarves today’s supposed stars? Think back to when Bowie was actually still around, still recording on a regular basis, still shedding skins like a wily old chameleon. You thought he was a joke! Maybe that you is a little too much of an assumption. But certainly I, a teenage fan who started at Changesonebowie and then worked backwards and forwards, saw my appreciation screech to a halt straight after Let’s Dance. That was Bowie’s blockbuster and it should have led to brilliant, world-conquering things. It didn’t. It lead to Tonight, Never Let Me Down, the tragic Tin Machine duology, Black Tie White Noise, Outside and Earthling. That’s a lot of music, a lot of flops, a lot of disappointment, a lot of terrible reviews and exactly one memorable song (“I’m Afraid Of Americans”). What’s worse is that Bowie didn’t follow his mega-hit with a deliberately fan-alienating slice of contrariness the way Prince followed Purple Rain with (the terrific) Around The World in a Day. Nor did he go the way of contemporaries like Elton John and Rod Stewart, recycling the hits and playing to the grannies. Bowie kept trying, kept changing his sound, kept reinventing himself. It’s just that no one liked anything he did after Let’s Dance. (That’s obviously not true. But I didn’t like any of it.)
LM: As someone 10 years younger than you, JB, I’ve only ever known Bowie as a legend and never as a contemporary. (I’m 23! Okay, 24..ish-JB) Even during the Let’s Dance period, I saw him as a godfather to the new wave artists I’d idolized — and, indeed, whenever he’d release one of those aforementioned non-world-conquering records, I merely saw it as Bowie being experimental and not falling on his face. He could never fall on his face — he’s Bowie. Still, I never played those albums any more than a few times. By contrast, The Next Day has been in regular rotation at my house for more than a year now. How’s that for a May-December romance?