Madonna’s newest album MDNA came out yesterday to lukewarm fan fare. On iTunes none of the album’s songs were in the Top 10 and the full album came in at #2 behind Lionel Richie. Obviously it’s not going to be a runaway hit. Madonna has a unique problem. She’s the queen of pop music with a career that has spanned more then 30 years. She has success that puts her in an elite group with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and a handful of other acts. Her unparalleled success and longevity has also raised expectations to unreachable levels. I’m not going to write a boring review of the album but I am interested in everyones reaction to it. For the record, the only song I bought is Girls Gone Wild. I still haven’t listened to the rest, although that may be enough of a review right there.
I didn’t think about Madonna or MDNA yesterday unit I started to read Facebook. Everyone debated MDNA’s quality with comments ranging from “Madonna’s new album is terrible!” to “I have been a fan for over 30 years and I think the album is AMAZING!!” What was interesting is that out of nowhere someone mentioned Cyndi Lauper: “Cyndi’s all blues CD was #1 for 18 weeks last year and her dance album before that was killer.” I guess the general feeling was that Madonna was overrated while Cyndi was far underrated. I had to laugh. I’m a fan of Cyndi Lauper and I’m not knocking her, however she is NOT underrated. She is probably very appropriately rated. She’s one of those artists that will always be referred to as “critically successful.” I’ll translate: critically successful means that although the music may win awards, no one cares and no one buys it. (See also: Bon Iver and Arcade Fire) Cyndi is not overrated because she was never as successful and therefore brings low expectations. As for a #1 Blues album, I’d hardly call that a relevant success especially because all the songs were covers. And let’s get real, who was her competition on the blue’s charts? If I had all my friends buy it, I could probably release a best selling blue’s album.
Both singers exploded onto the music scene in the mid 80’s and for a while it was a close race to see who would ultimately get to the top. Unfortunately Lauper never reached the potential everyone thought she had. Once the 90’s came Madonna continued to dominate while Lauper faded away. She has continued to record albums with weak record sales. Yes she’s talented but in today’s world that’s not enough. There are plenty of talented people to outshine her. Case in point: Christina Auguilera. She’s gifted and has a powerful voice, however she was never able to outsell her less talented rival Britney Spears.
Getting back to Madonna, if I were her record company I would have released the album the week after the Super Bowl while everyone was still buzzing about her performance. Strike while the iron’s hot. The only buzz now is that her new video was banned from Youtube. (I wouldn’t be surprised if Madge asked them to ban it as a publicity stunt) The Super Bowl was also when I started to notice the high expectations. I absolutely loved her performance and assumed everyone else did too. My sister said she was disappointed with the show. When I asked her why she simply said, “I don’t know… she’s MADONNA. I was just expecting something more.” That’s the problem in a nut shell. She’s MADONNA, we just expect more. To answer the original question, No I don’t think Madonna’s career is over. Her success is cemented regardless of what she does in the coming years. Although she may be past her prime, I’ll take past prime Madonna over critically successful Cyndi Lauper any day.