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MDNA in the time of MDMA: The End of Madonna’s Reign?

on April 09, 2012, 1:41pm

component MDNA in the time of MDMA: The End of Madonnas Reign?

At my first Bonnaroo, I kept wondering who this “Molly” character was. I felt bad for these stray souls crying out, “Have you seen Molly? I’m looking for Molly!” My Roo-Crew and I took to belting out other female names in a half-baked attempt to poke fun at these misplaced festies. “Stacy?” “I’m looking for Bethany!” “Rebecca, where are you?” Eventually, the lingo was explained to me by my more savvy crew, who informed me that we were actually mocking these people’s constant quest for pure MDMA, the ecstasy base also known as Molly.

So, the other week as I sat watching Madonna make a “surprise” appearance at Florida’s Ultra Music Festival, I cringed. We’ve likely all heard what went down when Madge came out to introduce electronic prodigy Avicii. There, in front of UMF’s 18-years-and-over crowd of sweaty, skin-bearing attendees, Madonna took the stage and screamed, “How many people in this crowd have seen Molly?”

The backlash, as it tends to be in the Age of The Internet, was immediate. Upon hearing of the incident, prog/electro house producer Deadmau5 took to his Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr accounts, calling her out on being irresponsible for advocating illegal drugs to a crowd filled with “youngins.” He went on to say that while it’s true the electronic dance music (EDM) scene has had historical association with certain drugs, that association has often been a detriment to the genre. To Mau5, Madonna’s reference was a slap to the face of what he and his fellow EDM producers have strived to accomplish in recent years: an acceptance of the genre distanced from illegal drug usage.

Last Friday, another EDM performer spoke out against Madonna’s flub. In an interview with Billboard, award-winning DJ Paul van Dyk called the comment so stupid,” adding, “I don’t think she was thinking much. The only thing she was probably thinking was, ‘I need to connect with a young crowd,’ and she made the biggest mistake of her career.” If she was indeed trying to connect, you’d be hard-pressed to say she didn’t know her audience. Despite Deadmau5’s and other producers’ attempts otherwise, drugs are still common enough at festivals.

But was it truly the biggest mistake of her career? Perhaps not by itself, but taken in a broader context of Madonna in 2012, van Dyk may be on to something. Recently, it’s as if the Queen of Pop has become afraid for her crown, and her bids to keep it firmly atop her head are getting desperate.

madonna mdma tweet MDNA in the time of MDMA: The End of Madonnas Reign?

Who me? But I’m so innocent!

First, there’s Madonna’s response to the criticism. In a highly-fashioned Tweet (above) to Deadmau5, she claimed she was referencing the yet-to-be-released song “Have You Seen Molly” by her friend, producer Cedric Gervais, who played Ultra the following day. Gervais himself has stated his song is really about a girl named Molly who just “makes me want to dance,” as the lyrics claim.

Let’s be real. A trailer for the song gives the impression it’s about a girl as much as Lil’ Wayne’s “Lollipop” is about confectionary treats. Moreover, Madge was there introducing Avicii, so a reference to an artist she “almost worked with” seems senseless. The excuse falls short of believable, its dolled up delivery intensifying an air of falsehood.

Aggravating matters further, this comes just weeks after Madonna bashed M.I.A.’s “teenager”-like use of the middle finger during the Super Bowl half-time show (years ago, it wouldn’t have been terribly unexpected to see Madge herself flip off the cameras; she humped the stage at the VMAs, for Christ’s sake). If that was an affront to the “feeling of love and good energy and positivity” of the show, then what was this Molly incident? The event was being streamed live, after all, and those viewing could’ve been younger than those attending the festival. Trying to cover up the misjudgment has only made things worse, implicating her in hypocrisy.

Couple this with her latest album, MDNA, and Madonna is really doing a number on her image. To begin with, the record feels like a mishandled attempt to jump on the bandwagon of “popular” music’s current trend towards EDM. Of course, this explains her UMF appearance and Molly comment. As misguided as it was, she recognized a section of her audience.

MDNA panders by title alone. Even in a world where the slogan “Our prices are Sofa King low” goes unquestioned for nearly a decade, it’s difficult to believe Madonna failed to notice she gave an album rife with EDM influence a title but one vertical line away from MDMA. As if she could trick that crowd so easily; or worse, as if that’s something everyone in the EDM scene would appreciate. The abbreviated title could also be seen as harping onto the etymological trend of vowel-less names currently pervading music (i.e. MGMT, MSTRKRFT), especially amongst-ahem-electronic acts (i.e. SBTRK, CHLLNGR).

Assimilating modern trends is nothing new for an artist who has continuously shape-shifted to keep herself relevant, usually to great success. Forays into turn-of-the-millennium electronica produced arguably some of her career’s best efforts, 1998’s Ray of Light and 2000’s Music. While in those instances Madonna made the genres she toyed with her own, MDNA feels markedly derivative. The dubstep on “Gang Bang” could come from the worst of Skrillex, and the thumping, buzzing electronics of “Some Girls” drown her out entirely, reducing the track to banal club noise.

As CoS’ own Michael Roffman said in his MDNA review, the album is overburdened with “plasticity” and “phony sentiments,” and generally “highlights the fluff.” Even the latest video from the album, “Girl Gone Wild”, is saddled with imagery that screams, “Look at me! Aren’t I edgy?!” Guns! Cigarettes! Masturbation! More floor humping! Whether it’s “too raunchy” isn’t the point, it’s just such a heavy-handed remodeling of what we already bought into years ago.

Taken all together, Madonna’s latest fumbles leave us with a misconceived grab at relevancy from a modern Madonna who’s no longer the Material Girl, but a children’s author, developing director, mother of four, and ardent Kabbalah practitioner, and not the genre-guiding force she once was. That doesn’t mean she’s irrelevant, and her career never will be. Madonna is still the Queen of Pop, the most influential female pop star of our time, and she can still move the units.

But she’s almost out of chances to, as Liz Lemon said, embrace [her] age with elegance,” and stop bashing her royal scepter over our heads to remind us of her reign. That kind of attitude has already led many to say she’s abdicated the throne to the likes of Lady Gaga or even Adele. She risks seriously scarring her legacy if she can’t find a sweet spot between 53-year-old pop icon and last-gasp starlet with her malapropos drug endorsements. Otherwise, when her career ends, it could be with talk of how she used to be a great Pop Queen, but lost her royal status by knocking off her own crown as she tumultuously strived to hold it in place.

Near the end of the “Girl Gone Wild” clip, she turns towards the camera, spread-eagle, being groped by a handful of half-naked hunks, and coos, “Forgive me.” We want to, Madonna, just stop doing things that warrant apologies.

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28 comments
Doncorleone75
April 30, 2012 at 10:23 pm

A major newspaper declared Madonna over on its front page in 1993…i like both but Lady GaGa is into year four(?) of her career and pushed her last album for. 99 the week it came out. Adele has had a huge album…so did Alanis in 1995…you never know who will make it based on initial success but Madonna has been around for 30 years and still going…

bulletproof
April 11, 2012 at 12:49 am

OMG, give it up.  I can’t stand pop music but, as far as I’m concerned, Madonna can do whatever the fuck she wants.  She’s a badass and an extremely sharp businesswoman who ALSO produces some great fucking tunes.  Hardly anyone cares about the “Molly” incident, but many people are getting down to her new album, including me.  What an astounding career this woman has created for herself.  Keep on trucking, Madonna.

Josh
April 15, 2012 at 2:52 pm

 what exactly did Madonna “Produce”? She has always piggybacked off djs (william orbit for a while even). She has not produced a single track that I can think of. anything with her name on it was obviously purchased.

Tyler
April 10, 2012 at 4:15 pm

hmm I saw that show and didn’t catch the molly reference and could care less.  Thought it was a fun night.  I think too much publicity is being made by others droning on and on about how Madonna has really done it this time.  This has been going on for decades.  If you think young people don’t know about sex and drugs, then you are clearly naive.  Her making a drug reference knowingly or unknowingly isn’t going to stop or start someone interested in drugs.  Move on and stop wasting time trying to find ways to discredit a musician simply because they irritate you.  There are more useful ways to spend your day.

raver1990
April 10, 2012 at 3:01 am

people, click on this fools name and see who his favorite artist are, freaking jerk off. and his reference to “EDM”, bitch please. I was raving to techno, trance, house back in the late 80s early 90s and it was huge!  I totally agree with Selena Esparza. Every time Madonna releases something, it’s already DOA. Come on now.

Ac87
April 12, 2012 at 10:47 pm

if this is coming down to musical tastes, then personal opinion will conquer all. in that case, i think the music you like is rather shit, so i think your opinion of modern madonna as good follows suit. now if we’re looking at popular opinion by the charts to tell us what has popular appeal, well then now you’re stumped: madonna’s woefully named record had the biggest drop in billboard chart history in it’s second week. the writer hits the head of the nail on this one, i also lost a lot of respect for madonna when i just heard her new album bared too much similarity to the annoyingly popular yet dangerous drug. who does she think she is, and a mother at that. hearing her song at the superbowl i decided she is now making shit music and the two suddenly clicked. this is her (hopefully) last resort. she cant seamlessly flow into what’s popular now, and possibly can’t make a good record while trying so hard to do so. first of all she’s ten year older then her last hit and the way she looks and moves may seem impressive thanks to plastic, but it’s annoying and painful to watch. as a former queen of pop, she should know the heavy requirements of the status and that she fell out of synch a while ago. her trying to be in with the youth culture just looks pathetic, and she should stick to who she really is, not what some producer tries to make out of 20-something could-be stars. alas, if all she really is is trying to fit in, then that’s no one to call a true pop queen to begin with.

Zaisim90
April 10, 2012 at 2:55 am

I just wish she’d been more clever and said something like: ‘I was trying to prove that electronic music is STILL pretty much associated with drugs and will always be.’ She jut asked the crowd – how many of you have you seen molly? She left it at that. She didn’t go: YEY!!!! LONG LIVE MOLLY!!! or MOLLY RULES!!!! or THAT’S GREAAAT!!!!  So my only disappointment i that she tried to cover it up.

Selena Esparza
April 10, 2012 at 12:23 am

Who is Molly? Molly Ringwald?

Selena Esparza
April 10, 2012 at 12:22 am

I have to say that MDNA is Madonna’s BEST album to date, honestly when I buy a cd its not about what the person looks like singing it or how they act but,Whether I like the music PERIOD! Someone answer me this, WHY is it everytime Madonna releases an album or anything,they always say she’s over! I dont get it,If Madonna has been able to REMAIN a huge mega star for 30 years, she aint going no where! seriously how many artist from the 80’s 90’s have been able to hold attention & sell albums,Michaels cd’s lacked sales before his demise,Whitney too,I bought my 1st Madonna cd…ooops cassette when I was 9 I played that thing till the tape broke,and i bought another,I love Madonna’s VOICE, seriously if you listen to every version of a Evita soundtrack & listen to Madonna, the woman has one of the best singing voices of all time!

Marco
April 10, 2012 at 9:25 am

“I have to say that MDNA is Madonna’s BEST album to date”.. LOL! Lyrics on this album are so cheap, that in comparisons with Erotica, Music, Ray of Light.. This album is GARBAGE!  

Stefan
April 9, 2012 at 11:03 pm

Holy Shit. How on earth did this get expanded beyond just a “news article”? Report what happened and add a quote about what some artists felt about the event. That’s it. There’s nothing more to say. How fucking lame and brutal you guys are to try and make a “piece” out of this. You get paid to write about music for a living you lucky motherfuckers! This is a disgrace. Your staff need to be overhauled if THIS was the best thing they could “re-talk” about.

Also, for a site that claims to care and know about music, how silly do you look to question her legacy? You look like miss-informed Facebook posts. It is the equivalent of trying to say Elvis’ legacy is scarred by his manner of death. Don’t be fucking stupid. Who would ever think that?

Answer me this, as a supposed writer who should be familiar with music and its history do you honestly think that Madonna’s legacy might be scarred by this? Of course you don’t! Jesus, look at some goddamn recent events like Whitney Houston to get your answer. 

This is brutal and infuriating. Tons of people would love your job, yet you squander it with bullshit facebook and youtube comment pandering.  

ac87
April 12, 2012 at 10:50 pm

if you’re saying equating drugs with music won’t have any kind of public backlash on the artist’s legacy…. *ahem* elvis, whitney, amy winehouse, etc. etc. etc. and sadly, more etc…. then you must be a loco.

incognito
April 9, 2012 at 10:17 pm

There must be a better way to get attention than to conscientiously go out on a
precariously weak limb to make a ridiculous observation. However this polarization of opinion is precisely what makes Madonna so very interesting. Thank you.

Jcusaus
April 9, 2012 at 9:26 pm

Desperate article…don’t agree nor do i fully get it..makes no sense.

Uberweisen
April 9, 2012 at 7:58 pm

Yeah this Ben-Gaye guy sounds like every other ‘writer’ out there who can’t make it in the music biz. Loser, loser, loser… At the very least, you wish you could accomplish a quarter of what Madonna has during her reign. She is a strong, driven individual who followed her dreams and continues to do what she loves. You, on the other hand, can only ‘write’ about her… LOL!

Webgoil
April 9, 2012 at 6:33 pm

MDNA is a great album. Not too sure what you were listening to. MDNA can mean many things. It can be a play on words for that drug I have never used. It can also be Madonna’s name without some of the letters. It can also be interpreted as Madonna’s DNA. Get it? Madonna likes the dude that made the song called Molly. So what if she was there that night for Aviici – can she not like another musician as and mention him a day before his gig? Sounds legit to me. People have wanted Madonna to fall from day one and nothing has changed. People keep bashing her and she keeps doing what she wants and does it well. I like how Madonna has handled herself and her career and how she’s never apologetic for the choices she’s made.

Cvb7772003
April 9, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Comparing Madonna with Adele? Please. They are completely different artists.

Jdelaga
April 9, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Get over dude! This is a festival and your writing about Madonna using the word Molly is just senseless. Your article bores me to tears!!

Chase Laulee
April 9, 2012 at 6:04 pm

so damn tired of these stupid attention reporters with the same kadam heading… madonna over, madonna done, madonna ends… GET REAL… write about something you know about if you don’t  know that answer to your stupid heading…. PATHETIC reporting at best… 

Lisa
April 9, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Yes, I started using MDMA because Madonna said something about Molly. But I never get the urge to drink, smoke weed, or degrade women when I hear hip hop artists on the radio. give me a break, I may not be a Madonna fan but I know she’s a saint compared to other artists that say crap far worse than her.

genomecop
April 9, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Is this a late April fools story?

matleyrho
April 9, 2012 at 3:48 pm

No way, Madonna’s reign is no where near in sight. Even if she retired her achievements are so vast that no one is even one tenth of the way towards claiming her throne. The numbers speak for themselves: Madonna has just collected her 151st number one on Billboard, just set a new number 1 record in the UK, increased her own margin over the second hit makers in US history (the Beatles) and will very likely close the year by beating her own world record for the greatest grossing tour by a solo act in history… So, who cares if she mentioned a drug in a festival. Get over it, Madonna rules, and has lived through so many scandals, that honestly this does not even matter.

Lisbeth Slander
April 9, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Another article prattling on about the end of Madonna. They’ve been saying the same thing for 30 years. As far as the album goes, it’s her best since 2000’s “Music”. You do realize the title is a play on words, it’s her name, it sounds like she’s referring to MDNA, as well as its M(Madonna) and her musical DNA.

matleyrho
April 9, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Yes, and considering sales are 1/3 what they used to be in 2000, it says a lot. Forgot to add, the best debut week for an album this year is… MDNA.

Brian Hutchinson Birch
April 9, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Go Madge!

lily -
April 9, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Is this “Molly” incident seriously STILL being written about? Get over it people. Oh wait, I guess Madonna wins again since the “media” is still obsessed with it LOL.

MAYNOR25
April 9, 2012 at 2:40 pm

WHO WROTE THIS RIDEICULOUS CRAP? PROBABLY SOME  ULTRA CONCEWRVATIVE AS#HOLE!!

Dar_haseo
April 9, 2012 at 2:34 pm

What a crappy article. lol

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