Tag Archives: Madonna

#PopConfessional: On Not Having a ‘Rebel Heart’ (Why Madonna is “Acting Her Age” and We Should All Follow Suit!)

It goes without saying that we all exist in a culture that is infected with youth obsession. Anyone who claims immunity or existence outside of this bubble entirely, is also entirely lying to themselves. Whether yours is an internally wagging finger or one that you have openly pointed at others, each and every one of us can surely think of a situation where we have shunned an idea, a piece of art or another human being because of our perceptions surrounding age appropriateness.

I hate to admit that I’ve often been plagued by feelings of concern about this idea of “what’s appropriate” as I navigate through my thirties. Is it “appropriate” that I, a 34 year old man, like to watch TV shows and listen to music that is marketed to teenagers and young adults? Is it “appropriate” that as an undeniable adult, I still like to play video games and watch cartoons? I like to think that it’s a hang-up that anyone can easily understand, given the messages and visual cues we receive every day in popular culture. It is drilled in to our collective consciousness that getting older is inevitable obsolescence and that as you age there are expectations for you to behave in a specific fashion, to age “gracefully.”

DEAN-07-07-smallSeveral years ago, though I can’t pinpoint when exactly, I used to buzz my hair in to a non-committal type of mohawk. By non-committal, I mean that I only buzzed the sides, as opposed to shaving them bald. (See: Left, Selfie – 2007.) To anyone who is more than a poser in the punk scene, my small act of rebellious hair-cutting was relatively tame, but to me it felt a little bad ass, and bad ass was something I had really only flirted with. I decided, after some consideration, that it suited me and I kept the hair style in varying degrees for the better part of my late twenties. It had become sort of a calling card; a signature look.

That said, as I passed from the naively-assumed immortality of my twenties to the soul searching, thinking-about-my-future thirties, I began to move up the ladder in my day job. With that, I started feeling the pressure to “grow up.”  I shaved off the poser-punk hair and stopped wearing attention-eliciting accessories, even outside of the workplace. (Aside: I think I miss the 1″ button with the word “cocksucker” printed on it the most.)

One would argue that this was a necessary change to aid in my professional advancement, but deep down, I will admit that I had a nagging voice in my head telling me that it isn’t appropriate for a man in his thirties to wear a mohawk, to be “fun” and to express himself in whatever way he saw fit. There was zero pressure to make these changes from my (very casual) place of work, and all of my insecurity and shame was entirely self-imposed. I was thirty one years old, and had already sentenced myself to a life without any more rebellious, fashion-related fun. In retrospect, this begs a question: WHY!?

I’ll come back to that question later, but humor me now, as I return to 2015, where society and most of all, popular culture is more youth obsessed than ever. In this age of take down culture and endless think pieces, we have rabid opinions en masse, and nearly direct access to celebrities by way of social media. No longer vulnerable to only the mudslinging of magazine critics and the occasional over zealous activist group, artists these days are damned if they don’t, damned if they do, like never before. Artists who refuse to go under the knife, or cater to the teen and young adult demographics get pushed systematically towards the trash bin by the industry, and those that try to maintain a youthful appearance, or stay current in their chosen creative medium, invite direct public scorn and scandal as media spin turns in to venomous tweets and unbearably ignorant comments on articles and social media posts.

RebelSwordArguably few artists have been subject to a level of public scrutiny greater than that of the ever-reigning Queen of Pop (don’t even start with me, Stans!), and long time provocateur, Madonna. While it’s clear that Madonna has always invited controversy and debate, the criticism thrown at her in recent years, both by anonymous social media “trolls,” and by people who call themselves journalists, not only flirts with, but fully immerses itself in the sexist, ageist waters of counter-progressive thought.

In 2015, when Madonna expresses support for a younger generation of pop artists, works with of-the-moment producers or experiments with unconventional genres, she’s accused of being a “vampire” and riding coattails of current artists to stay “relevant.” When she releases a glossy album cover image, she’s crucified for the excessive photoshop manipulation that all modern promo images and album covers are subject to. When she suffered an unfortunate fall on stage at the 2015 Brit Awards, immediately got back up and gave her all, she still became the subject of countless silly memes criticizing her for being “too old” to do what she’s been doing for over thirty years; in a pop landscape she all-but sculpted for her many would-be predecessors.


All that said, for true rebellion to exist there must be be opposition; Madonna has seemingly always understood that fact. One could argue that without the haters, Madonna might have never made the headlines that catapulted her in to the very heights of pop infamy. In fact, her legend is built on giving an unapologetic middle finger to those who would try and hold her back. She did it when she bared her belly button, writhed around on the VMA stage in a wedding dress and advocated for gay rights and HIV prevention to the scorn of right wing conservatives in 1985. In 1988, she adopted religious imagery to much controversy during her “Like a Prayer” album campaign and in 1992 she challenged sexual taboos with the release of her much maligned coffee table book “Sex” and companion album “Erotica.” (The first CD I ever owned, at age 12, but that’s a whole other story.) From her disco crucifixion in 2006’s “Confessions” tour, to her appropriation of hip hop beats (years before it became the norm) on 2008’s “Hard Candy,” Madonna has always met our expectations by rebelling against ideas of “acceptable” or “appropriate” behavior, and yet many would somehow expect all of that to change just because she has a few more candles on her birthday cake. Again, I ask the question: WHY!?


The thing is, that nagging voice that made me cut off my mohawk is a social construct, and one that is very deeply ingrained in almost each and every one of us. While my place of work never pressured me to “act my age”, it is evident that years of being conditioned to think that thirty year old men were to behave a certain way, has had a definite effect on me. It has had an effect on you too, if you really think that a 56 year old woman is not “acting her age” when she revels in an empire she built, reflects on her tremendous accomplishments and still decides that she’s not finished, that she will continue to push buttons and break down barriers that we will all face as we too, continue getting older and start feeling the limitations that society will try and force on us for doing so.

Madonna doesn’t listen to her affected inner dialogue the way I once did, and the way each and every one of us do when we decide to shame any artist for defying some antiquated, conservative idea about what, within the law, is “appropriate” behavior for a capable and consenting adult to engage in.

In the three decades that have passed since she entered the scene, a lot of things have changed, but despite what many have said, her relevancy is not one of them. Being Madonna in 2015 continues to mean what it always has; expressing oneself, demolishing suffocating social taboos and refusing to accept a world that would not only expect, but actively campaign for someone to suddenly stop standing for everything she consistently has in her unparalleled, trailblazing career-to-date.

Madonna should be an inspiration to us all. She has lived her life in the public eye, unapologetically, fought and worked her ass off and stood behind her work time and time again, ride or die. In a world where human beings are living longer than ever, we should all hope to have that much courage, drive and determination.

Madonna’s 13th studio album, Rebel Heart is available now! (iTunes) (Amazon

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Judgement Day (Special Edition): Pop Heaven’s Top 100 Songs of 2012 (Part 3 of 4)

We’re still counting down The Pop Gods’ Top 100 songs of 2012. It was a fantastic year for singles, with the ongoing dance-pop trend still cranking out lots of hits despite seeing a lot of changes take root in the mainstream soundscape. I wager that the past year was a turning point and that 2013 will be a year of change, but for now let’s focus on 2012!

In case you’re just joining us:

Read entries #100 through #76 in Part 1!
Read entries #75 through #51 in Part 2!

Without further ado, here are chart positions #50 through #26! Feel free to watch and listen with our YouTube playlist, or read the chart after the jump!

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Judgement Day (Special Edition): Pop Heaven’s Top 100 Songs of 2012 (Part 2 of 4)

Welcome back, dear readers! We’re counting down our top 100 songs of 2012 to make it into Pop Heaven, and in part 2 we’re going to check out numbers #75 through #51! In this group, we have many brilliant artists like Brandy, Adam Lambert, Maroon 5, Leona Lewis, My Name Is Kay and many more, so let’s not waste any more time! (After all, it’s the middle of January and I’m still posting last years charts!)

In case you’re just joining us, click here to see entries 100 through 74 in Part 1!

If you have lots of time, you can watch the chart unfold with this YouTube playlist, but if not you can read it, after the jump!

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Stop the In-Stan-ity!! (An Intervention)

Stans of the World (and other interested parties),

We gather here today and everyday to rejoice in the word of the Church of Pop. It is my honor to have been chosen by The Pop Gods to spread the righteous word and while much of my experience has been positive since I began preaching the Pop Gospel last November, I have to say that the amount of bullshit (for lack of a better term) that is thrown between fanbases is completely ridiculous and quite frankly off-putting. For branding purposes and as an excuse to spend countless hours making some digital art, I will call this phenomenon:

(Full-Size Image Link, if you’re interested)

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Judgement Day: Pop Heaven or Hell? Madonna – MDNA

In the spirit of Her Madgesty’s penchant for re-invention, I’ve decided to change the format of my regular Judgement Day: Heaven or Hell album reviews and try out a new approach with my rather late review of much abuzzed #1 album MDNA. Enjoy! – Dean

Despite their complete domination of the pop charts over the last few years, it’s really not easy being a pop starlet.

In today’s musical climate female pop artists are endlessly pitted against one-another in fanbase and media-created feuds. They are often criticized for acting “too old” when they’re younger and “too young” when they’re older. They are subjected to endless public scrutiny for their appearance and resort to extreme measures to stay young and beautiful. In recent years we’ve entered a derivative era in popular culture where we continue to reference and remake our own very recent past. Despite this being the trend, many artists are constantly accused of “ripping off” songs, costumes, and choreography from one another and basically damned if they do/damned if they don’t.

Leading up to the release of MDNA on March 23rd, there was a lot of speculation and concern from fans and music lovers at large. Madonna’s last release, 2008’s Hard Candy was widely panned as some of her weakest material to date. While the album contained a few shining gems, it was a far cry from the woman who brought us the bold and ballsy brilliance of 1992’s Erotica and the stunning introspection of 2008’s Ray of Light. Early buzz about MDNA suggested the album would be based in hip-hop and after confirmation of collaborators like Nicki Minaj many expected a sound that would feel like Hard Candy pt. 2.

Fortunately for all of us, we were completely wrong. In fact, MDNA manages to be some of Madonna’s freshest and most exciting material in years.

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