I'm going to write a little about Madonna today.
Someone on one of the podcasts I listen to recently posed the question, "Madonna: What happened?" I don't remember the details of the response, except it was laced with references to her rapidly declining relevance in recent years. Mind you, she will never, ever not be relevant to me -- but I do understand that any singer who has reached the age of 60 (which she will do this August) has long passed having any hope of retaining any currency in "cool," at least in terms of broader pop culture.
I feel like Madonna has both her own age and timing working against her. She hasn't had a particularly well-selling album in the U.S. since Confessions on a Dance Floor in 2005, which, somewhat ironically, sold worst in U.S. and was a bona fide phenomenon in the rest of the world. Hard Candy (2008) barely went Gold in the U.S. and sold 4 million copies worldwide, which is actually pretty respectable in an era when hardly anyone pays for albums anymore -- which has been far more the case for her two subsequent albums, MDNA (2012, 2 million worldwide) and Rebel Heart (2015, 1 million worldwide). In addition, MDNA was only her second album ever not to yield a top 5 single and was her first to yield a lead single that only went to $10; Rebel Heart was her first album to yield zero hit singles by any measure besides the US Dance charts -- not one song from that album ranked in the Billboard Top 40.
I keep hoping for Madonna to get a Cher / "Believe"-style comeback. The problem with that comparison is that when Believe came out, Cher was 52. Even Cher never had anything nearly as big thereafter.
I'm thinking of all this now partly because I am currently listening to Madonna's 2008 album, Hard Candy, her follow-up to Confessions on a Dance Floor and her first album in years to be pretty straightforward pop without niche producers creating the truly unique sounds of her previous four albums (and in that I include her criminally underrated American Life (2003), which was her worst-selling album up to that point but at Platinum in the U.S. and 5 million worldwide now sounds pretty successful). Back in 2008, I thought Hard Candy was just pretty good, a mid-tier Madonna album in terms of quality. Oddly, it seems to have aged really well. I may like it more now than I did then. It's a better album than both MDNA and Rebel Heart, due in large part to it being the last album she did not over-stuff with too many extra tracks. (Hard Candy has a solid 12 tracks; MDNA and Rebel Heart both had multiple extended versions, of course I got all the tracks I could, so they have 18 and 23 tracks, respectively.)
But, whatever. Even at 60, I think Madonna is capable of putting out something great again. She's been pretty out of touch for a long time though, I have to concede, so it's just a matter of timing and luck and how well her often inexplicable choices play out, I guess. As one person on the aforementioned podcast said, "You can only re-invent yourself so many times." Indeed, Confessions on a Dance Floor was the last time she did this particularly successfully, again the last of four albums in a row in which she unveiled very distinctive, new versions of herself. The promotion cycle of every album thereafter has really just been variations of the same version of herself, and thus haven't managed to feel as new.
Perhaps it's not so bad that that means paying closer attention to the music itself. Madonna has always been about showmanship above all, but as I've stated many times, none of it would work for me if I didn't love the music first. And although Rebel Heart remains my least favorite of her albums, I still enjoy it. I do hope her next one is better, but either way, whatever tour she does to promote it will be what makes it all worthwhile -- Madonna has understood for years now that touring is where the money is, not album sales anymore. I can't imagine she can maintain the same energy level for years, though. Remember those stunning yoga poses she did onstage for the 2004 Re-Invention tour? I think "her body itself remain[ing] a special effect" (as the Rolling Stone review put it) is perhaps a thing of the past. Nevertheless, I expect she will bring it with her tours like no one else probably until the day she dies.
Shobhit's friend Sachin was born the same year I was, and his birthday is today. He's 42. He's just shy of three months older than I am.
He came over for the evening yesterday. Shobhit made a couple of dishes and parathas, and Sachin declared it his best birthday dinner in a while, which was actually kind of sweet. I had just one of the dishes with two of the parathas, after coming home from a relatively disappointing stint at Steamworks. I may try again tomorrow evening, when Shobhit has something else he's doing on his own.
Anyway, as such, there was no TV watching last night. That's probably a good thing. Sometimes I feel like I do spend way too much time just looking at my TV screen when I'm at home. At least this book I'm reading is also capturing my attention to an unusual degree -- the best books are always the ones that you can't help but to keep picking up, which is rate for me. More often, I have to make a real effort at getting through a book. I had no time to read last night, though. I went out to play, came home and ate, was getting ready for bed within about an hour after that.
I did put vodka in the stweet mango drink Shobhit made for us all. I figured that would help me sleep, actually, and I guess I was right. I slept like the dead all night, never waking up until morning, which only happened because Shobhit got up to pee at about 5:05, and because my sleep app detected it, that was when the alarm went off. I snoozed it, but then Shobhit came back to bed and kept moving around and it was thus impossible to get back to sleep. Oh well; at least the sleep app says my "sleep quality" for the night was an unusually high 78%; I was in bed a solid seven hours; and the graph shows me way closer to "deep sleep" than I usually am for the vast majority of the evening. The exception is a spike right up to "awake" at just before 3 a.m., which I don't remember at all, but must be when Shobhit cause a bunch of detectable movement coming to bed.
The best thing is just not waking up at all, and thus I slept through Shobhit's incessant snoring. His snores frequently are the biggest things keeping me awake once I wake up to begin with.
Mimi visited the office today, specifically to have lunch with Claudia and me and several people from the HR department. She even emailed me about this last week. Kate offered to coordinate ordering lunches but I had a leftover lunch to bring to work and I ate that.
I was a little worried about how large the group might be and how close I might get to Mimi. But I managed to sit just to Mimi's left. Claudia sat on the other side of her. The picnic style tables in the center of the dining room filled to capacity with rare swiftness after that. Cate the CEO even came by to say hi to her. Mimi is one of the people around here long beloved, I would say, and rightfully so.
A lot of catching up all around. Kate bought Mimi her salad, which Mimi said was great but I feel like maybe she didn't like it that much. Granted, she had to do a lot of talking, but she still took forever to eat much of it, and also added salt. I don't know why I even paid that much attention to this.
Anyway, it was really nice to see her. Now I guess I'll get back to work.
[posted 1:02 pm]