Posts Tagged ‘blame’

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Madonna – MDNA (album review.)

March 28, 2012

MDNA is Madonna’s 12th studio album (depending on what you include / exclude) and it’s an improvement on her last effort, Hard Candy, simply because there’s a higher strike rate of really good tracks. It’s no Ray of Light, Bedtime Stories or American Life (her most introspective albums and not coincidentally, her best – let the debate begin!), but we get more of an insight into Madonna the Human Being than we have in possibly 10 years.

Not that you’d know it from the two singles that have been released: “Give Me All Your Luvin'” is a straightforward ‘fun’ track which has had a lot of the fun ironed out of it. Madonna’s vocal sounds flat, the production sounds a little lacklustre, and while Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. acquit themselves well during their verses, their presence is unnecessary. The melody is perky but calculated, the cheerleader chants are hooky but calculated – the whole thing is a perfectly acceptable pop song, but it sounds so desperate to be joyful that it ends up losing a lot of charm. “Girl Gone Wild” serves well as an album opener, but again it sounds dated for Madonna – which means bang-on-trend with what’s in the charts – and unimaginative. The lyrics are uninspired, the melody is catchy and you will be humming it after a couple of listens. In this sense, the singles both do their job, but there’s much more exciting stuff on the album.

Which, take my advice, should be sequenced thus:

01. Girl Gone Wild
02. Gang Bang
03. I’m Addicted
04. Some Girls
05. Turn Up The Radio
06. I Don’t Give A (Feat. Nicki Minaj)
07. Give Me All Your Luvin’ (Feat. Nicki Minaj & M.I.A.)
08. B-Day Song (Feat. M.I.A.)
09. Superstar
10. I’m A Sinner
11. Love Spent
12. Beautiful Killer
13. Best Friend
14. I Fucked Up
15. Masterpiece
16. Falling Free

I am never usually one to mess with how an artist envisions their album by cherry-picking individual songse, or by listening to things on shuffle. I am very in favour of the idea of an album being treated and listened to as a body of work. However, I gave this track list (which I found on the Popjustice forums) a go and it seems to flow so much better. It stacks the harder-edged songs at the front of the album, followed by a sunny middle section and winding down towards the slower songs at the end.

“Gang Bang” is my favourite song on the album. A revenge anthem featuring menacingly-spoken vocals (reminiscent of Dita from Erotica) atop a minimal beat, a dubstep breakdown (again, bang on trend / a little passé, but it works well in this instance) and screams of “DRIVE BITCH! AND WHILE YOU’RE AT IT DIE BITCH!”, it’s irresistible, edgy, a little silly (Madonna does not need to prove she is edgy and ‘down with the kids’ by swearing, but never mind), and it totally works. I can’t help but think of The Bride from Kill Bill when I listen to this song. Even though it would be an extremely weird choice for a single, this song is so cinematic that it deserves a video. “I’m Addicted” is the “Impressive Instant” of the album – swirling synths and insistent beats piling on top of each other to provide a climactic finish, while Madonna abandons insightful lyrics such as “all of the letters push to the front of my mouth, and saying your name is somewhere between a prayer and a shout” in favour of hedonistically chanting “M D N A M D N A” over and over.

And so we come to the album title. It’s a cool way of writing “Madonna”. Madonna has also said that the songs on this album display her musical DNA, so that also makes sense. And then, it also sounds like MDMA – which is a drug (hence the aforementioned refrain) and implies that Madonna’s new music is addictive. It’s a well-chosen title that has layers of meaning – well done to all concerned! The album cover (I am talking about the deluxe cover, above – the standard is pretty but doesn’t really go beyond that) shows Madonna posing behind a ridged glass screen which slices up the picture into discordant segments and perhaps represents an impenetrable layer between us, the listeners, and her, the performer / musical icon. The super-bright colours then pack a punch to the eye, and also reference a psychedelic, drugged-up state. Drugs like MDMA! I am spelling this out. The most intense colour comes from Madonna’s lips however, which is also important – she always takes centre stage. And her lips are where her voice comes from (sort of – you know what I mean) and Madonna is a Singer. Yes.

Back to the music then. “I Don’t Give A” is another standout track which has an urban quality to the beat. It discusses the hectic schedule of a star on Madonna’s level, and how she does ten things at once without feeling the pressure, because she doesn’t give a. It’s a defiant moment that’s further strengthened by another strong rap from Nicki Minaj, and tops out with an operatic choir repeating “I don’t give a”. As we’ll learn later on in the album however, Madonna does give a. “Love Spent”, “Best Friend” and “I Fucked Up” are introspection done right (unlike “Falling Free”, which is an epic ballad marred by Madonna’s incredibly mannered delivery and too little momentum too late). “Love Spent” switches up halfway through from practically one song to another with little more than a hook in common, but the same theme pervades throughout – if love were money, would you spend it on me? Would you care about me as much as your money? It sounds ironic for Madonna (who is not poor) to be discussing this, but then again, why can’t she? Everyone can relate to the feeling of coming second best in a relationship, regardless of whether either member of the couple is wealthy or not. It’s an emotional moment that is buoyed by a strong melody and interesting musical touches (such as the opening guitar and the Nintendo bleeps). “Best Friend” and “I Fucked Up” are apparently about her divorce from Guy Ritchie, and the demise of their relationship. Now, I know that it is easy to attribute these lyrics to that experience which the whole public knows about- and Madonna has had a couple of relationships since then (one of which was with Jesus!) – but it sounds pretty convincingly like Guy was on her mind when she wrote these tracks.  “Best Friend” talks about losing someone Madonna was very close to, and reflecting upon the time they shared together – “It wasn’t always good but it wasn’t always bad”. The fact that time has passed between the divorce and the album has allowed Madonna to apportion the blame where it lies on both sides – as well as Guy being the subject of her vitriol on other tracks, “I Fucked Up” sees her take some responsibility for the relationship’s demise. “I blamed you when things didn’t go my way… In front of you, I was cold.” Listing a number of the things that the couple could have done makes for some heart-wrenching listening, even as the production picks up speed. Although parts of the album sound manufactured for radio (like the singles) and others see her aim blindly for the craziest dancefloors, these tracks are where Madonna is open and sounds honest, rather than pre-meditated.

Other songs that deserve a mention are “Some Girls” and its basic but essential proclamation: “Some girls are not like me”; “Superstar” and its sugar-sweet hook of “Ooh la la, you’re my superstar”  (I imagine this song as being great for driving along to); the romantic “Masterpiece” which is somewhat cliché but manages to remain elegant and understated. On the other hand, weaker points of the album include “I’m A Sinner” which sounds like “Beautiful Stranger” (and I didn’t like that song either), and the ridiculous “B-Day Song” which wastes M.I.A.’s talents and doesn’t match up to the quality of the rest of the album. However, it’s relaxed nature reveals that Madonna probably had genuine fun recording this track, and it’s nice to hear a song that’s so unguarded. Perhaps it should have remained a b-side.

Overall, MDNA is a good album. It’s not outstanding as a whole, but it contains a fair few excellent moments. The songs are cohesive enough to feel like they belong (with a couple of exceptions), while varied enough to retain interest. There’s genuine introspection, braggadocio and hedonism – which is what we want from Madonna. It’s a shame that some of the album feels so calculated that it detracts from our enjoyment of the material. But once you can look past that, MDNA provides a trip well worth taking.

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dreams / something for the weekend.

January 3, 2010

Alright, so every night more or less when I go to sleep, I have one of my epic, insane dreams.  It’s almost fun going to bed and wondering what I’m going to dream about; it’s unpredictable, except for the fact that usually Mike will figure in there somewhere (and my parents often play the antagonists).  My dreams are lively and exciting, and I almost feel sorry for people who always say “I dreamed I was flying / falling / being chased…” – my inner response is “Yeah, and so did everyone else. Did you go to Brazil with your supermodel boyfriend? Did you elope with a guy from HMV during your friend’s wedding? Did you eat pastries with Charlotte from SaTC before rafting along a bayou towards Oxford and the end of the world?  No you didn’t, did you.”  But sometimes, my dreams are quite disturbing, so I guess it’s all a fair trade… still, I get some good stories!  So I’m going to blog my dreams from the last two nights now (in theory this should cut down the amount that I write so the entry is not epically long!), and then I’m gonna attempt briefly to psychoanalyse what I think some of the salient points are… feel free to throw in your two pence!

Friday night

I don’t remember how it all started, but I was somehow dating this teenager (I am not sure if I was the same age I am now, but I know that I was older and that he was a bit young…) and we ended up going to his house and hanging out before meeting his family (parents, brother, dog).  Everything was cool, and there was some sort of swimming pool / water soaker element to the visit, but nothing sexual happened.  Then I was suddenly going to college (not with my new boyfriend) and lots of people from my old school were there too.  I was attending class when all of a sudden, my old boss from when I worked at the school bookstore asked me if I could carry this heavy box of books to Oxfam on Colston Avenue (for the record, in real life there is no Oxfam on Colston Avenue, and Colston Avenue was nowhere near wherever this college was meant to be).  So I recruited this fat ginger girl called Siobhan to help me carry the box.

We were about to leave college when a teacher accosted us and demanded that we attend his lesson.  Siobhan and I tried to explain that we had to carry this box to Oxfam but he wasn’t having any of it and marched us to his lesson, which appeared to take place in the college cafe / dining hall, and consisted of us watching a video on a projector screen set up in the middle.  For the life of me I can’t remember what the video was about, but ultimately I forgot about Siobhan and the box, and I ended up chatting to a couple of girls with whom I was sat watching the video.  Once the video finished, everyone was chatting and joking and being generally sixth-form-esque.  One of my massive crushes from school, Richard Hooper (who, according to Facebook, is still a hottie but needs to do some urgent manscaping), was there and looked ridiculously hot in a vest / shirtless, but much more muscled and tattooed than in real life.  I was gazing at him, when another guy from our year (on whom I didn’t have a crush, although there was a nasty rumour at one point) wandered by to talk to Rich, and he was buff but kinda fat (this is going to sound really horrid but according to Facebook, that is how he now looks in real life!).  Odder than that however was the fact that he had actual bird wings sprouting from his shoulders (and not impressive sweeping wings, but wings like that of an owl or falcon) which looked a bit weedy and a bit weird.  That’s all that I remember, I don’t remember what happened to the box, my teenage boyfriend or if I ever got close to Rich, but it was interesting if bizarrely anti-climactic!

Saturday night

Ok, so I think that I am coming in midway through the dream here, but somehow I ended up (along with various friends from university on my course, and Rihanna!) at Mike’s house.  Except it wasn’t Mike’s actual house, but some house that resembled my nan’s house slightly, except it was halfway through being built.  A couple of the upstairs rooms had massive gaps in the ceiling, and there was a staircase that ended halfway before hitting the floor.  So we were all at Mike’s house, except Mike and V had gone off somewhere because Mike had to drive her somewhere.  I remember getting really antsy and moody, and despite my friends and Rihanna’s efforts to calm me down and make me enjoy their fun, I was storming off around Mike’s house, which at times involved me jumping down off the end of the unfinished staircase, and watching some of the builders (of which there were oddly few) working on the upstairs attic.

At one point, I found a ticket to see a random music act (whom I don’t think exists in real life) and they were playing in Mike’s attic.  I watched them, but nobody came to join me or even seemed to register that there was music going on.  Eventually, the group (indie/pop girl group playing guitars) finished their set and I wandered off, dismayed that Mike and V had not yet returned, and I couldn’t stop my mind from spazzing out.  I rejoined my friends downstairs, except suddenly I realised that we were all going to exchange presents, and more people were coming and I hadn’t brought their Christmas presents with me.  My parents and grandmother were flying back from Australia and were due to have just landed, so I called them to ask if they could swing by our house and bring the other extra Christmas presents, but I got no answer on the phone so my mood didn’t lift.  Night fell, and I remember playing some kind of graphically-improved Mortal Kombat (the original game) to distract myself and funnel my annoyance into a harmless violent pursuit, but even that didn’t help.

Suddenly my friends started to bustle and move towards the door.  I remember I had been hiding upstairs in this alcove, laying on the floor staring at the ceiling when suddenly this girl (one of the builders, although she now was dressed in normal clothes) walked past and I startled her.  She told me to cheer up and go downstairs, as everyone was back.  Mike and V were downstairs but I walked past them, now more concerned with whether my parents had brought my presents.  They were outside with my nan, waiting for me, and their hands were empty.  I remember being upset, explaining I had tried to call them, explaining how embarrassed I was (and fearing that now I had no chance of competing with V for Mike’s affections, despite the fact I already felt that I had lost the battle) and how they had failed me.  In short, I was acting like a spoiled brat and alienating everyone, but I couldn’t stop myself – my mother yawned (obviously flying back from Australia had been somewhat tiring) and I remember saying that “Well now I’m going to stay here ALL NIGHT and you’re going to have to WAIT FOR ME, see how you like THAT.”  My nan and dad just stood there semi-shocked, semi-appalled, and my mother held out a drink to me – she was apparently drunk.  I took the glass and tossed the cloudy white-yellow liquid (limoncello? although normally it’s not that creamy) into the plants in my tantrum.  My friends had turned to see Mike and chat and drink, ignoring / oblivious to my mood, my anger at my family and my failure to bring all the gifts, and I tried to join in the crowd and put on a happy / brave face, but I felt like I had disappointed everyone, I realised that I had acted like a fool, and I felt that Mike had no reason ever to pay me any attention again.  Mike and V smiled at me, but I couldn’t return their smile as I felt inferior, unwanted by them, and I think then I must have woken up.

Analysis

I seem to be looking to latch onto anyone to date / distract me from my infatuation with Mike, but it never seems to do any good.  The relationships disappear, or the real hot guys are never interested in (or even notice) me.  When I get around Mike, he always seems to drop me for someone else and I always feel guilty or take the blame.  I can’t control my moods and I end up alienating everyone – even though Mike and I are supposed to be the couple, I’m never quite good enough to hold onto him and he always goes away or finds someone else.

I often dream about people from school, or being back in a school environment – I guess that’s because it’s such a formative experience, but going back there would scare me and also return me to my feelings of inferiority and confusion that I experienced during my adolescence.  My moodiness and loneliness in my dreams I guess reflects on my fear of losing my maturity, or my insecurities being exposed and everyone turning against me.

Context-wise, my nan is currently in Australia (although my parents are not) and I’ve been missing her terribly, feeling that I have nowhere to turn when living with my parents gets too much.  On NYE, I was flirting with someone younger than me, although he wasn’t a teenager it reminded me of last year when I did date a teenager and it didn’t really work – somehow, NYE felt similarly inappropriate and that I was lowering myself. The fact that “Rich” was super buff and tattooed also relates to NYE, as there were some hotties at the club who looked exactly that way (they were in fact a bit overdone, but still not bad).  I also found out that Mike and V went to the cinema last night (with their spouses) which probably explains their presence in the dream – although me and Mike already met up once this holiday and I’m staying at his on Monday night (and seeing him a lot next week for uni), I can’t shake off my feelings of inferiority.  Which I really, really need to get over!  But in dreams, I guess that we see ourselves without being able to control how we act.  Throw in your two pence!

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trust, humiliation & beauty.

November 7, 2009

I understand that this blog has been a bit Rihanna-focused lately, but between the new material that has been premiering online and the publicity surrounding her 20/20 interview (which is a must-see – check it out at Toya’s World), I’ve been hooked on her once again.

Within this interview (which resonated with me more than I will go into on this particular post), Rihanna said two things that I thought were particularly interesting.  One thing was the notion of feeling ashamed and embarrassed when the picture of her battered face was leaked by the media – because she fell in love with a person who could do that to her.  Obviously you can’t help who you fall in love with, you never know how abusive they might be until the first time it happens, and the notion of shame is one that we could debate for days anyway.  But the idea of that was interesting to me, that there are certain of us who seem to feel humiliated or ashamed by things that are essentially not our fault – yet we take the blame for ourselves.  It reminded me of a time when I was dating L, and we found out that we had a friend in common, M.  So everything was cool, and it was a nice coincidence and all that business.  And I remember having a conversation with L, and he said that M had told him effectively to be gentle / careful with me as I’d been hurt in the past.  I remember just feeling utterly mortified, humiliated and ashamed.  I wasn’t angry (and I’m not angry about it now) – after all, M wasn’t wrong, and I wasn’t embarrassed by the fact that he had told L to treat me nicely; although it wasn’t necessary for him to do that, I appreciated the sentiment and understand that M was only looking out for me.

But I felt ashamed that someone viewed me as fragile, vulnerable or emotionally unstable.  That someone might have to explain my apparent insecurities to someone else made me feel humiliated.  I mean, yes, I have been hurt in the past (and then during that relationship – although I caused L hurt too, something which I still feel sad about, as I never meant to – and since) and my reluctance to let somebody in right away stems from that.  I was discussing with Emma last night that I am a very suspicious person, and if someone is friends with me or enters into a relationship with me, or even just approaches me in a bar or whatever flirtatious setting, I can’t help but wonder why they’re doing it, what they want from me, and whether they just want to use me up and throw me away.  I guess that comes from past experiences, and also probably what I’ve learned from my mother.  But I can’t help suspecting people, and I admit that I’m still growing as a person and I’m more insecure than I might care to admit to anyone who isn’t very close to me.  So for somebody to not only penetrate the façade I uphold of being strong (and at the same time as being a vulnerable person, I also believe that I am a strong person and that the two can co-exist within me), of being independent and of being teflon, but also to have to make excuses for the way I am and the fact that I might not let somebody in as quickly as 1-2-3 made me feel embarrassed.

Why should I feel embarrassed about myself?  In relationships, I don’t know what is up with me but I generally manage to get into these tortuous situations without ever having something concrete that lasts very long.  But I am a popular person, an intelligent person and a handsome person – my friends say that I will not be single for long, etc. etc.  These are things people say – who knows whether it will come true or not?  There’s more to life, but I can’t help but wonder if the façade I try to maintain at all times slips more often than I realise?  I think I would feel equally humiliated to know that the vulnerability and sadness I try to hide every day of my life was in actuality on full show half the time, and that that might be part of what turns people off wanting to date me or feeling attracted to me.  I hate the thought of people feeling sorry for me – not only because they shouldn’t, since everyone has their own pain and who’s to say that mine is greater than anyone else’s, but because I’d rather people didn’t focus their pity on me.  I understand it’s out of kindness or what have you, but I don’t desire that kind of attention.

The second sentiment Rihanna expressed was that of “F love”.  If you’re in an abusive relationship, be it physically, verbally or emotionally, you have to keep your judgment unclouded by love, and you need to do what is logically right for you, your safety and your health, regardless of the direction in which your heart pulls you.  That is a hell of a lot easier said than done; exhibit a) my current infatuation with somebody with a ring on it.  And this isn’t the first time that love has led me astray – this time, although the feelings are intense, at least I am getting something out of the relationship and it makes me happy more than it makes me sad.  Looking at my parents’ marriage, both past and very current present, although I’m proud of the storms they have weathered, if I had been in my mother’s position, I would never have put up with it.  And if I had been in my father’s position, I would never have put up with it.  Without saying too much, I don’t know if love was their only motivation in deciding to stay together (I highly doubt it, since things are rarely that clear-cut), but I would certainly have said “Fuck love, fuck everything, I’m gone.”  Even though I am a vulnerable person, and quite often I believe that part of me must be really an ugly person, I still have more self-worth than to go along with it.

Last night, I was out with Emma and we had some really special heart-to-heart conversations.  Obviously I am going to divulge nothing of what we discussed (here or anywhere else), because I made her a promise to keep what she told me to myself, and that is the whole point – I am a trustworthy person and trust is such a fragile thing, such a precious thing and something that takes so long to build.  Be it because of past experiences, be it because of what I’ve learned from my parents and other relationships that have surrounded me as I’ve grown up, but I find it hard to trust people and it’s rare that I am totally and immediately open with my heart to friends I’ve known for years, let alone somebody new in my life.  But I believe that trust is vital for life, for relationships, for friendships.  The thought of my betraying someone else makes me feel sick; a promise is a sacred thing, and there is so little that is sacred in life.  I think that having some self-worth as a person, even if it ebbs and flows sometimes, is really important, and the fact that I feel I am trustworthy, that I have dignity, and that I have the ability to give love but also am now aware that sometimes we have to say “F love” makes me a good friend and will one day mean that I might be a good boyfriend and not feel so ugly at my lowest… These things give me hope, they give me something to aspire to, and I hope to at the end of my life be able to look back and say that I was a good person, I was a strong person and that I did myself proud.  Work in progress.

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ain’t it funny.

September 22, 2009

Following on from yesterday’s blog, just a quick update: Mike and I have a new recruit to Smoker’s Circle: Emma.  Lo and behold, Emma is the woman who sings in the soul covers band, and one of the people who took most interest in my musical prowess.  So I feel relieved that she likes a bit of nicotine every now and then too!  And perhaps I’m not being as judged as I thought, haha.

Ain’t it funny how little things get resolved?  Already today I learned the way to the cash machine and back; I have consolidated some friendships from yesterday; I feel a little more on top of what we are expected to do.  I keep wondering what I will do when I run into H from the Perfume Shop (it is bound to happen; we work and study in the same block).  I will not shout, I will not rant, I will not ask her how could she stand by and let them make me a scapegoat for everything that has gone wrong in their shop since I’ve been gone.  I did nothing wrong, and if they were talking about me in September when I left in June, then in a backhanded way, that’s a compliment to me and shows just how much of an impact I made on them.  I don’t want to let any of them know that their backstabbing made an impact on me.

So what I’m gonna do is this: I am going to smile and her, and say hello, and greet her like a friend.  She will never really be a close friend of mine again, and I will never trust her.  But I did what I needed to do, which was get out of that shop and get a better job and start improving my life.  And they did what they needed to do, which was blame me for things I never did, bitch about me despite the fact that I was the one they would come to with all their problems, and pretend to be nice to my face all the while.  That’s what they need to do to stay in the workplace, and that’s fine.  I don’t want to be there anymore, and I have no control over what they do there.  That’s their choice, and I have moved on.  In a way, H had the right idea: like Ayn Rand’s theory of Objectivism, “You should never do anything for me”.  The girls at the Perfume Shop never did anything for me – they put themselves first and once I was gone, they blamed me for everything in order to ease their consciences and facilitate their working life, I guess.  I had the wrong idea, because the whole time I was working there, I never put myself first nearly enough: “I should never have done anything for them”. I would call in every week or speak on the phone; I would listen to H crying and worrying about her uni course and assignments; I would advise them what to do if the shutter wouldn’t come down or the shop was evacuated for two hours; I would cover up H’s counting mistakes on stocktakes, and just recount them myself without saying a word to our manager. And I will never do anything for any of them again.  So H and I may be friendly towards one another – I’ll be civil and nice enough towards her.  But I will never do anything for her again.  Because just as they are all about them, now it’s time for me to be all about me.  I have better friends to whom I prefer to devote my time, and in whom I can trust more.  When H finally gains the courage to leave the Perfume Shop, I wonder what they will say about her?

I will make it a point never to find out.