Archive for Madonna

45. ‘Trick Me’ by Kelis (2004)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on October 12, 2010 by G.K. Reid

I just turned on the TV and there was Kelis.  She’s mid-song, and standing imposingly strong while under attack from blue and green strobelights apparently operated by a drunk.  She’s dressed in a fashion that I can only describe as ‘Grace Jones-puking-up-Madonna’.  But amid all this sartorial and epileptic frenzy, there’s no distracting your attention from that strong jaw and steady, diffident gaze.  

Despite being – as she pointed out in the slight misstep that was Bossy –  ‘the first girl to scream on a track’ (a track that heralded the arrival of a star but somehow ended up casting a shadow over her output for years), Kelis has always been characterised by a certain understatement, or detachment. Not detachment from the music she’s making, because there’s no doubting the passion and resilience she’s shown in just getting the fucking stuff out there. Rather, it seems fair to say that she’s displayed little-to-no interest in the limelight; it’s there in her voice, and that aforementioned gaze. 

Before you-know-who (i.e. Gaga) crashlanded on the planet at the end of the decade, Kelis was the most unusual, consistently creative female presence that mainstream American music had to offer, yet seemingy incapable of sustaining a high level of public interest in her. People went crazy for Milkshake, and songs like Millionaire and Lil Star were bigger hits than you remember, yet once she’d issued them you didn’t really know whether you’d hear from her again.  And nobody ever seems to be demanding new Kelis material. 

Which accounts for my delighted surprise at turning on the telly at 5.30 in the afternoon, in the last leg of the year 2010and seeing her there. Offering the world her NEW SINGLE.  On The Alan Titchmarsh Show.  As well as being hilariously incongruous, it’s also an infinitely more prominent platform than I expected Kelis to be occupying by now. And, to her credit, she still doesn’t look, or sound, like she cares where she is. (Which is crucial with these new David Guetta collaborations – compare her husky, unfussy delivery with the subtlety-of-a-brick, furrowed-brow bawling of Kelly Rowland on Guetta’s Commander or When Love Takes Over).

  Kelis likewise opted for unshakeable cool over laboured yelling on Trick Me, my favourite of her singles, enabling it to play as one of the most succinct and subtly empowering of dismissals ever set to a (completely genius) cod-reggae beat.  She even makes the sketchy rap work.  Just about.

Bonus points: Perfect video – lots of orange, cool-ass dancing.  Also, research tells me that Trick Me reached Number 2 in the charts, kept at bay by F.U.R.B by Frankie. But seeing as that song didn’t exist… TRICK ME WAS A NUMBER ONE SMASH. Congrats, Kelis!

 

59. ‘Don’t Tell Me’ by Madonna (2000)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on June 13, 2010 by G.K. Reid

Madonna: Version 12.3

That enigmatic expression in the above photo, as the reigning Pop Icon of the 20th Century stares down the Millenium and her advancing years with a kind of sad, shaky contempt, found its sonic counterpart in this single, which could handily act as Madonna’s entire manifesto: she needs to be here, and be seen, and you could change the laws of nature before you could ever dream of stopping her.

The collaboration with Swedish knob-twiddler Mirwais yielded some or the most truly radical pop music in Madonna’s career. Coming off the back of the lush but self-consciously ‘mature’ work she did with William Orbit on Ray of Light, the Music album saw Madonna reclaim a sense of delirious investment in what she’s doing that had been shelved in favour of critic-wooing. Rather than pontificating vaguely (nigh on sanctimoniously) about love, or her dead mother, or the evils of mankind, the focus is upon Madonna’s own insecurities, and thus she delivers a minor masterpiece like ‘Don’t Tell Me’.  

Mirwais’ jerky, stop-start stylings may infuriate some in their foregrounding of artificiality, but they’re completely in service to a strained/pained vocal that expresses that quality that Madonna so often finds somewhat elusive: i.e. tangible humanity. Madonna’s traded on her brashness and impudence to get where she is, but at a cost; ‘Don’t Tell Me’ exposes the self-doubt that fuels her defiance.

 

Bonus points:  Undaunted by the heinous legacy of Billy Ray Cyrus, Shania Twain and Steps, Madonna dabbles in some linedancing. Let the size of her balls never be questioned.