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Is Madonna's New Gig for the Gap her Next Savvy Reinvention or a Gasp of Desperation From an Irrelevant Artist?

By Joan Anderman, Globe Staff

July 27, 2003


The Gap-Madonna union is all about the bedding down of commerce and celebrity. It's about

cross-marketing in a culture that consumes super-stardom and new jeans with roughly the same zeal. Gap representatives aren't talking, but early word has it the television ads will feature Madonna performing her recent single ''Hollywood'' (which tanked at radio) and hip-hop star Missy Elliott singing Madge's 1985 hit ''Into the Groove'' (lest we forget the potentially lucrative back catalog). It's plain old good business.

And yet the union of Gap and Madonna is as depressing as it is ingenious. It's never pretty watching an iconic pop figure fade, especially when it involves (and it usually does) selling somebody else's product.

. . . ''It seems like a sympton of desperation,'' says Camille Paglia, professor of humanities and media studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. ''`Swept Away' [Madonna's last film] was a disaster, `American Life' [her last album] was a disaster. Maybe being happy in her personal life, as a wife and mother, is putting her in a creative drought. She's lapsed, her presence is receding, and she's facing the dilemma of the aging star. This is a shrewd decision on her part.''

. . . . For the cover of the September issue of Harper's Bazaar, which hits newsstands Aug. 12, Madonna strikes a serene pose in a ribbed white tank and blue low-rise cords. She gussies it up with what appears to be $10 million in diamond jewelry.

Madonna Led the Way: Is She Still Relevant?

By Renee Graham, Globe Staff

8/26/2003 (August 2003)


. . . . It's been a pretty strange year for the performer, hardly the way she probably envisioned her 20th anniversary as an international recording star. Released in April, her latest album, ``American Life,'' has barely sold 500,000 copies; she used to sell that many in a week.

And while she pretty much rewrote the book on transforming controversy into commerce, she couldn't parlay a brouhaha about the title song's video, which some deemed not only antiwar but anti-President Bush, into anything resembling public interest.

Even MTV, as much created by Madonna as it helped create her in the early 1980s, hasn't given her recent videos enough rotation time to gain traction.

...And remaining culturally relevant has always been Madonna's obsession. That's why she's appearing in those Gap ads with hot rapper-producer Missy Elliott, and why it's rumored that Madonna will be performing at Thursday's MTV Video Music Awards alongside Britney Spears...

...For 20 years a gaudy triumph of spectacle over talent, Madonna's success has metastasized into any number of careers more devoted to flashes of flesh than flashes of artistic brilliance.

Still, if Madonna's achievements have been the blueprint, perhaps now they should also serve as a cautionary tale. ...it's never been a career designed to glide into something less transitory than selling youth, sex, and vigor.

Madonna's kind of success has made the world smaller, its attention span even more dodgy in its pursuit of something shiny and new.

...Britney is struggling to be something more than her limiting sexpot image, but that's what happens when you build a career on the belief that image is everything.

Just ask Madonna. At 45, she's older than the combined ages of Britney and Beyonce, and if even Beyonce looks a little silly gyrating and carrying on, Madonna would look downright sad. She calls herself an artist, but where's the art? The fickle music industry has foiled far more talented singers, yet with Madonna, there's never been much behind the curtain other than her blonde - and occasionally brunette - ambition.

So Madonna's latest way of looking to the future is resurrecting her past, whether in a jeans commercial or on the stage at Radio City Music Hall. She'll get a standing ovation if she performs with Britney and J.Lo at the VMAs, much as Michael Jackson did a few years ago when he made a surprise appearance with 'N Sync. And she'll vamp and spin, not only to show the young'uns how to do it, but to prove she still can do it.

And much as we have for the last 20 years, we'll watch, although this may well be the first chapter in Madonna's last act as a pop icon.

Madonna: Queen of Humbuggery

by Sherrie Gossett

September 6, 2003


humbug n.
Something intended to deceive; a hoax or fraud. A person who claims to be other than what he or she is; an impostor

buggery n.
Vulgar unnatural vice

. . . It [lesbian kissing] is, in fact, the cheapest bar trick in the world.

But when Madonna did it, the bobble-headed press galloped breathlessly away with fevered stories of a "show stealer!"

Madonna was clearly counting on an audience and press with the addled mindset of gnats in heat, and she was clearly not disappointed.

. . . Madonna is as progressive as the dawn of prostitution. Her shtick has been around since the beginning of time.

While her career antics have set the image of women in music back to the Ice Age, the protesting voices of feminists and gay leaders are nowhere to be heard, except as baying mules in her stable of sycophantic praise.

. . . Time to let that tinfoil crown of yours crumple up and blow off your pointy little head, Madonna. You are unexciting and weak, tawdry and tiresome.

Step down from the tinsel throne and let the real female talent show the world how it's done.

Tolerance, acceptance strangling America’s values

September 9, 2003


We smile with contentment at the “progress” society has made by not harshly condemning public homosexual acts. I didn’t hear too much of a roar from anyone after Madonna kissed Britney Spears on the lips at MTV’s Video Music Awards on Aug. 28.

We praise as an “indication of tolerance and diversity” the latest “How to be Gay” course offered at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

. . . Considering that homosexuals cannot have or raise children, condoning and promoting the homosexual lifestyle is therefore fueling the anti-family offensive.

Families mean future tax dollars from children born into those families. It also means more consumers. Everything thrives when people multiply and are fruitful.

Madonna insulting Jewish community - Rabbi says

from Ealing Times; by a Staff Reporter

September 17, 2003


A rabbi has poured scorn on Madonna's newly-released children's book, which she says was inspired by a mystical branch of Judaism.

. . . Madonna's mystical dabbling has led her to donate a reported £3.5 million to the Kabbala Centre in Mayfair which she attends regularly, but among Orthodox Jews, the study of Kabbala is often frowned upon unless the student is over 40 and well versed in the Torah.

"She will be insulting herself and all of the Jewish community," said Rabbi Schochet.

Kabbala operates within a system w[h]ere science and philosophy intertwine, but Rabbi Schochet believes the pop star, and many of her Hollywood buddies, have transformed faith into a fashion fad.

"If she purports to be explaining Kabbala then she has obviously lost the plot.

"Kabbala is an integral part of the Jewish faith which is esoteric and theocratic. You need years of study to understand it," he said.

Madonna meets middle age: Jewish World Review

by Diana West

September 22, 2003


In times like these — times of heightened discord and possibly tectonic upheaval — there's little reason to linger on a culture-blip like the publishing launch of a series of kiddie books by Madonna.

No doubt there are contrasts to be drawn between the semi-retired pop queen's latest and most dubious incarnation as a tea-sipping sort of Mrs. Miniver who writes children's books, and her extremely sordid, extremely lucrative career as a pop-exhibitionist. (Said career in pop-exhibitionism includes one prior publishing lark as a porno-spread subject and author in a book called "Sex.")

Still, anyone who has successfully parried the thrust of all recent media hoopla — equal parts pretentious and nauseous-making — over Madonna and the kissing pop tarts on MTV will understand the reflexive instinct to shield the eyes from all Madonna news. But the pop-ostrich in me just couldn't resist something Madonna said — a real mouthful — to the Times of London Sunday magazine.

It was about her 7-year-old daughter, Lourdes, and Madonna's long career of mass-marketing her own vulgar sexuality. Quoth Madonna (given her current and slavish pursuit of English toff-dom, she's bound to do a lot of quothing): "I protect her from sex full stop. She's not aware of sex, nor should she be. You know, we've had little conversations about where babies come from, but sex is not, and should not be, part of her repertoire right now." Full stop? Given that Madonna is one of the pre-eminent despoilers of youthful innocence, this, as her new compatriots might say, is crust.

That is, there's Bill Clinton — whose lasting legacy is American youth's working knowledge of oral sex — and, of course, several generations of relentless promoters of sex, drugs and rock and roll; nonetheless, it is Madonna who first shredded virginity and wedding dresses into pop mega-hits, displaying a leave-us-alone exhibitionism that wreaked havoc on girlhood.

Well and good that Madonna has had "little conversations" with her daughter about where babies come from; but what about the conversations about where Mommy's riches come from? Later, Madonna says.

She says she someday plans to tell Lourdes her career as a sexual provocateur was all an act, which may or may not be comforting. "I'd explain that's me putting on a show. I'm playing a character, it's not really me. I'm being an actress. This may work for Madonna-the-delusionist.

Indeed, the 45-year-old wife and mother may have moved on permanently to floral prints, matching pumps and a kiddie book that is rooted, Madonna is quick to emphasize, in her seven-year study of Jewish mysticism.

The rest of us, meanwhile, remain stuck among her true spawn — little girls and big, baby Britneys and Madonna-wannabes, who believe that exhibitionism is liberation, that the birds and the bees equal "hooking up," and, almost worse of all, that bra straps and navels are outerwear.

Thus, has sexuality — to borrow a phrase from the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan — been defined down, down, down. Little mystery here — let alone mysticism.

No wonder Madonna hopes to protect her wee one. Which is precisely what many of us spend our own children's early years trying to do: We resist the extent to which sexuality, particularly female sexuality, has been snatched from its traditional time and place in human development — as a rite of passage to adulthood, to marriage, to having children — and grafted onto girlhood.

The sexualization of childhood may not have started with Madonna, but under her pop influence, and under that of her pop descendants, it became pretty irreversible.

Madonna says she has no regrets. But neither does she appear to understand her own leading role in coarsening the culture against which she now guards her daughter.

She does admit that what was cast as a crusade for sexual honesty in the 1980s and 1990s was really something of a scam. "Was I really trying to liberate people?" she asks rhetorically. "Or was I just being an exhibitionist and basking in the glory of being able to do what I wanted. I think that probably was mostly what it was." So do I.

But while she exhibited and basked and did what she wanted — and grew wealthy beyond exaggeration — she could always take shelter in an impervious cocoon of wealth and cultural influence. (The multitudes she influenced to bare all and do all, alas, had no such protection.)

Now that she has moved on a little bit, wearing specs and writing children's books, maybe she is finally trying to hide her tracks. We know for sure she is trying to hide her daughter. Not that she can, of course. Which is too bad, because the real Madonna — the notorious global persona — isn't too savory an influence on anybody's growing girl.

Madonna Sued for Copyright Infringement over use of Bourdin Photos in Hollywood Video

[skim over the 2004 news section, and you'll see that Madonna LOST this case, ha ha!]

» Madonna Sued For Copyright Infringement

from Chart Attack

September 30, 2003

Samuel Bourdin, son of the late fashion photographer Guy Bourdin, has filed a lawsuit against the singer. He claims that Madonna has copied 11 of his fathers' images and used identical backgrounds and poses in her new video, "Hollywood."

The lawsuit was filed on Friday in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan. Samuel Bourdin states that Madonna has committed copyright infringement of his fathers' works which were published in French Vogue from the mid-‘50s to the late ‘80s.

In the video (not to be confused with the "Hollywood" Gap ad), Madonna is shown with her legs spread while she sits atop a ‘50s style television. Bourdin Jr. alleges that the image is directly lifted from one of his father’s photos. In another shot, Madonna peers into an extendable round mirror. Samuel Bourdin claims that this image was also created by his father.

» Madonna Sued for Copyright Infringment

from Yahoo Launch

October 30, 2003

The late Guy Bourdin was a fashion photographer best known for his work for the French edition of Vogue magazine from the 1950s through the 1980s. Bourdin, whose photos were the subject of a recent exhibition at the Victoria & Albert museum in London, died in 1991. However, his son has filed a lawsuit against Madonna, claiming she stole Bourdin's intense graphic images for a montage of photos seen in the video for her song, "Hollywood."

Samuel Bourdin, who claims he owns the copyrights on his father's pictures, filed his lawsuit on Friday (September 26) in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. The lawsuit includes comparisons of Bourdin's photos to the photo montage seen in Madonna's video. In a press release, Bourdin said, "It's one thing to draw inspiration; it's quite another to simply plagiarize the heart and soul of my father's work."

Samuel Bourdin is seeking unspecified damages from Madonna, her record company, and MTV, among others.

The website thesmokinggun.com has posted the photos and video stills online. In one example, Bourdin's photo shows a woman straddling a black-and-white TV, while the still photo from Madonna's video shows her in a surprisingly similar pose. Another original Bourdin photo shows a woman with red hair on a pink bed with mirrors behind her--the shot from Madonna's video is nearly identical.

Suit alleges Madonna copied photos

September 30, 2003

Associated Press

NEW YORK - A fashion photographer's son has sued Madonna, saying the singer copied his late father's images in a set of videos for her song "Hollywood."

Samuel Bourdin claims he holds the rights to the images created by his father, Guy Bourdin, who died in 1991.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, accuses Madonna of copyright infringement for her imitation of poses and images in at least 11 works of Bourdin, whose photos were published in French Vogue from the mid-1950s through the late 1980s.

Samuel Bourdin seeks unspecified damages from the 45-year-old pop star and companies and individuals involved in production of the videos.

A message left with a publicist for Madonna was not immediately returned.

According to the lawsuit, Bourdin is recognized as one of the most influential fashion photographers for his highly constructed compositions in unusual settings.

The lawsuit includes comparisons of Bourdin's photographs with video images of Madonna. In one Bourdin picture, a scantily clad woman peers into a round mirror. Madonna does the same.

In another Bourdin picture, a woman squats on a floor with what appears to be a large television-size screen between her legs. Madonna does the same.

Age Against the Machine: Ray of Fright

Inquirer News Service

October 31, 2003


... So before an audience of overworked PR people, cynical stylists, and confused allies, she asks how the trajectory was reversed despite help from a phenomenally less pudgy Missy Elliott.

"We saw the same kiss from tATu and it was way hotter," answers Gwyneth Paltrow, stroking Chris Martin's bean-shaped head.

... With tears in her eyes, she realizes that "American Life" is a clunker, that it's been reduced to the most debased musical currency there is: the hastily-put-together remix CD.

The faux-Brit accent downgrades to her old Detroit drawl as she assumes her favorite yoga position, the Corpse. Guy Ritchie rushes to his wife's side and strokes her hair which, after years of bleaching, feels like really expensive hay.

Since her acting career is one long mockumentary, Madonna has resorted to co-branding to remain musically relevant. She allowed Kelly Osbourne to cover "Papa Don't Preach" and revisited herself with "Into The Hollywood Groove," obviously scraping bottom both times.

Her collaborations with Mirwais were inspired, but the high-octane electronic purring soon sounded like a computer farting underwater.

For much needed street cred, her unsexy groaning in "Justify My Love" is sampled on "Justify My Thug," one of the tracks on Jay-Z's "The Black Album: The End of an Era." Is this an omen for Madonna? I can only hope.

...The desperation [as evidenced by Madonna's kissing of Britney Spears, duet with Spears etc] made her catch the wave, but even hardcore Madonna fans admit that she has already missed the boat.

And despite her undeniable influence on pop culture, sociopathic devotion is completely unnecessary and frankly, quite pathetic.

Since reinvention is something that anyone can easily do these days, should we wait for her next makeover? A Junior Vasquez club hit from 1996 has the fitting reply: "If Madonna calls, I'm not here."