Saturday, April 17, 2010
My Life in Madonna Maxi Singles
I recently got my hands on a fantastic collection of music: every maxi single that Madonna ever released. Last week, I watched the songs download into my itunes with the same fascination children employ while watching pieces of candy tumble into their trick-or-treat bags. And just as children see no problem with having 17 peanut butter cups in their stash, I have no problem with 14 versions of “Like a Prayer.”
While I was listening to the songs, I began to realize my mind was wandering back to very specific times in my life. In fact, with 470 songs at my fingertips—I was creating a chronology of my life based solely on Madonna Maxi Singles.
It all started with “Jimmy Jimmy” (1986).
This was the first Madonna song that I took the time to learn the lyrics for. If only there was such as thing as Google back then. You really had to feel a connection with the song to figure out what your favorite artists were saying in those days.
The process first required a good recording of the song to work with. That part could take weeks—what with the tape running out when you push record, having to wait for hours before the radio station recycled its song rotation so your jam would come back around, and then making sure the volume level was good enough to properly capture the audio in a way that would enable you to understand the words without mashing your ear up to the side of the boom box.
(On more than one occasion I would exit my bedroom with a corrugated cheek, thanks to my lavender boom box and its awesome striped plastic speakers).
At the age of seven, it was worth changing the topography of my face in exchange for Madonna’s pearls of wisdom.
“Why, oh why, oh why, do fools fall in love with fools like you?”
Brilliant, really. Brilliant because the boy that I was crushing on at the time was named Jimmy.
Three years later, I hit the double digits and it was only appropriate that my anthem became, “Express Yourself” (1989). While my classmates were rocking Skidz, Hypercolor T-Shirts, UMBRO shorts and every other trend at the time, my mom preferred to encourage me to be “unique.”
This was a fun way for her to keep me from complaining about the clothes I wanted her to buy for me, and instead get enthusiastic about the ones she sewed for me herself. Her plan worked as I realized it was way more fun to peruse patterns and colors in the fabric store; rather than the ubiquitous pre-packaged looks that plastered the mall.
I quickly wore out my recording of “Express Yourself, rewinding and playing the song for hours while prancing in front of the mirror perfecting choreography to the lines, “What you need is a big strong hand to lift you to your higher ground.”
I never progressed much past the actual (but dramatic) raising of my arm with my hand outstretched, while making what is now commonly referred to as a “duck face.”
By the age of 13, the infamous "Erotica" album was released. Around this time, I started writing really bad poetry in my journals to capture the endless heartache that ensues from middle school romance. Not that I had any romance in my life at the time, I just yearned for it. I pined for someone to rotate me in those awful slow dances at homecoming, always hoping that the object of my affection would come and whisk me away to one of the long tracks like, “Stairway to Heaven.”
It never happened, but that didn’t stop me from writing horrible love notes to boys that couldn’t care less about my feelings. The anticipation of receiving back a folded square of paper from one of them used to fill me with excitement—until I realized they had zero interest in me.
So it was fitting that on a long bus ride to Toronto to see “Phantom of the Opera” with my mom and grandmother, that I loaded my walkman with fresh batteries and silently debriefed my heart to Madonna’s “Words” (1992).
High school came and went, and I ended up in college still carrying a flame for a boy I had a crush on since the sixth grade. This was greatly encouraged by his behavior through the last part of senior year. We’ll call it, “friends with benefits-esque.”
I stupidly believed that "a' la carte" make-out sessions, dinner dates, four-hour phone conversations, and handwritten letters had something to do with actual feelings for another person, but that was an error on my behalf. I found this out when I traveled to this guy’s college to profess my love to him.
As “friends with benefits-esque” burst forth like a butterfly taking flight after months of incubation, I said THE words: I love you.
It didn’t go well.
“The Power of Goodbye” (1998) from Madonna’s “Ray of Light” album went on to become a source of therapy for me through all of college. I said a lot of good-byes.
“You were my lesson I had to learn, I was your fortress you had to burn.”
In true “fortress fashion,” I went on to withstand many battles of the heart through college. Dating jerks almost seemed like some kind of “half-credit” course I’d signed up for. Despite the warnings from friends about the questionable intentions of many of the men I dated, I carried on with my optimism.
“Don’t tell me to stop, tell the rain not to drop, tell the wind not to blow, ‘cause you said so.” Oh, how it resonated in my soul. “Don’t Tell Me” (2002).
After college, I was living in New York City with one of my best friends and was done with feeling sorry for myself. I decided that if I was going to feel pain, I’d rather have it mean something.
So I started training for marathons.
The alarm clock went off at 5:00AM, and I was out the door on a cold 8th Avenue by 5:30AM headed to Central Park where I’d feel myself come to life one layer at a time. My chunky white ipod only played about 80 songs because I never learned how to get music onto it without losing all of my songs.
“Die Another Day” (2003) came on frequently, and always in the beginning of the run where I was still half-debating about whether or not I should sneak back inside and bag the run for some extra sleep. But the song always encouraged me otherwise.
“I’m gonna break the cycle. I’m gonna shake up the system. I guess I’ll die another day.”
After three years, I moved back to Syracuse. Just to remind myself how much fun it was to date a complete jerk, I found myself one at the local gym. And I dated him on and off for about two years (that's another blog for another time).
Madonna’s new album, “Confessions on a Dancefloor” came out in 2005 and it couldn’t have been better timing. The tracks played continuously from one to the next, and provided nearly an hour of non-stop dance music that kept me from running my car into oncoming traffic on a daily basis.
At the time, I had a 45-minute commute to work, which is way too much time for an introspective loon such as myself to be alone with her thoughts. I broke it off with the loser boyfriend for the last time, and stuck to it in large part because the Confessions album was way too good to turn it down long enough to respond to any of his “please come back to me” phone calls.
“Sorry” (2005) was the order of the day. Every day.
“I don’t wanna hear, I don’t wanna know. Please don’t say you’re sorry. I’ve heard it all before, and I can take care of myself.”
Continuing the trend of “pain through fitness rather than heartbreak,” I continued to run marathons until I found a new passion: triathlon. By the time Madonna’s 11th studio album, “Hard Candy,” was released in 2008, I was well into the sport with several age-group wins and a thirst for victory.
When I heard the single, “4 Minutes” (2008) I was immediately into it. The song became a favorite pre-race track, and was dutifully blasted in my car on the way to every competitive engagement for that entire summer. While Madonna sang about having only four minutes to save the world, I thought about four minutes to save my race. Every second counts in triathlon, a sport that's ultimately comprised of six individual times. It's easy to look at race results and see where you fell short.
“Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.”
It’s 2010 and Madonna, described by a friend of mine as his “life icon,” still continues to make music that feels like a script to my soul.
My twenties are behind me, and so are the hesitations, doubts and fears. I’ve finally found the balance in life and am enjoying the stability that comes from a strong, solid relationship; a stable, rewarding career; and hobbies that are fueled by my passions—writing and fitness.
So it’s only fitting that I finish this blog on a good note…
“I’m gonna party, it’s a celebration. ‘Cause anybody just won’t do. Let’s get this started, no more hesitation, ‘cause everybody wants to party with you.”