Why Madonna keeps us riveted
Lucy O’Brien’s “Like An Icon debuts on the American market and USA Today brings their readers an indeep review of this new Madonna biography and also offers a preview of the volume, which hits the US bookshelves with a cover different of the one of the UK version our readers are already familiar with.
Madonna: Like an Icon is fine as far as it goes – USA Today’s Ken Barnes writes about the book, but it doesn’t go far enough.
“The latest in a succession of Madonna biographies written without the artist’s direct cooperation is no cheapo rush job assembled from press clippings. Author Lucy O’Brien is a well-respected British music journalist whose Dusty Springfield is the definitive take on the life of a fabled, troubled diva.
The life of this book’s fabled diva is meticulously chronicled, the history buttressed and illuminated by quotes from friends, family and associates.
But it all seems too familiar: the Michigan cheerleader and dance student who through sheer blonde ambition becomes the biggest female star of the ’80s and then constantly reinvents herself to maintain her star status well beyond the average career life span.
Maybe that’s because, at least since she hit the mass-culture spotlight in 1983 with Holiday and hijacked it wholesale the next year with Like a Virgin and Material Girl, Madonna, now 49, has lived her life in public like few other artists. The records, tours and videos have been thoroughly documented, as have the liaisons and the controversies (from the Sex book all the way up to the Malawi orphan adoption).
O’Brien’s retelling of Madonna Louise Ciccone’s childhood is absorbing, particularly in dealing with the death of her mother (also named Madonna) when the future star was just 5. That forced her to take on adult duties early and set the pattern for the legendary self-centered drive that, after considerable struggles in New York’s music and art community and a frequent use-’em-then-lose-’em approach to lovers and professional contacts alike, helped her hit the top. At which point we pretty much know the story.
O’Brien does a solid job of dissecting the albums and tours. She is most interesting when offering her perspective on what it feels like for a girl (or woman) who admires Madonna.
“Underlying her seamless pop tunes, driving her music … is a sense of white-hot anger,” O’Brien writes. “She encountered her own worst possible scenario, becoming a victim of male violence (a rape in New York in the ’70s), and thereafter turned that full-tilt into her work, reversing the equation at every opportunity. This is why women respond to her on such a gut level, why so many heterosexual men feel ambivalent.”
A provocative proposition? Definitely. A bit extreme? Maybe. There’s no way to tell for sure until Madonna finally decides to tell her own story, and that, as detailed and well reasoned as this biography may be, is what we’re still lacking.
From USA Today