Thursday, 19 July 2012
Ageing Disgracefully: Elton John Vs Madonna
When one thinks of Elton John, dignity and maturity are not words that spring immediately to mind. Throughout the years he has been a flamboyant figure on the music scene, and tales about his lavish lifestyle and diva-like behaviour have been common. Who can forget the famous "yoo-hoo" incident in the 1997 documentary Tantrums & Tiaras? (For those who don't know "at one memorable juncture, he loudly threatened to abandon an entire tour and go home because a fan had shouted ''Yoo-hoo!'' at him while he was playing tennis.")
While his own career is still alive and kicking (he plays over 100 shows a year), Elton has also taken on the role of mentor to younger artists, as I discovered when I read this article in the Sydney Morning Herald recently: "Alone among his superstar peers, John seems to spend as much time proselytising about young artists as he does plugging his own records. ''If you listen to someone young and fabulous,'' he says, ''it just gives you so much adrenalin, adrenalin that I had when everything was going my way in the '70s.''
It was around the time I read this that Madonna flashed her boobs (again!) during a concert in Istanbul, showing not only that she is a woman of true class, but also one with great cultural sensitivity as well.
Both these figures are considered music industry royalty, but only Elton John seems intent on giving something back and actually helping other artists. He is far from being a dinosaur, keeping up with new trends in music and collaborating with an electronic duo, but not in a way that screams "look at me." Madonna on the other hand is desperately clinging to her youth by trying to shock people through her antics which are just outdated and embarassing. While no one could ever accuse her music of being deep it has regressed markedly over the last few years to the extent that she now sounds about 15. Give Me All Your Love is just a blatant rip-off of Avril Lavigne's Girlfriend that even someone as musically illerate as me could pick.
Why does a woman of Madonna's stature believe she has to compete with all the little pop tarts out there? Doesn't she have enough money and fame now to create the music she really wants to? Her voice is not particularly strong, but I believe she has song writing ability and in the past she's produced some interesting music. Isn't there a place for music by a mature woman who has been through many life experiences and surely has some insights to share with the world? Madonna does a disservice not just to herself but to the entire generation of women who grew up listening to her when she churns out more mindless, superficial crap.
I wonder why Elton John doesn't feel the need to constantly thrust himself into the media spotlight in the shameless way Madonna does? Is it because Madonna was always about shock-value and image rather than music, or is it because women who are no longer considered sexy become invisible to the world in a way which is not true for men. Is Madonna afraid of fading into oblivion if she doesn't continue to show people how shocking and desirable she is, and if this is the case will she contine to flash her mammaries right into her 80s? God help us all.
When it comes to ageing with dignity and leaving a lasting and legacy, Elton John is still standing while Madonna is nowhere in sight. I still have hopes that Madge will see the light (or at least a ray of it) and do something worthwhile, but somehow I can't see her ever accepting that she's just too old for the youth scene. Elton John, on the other hand has fully embraced his inner old-fart, as seen in this comment about his last trip to a nightclub:
"The last time I went to a nightclub was in London about 10 Christmases ago, and I felt so old. I felt like the Queen Mother coming down the steps. All I needed was a Dubonnet and soda in my hand.''
The great thing about getting old is that you don't have to try to keep up anymore, and it's very socially acceptable to admit you spent Saturday night at home in front of the fire with a good book. I always preferred this to nightclubbing anyway and I think people should stop worrying so much about getting old and see it as a positive thing. Unfortunately high-profile people like Madonna who can't let go of their youth reinforce the idea that you have to stay young (and mindless) to be relevant.