In high school, I borrowed a Ray of Light cassette from someone whose taste in music I should have trusted more, whose tape collection I should have tried to duplicate, whose non-classification of music I should have tried to emulate. She sits Sixpence None the Richer, Smash Mouth, Mariah Carey, All Saints, Sugar Ray, Barenaked Ladies, Fatboy Slim, TLC, New Radicals and Spice Girls amongst each other, gathers them around in her stack like unassuming kindergarten pupils, unaffected by each other’s differences. I liked most of what’s in Ray of Light especially Shanti Ashtangi which was nothing I’ve heard before, Sky Fits Heaven, and Power of Goodbye, one of her bestest ballads, but ended up not buying it, the album, because when you’re a teenage boy in high school, buying a Madonna album was just weird and gay. And to me then as it is now, buying an album is crucial to the appreciation of an artist’s music.
It’s not that I was afraid somebody’d shoot me if I was seen buying a Madonna album, it’s that it was inconceivable to me then as a high school boy to obtain one. I’m shallow like that. It’s irrelevant to point out that I still didn’t buy Ray of Light in college because there are other things to buy and pursue, one diva seemed enough, and college is all indie/alternative music time, without the slightest idea what indie/alternative music even means, but yes, I still didn’t get any of her albums during this period, the phony period.
Although there’s still no point in celebrating the day I finally got Ray of Light, its purchase was the moment that I learned how to get over myself and stop fussing over the purchase of a CD. If this sounds like a dishonest and contrived nothing admission, let me just say how I used to buy more than one buffer CD every time I trek to the church to get whatever diva albums are out, which looking at my stack, were a lot, because I’m ashamed to be handing over Tower Records cashier people with discernible smirks on their faces the new Mariah/Tori/Aaliyah. So I have now, rotting and molding in their respective areas of the CD rack, copies of probably never again to be played albums of Coldplay, Basement Jaxx, Death Cab for Cutie, and all other sorts of diva album buffer. So I mean, I’m not just saying, ‘Look at me getting over musical taste sophistication issues by buying Madonna’s Ray of Light!’ The purchase of this album was really somewhat momentous. You can say, it came to me like a ray of light.
I didn’t like all of Ray of Light, however, because my youthful perception of her gravitated towards the drag queen idea of her and this perception was magnified ten times over by Frozen wherein she ups the drag queen persona/gay icon ante in the video, which looking back on it now, was a really good-looking, understated video. But this is something I would never have admitted or known in high school because it’s high school. Besides, I didn’t know understated. For some reason, you never come off as gay or weird if you had a Mariah album. I know several jocks/big boys in HS who had Butterfly and Number Ones. But it’s quite a different matter with Celine Dion, Tina Arena and Madonna, and so I steered clear. Clearly, I had conflicts with certain issues during high school.
Maybe it was William Orbit’s production that hooked me, but I wasn’t aware of songwriters or producers during the time I was starting to get a taste of her. All I knew was that these are beats that are so weird and pretty, and I recall really liking most of them. Shanti Ashtangi was just too gorgeous to me.
For years, I rolled my eyes so hard over the idea of Madonna. I didn’t like her singles (Music, Frozen, Ray of Light, 4 Minutes), and I only bought her albums in a non-committed, obligatory way you buy certain albums, which was how I bought Something to Remember. When she released Confessions on a Dance Floor, it was still out of obligation that I bought it, but then I thought it turned out to be one of her most enjoyable albums, and that was when I started to enjoy her music as the creatures that they are. It’s puzzling to me though how I chose to begin with Something to Remember over any of her albums, it being a ballad collection and ballads not being her strongest suit, to start off with the Madonna discography discovery.
My appreciation of her began with Confessions on a Dance Floor and more then by the Confessions Tour DVD. When I watched this super freak concert, I understood why people go crazy over her, in spite of the nasty things said of her, in spite of her self-absorbed/self-important reputation, which was something of a turn-off to me. But fuck that already. I’m pleased to have discovered her before it’s too late. I loved the Confessions-era Madonna and I hope she never ages. I hope she stops aging for a while. She will age of course but I hope she never acts it.