In 1984, Madonna released a single that would permeate the entertainment scene like a stick of margarine on a chiffon blouse. “Material Girl” blew up — foreseeing the next 20 (maybe even 30?) years of economic dependence on department stores.
While I wasn’t born until after the song left the billboards (’87), I was never unaware of who Madonna was. In fact, there is a family-famed occurrence in which I made an appearance on a Kamloops television morning show and, after singing a rousing 11-year-old version of Leanne Womack’s I Hope You Dance, I proclaimed loud and proud that my musical influence was, indeed, the Material Girl herself.
Shania Twain or Faith Hill maybe, but at 11 I assure you Madonna was not on my radar as influential. Yet, she was relevant enough that in a moment of nerves and 7 a.m. soda pop I blurted her name out like she was the one who stole the last inch of my Fruit-by-the-Foot.
Since that moment of weakness, I have managed to avoid crediting Madonna with much or any part of my success, but there is one thing I do have to say for the woman: She remained relevant long past her industry expiry date.
If I dare say so, it is only just that Madonna has faded into the crowds of relevance past. I’m not sure this is entirely her fault — while she excelled at predicting what was going to appall and capture people, Madonna wasn’t the one who was going to make something pre-existing popular.
Sure, she predicted we were going to be thrilled when Nordstrom’s came to Canada, but what she didn’t predict was that we are no longer material people living in a material world — we’re material people living in a meaningless world.
Recently a piece of satire has been seen floating around the Internet titled something like “Joey Fatone tells One Direction it’s about to get worse.” The letter — a spoof — details to the members of the now practically defunct band that life, as they currently know it, is going to get really tough. Leaving the exception of Justin Timberlake’s success out, the fake Fatone describes in great flourish the future the majority of the canned-success band is about to experience. He states boldly that it is anything but a fairy tale — unless making minimum wage at Best Buy is said fairy tale.
Timberlake — of course — being the exception. A still-relevant pop-culture icon, who, as recently as five days ago appeared on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
So what is it, then, that enables someone with the cultural savvy of Madonna to disappear into the millennium while someone with the Mickey Mouse background of Timberlake can rise from the ashes of boy-bandom like the Phoenix?
Why is One Direction destined to a future of mom’s meatloaf?
What is it about Macklemore and mopeds that’s all-of-a-sudden performance art?
Why are the horns of Uptown Funk all-of-a-sudden funky, again?
In an era when shock-and-awe no longer hold either, there is a distinct difference between trying too hard (MTV VMAs) and trying just enough. While there is no patience left for those who won’t work hard for the money, it is also true that over-the-top obvious hustle has lost its street cred.
The happy medium seems to lie somewhere in between the ability to not take oneself too seriously and to also not be ashamed to take something pre-existing and tweak it.
Relevance used to be dictated by an ability to conjure up the unthinkable and perform the un-repeatable — it used to mean mom and dad wouldn’t approve. But we’ve reached a point where even the kids don’t approve anymore — so maybe remaining relevant is simply being brave enough to be genuine in a world that has lost all trace of the definition of relevant.
— Andria Parker is an Instagram-obsessed idealist with at least 600 words to share on every topic, ever.