Thursday, January 19, 2012

The same, only less

From the Liz Smith column:

“IT’S REDUCTIVE.”
Those two words, uttered by Madonna, in response to ABC-TV’s Cynthia McFadden’s question about a Lady Gaga song, has “gone viral,” as they say. Even better, when McFadden, who certainly knows what the word means, asked Madonna to define it, M coyly said, “Look it up!”

Apparently, a lot of people have. Now, I keep hearing the word, generally accompanied with a laugh and a reference to the pop icon. Madonna has taught us much over the years, now she’s revived a word rarely used. (Well, I’ve always said if Madonna hadn’t gone into music, she would have stayed in Michigan and become Miss Ciccone, the stern English teacher.)

It was this benign answer about Gaga that became part of the Elton John/ David Furnish’s attack on Madonna, after she won a Golden Globe for best original song on Sunday night. The song is titled “Masterpiece” from her coming film, “W.E.” (Elton’s effort was “Hello, Hello” from the flop animated movie “Gnomeo and Juliet.”) Aside from ripping Madonna’s song, the pair declared - on Twitter and Facebook - that Madonna’s “attack” on Gaga “shows how desperate she is.”

Goodness, I didn’t get that at all. Madonna has no inclination to trash Gaga. But she is certainly within her rights to imply, gently, that Lady G. has appropriated some aspects of her image, sound and message. Music critics were the first, in fact, to point out the similarities between Gaga’s “Born This Way” and M’s “Express Yourself.”

Elton John, who has been a star since 1970, feels he has earned the right to be perennially cranky and opinionated. Fine. And he does wonderful charity work. But I think Madonna, who has been a star since 1983, has earned the right to answer a question honestly, from her point of view. Or to accept an award, if she wins one. Elton has had a bee in his bonnet about Madonna for years. At various times he has criticized her singing, dancing, her right to be a star, even. She has rarely responded.

In this case, however, it is Elton who appears to be “desperate.” Back in the day, Madonna could be ungracious and careless in her remarks, but I never recall her attacking another performer in this manner, or publicly declaring she should have won an award instead of somebody else. (Perhaps she learned her lesson when, in the midst of a wave of positive reviews and publicity for “Evita” - and a Golden Globe win - she said she thought she deserved to be nominated for an Oscar, too. The Academy was not amused.)

The truth is, most of the public has never heard either Elton or Madonna’s song. Why carry on so?
Oh, “reductive?” It means something is the same, only less.

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