Ray Van Horn, Jr. is a veteran entertainment journalist whose writing and live photography has been featured in Blabbermouth.net, Dee Snider’s House of Hair Online, Fangoria.com, Horror News.net, About.com Heavy Metal, MetalManiacs, New Noise, Music Dish, AMP, Hails & Horns, Unrestrained,Noisecreep, Impose, Pit, The Big Takeover.com, Rough Edge.com, Pitriff and others. His blog The Metal Minute won a “Best Personal Blog” award in 2009 from Metal Hammer magazine and he wrote and produced his own hard rock e-zine, Retaliate.

He has contributed essays to UK author Neil Daniels’ Iron Maiden and ZZ Top biographies. Ray’s fiction has been published in various periodicals and anthologies, including his flash fiction piece “Off the Record” for Akashic Books’ “Mondays Are Murder” noir series. His recent short stories “Before the Ball” and “Widow” were featured in subsequent editions of Alex S. Johnson’s Axes of Evil anthologies. Ray wrote serialized original superhero fiction for Cyber Age Adventures and five of those stories appear in the anthology Playing Solitaire. He was the winner of Quantum Muse’s fiction contest in 1999.

Ray is a former NHL game analyst for The Hockey Nut and one-time host of the forum “Comic Books” at ReadWave. He has done beat reporting, photography and lifestyle articles for Metromix, an affiliate of The Baltimore Sun, Carroll Magazine, The Northern News and The Emmitsburg Dispatch.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Madonna Had Something to Prove at the Super Bowl

Photo credit: Christopher Polk, Getty Images

Did you get the feeling Madonna's sparkling performance at the Super Bowl last night was more than just a Midwest girl making good on a decades-long dream, as the pop maven described (paraphrasing is mine) her experience on the world's biggest music platform? Of course, M.I.A.'s trashy and uncalled-for flipoff on national t.v. nearly undermined the entire operation. As if Madonna needed her or those doofy dweebs from L.M.F.A.O. with the exception of using them as pawns to endear her to a younger demographic.

After a steady diet of superlative Super Bowl halftime shows, last year's queefed with the Black Eyed Peas (a group I respected through Elephunk but have since become one of my fiercest target accusees of corporate whoring), Madonna brought the house down long before the G-Men punched the New England Patriots' goodbye ticket for a second time in the big dance.

Now I'm not going to say Madonna's halftime show was 100% M-sizzle since this was the first time people could actually see a bit of the waif-like unsurety and nervousness we saw when Madonna crashed the gates at MTV back in the early eighties. No longer the Boy Toy she was back then, the elder Madonna still looked damned fine and still knows how to throw a production. A few of her steps onstage were just above passable but you had to be watching her legs amidst all the world-class dancers, marching bands, the Cirque du Soleil and Cee Lo Green swarming about her to catch anything. All designed to divert attention from Madonna's slower footing as much as they are designed to entertain and create spectacle. The intangible, however, is to understand Madonna's qualms about heights. She sucked it up and stood tall.

Madonna's in her fifties and wouldn't we all want to be in her platinum shoes with the opportunity to make a statement that glory fades only if you let it? The choreography around Madonna was spectacular. Her entrance with a squadron of ripped gladiators pulling her in was spectacular. The whole "Vogue" segment of her performance was balls-out, but without the dangling balls or their femme equivalent. We all sat on the edge, just knowing Madonna was going to pull something risque, but she made good on her promise of no wardrobe malfunctions. Her cartwheel aerials were really the closest thing we got to titillation and honestly, that's all we needed, particularly with millions of children staying awake to watch the game and also those staying up for Madonna's show. She's as popular now as she ever was, though her upcoming tour is reported to be a costly ticket. She'll sell them, though, especially after last night. Her new album will debut at number one by default. Madonna is forevermore a marketing genius.

She previewed her new cut "Give Me All Your Luvin'" (not to be cross-pollinated with ZZ Top's immortal stamp-a-bamper) and for sure Madonna's tapped into a vibe that's hot for this generation. I still don't know how I feel about it on a personal level, but I'm going to meditate over it while spinning Confessions On a Dance Floor, Ray of Light and her self-titled intro release from '83 later in the day.

The medley of "Open Your Heart," and "Express Yourself" made me a little dizzy as they followed the all-out blitz of rappers and electro diva backups who assisted on "Give Me All Your Luvin.'" Still, the marching band re-arrangement was bold and exciting. Usually it comes off cheesy and pandering. Not so this time. Cee-Lo-Green showing up to duet on her epochal "Like a Prayer" created a solid, appropriate finale--even though it was all inherently a marketing ploy to pimp Green's The Voice, which followed the game. When you understand marketing, all the fun goes away, but for pop music, that was bombastic.

Beneath all the extravagance, however, you have to think Madonna was throwing down (professionally-speaking) at the usurper of her golden spotlight, Lady Ga Ga. There's no doubt in my mind Madonna silently thought, Take that, Ga Ga baby once she disappeared down the chute at the end of "Like a Prayer." The press has all been saying since Ga Ga stole the crown of the pop genre that she's Madonna 2.0. I've always counted Ga Ga to be an amalgam of Madonna, Grace Jones and Paul Oakenfold plus the old cabaret performers of yesteryear. Madonna's shtick has always been about cabaret and though her Super Bowl show was well conservative in comparison to her bawdy past (notice that she shied away from her biggest hit, "Like a Virgin"), there was something Liz Taylor-esque about it all. It wasn't just the vivacious Cleopatra entrance; this was Madonna reaffirming herself as a media mogul and a queen of her realm.

All this being said, pop music today holds little interest for me. Lady Ga Ga is the only one who matters of this generation (the jury is still in on the suddenly-escalated Adele, assuming she can get past infecting her sultry sass with dragging doldrums) in my not-so-humble opinion, which is why I paid close attention to Madonna last night. A response was needed by Madonna if she is to continue selling records and concert tickets. Her very relevance was at stake in the Super Bowl and she came out of Lucas Oil Stadium with more buzz than Eli Manning. Dare we say, she completed the Hail Mary that Tom Brady twice could not in the game.

You've come a long way, Ciccone... M.I.A., you have miles to go.

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