This morning I took an exercise class—”piloxing,” a combination of Pilates and boxing that results in its attendees punching the air for about 45 straight minutes and that I highly recommend for anyone who reads the Internet too much—and its mix of music was decidedly ’90s-centric; high-energy versions of “What A Girl Wants,” “I Want It That Way,” and “Bye Bye Bye” were on the table, as was a remix of “Good Vibrations.” (The Marky Mark one.) There was one point, though, where I thought the present would intrude on the past—an extended intro for something that sounded a lot like Lady Gaga’s “The Edge Of Glory” crept up, only to turn into a similarly triumphant pop song from the year I graduated college. TO THE EMBEDS!
Sadly, the above “Mmmbop” embed isn’t the exact version I heard this morning—the one I did, which is streamable on Spotify, is credited to the reconfiguring-pop-songs-for-workouts outfit Power Music, which has a lot (a lot!) of this sort of thing available should you be into it—but the vague similarities are still there. (Just try humming one to the other.) Heck, the parallels between the two original tracks are at least as present as the ones between Gaga’s “Born This Way” and Madonna’s “Express Yourself” that are currently (still!) lighting up the gossip pages, thanks to Madonna’s decision to mash up the two songs and her more recent track “She’s Not Me” on her tour.
I have found the whole dispute over the similarity between the Madonna and Gaga songs funny at times, supremely stupid at others. For what has Madonna been all these years if not someone who has borrowed profusely from other cultures, and done so extremely well, so well in fact that shape-shifting has become part of her ethos? (Here is where I, for the benefit of those fans who will see only the word “HATER” written in blood in their field of vision from here on out, note that I like Madonna, and have since the years when her albums were banned from being in my house by my super-Catholic mother—heck, even the blowsy “4 Minutes” has grown on me, although I still think of the theme from The Price Is Right every time I hear it.) Sure, you could argue that in her earlier days Madonna was borrowing from subcultures that were more underground, but that’s in part because back in those days it was possible for things to be way more underground than they can be at all toay—coolhunters like those employed by The Fader and Mishka were operating on a pre-Bandcamp scale.
If anything, the reason her most recent album MDNA is such a chore to listen to all the way through is the way that it so blatantly tries to ride the coattails of what’s happening on the radio now, from the deodorant-ad blip of “Gimme All Your Luvin'” to the robo-dance of “Some Girls.” (“I’m A Sinner” is still splendid, and the post-punk-post-pop sprawl of “B-Day Song” is ridiculously fun to listen to.) In a way, it’s understandable—what is so much popular music, from “Stillness Is The Move” to “Rolling In The Deep” to “E.T.” to [insert your own “this thing sounds like that thing” bugaboo here] these days if not a collage of the sounds that its progenitors have aurally digested over the years?—but it’s a bit of an unseemly prelude to the aforementioned quirk in Madonna’s current set list.
Either way, I look forward to Madonna continuing this feud by interpolating Hanson’s “Where’s The Love?” into that medley up top. Hey, it could fit! And it could serve as a nice postscript to all the pop-star pouting and stan-shade-throwing that’s gone on for, god, the past 18 freaking months now.