I was watching T4 last Saturday morning (and no, I hadn’t been up all night) and saw an X Factor/Idol rip-off called P. Diddy’s Starmaker. Clearly the king of bling wants in on the TV talent show dollar and who can blame him? It remains the single biggest license to print money going. It’s a pretty good spin on the format in that it shows the contestants working on musical arrangements with a band rather than some disembodied hand pressing play on a backing track and, in the form of Rodney Jerkins, they’ve got at at least one judge whose opinion you can actually respect.
Anyway, that’s all by the by. What struck me was when one wannabe was welcomed to the stage with the words “…and now, singing the Leona Lewis classic Whatever It Takes…” Classic? I interviewed Leona Lewis less than two years ago and the idea that one of her songs would ever be referred to as a classic on an American TV show would have been utterly ridiculous. The fact that it happened last Saturday is testament partly to her international success but mostly to contemporary attitudes to hyperbole. (That’s a tenner you owe me, John – I got “contemporary attitudes to hyperbole” into a blog post).
When a song less than two years old can be referred to without irony as a classic, you wonder how the hell they’re going to introduce one that’s been in the public domain for a quarter of a century. As it happens, in exactly the same way. So we were treated to a young girl putting a modern spin on “the Madonna classic” Holiday. By modern spin, I mean she rammed it full of melismatic Mariah Carey-esque runs and consequently sang all the life and charm out of it.
The judges thought it was great (Rodney, you let me down). It makes you long for a time before singing a million notes when one will do was considered the height of vocal talent. Madonna has never been particularly talented musically (by any definition) but, and here’s the thing, you don’t have to be if you’re original, interesting, stylish, and savvy – all of which she was at the beginning at least. And she’s number one in the album charts this week with Celebration, her latest greatest hits collection. Mariah Carey, you have so much to answer for.
* see every Madonna video ever made, plus galleries, quizzes, features, and more in MSN’s Celebrate Madonna special feature