The curious case of Madonna’s success/failure…

By now, the news of singer Madonna’s latest album, MDNA, is known to those who follow album sales. Briefly, the album debuted on Billboard at #1, suggesting she was still a force in the music business.

Then came week 2 of the sales, and a drop in sales so precipitous it was record-breaking…in a very dubious way:

Truth is, I feel for many “older” musical artists.  They are caught in a vicious cycle alluded to in the article:  Older fans of the artist(s) tend to want to hear their “best” or “classic” material and usually have little interest in the artist(s) “new” works.  On the other hand, young music followers may not really care about the older artist(s) and their works, new or “classic”.  If there’s one thing I’ve realized over time is that each subsequent generation embraces “their” music.  To many of them (though certainly not all), what came before is usually not as interesting as whatever “new” music is currently in fashion.  Thus, any “new” music from older artists may wind up being doubly unappealing.

I’ve noted, perhaps too often, my fondness for the music of David Bowie.  Yet I suspect, sadly, that as well known as he may be, I’m one of the few David Bowie fans that have followed -and greatly enjoyed- many of his post-Let’s Dance releases.  That album, which was released a lifetime ago in 1983, was a HUGE success.  In fact, and if memory serves, that album and Michael Jackson’s mega-hit Thriller were 1-2 on Billboard for weeks, with Mr. Bowie’s album at one point supplanting it for the top stop for a week or two.

However, following that album’s release, Mr. Bowie entered a, let’s be honest here, rough patch.  His following two albums, Tonight and especially Never Let Me Down, didn’t feel like grade A efforts on Mr. Bowie’s part, despite some good songs to be found in each album.  He would recover, in my mind, and subsequently release many great works, but I suspect he fell into the same problem that other older artists fell into and his age started to work against him.  Many of his fans, some even quite famous, openly opined that his best works were those that preceded Let’s Dance.  While I found several of his post-1983 albums pretty damn great (particularly his 1995 album 1. Outside), Mr. Bowie has not, to date, come close to replicating the success he had in the 1970’s and early 1980’s.

Similarly, I was pleasantly surprised by the last years release of Panic of Girls, the latest Blondie album.  I felt the album was on par with some of Blondie’s best works and have little doubt that if it had been released during the band’s “classic” years, it might have gone one to be considered a truly great work.  As it is, the album seems to have slipped away.

And thus we return to the plight of Madonna’s MDNA, an album that “sold” quite well during its first week , though given the second week sales figures and the gimmicky nature those first week sales were made this success appears to be more mirage than reality.  I was never a huge fan of Madonna, even during her golden years, but the story behind Madonna, and all “older” musicians, is an intriguing one.

At least to me.