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Addicted to MDNA: How I Fell For Madonna

Madonna performing at the 2012 Super Bowl Halftime show.
Madonna, Super Bowl Halftime Show 2012, GETTY IMAGES/Ezra Shaw

The First Hit

I was only eight years old when I first watched Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me in the Summer of ’99. The song of the Summer that year was Madonna’s hit single, Beautiful Stranger. My cousins in Houston would have MTV on all of the time, and that’s the first time I had ever seen or heard of Madonna, The Queen of Pop. I was an eight-year-old kid, so when I saw the music video for Beautiful Stranger on MTV, my first reaction was “Hey that’s Austin Powers!” I didn’t understand what a music video was. I really just thought the film Austin Powers was playing on TV. Yet, after watching what I’m sure now was my first music video, Beautiful Stranger was love at first sound.

Because this was 1999, FM radio was the Spotify of that generation. And FM radio played Beautiful Stranger every half hour. So, I heard that song every day for the rest of the Summer. I would hear it when the FM radio was left on late at night, and I would quietly sing along with it while lying in bed. Yeah, an eight-year-old boy had memorized the lyrics to Beautiful Stranger that Summer. Let’s just say that song was my Summer crush.

Summer ended, time went on, and I grew out of that song. It slowly faded as I acquired new tastes in punk metal and hip-hop. I would hear about Madonna in the news, in my social circles as the years went on, but would never bother to listen to her again. By then I was far more interested in the likes of 50 Cent, Eminem, Sum 41, Limp Bizkit, and so on.

Refills: 1

Sophomore year of high school, 2006. I’m walking around inside a gas station looking for chips and soda. I hear some soft acoustic guitar work coming from the PA system. While I could only describe it in retrospect, the guitar rhythm was of a fine legato followed up with a sharp break after every other measure. And despite being a metal head at the time, I wanted to hear more of those country acoustics. I tried listening to the lyrics, trying to figure out who it was.

“Tell me love isn’t true, it’s just something that we do.”

This was the only time I had heard this song. And because it was on the radio, I couldn’t pause and replay it. Keep in mind this is 2006, so no Shazam in my pocket. Anyways, I was on my way out with some friends, so I just forgot about the song the moment I left the gas station. I never thought of that song again, until…

Aren’t I One Lucky Star

More than a decade would go by before I would find my way back to this remarkable country tune. It was an ordinary night in March of 2019. I was living in Savannah, GA at the time attending SCAD. There was nothing special about this night, nothing going on. I fell asleep, and had a dream that I was walking through Broughton Street at night, and that same song was playing in my dream, all those years later. I woke up from that dream in the middle of the night. Thirteen years after randomly hearing that song in passing through a gas station, I had decided to Google those few lyrics I had picked up. I had remembered them, and heard them in my dream that night.

In a chance dream, it found its way back to me, Don’t Tell Me by Madonna. For the first time since 1999, twenty years later, I was finally, once again listening to Madonna on repeat. Now it was of my own free will. I played the song on Spotify and hit the ‘repeat one’ button myself. And I would not ‘grow out’ of her again.

Addicted

Now I was gravitated to The Material Girl. I explored her albums, her music videos, her performances, her history. Immersed, and eventually, addicted, I needed to experience all of Madonna’s work. Her early work, contemporary work, her 2012 Super Bowl halftime performance, all of it. I had been missing out on so much for so long!

Borderline

When I hear Borderline, I think of the Spring time, specifically the dusk, with just slight overcast. The night is getting ready to begin. I imagine an outdoor social gathering, by the water. A celebration. Perhaps a wedding reception, or a birthday party. Small trees, bushes, decorated with soft lighting surround the stone architecture. Everyone is convening, getting ready for the big party that’s inside the venue. A ballroom. Everyone is well dressed as a soft, cool breeze blows by. I imagine there’s a woman there, wearing a red dress. She’s ready to dance. She’s happy.

Jump

I hear Jump, and suddenly I’m at the mall. The Avenues Mall in Jacksonville. Cumberland Mall in Atlanta. The Galleria of Houston. Glendale Mall in LA. Diver City in Tokyo. Whatever mall. I’m just there. I look up into the window of Heaven that is the mall’s rotunda. Something big is coming. I can feel it, and I need to prepare. So, I need the finest cologne and I need to look damn sharp for what’s about to come. Because that big thing that’s coming, is life itself.

Future Lovers

Future Lovers brings me to the stars. My perception of time & space has been transcended to a higher level of consciousness. I don’t need to wonder about life after death, because when I hear this song, I’m already there. The Grace of God has awakened my spirit. I feel the love, the connection, to my soulmate, whomever she is. I feel her presence, in the future. It’s truly a difficult sensation to describe.

I could go on and on. Yes, Madonna’s magnificence inspires beyond imagination. And I’m sure you can associate pieces of your own life & imagination to your favorite Madonna songs. You really should with music in general, but especially with Madonna.

Like A Prayer

Over the next few years, I had let Madonna profoundly influence my perspective on life. She touched every element of my being. My personal goals, my artistic appetite, my philosophy, my faith in Christianity, Madonna had a tune for it all. Her philanthropy and efforts towards social justice only drew me closer to discovering my own purpose in this life. It didn’t matter that she was a woman, or from a different generation. In so many ways, I aspire to be like her. A brave, confident, and sophisticated sex symbol of American prowess.

So, how did Don’t Tell Me just randomly play in my dream so many years later? I was too infatuated with Madonna to think about that, but I’ve come to terms that it was just the magic of music. In this case, The Madonna Effect. Like her millions of fans across generations, I’ve connected with her artistically. I’ve connected with her spiritually through her music. Her music being the vehicle for an angelic sincerity sent straight from her heart, to the hearts of her fans. The Madonna Effect is that bond we share. I’m just one fan of millions, and for that, I am thankful to God that in my lifetime, I get to experience the musicality drug that is MDNA.■

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