Release Date: 1999
Genre(s): Movies, Film Scores, Musicals, Etc.
You Can (Still) Dance
by: michael smith
Another decade has come and gone, and Madonna, of all people, is reigning supreme as one of the few consistently great superstars. While her former (singing) partner Prince has gone through embarrassing name changes and other personal crises, Madonna has kept her own name and reputation in tact. She has managed to rebound after being slammed by the critics and the public over her Sex book fiasco and even managed to clean up her tawdry image just in time to become a mother and respectable film star. Perhaps Prince, Symbol, the Artist (or whatever his name is this week) should've gone to Madge for advice before reneging on his marital and business contracts. All things considered, she has done better than most celebrities in her own business and personal life, in developing her own record company and NOT getting married.
For someone who was once criticized so harshly by feminists, Madonna has beaten many of her male counterparts to the Millennium finish line. Who would've thought that sweet and innocent types George Michael and Michael Jackson would have more trouble than Madonna in keeping their noses clean? She may have had tighter competition among those of her own gender (Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Celine Dion come to mind), but one has to wonder who has shown the most range and artistic growth than Madonna herself.
Which brings me to M's latest commercial release, Madonna: The Video Collection 1993 - 1999, that hit the store shelves on Tuesday. This second "greatest hits" video compilation is similar to her Immaculate Collection of 1990, in that it overlooks her film-related music videos. Although there is one exception to this fact, however, with the inclusion of the retro lollipop "Beautiful Stranger" (her company Maverick owns the rights to its parent Austin Powers soundtrack). This whimsical video is probably the funniest and most upbeat video in this collection. Had it not been tagged on at the end, the weighty nature of the other videos would have cost this collection some points. It's always nice to end on an up note, after all, as her live MTV performance clip of "Vogue" certainly demonstrated on the previous Immaculate installment.
What did disappoint me was the omission of an entire year of Madonna's work. 1992 may have not been a good year for her (it wasn't for me either), but why "compromise artistic integrity" by scrapping "Justify My Love", "Erotica" and "Deeper and Deeper" altogether?! Granted, there would have to have been a warning label attached, but isn't controversy what Madonna has used to her best advantage in her nearly two decade career? If anyone who doesn't know of Madonna's past (if there is such a person) were to watch her "Human Nature" video, for instance, would they know exactly what her "absolutely no regrets" comment was being attributed to? Plus, the thought of a kinder, gentler Madonna in 2000 makes me want to throw up.
I was proud to have gotten an early glimpse of the making of one of her best videos of the 90's, "Bedtime Story" in working as a Production Assistant for the digital effects company that was involved in the project. I remember being dazzled by the creative process itself in watching the director slowly bring the storyboards to life. It was then that I realized Madonna was a true and devoted artiste. As if the brilliant editing of "Take a Bow" and amazing desert cinematography of "Frozen" aren't additional proof one needs in realizing just how she has won all those MTV moonmen!
The only other criticism I had in watching these "mini-movies", is that Madonna overuses slow-motion photography way too much. The visuals aren't dramatic enough, right? The two clips that I found myself agitated by this effect the most was in "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" (God, did I ever hate this version! At least she had the sense not to include the carbon-copy "I Want You") and "Nothing Really Matters" (should've never been a single - and what the hell does the video have to do with the song?!) The one antidote to the sluggishness of such videos is "Ray of Light", of course...Could that be the reason it won Best Video of 1998?
And, I must tell you, one viewing of the previously-unreleased-in-the-US (she loves those Brits like I do) video for "Drowned World" was all I needed to give this collection a four-star rating. Her depiction of what her crazy famous life is like is riveting and intense. Needless to say, this four minute piece of distorted reality is every bit as effective as the two hour Madonnafest called Truth or Dare was.
Another way that Madonna has been underrated in the 90's is that she has been inclusive of all people. She has represented Gays ("Vogue"), Blacks ("Secret"), Asians ("Rain") and most of all Latinos (her duet with Ricky Martin "Be Careful" looks to be her next single). Madonna seemed to really come into her own this decade. She has professed to becoming more comfortable in her skin by discovering spiritual truth and in not forgetting where she came from. When she sings "I feel like I just got home" and we see her on the dancefloor at age 40, we ourselves feel more empowered to do more with our own seemingly mundane lives. Who could ask for a better teacher to bring us into the 21st century? We know from the "Bad Girl" video what direction not to go in, that's for sure.