Sunday, February 13, 2011

Revisiting In Bed With Madonna: She Was Born That Way

So, apparently there's a bit of a hubbub happening about the new Lady Gaga song, "Born This Way" resembling Madonna's anthemic "Express Yourself". Far be it from me to defend Gaga - I've been known to diss her mediocre albums - but I don't really see it. Oh sure, there's slight similarity between the two in that they feature the same beat structure, but aren't most pop songs generally working off of the same blueprint? I can hear the similarity, but don't think there's cause to fuss. And, hey, if you're going to borrow a quote or two from another musician, why not Madonna? She's done it herself (Madge's "Hung Up" quotes her own "Love Song" from 1989), why not Lady Gaga?

And, from what I've heard of her Grammy appearance - cone bra extravaganza - she certainly knows what people are saying and is turning it into her own sort of weird performance.

There's more to fuss about once you get to the song's lyrics, but this isn't a Gaga entry; it's a Madonna entry. "Express Yourself", from Madonna's 1989 masterpiece album Like a Prayer, is one of her definitive tunes - it was then and it still is now - so it wasn't surprising that the track got the best production in her 1991 documentary In Bed with Madonna (aka Madonna: Truth or Dare), which followed the on stage and behind the scenes workings of her Blond Ambition Tour.

Everything from the set, lifted from her David Fincher-directed music video that was inspired by Metropolis, to the choreography (note, Madonna has never been much of a dancer) and the camerawork. Love the way the camera zooms out from behind the backup dancers at 0:00 of the below video, or the quite epic pose she pulls at 3:27. I could write an essay on why the moment at 4:00 with the hand flicks is one of my all time favourite movie moments.

I've spoken of my love for In Bed with Madonna before and, watching it again, it never dulls. The performance sequences are expertly exhibited and the rest is sharp as a tack. Madonna may not get much credit as an actress, but the greatest role she ever had was playing herself. If Lady Gaga doesn't have a camera following her around her next tour then she might actually be as crazy as people suspect. Perhaps she can call it In Eggshell with Lady Gaga? I haven't seen that new Justin Bieber documentary, but I have little doubt that it can match the sheer energy and audacity of In Bed with Madonna, which I would rank as the greatest celebrity documentary of all time.

Three more clips, one of the trailer and another of "Holiday" and "Vogue". Watching this movie again and I can't quite comprehend how it missed out on an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary and Best Editing. But, they also didn't nominate Paris is Burning in the same year so I think that branch had a collective stroke in 1991. Let's not even get started on 1994, okay?

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