R.I.P Fontella Bass: 1940 – 2012

Listening to Fontella Bass’ ‘Rescue Me’ takes me back to my Now That’s What I Call Music! compilation collecting days – you know the series with the colourful cover sleeves and Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys on every tracklist until about number 34. It was the last track on Now…27 and no matter the reason for putting that CD in my player, when ‘Rescue Me’  came on it was time to grab the nearest microphone like thing, get my ass on that bed/stage and give a show to my (small) crowd of stuffed animals and Madonna poster on the wall.

It’s a song we all know without knowing how and all I have to do is sing the first “rescue me!”  and you could probably complete the phrase. But in the mould of a true One Hit Wonder the song’s popularity is as powerful and sustained as the complete obscurity  artists like Ms Bass end up in (speaking of which, where are the members of Fastball, or Marcy Playground or those two old dudes of The Macarena?).  According to a New York Times obituary, Bass said she lived in poverty – despite the song being what it is – until she sued American Express for using  ‘Rescue Me’ in a 1993 commercial.

That’s just how it goes; record companies make money out of the universality in your musical expression and the rest of us get to enjoy it without ever really imagining what it would be like to have the theft of your work constantly being flaunted right in your face—or ears. Just ask the guy from Semisonic, he wrote a book about it!

So here’s to you Fontella Bass – a lady with a great name and a really great song. Thank you for the music.

Confession: I love Madonna (Sometimes).

SOMETIMES

I love Madonna. I do.

But now that I am comfortable enough to declare this in public I also have to qualify it – to say that I don’t love her now, but to say that you could still call me a fan. I love old school Madonna. Circa “Borderline” all the way up to and including her 2003 album American Life, which recently made the cut (I used to peak at the Grammy wining Ray of Light) after a thorough re-listen and a real love for the sixth track, “Nothing Fails”.

I love eighties Madonna with the black lace and ribbons and fingerless gloves and poofy skirts. The odes to dancing (Get into the Groove) and celebrations (Holiday) and the sweetly controversial love songs (Like a Virgin). And then there was the Madonna I also really got to appreciate. The nineties Madonna of Human Nature and Erotica — unashamed and challenging. The unending question of why her actions are causing controversy when her male counterparts are doing the exact same things (“would it be better if I were a man?”). Her challenges to the status-quo about gender and sexuality–one of my all-time favorite moments in a song is the prologue for “What it Feels Like for a Girl”:

“Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short because it’s ok for a girl to look like a boy. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, because you think that being a girl is degrading…”

So there’s that, her being conscious of being a woman in a man’s world. But also, really, she has made some seriously good music and her voice does have some honey-ish tones to it when she’s intimate and strumming a guitar. She can dance, we all Vogue’d – and did that cowboy dance in the video for “Don’t Tell Me”—and several songs like “Material Girl” stand the pop-cultural test of time.

According to Billboard, the Queen Mother of Pop (as I have maybe just decided to nickname her) had the highest grossing live tour in 2012 for her latest album MDNA, with $228.4 million in ticket sales.

“Who the hell is buying Madonna tickets?” You might find yourself asking out loud.

People like me, that’s who. People who want to see the tear-inducing choral moments of “Like a Prayer” or the different renditions of “Vogue” with modern day stars replacing the Grace Kellys and Harlow Jeans. To experience it live and maybe get drinks and go to the loo during the songs on MDNA. Not to hear her being an (with all due respect) idiot asking the audience if they have seen “her friend” Molly – and such like ridiculous headline evoking nonsense. And she can keep that stuff at home because we liked her when she was a woman, acting her age and putting out a strong and slightly outrageous role model for girls who wanted to do stuff. And dance.

So I’m making this playlist in honor of that Madonna; and as a form of self – defense for the next time I happen to clear a party with Madonna Appreciation Hour. Because when it comes down to it, I would probably (actually definitely, given the funds) pay to see her live. And apparently I’m not the only one.

 

Song of the Day: Big Boi feat. Little Dragon ‘Mama Told Me’

I know that it has been a while and for that there is no excuse but there’s nothing like a great flipping song to inspire you enough to get back into the writing zone so: Dear “Mama Told Me”/Big Boi, I love you.

The version that I love, what is being called the original version and what was initially listed when the album track list was released, features Little Dragon. On the album version the female vocals on the track are performed by Kelly Rowland. Now, I think Ms Rowland is an ideal featured vocalist for the first single of your album (and this one is) and she obviously does a fine job, but the electronic colourfulness and funky keyboard riff of the song just seems better matched for the Swedish band’s aesthetic and Yukimi Nagano’s voice.

Either way it’s so easy to keep pressing repeat and being the star in the song that your mama told you you would be. And also, it sounds really cool when Big Boi rap/sings “blue jeans/Jordans/Number 3’s/that’s important” at the end of the verse.

So here’s the original version and below that is the (hyper-colour-electric) music video for the album version just so that you can make your own decision about which you prefer. Either way it’s a pretty dope song.

Listen to this.

Now watch this.

P.s. The Knife posted this on their site which (confirmed) means one thing people – NEW THE KNIFE ALBUM coming out next year!! I think this would be a more than appropriate time to ask for a “wooot wooot”?! Can’t wait to hear it.