Am I Old?

Facebook posts from my former students, all currently in high school: “Worst half-time show ever.” “Madonna is old.” “Did you see those wrinkles?” “Age has not been kind to Madonna.” “So gay. She’s like 55.” “What a boring half-time show.”

Facebook posts from friends a little closer to my age: “How does she still look that good at her age?” “She still has it.” “I wish she would sing.” “Great half-time show; not quite as good as Prince, though.”

Ah the generation gap. If we are old and remember dancing to Madonna songs in the clubs on Friday nights, we admire her longevity and appreciate her still. If we are young and more in touch with the stars of our own day, she is just old and boring.

The new “Madonnas” are Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj. I admit to thinking, even back in the 80s, that Madonna ‘s antics were rather silly and that I just didn’t quite get the video for “Like a Prayer”. I also wondered what in the world could possibly be pretty or sexy about those cone things she wore on her breasts. Even at 18 I knew if that was what it took I didn’t want it so much. I did enjoy dancing to Madonna’s music, and I suppose that’s what counts the most. I can still sing along, and yes, I do think she looks amazing for a woman over 50. As a woman approaching 50 herself, I wish I coud look like that. If only I could afford plastic surgery.

A week after Madonna’s super bowl performance, our family recorded the Grammys so we could watch The Simpsons and Napoleon Dynamite. Watching the recording the next day, I was struck by how much Nicki Minaj’s ridiculous and creepy exorcism of Roman fiasco reminded me of Madonna from all those years ago. I asked my daughter, “Is that the same girl who wore that mask thing at the last award show and we couldn’t understand anything she said?” “Yep, that’s her.” Really? How is she famous? How is she popular? I couldn’t even dance to her music in the clubs. It had no beat!

And the mask this time was worn by Lady Gaga. I once had a student tell me she loves Lady Gaga because Lady Gaga is always herself. Oh please. Are you trying to tell me that silly scepter she was holding was the real her? No way. She goes as far over the top as possible because she knows the real her would not become famous. There have to be gimmicks.

In the end, I am pleased as punch that my teenagers appreciate the musical acts who do seem to rely more on music and on being themselves that on the hype and the ludicrous. They were thrilled with the many wins and the cute accent of the amazingly talented Adele. They enjoyed the authentic music of Foo Fighters and the harmonies of The Civil War. And so did I. Perhaps the generation gap is not as big as I thought it was.

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