Not surprisingly, Miley Cyrus’s erotic performance at the MTV awards left Camille Paglia thinking whistfully about the young Madonna. Cyrus’s antics are “symptomatic of the still heavy influence of Madonna.”

But these kids, they’re nothing like the old master: “Young performers will probably never equal or surpass the genuine shocks delivered by the young Madonna, as when she sensually rolled around in a lacy wedding dress and thumped her chest with the mic while singing ‘Like a Virgin’ at the first MTV awards show in 1984. Her influence was massive and profound, on a global scale.”

Besides, “Madonna, a trained modern dancer, was originally inspired by work of tremendous quality — above all, Marlene Dietrich’s glamorous movie roles as a bisexual blond dominatrix and Bob Fosse’s stunningly forceful strip-club choreography for the 1972 film Cabaret , set in decadent Weimar-era Berlin. Today’s aspiring singers, teethed on frenetically edited small-screen videos, rarely have direct contact with those superb precursors and are simply aping feeble imitations of Madonna at 10th remove.”

What an odd world it is where Madonna has become “classical.”

More on: Miscellaneous

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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