Random Excellence Celebrated

I'm probably a bit late to the party in realizing this, but I guess Youtube videos could be considered an actual format in the same way as vinyl or CD, if only because they at times provide access to music that is unavailable in other contexts.

Below is a video for Madonna's performance of her song "Bad Girl" on Saturday Night Live. According to Wikipedia, it is the only time she has performed the song outside of the confines of the studio. The song itself is excellent. Lyrically, it is a rumination on a person's inability to stop the self-destructive behavior that prevents them from claiming the life they truly want. The line "I'm not happy when I act this way" could speak both to the character's disappointment in herself and also an acknowledgment that her behavior is due to a depression she can't master. I don't know what to say about the music other than that I find the instrumental break towards the middle wondrously emotive, the simple three note pattern played by synthesized strings especially so.

Although David Fincher's video for the song, which depicts a dreamlike vision of Manhattan of melancholy light, chrome, wood and smoke, every surface and illumination seemingly pregnant with poetry, a place that does exist but only rarely, is superb, I tend to turn to the SNL performance instead.

I want from live music something I can't get from the studio version of the same song, and this desire has rarely been met in all of the shows I have gone to. But there is something decidedly real about the performance below. It starts, I think, at a slower tempo than the studio version of the song, and with a bit of hesitation. Gradually, imperceptibly, it begins to cohere, and, as the confidence Madonna's singing increases, the band, especially the amazing team of Victor Bailey on bass and Omar Hakim on drums, begins to push, like a great jazz rhythm section, Madonna to even further levels of intensity. By the time Hakim plays that last huge fill around his kit culminating in the forceful strike of the crash cymbal on his left by the stick in his right hand just as the lights illuminating the band go down again, you can tell by the expression on his face that we have reached the emotional plateau, one higher than that of the studio recording, that nobody was quite sure would be arrived at as the song began.


ergo said...

thanks for posting this, erotica is pretty much my favorite record of the decade. great performance. there's something really captivating about madonna from this time period in particular. coincidentally last week i saw dangerous game, also from 1993, and was pretty impressed, though you may have to be an enthusiast of both madonna and abel ferrara to think so. don't know how many people fit that criterion.

:-p said...

Thanks for commenting. I read a review of this song that said that part of the interest is the feeling one gets that this is who Madonna really is. Emotionally, maybe yes, maybe no, but the late-night-dwelling, smoky-bar-haunting, urbane flaneur image is pretty compelling regardless.

I think there will always be something captivating about this time period in general for me as it was right around the time I became a teenager and started staying up late. Without being able to cite an example outside of the above, or really, the official music video for the above song, I think there must have been some sort of neo-noir-ish sensibility subtly running through a lot of different parts of pop culture at that time, but it might just be because I was staying up later and everything must have seemed darker and more mysterious. Nevertheless, this is the moment right before the internet, right before cities were being gentrified again. It is a fascinating time; it seems to exist right at the edge of my consciousness, shapeless but present.

i've been meaning to watch King of New York for a while so we'll soon find out...