Saturday, August 16, 2008

Addressing My Critics: Madonna Vs. Mariah


Well, I must say that for all the posts I've published here, and for all the scandalous things I've written, I've been pretty lucky with the negative comments. In fact, I can think of only one other (nearly a year ago now) in the more than two and a half years I've been at this - it originated from Rome, and basically said "you suck you should quit"; I was highly amused by that, as though the opinion of one stranger (possibly the Pope) would convince me to chuck away all the work I've done here. Oh! And there was that one other tense time when I dared to criticize San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom for having sex with someone else's wife, but that was sent anonymously from a friend with the intention of drumming up a controversy and potentially readership - a manipulative tactic I cannot support in any way, no matter how well meaning it might have been.

I think in both cases I handled things fairly well, by dealing with both of those promptly when they happened within the body of the blog rather than posting them as comments. I choose to do the same with this one; I will continue to reserve the right to douse anyone who flames me in the best way I see fit today as well.

Having published the final Madonna birthday post at 12:30 AM I decided to take myself to bed and try to get some sleep; between the heat wave and my idiot neighbour I quickly gave up on that idea and decided to check my emails one last time. That's when I discovered the following comment, received at 1:35 AM from a stranger named Bojan:

"Nobody can't ever be bigger,better than Mariah.Mariah rules.
Mariah wasn't pushed by her ex-husband.It was MANdonna,whose sales wer calculated to make her slaes records bigger.IT IS CALLED PAYOLA,HONEY.
Even for a 100 years from now,Mariah will always be remebered as a truly talented music GENIOUS,unlike MANdonna who will always be just an average,untalented singer,pseudo acctres and failed movie director.

Whomever they are, they've covered their tracks well; I've been unable to detect where the hit came from. My last reader was from Mahidol University in Thailand, and by deductive reasoning I can only assume that my offended party a) is not a native English speaker, and b) could benefit from a refresher course in Buddhism in a big way. If, in fact, that's where the comment originated.

Now, even aside from the ghastly spelling and usage, I can pretty much tear this comment apart in my sleep. Since I'm awake, though, it'll not only be easier but way more fun as well.

I accept that, preferences being what they are, there are going to be people who prefer the badly sung screeching of Mariah Carey over Madonna any day; it so happens that my friend Emma Uganecz (a trained opera singer and vocal coach) one day spent the better part of an hour outlining for me in a very calm and rational manner how badly Mariah Carey sings, and how she's damaging her voice singing the way she does. She went into breath, and phrasing, and used highly scientific terms I couldn't even hope to understand; what it all came down to is, the way Mariah passes breath over her vocal chords is damaging to them, the kind of damage that erodes her upper register every time she hits that show-offy dog whistle note of which she is so fond.

Now, as to the rest... I once worked in a record store, so I know how Sony Records used to force us to buy any new Mariah Carey album by the hundred rather than the dozen so as to inflate her sales figures; we always ended up sending back half to three-quarters of them, and returns aren't calculated into sales figures. Three quarters of the Mariah Carey CDs shipped to our location ended up chipped and shipped to China to make Happy Meal toys. Warner Music Group did no such thing with a new Madonna album, which anyway outsold Mariah Carey 2 to 1. I know this because I used to do the monthly inventory counts. As for Bojan's use of the word "payola", that word refers to the bribing of radio stations to play an artist's music, another tactic frequently used by Sony.

Tommy Mottola's links to organized crime are well known, and have been the subject of punditry for years; Sandra Bernhard did a hilarious bit about it in her act for a long time. Despite the fact that when Mariah Carey married him she put herself and her record label into a serious conflict of interest is of the utmost importance, but for the sake of this post it's neither here nor there. No other female artist at Sony (and damn few of the male ones either) got much promotion while Mariah and Tommy ruled that roost, as the majority of the annual promotion budget went to make Mariah Carey look like a far bigger star than she is.

Mariah Carey's music is repetitive and boring; some might call it familiar and soothing. There's a lot more Madonna on the radio stations I listen to than Mariah, and that's even considering that Warner Music Group is no longer promoting Madonna. True, Madonna's acting has not been the greatest, but then again did anyone see Glitter? I didn't think so. Once again, these are preferences, and therefore not for me to judge. I have no issue with Mariah Carey as a person; whenever I've seen her on talk shows she seems sweet enough, and I truly felt for her when she had her meltdown, as the destigmatization of mental health issues is one of the chief aims of the Pop Culture Institute. I only wish Mariah would cut the MOR crap and sing better material, maybe even write a song or two herself, in much the same way I wish Madonna would stop control-freaking her directors long enough to let them wring a decent performance out of her for a change.

Well! Now that I've got that off my chest, maybe I can finally get some sleep...
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