Madison Avenue Groove

Madonna's Gap ad“If Britney manages to have as long and successful of a career as Madonna, I will renounce Ms. Ciccone as my Supreme Woman and no longer think about her when I masturbate. Yeah, that would be harder than quitting smoking”— Jeff Sabatini, “Britney vs. Madonna,” Glorious Noise, February 8, 2001

Back in the early days when this site was somewhat younger, there used to be observations on the main page like that quoted here. Perhaps we were somewhat less circumspect.

I thought about that last night when I saw the Madonna/Missy (Misdemeanor) Elliott commercial for the Gap. And although Britney has faded into irrelevance such that her visibility is marked with a certain desperation, a need to get in the public eye, almost as though her doing damn near anything to get some time on “Entertainment Tonight” would not be in the least bit surprising (e.g., dangling herself off of an eighth-floor balcony), Madonna, heretofore, a film career that she ought to abandon, notwithstanding, has—or had—maintained a certain allure.

The Gap ad is probably more habit-kicking than a crate of Nicorette. Madonna has transformed herself into Morgan Fairchild. (Yes, Old Navy and the Gap have the same ownership, so there is a certain resonance here.) “Everybody comes to Hollywood/You’re gonna make it in the neighborhood”—how, by having a scripted “M” on your ass? Oh, that’s right: the Gap is allowing customization. You can get your own initial.

Madonna hasn’t just jumped the proverbial shark. She’s humped it. It’s beyond pathetic. Oh, I’m sure there will be some sort of ironic PoMo arguments that can be put forth about the Material Girl always being about consumption, how she’s able to push the buttons of mass cult corporations for her own benefit. Which is a convenient justification, or rationalization. Don’t kid yourself: The first rule in the music industry is: Make money.

And as the aforementioned Ms. Fairchild as well Wayne Newton, Ben Vereen, and others have learned: You can make more money by being in commercials.

10 thoughts on “Madison Avenue Groove”

  1. I saw Missy and Madonna’s new ad for the first time last night, and two things struck me.

    First, the fashion itself. After everything’s been said, The Gap is still supposed to be about selling clothes, right? Well, the next time I’m there, are they going to try and upsell me on an oversized T shirt with Missy’s huge face emblazoned on it? And howabout cornflower-colored jeans with spangles on it? Because that’s what the ad’s principals were wearing. No thanks, Gap, I think I have an old pair of Toughskins at home that I can just take a Bedazzler to some night after the bars close.

    Second is the impossibly girlish flutter of Madonna’s speaking voice. No bones: Maddy is a woman who’s transcended herself thousands of times over. Like Will Smith, she is a personality that exists above the physicality of her gender and race. No one says “There’s Madonna – she’s a woman and a pop star,” just as nobody yells “Hey, it’s Will Smith, the black actor and nascent rap artist!” The two of them are just Will and Madonna – two wholly-formed, immediately recognizable, and highly saleable entities.

    Anyway, back to the voice. At the end of the ad, Missy does the splits, to which a suddenly precocious Madonna responds “I can do that,” and proceeds to try. But the pixie-ish timbre of her speaking voice is in direct contrast to the überdiva who just finished pop-locking her way through an elaborate dance routine. It’s a voice that reminds us of her humanity, of the Midwestern woman behind the fake British accent and unfortunate acting career. Her voice is somehow…comforting, even in the few offhand words she speaks to Missy. Or maybe it’s comforting simply because it proves that she’s mortal. Whatever it is, I would suggest that the wonderful, intangible fluidity of Madonna’s speaking voice has, over the years, contributed to her stariclimb to mooncheese.


  2. All I can say is I’ve hated Madonna from the beginning, I’ve never found her attractive in the least, and I wish she would dry up and blow away already. Everytime I hear her mentioned I feel like I’ve been robbed of something precious. So what if she’s a master of selling herself? Big deal. Grrr…

    Ok, I feel better now.

  3. I saw it and thought that the commercial would make me lose respect for her but then I remembered… I never had any…

    Remember she shilled for Pepsi and got booted for a “controversial” video (I don’t think it was an artistic statement,she knew it was controversial)

    Why is it when she changes its art, but for anyone else its selling out?

  4. Thanks but too bad, Keith. More than anyone else, she represents the merging of music, marketing and commerce, which is one of the major themes of this site. We’ll be writing about Madonna as long as she manages to keep reinventing herself and doing silly things and coming up with new ways to keep herself in the public eye.

  5. I just want to know who needs who more? Did Gap pay Madonna or Madonna pay Gap to be in that ad?

    (I seriously would be curious if anyone has any inside knowledge…)

  6. oh, shut up, all the madonna-haters. she’ll always be bigger than YOU STOOGES ever will be in your entire life, who’ll remain unoticed till death! infamous! but i bet you dont wanna be famous cause then a lot of people would hate you too! hypocrites!

  7. ugh, and it’s not “You’re gonna make it in the neighborhood”, it’s “They wanna make it in the neighborhood”, dumbass.

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