Sunday, January 29, 2017

DIVA TOUR DIARIES: "Madonna Truth or Dare" & "Mariah's World"

Back in 1991, Madonna was everything innovative and exciting to young girls. Especially young impressionable girls who took in that year's super-scandalous tour documentary: Madonna: Truth or Dare.

And a scandal it was! There was homosexual kissing, simulated sexual acts on dinnerware, and of course the ever-popular masturbation scene during "Like A Virgin" and Madonna's subsequent threat of arrest while performing it in Toronto.

Her relationships with Warren Beatty, arguing with her manager Freddy DeMann, and lusting after Antonio Banderas. Reflecting on Sean Penn, flirting with her dancer Oliver, and nursing a sore throat. The movie was a hit that year, and took in $29 million in box office sales. The Blond Ambition Tour was quite possibly the height of her career, relevance, and stardom. She had figured out the formula for pop success. From time.

I know this movie like the back of my hand, because I watched it religiously as an adolescent. Not only did I love Madonna's music, but I loved how BOLD she was! I loved her for the same reasons all of her fans did: because she was interesting and entertaining. Add a love for the entertainment industry and behind-the-scenes fanfare, and you have a perfect storm of drama, music, logistics...and of course, diva behaviour.

I hadn't thought much about Madonna's tour documentary in decades, until the last episode of Mariah's World aired today, and I realized how similar her 8-part docuseries was to Madonna's feature film. The perfect lighting. The staged scenes. The accommodating entourages and the after-hours antics. Definitely interesting to see these carefully scripted "inside looks" at their lives, and there are definitely similarities between the two pop stars who couldn't possibly be more different as women.

Yes, so I'm a Mariah fan to the core. Clearly. Don't judge me. EVEN after the nightmare that was New Year's Eve (which seems to have been swept up and forgotten in the mess that is the aftermath of the U.S. elections). So in an attempt to distract myself, and avoid fearing the end of the world as we know it, I took a good look at these tour documentaries and eventually had to applaud the women for their business acumen and career longevity.

Just like Beyonce's super-personal (sarcasm) documentary back in 2013 "Life is But a Dream"...both Madonna and Mariah went to great lengths to make their intimate video footage SEEM as authentic and "look how cool and regular I am" as possible. Of course, between Beyonce, Madonna, and Miss Mariah...the efforts for "normalcy" are blatantly constructed. And unrealistic for the majority of us.

Really and truly, how can you be normal if you're Beyonce? How can you not have an entourage if you're Madonna? And how can you DARE be filmed in elevator lighting (gasp) if you're Mariah Carey? They're Divas. Self-professed or not, these women don't know HOW to be anything less than fabulous, and fabulously in control.

Unfortunately, the extreme control they have on their images and the maintenance of their brands is in itself what makes them come across as contrived and phony a lot of the time. Madonna is from a different era entirely, so her tactics for creating a unique brand and persona had to go to different lengths back in the 90s. So her wild actions and provocative music videos and performances were where she set herself apart from the other stars of her day.

With Beyonce and Mariah, fortunately they have a plethora of social media tools, outlets, and business strategy to manipulate in order to create the precise image that will preserve their diva-dom for years to come.

Miss Mariah literally staged this entire "natural" tour documentary, and casually lounged in fishnets and stilettos, and always seemed to have the perfect lighting and make up...even in the most low key and intimate of settings.

I love her by default, and am a byproduct of decades of musical brainwashing and melodic admiration...but yo. She is just toooooo much. The footage of her during The Sweet Sweet Fantasy Tour across Europe was not believable for one second. Not the conversations. Not the turn of events. Nada. Perhaps the interaction with her children, and the odd moments of laughter and spontaneity from her people...but I actually walked away from the 8 weeks of programming thinking she is more insecure and contrived than I realized!

Mariah is the epitome of extreme extroversion and publicity, yet completely exudes insecurity and awkwardness. It's the strangest thing. While Madonna walked with over-confidence and a definite sense of self in her film, Mariah seems to struggle with just...being...normal. Her posture. Her words. Her facial expressions. Even the fake singing. EVERYTHING seems like she's trying too hard, and it's unfortunate.

Sucks that her engagement to James Packer didn't work out in the real world, but the docuseries ended up seeming like an 8 week setup to her new relationship with the dancer Bryan Tanaka, who she's apparently dating now post-Nick Cannon, and post-billionaire dreams. Sounds a little Jennifer Lopez-esque to me, which also seems deliberate. Insert scandal with young, sexy dancer.

The diamonds. The yacht life. The Mariah soundtrack while Mariah narrates, and Mariah acts as Mariah is just too much. Of course, as a long-time "fan" I had to watch all of the episodes and take it for what it was, but I was a bit disappointed that I walked away feeling more convinced that she's a bit "off"...instead of feeling like she did a good job of exposing her true colours.

Where does this leave Mariah? Clearly still on top. She's extreme, and we all still seem to tolerate it, so her reign as one of the top female artists of all times will continue. Regardless. I don't think the New Year's incident, or this corny ass documentary will really change things. I thought NYE was career ending, but haven't heard much else about it once Trump took that oath the other day.

Where's Madonna at? Still being provocative and trying to be controversial in her old age, but inevitably just existing in a different generation, yet still holding her crown. Her crown was set in the 90s, and there's really nothing or no one that can take her legacy away from her. I believe Mariah's at the point now where the same goes for her.

If neither lady ever makes another hit album, or rediscovers the pure voices of their youth, they'll still be OK. They'll always be legends. Divas. Powerful music industry folks. That will never change, no matter how many times they mess up, or how ridiculous their lives and actions get. Regardless.

BUT, as a lover of all things music and entertainment, and as a fan of the entertainment industry who has an insatiable appetite for watching, reading, and trying to understand the ins and outs of showbiz...I was definitely disappointed that I walked away from the recent Mariah story feeling more detached from her as a person, and more aware of her as a brand instead. I'm not sure if that's the way it's supposed to work.

There was half of a real moment towards the end of the 8th and final installment, when Mariah is at the piano and begins to play two chords of "Vision of Love" and begins to sing along...and then cut to staged beach scene with her and her new boo Tanaka, 15 minutes after calling off her marriage to James. The slight glimpses of her actual personality and her actual passion and aptitude for music, were just completely overshadowed by the ridiculousness of the show's plot and players.

In a nutshell, that sums up both Madonna and Mariah to me...they surely do have a real "down" side to them, but unfortunately they live so deep in their illusions and perceptions of who they think they're supposed to be, that the actual talent sometimes gets lost in translation. I'll always be a fan of both ladies, and I appreciated the look into their opulent lifestyles...but especially at a societal time like now in the post-Obama era...there is a great need for inspiring content. This only celebrates their entitlement, rather than their motivations as artists.

And yeah. I'm still going to Mariah's Toronto concert. And I will love every lip synced second of it.

Now, back to Donald Trump and the devastation of humanity...

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.

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