CD REVIEW: Madonna’s ‘Rebel Heart’

HMO033015MADONNALike a virgin, Madonna is pure again. Cleansed of the unbecoming trend grabs that marred the icon’s erratic predecessors — namely the sinfully juvenile Hard Candy, and then MDNA, better but still pastiche — our Blessed Goddess steps back into her ray of light and applies a new shine to an old sound.

For once, Madonna doesn’t keep nostalgia at bay. In fact, during Rebel Heart, her most sophisticated release since 2005’s Confessions on a Dance Floor, she keeps wistfulness close by. The result is tangled, tortured but shockingly authentic, as she basks in all the heyday glory that earned the Michigan dreamer her seat and, eventually, a crown. Whatever life’s done to Madonna lately — the kids are growing up; Madonna’s growing up — she and Rebel Heart are better for it.

Witnessing the 56-year-old in self-reflection mode, à la Ray of Light and American Life, is refreshing, and also, despite Madonna’s refusal to actually age, befitting. She holds your hand during the perseverance paean “Ghosttown,” a surging mid-tempo with a melancholic narrative reminiscent of “This Used to Be My Playground.” The world hurts, Madonna muses, but love heals. The song is a pillar of hope, a theme recycled during the uplifting “Hold Tight;” like a hug as she reluctantly sends her children out into this “mad world,” Mother Madonna is reassuring — hold tight; everything’s gonna be all right — over a sonic spill of rumbling drums and electronic fuzz. Harnessing an organic energy that’s been noticeably lacking from the fabricated Pharrell-produced pop confections of her most recent efforts, Rebel Heart gets into the groove by recapturing the rawness heard particularly on the under-appreciated American Life. “Body Shop” encapsulates that quality best, the sexy innuendo taking a backseat to the very modest, Indian-influenced folk vibe. Her voice wispy and mesmeric, Madonna sounds like she’s leading a yin yoga retreat.

Less effective are Madonna’s unabashed attempts at relevancy, when the sexual provocateur essentially parodies her own cone-wearing self on “Holy Water,” an exercise in excess. Have all the sex you want, Madonna. And by all means, make that pole your bitch. But album-audible moaning? Equating your bits to a Baptismal liquid? Love you, lady, but this just might be a good time to retire the fornication-fueled religious allegories.

The even weaker, slinky bedroom-bumper “S.E.X” doesn’t even bother with thinly veiled metaphors (at one point she randomly drops “raw meat” like an afterthought) as she promises to “take you to a place you will not forget,” but then she doesn’t. And poof. Gone.

Most memorable about Rebel Heart is Madonna as a messenger of love, unity and peace — the sorcerer down in the deep, as she puts it on the deluxe edition’s penultimate powerhouse “Messiah.” There’s an ease about Madonna during these moments of musing, where she looks inward and sends her light outward, and the crown, though briefly, comes off. The ego is disbanded. For once, whether we like it or not, the icon, the diva, the high priestess of pop — she’s real. I can’t be a superhero right now / Even hearts made of steel can break down, she laments on “Joan of Arc,” a surprisingly direct acknowledgement of facets that have, particularly as of late, evaded the star’s essence: sensitivity, candor and sincerity.

It all comes full circle with the title track “Rebel Heart,” the closer. A blast from the past, a content Madonna recounts the trail she blazed for herself — and, obviously, others — through fierce determination and, you know (and she knows), by being a “narcissist.” Madonna’s Rebel Heart album is the nearly lifetime-long result of broken boundaries and bravado … and, for the first time in 10 years, it’s beating stronger than ever.

 — Chris Azzopardi

—  admin

Harvey Fierstein: The gay interview

As Kinky Boots opens in Dallas, the flamboyant theater diva opines on Johnny Weir, Robin Williams and why we hate ourselves

Harvey Fierstein by Bruce Glikas

“I’m sorry,” Harvey Fierstein growls in his unmistakable Brooklyn gravel, “I gotta go on with my life.” And so, after our insightful 40-minute chat peppered with Fierstein’s true-to-form frankness, he does.

But for Fierstein, a revered Broadway legend known for an iconic writing répertoire that includes Torch Song Trilogy, La Cage aux Folles and, most recently, Kinky Boots, which opens tonight at Fair Park Music Hall courtesy of Dallas Summer Musicals, this isn’t just the Tony Award winner’s blunt way of concluding our extensive conversation. It’s a way of life.

Fierstein reflects on the past—  up for the “sissies,” what he calls his “legendary disaster,” and how his own “12 steps of happiness” inspired his latest Broadway smash — but the 62-year-old’s very much living in the present, and for the future.

And look for our one-on-one interview with Fierstein’s Kinky collaborator, Cyndi Lauper, in Friday’s edition, in print and online!

— Chris Azzopardi

Dallas Voice: I’m certainly not the first person to tell you that Kinky Boots is a massive hit. When you first began writing the musical, did you imagine it would become as successful as it’s been?  Fierstein: You know, you don’t. I’m really old. I’ve been around a really long time, and I’ve had — knock wood — an unbelievable run of hits, and I’ve had some horrible misses and a couple of in-betweens, but you go into all of them with the same heart.

I’ve done a couple for the wrong reasons. I did one to try and make money, which is really a very bad reason, and you make no money doing it that way. I’ve learned that lesson, and I would never do that again. But you basically go in for the right reason because you’re gonna spend years of your life involved with these characters, with these collaborators. And it’s not something you take on lightly if you’ve ever done it because, well, Kinky Boots took almost five years to write.

It’s clearly been a labor of love for you.  They have to be. That’s exactly why they have to be a labor of love, because from sitting down and starting work, which was a year or more before I even called Cyndi [Lauper, who wrote the music and lyrics], to the opening in Korea [last December], we’re now up to seven or eight years. It’s part of your life for the rest of your life.

Jerry Herman and I wrote La Cage 30-something years ago and we are still the parents of that show. We still have to talk about it all the time. So, to say, “Did you know it was gonna be a big hit?” No, you don’t know. You go in with the best hopes and the best intentions of doing something that will entertain, which is our number one job.

What’s a project you did for the wrong reasons?  Legs Diamond. I had a friend who was directing it. Peter Allen had AIDS and his best friend who was writing it for him, who was not a writer but a clothing designer, had AIDS dementia. My friend Robert [Allan Ackerman] called me up and said, “Look, will you come in on this? I know it’s a terrible idea — Peter Allen as Legs Diamond — but all we have to do is get Peter out there, let him shake his ass, sing a couple of numbers, and we can just cash the checks.” And I drank the Kool-Aid.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Sarah McLachlan: The gay interview

20140425KharenHillSarahMclachlan_Bedroom_0175While promoting Shine On, her first album in four years — which brings her to the Winspear Opera House on Sunday — Sarah McLachlan breaks her silence in a recent interview with our Chris Azzopardi.

Dallas Voice: At what point in your career did you know you had a big gay following?  Sarah MacLachlan: Hmm … probably Boston 1991.

That’s very specific.  I’m serious. Maybe 1992. It was with my second record [Solace] and I remember going to do a gig in Boston. I hung out with a lot of women after the show and there was one bartender in particular who was really hot! And I’m not gonna say anything else, but yeah.

Wait, no, no. You can’t just leave me hanging like that.  She was a good kisser  — that’s all I’m gonna say! That was my first sort of foray. It didn’t go past that, but that was, mmm, yeah.

I just remember there being a lot of women holding hands in the audience — and not only that, but it was a really intelligent audience. I don’t even know how I could tell that, but I just remember this feeling of, wow, this is just a great, great audience. I wish I could say why, but anyway, that was sort of the beginning of it and I think it just progressed from there.

So girls aren’t just good kissers but also super attentive?  I can generalize with my fans in that way, and all my fans — gay, straight — are coming for the music. They’re coming for church. I say that because that’s how I feel, especially about playing live; for me, that’s sort of my church. I get to be a part of something bigger than myself and be really connected to other human beings on a real emotional and visceral level. It’s very powerful.

It’s a mutual feeling.  It’s a mutual lovin’!

You mention your girl-on-girl foray in 1991, and for the longest time people have made assumptions about your sexuality. What do you think of the public’s interest in whether you’re bisexual?  People are always interested in how people bend. I’ve never shied away from it. I mean, I’m pretty straight. Let me just put it this way: I’ve never had sex with a woman. I haven’t. I’ve made out with more than one woman, but it just sort of happened. And there may have been alcohol involved during one of them.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

The gay interview: Ezra Miller

In the print edition this week, we have Larry Ferber’s interview with The Perks of Being a Wallflower writer-director Stephen Chbosky; here, our celebrity hunter Chris Azzopardi sat down with one of that film’s stars, Ezra Miller. Miller talks about the cathartic experience of being a confident teen, his happy upbringing and why he’s never met a straight man.

The perks of Being Ezra Miller

Twenty is a young age to have already played two unique characters — from the dark to the fearless. But Ezra Miller —  who was Tilda Swinton’s evil son in We Need to Talk About Kevin and plays Patrick, the lovable outsider with swagger in the film adaptation of the coming-of-age novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower, opening Friday in Dallas — the boy every gay person wishes he could be. Even Miller.

The young actor talked about not being that kid in high school, breaking label barriers and coming from a “whole queer-ass family” — who dressed him in drag.

Dallas Voice: What was your high school experience? Were you out then?  Ezra Miller: Yeah, definitely. But I wasn’t shouting it out. I was unabashedly me. I was always having to leave high school, though, because I started working, so that was pulling me out of school. When I’d come back, there was a certain resentment: “You are no longer one of us. You have betrayed our pack.” And I dropped out of high school when I was 16 years old because, first of all, the form and function of the schooling system never made any sense to me in the context of education, but also there was some ostracizing at play. At that point in my youth experience, I knew that feeling all too well. I immediately realized that I had just turned 16 and that it was best, and technically legal, for me to flee.

How was it playing a character that you wished you could’ve been in school?  I came out of the movie feeling like I had a bunch to learn from the character I just played, and then I came to the unfortunate conclusion that he was a fictional character and he didn’t exist. I mean, to be able to hold your dignity and your pride, and to be able to empower yourself and love yourself in high school, is a feat.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

“Magic Mike” men Channing Tatum and Joe Manganiello (mostly) take it all off

Our intrepid — and damn lucky — contributor Chris Azzopardi got down and dirty with two of the hot men in Magic Mike, the mega-gay-appealing male stripper movie coming out this Friday: Channing Tatum and Joe Mangianello. Here’s the interview:


“Wearing a thong is a pain in the ass,” says Joe Manganiello with complete disregard to the glaring innuendo. Beat. “Oh, god. I can’t believe I just said that.”

Who can blame him? Avoiding double entendres about Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh’s unexpected (but completely acceptable) foray into the male-stripper world is hard (see?).

Magic Mike stars Manganiello of True Blood, homo heartthrob Matt Bomer, Matthew McConaughey and Channing Tatum, the latter the movie’s muse, after it was revealed that the gay-loved dreamboat wasn’t just busting a move in 2006’s breakout role Step Up — before acting, he was pocketing dollar bills for his dance moves, too. One of Hollywood’s hottest actors, known for melting hearts in Dear John and The Vow, was suddenly faced with a pole-dancing past. His stripper alias? Chan Crawford.

“That’s so lame,” Tatum says in our recent interview. “I didn’t choose it. But Crawford? What am I: Cindy Crawford’s brother?”

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Expressing herself: The Madonna interview

Madonna didn’t snag an Oscar nomination this year — not for her directorial effort or the song she wrote for it in the film W./E., about the romance between the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Warfield Simpson. But she still made an impact, in this Chris Azzopardi interview with the Material Girl.

Here it is:

Madonna expresses herself

With all of Madonna’s metamorphoses throughout her balls-out career, slipping in and out of cultural zeitgeists (and accents), the queen chameleon is still the master of reinvention. Just don’t tell her that.

“Please don’t throw those tired, old clichés at me,” Madonna playfully insists, nodding her head in half-kidding agitation. (Hey, at least I didn’t mention hydrangeas.)

Her annoyance is marked with a cheekiness — and a smile — that only the Material Girl could pull off, which has for three decades. The indelible diva drops her hyped 12th album, MDNA, in March via a three-disc deal with Interscope; she plans to launch an extensive world tour; and this weekend, readies for perhaps the gayest Super Bowl halftime ever. That’s just music; feature-length directorial debut W.E., was just nominated for an Oscar for costume design.

In fact, all she cares to talk about now is the film, a semi-biopic on Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII dovetailed with a modern-day love story centered on fictionalized damsel-in-distress Wally Winthrop.

Seated at a Waldorf-Astoria suite with others in the gay press, Madonna is in her groove. She knows we get her even when she’s wielding snarky cracks. Looking flawless at 53, she delivers exactly what we want: Madonna. No pretense. No filter. No warm-and-fuzzy.

Read it all after the jump.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

BIG Lang theory

K.D. Lang, on her new CD, Lady Gaga and her burgeoning butchness


BUTCHING IT UP | Lang, nearing 50, is embracing her inner ... daddy?

K.D. Lang is manning up, thanks to the likes of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and other sexpots of pop who shoot whipped cream from their chests and ride disco sticks. The longtime gay activist, who turns 50 in November, made a rebellious decision to boost her butchness, evident in the video for “I Confess,” the lead single from her disc Sing it Loud.

She comes to the Meyerson on Tuesday with her band the Siss Boom Bang, but before the show, she dished about the album’s evolution, why being the first out country star doesn’t matter and her work with Glee.

— Chris Azzopardi

Dallas Voice: Why did you approach Sing it Loud with a fuller sound and, for the first time in 20 years, a band?  Lang: It just seemed to be the right thing to do. It was just what I was feeling. I was working with Joe [Pisapia], writing songs, and it came time to record them and I just felt like the band was the right way to approach it — very live and spontaneous. We put the band together and it was beyond my wildest dreams what transpired.

On “I Confess,” you sing the lyric I’ll be your daddy. How do you think that line would’ve been received had you recorded this song 20 years ago when you first came out? Probably the same as now. I think there’s going to always be people who feel uncomfortable with it and there’s always going to be people who are titillated by it. You just have to know that’s going to be the case for a long time.

Would you say you’re embracing your butchness more than you used to? Yeah, this music really asks for it. I also think that the aesthetic nature of today’s music, with people like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry — not that it’s new, it certainly isn’t; I know better than that — is being very exaggerated I thought, I can exaggerate, too!

What do you make of the way the music business has shifted in the way it sells music? I think it’s boring because everything is so overexposed. But it’s fine; it is what it is. In terms of music, there is always going to be a place for someone who can sing and someone who can communicate with an audience.

Did you ever feel pressure to conform in your career? That would depend on what I wanted to reap from my music. I’ve always been quite sure that I wanted to have a more artistic career and a career of longevity, so in that respect, no. I’ve made decisions that have nurtured my art rather than my public awareness or my celebrity. That’s been self-determined. So no, I never felt the pressure.

If you hadn’t come out, how do you imagine your life and career now? I can’t imagine, because I was always out and coming out wasn’t really a big deal for me. But it certainly made things easier. I can’t imagine what it would be like, but at the same time it’s definitely made my life easier just because it kind of stripped away the question marks in the audience’s minds. It took away any pretense or question.

There was a big hoopla when Chely Wright came out as the first gay country star, because some argued that you beat her to it. What did you think about all that? I don’t know who Chely Wright is, but I don’t care. I mean, to a whole generation of people who know Chely Wright, they probably don’t know who I am. So to them it is the first country star to come out. I don’t really care who’s the first, who’s the last, because before me there were a lot of people that helped get me to a place to feel confident and comfortable with coming out.

Last year you lent your voice to a song on a Glee soundtrack. Would you ever do the show? I don’t really watch Glee, but I know it’s very popular and gay-friendly, which is great. And Jane Lynch is hilarious! If they asked me I would consider it, but I’m really happy that I could be a part of something that’s supportive and promotes alternative and varying lifestyles.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Beyoncé: ‘4’ the gays

Below is Q Syndicate writer and Dallas Voice contributor Chris Azzopardi’s piece on his exclusive talk with the Queen Bey: About gay fans, loving Lady Gaga and remaking A Star Is Born.

If there’s any girl who runs the world, it’s Beyoncé. The reigning diva — she’s called Queen Bey for a reason, people — is one of the biggest and best voices behind a long run of hits dating back to the late ‘90s, when she was part of supreme girl-group Destiny’s Child.

Now, years later, Beyoncé still demonstrates just how irreplaceable she is as a solo artist, having released four albums (the latest called, appropriately, 4 — reviewed here) with some of the most memorable and gay-celebrated singles in pop music history. Not every artist can say they’ve had a gay boy lead a football team to glory by performing “Single Ladies,” as seen on Glee. And not every artist can say they have 16 Grammy Awards, making her one of the most honored artists in Grammy history.

But that’s Queen Bey, who has also assembled a gaggle of gay fans who are crazy in love with her.

Here’s our exclusive chat with the singer/actress/glamour-girl, her first gay press interview since 2006.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

PHOTOS: One Hot Azzopardi

MORNING GOODS — Not that all our Morning Goods aren't worthy of presentation, but there's something special about British model Vincent Azzopardi. Maybe it's the style pics at the end?



Permalink | Post a comment | Add to

Tagged: , , , ,


—  John Wright