Dancing

Kylie Minogue

When I go out, I want to go out dancing

Well, what a star – literally glittering! Kylie Minogue OBE – singer, songwriter and actress also known as ‘the Princess of Pop’ has won every music award there is. She started her career acting in the Australian soap opera Neighbours and since the 1980s has performed around the globe and sold over 70 million records worldwide, becoming the highest-selling Australian artist of all time.

Over the years she has kept audiences excited as she developed her image from girl-next-door through Japanese geisha and disco diva to an all round performer whose elaborate stage shows incorporate vivid burlesque fashion styles. The joyous escapism and camp humour has also attracted an appreciative gay following.

In terms of artistic and commercial success she had it all. Then a personal tragedy struck. In 2005 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to have surgery and chemotherapy. She survived and went on to work again after a break, although she is reported to have described the treatment as “like experiencing a nuclear bomb.”

This is why this song means so much to me. My dear late wife went through similar trauma. She had breast cancer, the full treatment, recovered and lived normally for years, but then there was a final recurrence. The illness made us both realise that we are all living on borrowed time and how we need to make the most of life while we can.

Everybody’s got a story

Let it be your blaze of glory

Burning bright, never fade away

And when the final curtain falls, we could say we did it all

The never ending of a perfect day

The lyrics of the hook line can be read in two ways. “When I go out, I want to go out dancing” can just mean “when I leave the house for entertainment, I like to go dancing”. But I think there is a much more poignant way to understand it. “When I die, I want to know that I have lived my life as fully as I could, until the very end.”

But what does it really mean, to have lived life to the full? Is it to get rich and to have been a successful consumer of life’s pleasures? Perhaps these words will help us find an answer.

99 Red Balloons

Nena

there’s something here from somewhere else …

Here is a stand-out song from 1984, remarkable because of its unusual style that manages to treat some serious subject matter in a pop genre. This was five years before the fall of the Berlin wall and the cold war was still a reality, with soviet and western nuclear arsenals opposing each other on a posture of mutually assured destruction.

The song was originally sung in Nena’s native German language (Neunundneunzig Luftballons), and re-recorded in English. That accounts for the pronunciation and my mishearing the lyrics for years … Just to clarify:

Back at base, bugs in the software

Flash the message, something’s out there

There are lots of themes to explore – fear of the unknown, fear of the ‘other’, aggressive posturing, poor communications, unintended consequences, over-reliance on technology with a belief that ‘there is no other way’. It’s a bit of a downer – the song ends with destruction and a lone survivor looking for hope in happy memories.

The Bible story that comes to my mind is the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11.1-9. It’s a myth, of course, about how the world got many languages because God intervened upon seeing that humankind could soon ‘do anything they want’. The tower did not fall down, but the work was abandoned. We are still building towers to the sky, metaphorically and literally, as the human race is still trying to prove that we can do anything we want. What would have to happen to us to make it stop? Fire and flood? – they might be coming. All over the world, despite our modern technology, we are still scattered and confused.

There seems to be some assertive copyright enforcement on videos of this song.  I originally included the band's appearance on Top Of The Pops, but it got withdrawn; so I replaced it with a collector's item - the official promo video - which has likewise been withdrawn.  The official Sony BMG 'video' above just shows the sleeve cover image, but I kept it in because it is the best English-language audio version.  So here to compensate is a live version in German.  How long before they take this down too?  

God Control

Madonna

this is your wake-up call

Who are the prophets of today? How does God talk to us all?

Here is Madonna as Madame X, but with both her eyes open (hmm) in a work of art that I’ve categorised as ‘experimental’, as it blends the forms of song and film and the character as observer and participant, victim and survivor. The specific subject of mass shootings and inadequate gun control is particular to the USA and Madame X speaks into that situation as loudly as anyone could. I think she is fulfilling her duty as an artist, which is to help people see something they can’t or won’t see.

I’m fascinated by the title of the song and the personal theology that might lie behind it. Is she saying “we don’t need to control guns, we need to control bad people who use them, and God must do this for us all, because we can’t?” – in other words a kind of prayer. It’s certainly a lament “We lost God control”. Surely she’s not saying that God used to generally keep things in pretty good shape, but then s/he has ‘let go’ of us all lately? Or is it just a reference to the way formal religion has historically been a means of social control?

So who will take any our sins and save us from ourselves?