When I woke up this morning, I suddenly felt better about the world. I couldn’t work it out until I looked on the internet and discovered Madonna had held a midnight vigil at Place de la Republique, singing ‘Imagine’ while Woodkid accompanied her on an acoustic guitar. It was then I realised I’d been remotely healed. It was remarkably effective, like keyhole surgery almost. You might have gathered that I’m being sarcastic.
The most cynical amongst us might jump to the conclusion that Madonna was exploiting a situation for a bit of free publicity, and like the rotten writer I am, I looked to make a few bob to put bread on the table myself, by slagging her off in a paid blog. No commissioning editor would touch it, and I suppose when you have arseholes like Donald Trump sowing disunity all across the world, then a quick rendition of ‘Like a Prayer’ and a little John Lennon cover at Republique doesn’t seem so pernicious does it? “Fed up of ‘hasn’t Paris suffered enough’ things about people with good intentions but misguided actions,” said one editor, and he had a point.
But despite the lack of interest from the British press, I still can’t quite shake the fact that Madonna’s display felt mawkish and obscene to me, and it’s been quietly bugging me all day. Yes obscene. And then I ask myself, “Is this what I’ve become? A cynical, grumpy old bastard?” I know that I have, and yet pop deities deigning to walk amongst us in order to heal us with their music just seems so goddam patronising. That said, Madonna’s roots with Paris run deep. Didn’t she after all commission Parisian street artist Mr. Brainwash – the world’s worst artist – to design the cover for her third Greatest Hits album? I’m sure Madonna’s intentions were purely about the poor people of Paris who are suffering, but if it helps to eradicate the lasting image of her falling on her ass at the Brits then all the better for it.
Bono is another one who loves to wring the auspices out of a good tragedy. I saw U2 in Paris in 1997, which just so happened to be the day of Princess Diana’s funeral. The schlocky horror was slathered on to the max, and no candle in the city went unburned, so I can only imagine how darkly gleeful they would have been ushering Eagles of Death Metal onto the stage the other night. Is that horrible of me? I’ll say one thing for U2, at least they made themselves useful the other week by offering EODM their private plane. Nobody usually gets to ride in that other than the band themselves, or Bono’s trilby, when he forgets to take it with him on tour with him. One hopes he remembered to put it on his head this time, coming to a city hosting a climate change summit.
To quote the name of a Mclusky album, I don’t want to be all ‘my pain and sadness is more painful and sad than yours, bruv’ (my “bruv”), but the show Savages played last week hit the spot for everyone who was there (not me unfortunately), and I’m sure I don’t need to go into the reasons why other than that the fact their roots run deep. Madonna shining a ray of light on Paris might have felt unifying for some (indeed the official Paris Twitter account shared the #noussommesuni hashtag with footage from the happening), so I apologise in advance if it made some people feel warm and huggy. For me the last thing Paris needs right now is any more light shone on it. What we want, and I can only speak for my nearest and dearest, is for things to go back to normal a little bit, without all the gimcrack showbiz gimmickry thanks very much. Turning tragedy into spectacle irks me; it demeans and trivialises pain that is bigger than even U2 and Madonna. As tough as it might be for them to understand, none of this is about them.Follow @jeres