Apples and Oranges of Aging
There was a flurry of social media and online chatter after the Grammy awards about Madonna and Annie Lennox. Both are iconic artists. But the conversation was around who was aging better. And more specifically how Madonna isn't doing it right.
Initially, my thoughts were in agreement... Yes, Annie Lennox looked very classy. And Madonna. Not so much.
But then I started to get irritated by the conversation. The comparison that one of these women was aging better or more appropriately than the other bothers me.
Madonna was accused of trying to "...act 25 years younger than she is actually is, and so her age instantly became a focal point for her performance." Before I go to any further, lets think about Madonna.
Sure Madonna's bum mooning red carpet outfit and aerobatic performance were over the top and overtly sexual. But isn't that what Madonna always does? She pushes the limits. She is overtly sexual. She puts on a "show". She likes making people a little bit uncomfortable. I mean she did bust onto the 80s scene with a song called "Like A Virgin". Should we be surprised by the Grammy outfit or performance? Should we expect her to change because she is getting older? This is one woman who has clearly done whatever she wants for her entire career. Why should that change now?
I don't think Madonna was trying to act like a 25 year old. I think Madonna was just being Madonna. I can't imagine that will change at any age. Should we really expect her to become someone more "appropriate" just because she is older?
Looking at Annie Lennox she has always been sexy but not necessarily overtly sexual. She made suits, and short platinum/red/orange hair look sexy in the 80s. While more understated than Madonna she is never boring in her style. Her music and performances have reflected the times, but really were always about THAT voice. Even when singing a duet with David Bowie, she was never over the top. She has always been classy. Why should this change as she ages? Did she record an album of American Songbook tunes because she thought it was the right thing for a middle age woman to record? Not likely. It is more likely she thought her voice would be a good match for some jazz. And she was right. Did she blow it out of the park at the Grammy's? Damn right.
But this doesn't mean she is "aging" any better than Madonna. Frankly, the only thing I see similar about these two performers is that they are both middle age. Everything else about them is unique, and true to their own vision of themselves.
More importantly I can't imagine we would be having this conversation comparing a couple of middle age male performers. For example Boy George vs Sting. Or how tight Mick Jagger's jeans should be now that he is a great-grandfather.
Very different people. Very different music. Very different personas. Their age is irrelevant.
This article Huffington Post article Madonna, Annie Lennox and 'Acting Your Age' says it better than I can.