Justify my tribute: Madonna honored with 'Virgin Voices'
April 7, 1999
By Jamie Allen
(CNN) -- It's one thing to be a musician past your prime and have some young entertainer -- caught in a nostalgic fog -- do a remake of one of your greatest hits.
Witness Cake's version of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive," or Banarama's 1980s peak, "Venus," or any number of the dance hits currently spinning on teeny-bop radio. In these retro-fevered days, resurrecting the sounds of decades long gone has become quite a profitable link for generations of musicians.
It's quite another thing, however, to be a musician and have an entire tribute album of your previous material released to fans. It's flattery-by-imitation on a grand scale.
"She's influenced a lot of people. Maybe not me, because I'm not a fan. But a lot of bands are."
Madonna has finally reached this nebulous realm of mega-stardom, which previously has been reserved for -- well, lots of people. Depeche Mode, for one, was recently honored by groups who sang their songs, recorded them, and resold them to the masses.
But now it's Madonna's turn. "Virgin Voices: A Tribute to Madonna: Volume One" (Cleopatra Records) is a collection of the best of Madonna -- from "Like a Virgin" to "Express Yourself" -- as sung by other groups. Among the performers on the CD are Berlin, Anabella Lwin (formerly of Bow Wow Wow), Gene Loves Jezebel, Information Society, and a song featuring Boy George.
And each artist practically begged to be on the album because of Madonna's overwhelming influence on their careers, right? Well, not all of them.
"No, she has never influenced me, darling," says Lwin, who points out that Bow Wow Wow rose on MTV charts with the remake of The Strangeloves' "I Want Candy" long before Madonna made the scene. But Lwin, who sings a version of "Like A Virgin" that sounds like Madonna remixed, admits that she thinks this tribute album to Madonna is a good idea.
"I think it's important to pay homage to artists in the industry," she says. "I don't know if I would have done it if it had been somebody else that I didn't appreciate or respect."
Terri Nunn, of Berlin, says there was only one Madonna song she would touch -- "Live to Tell."
"I love that song," says Nunn, who also points out that Madonna rose charts after Berlin hit it big. "That's the only song in her entire career that I was like, wow. I remember hearing it and stopping everything and going, 'Who is that? Who wrote this?' It was a feeling of awe and inferiority mixed together."
Nunn also thinks this Madonna tribute is necessary.
"She's influenced a lot of people," Nunn says. "Maybe not me, because I'm not a fan. But a lot of bands are. Especially the guys, they love her. Sex is very much a part of it."
Yes, it is. This is, after all, Madonna we're talking about. When you listen to the tribute, you realize (for the 30th time?) that the songs she sang certainly never approached "influential" status -- it was the way she sold them, the way she loved the camera as she rolled across the stage of MTV.
And it was the controversy she caused over the years, stripping down to less clothing with each song and pushing the sexual envelopes of Conservative America, that landed her in hot water, and dragged her name through the mud, Nunn says.
"I've never seen anybody raked over the coals like she was," Nunn says. "God, you can feel for a person, just to be called all those names ... Watching her repeatedly take (the abuse) and go even further is really inspiring to me. It shows how criticism like that cannot hurt a person if they don't let it."
Indeed, Madonna is still going strong. At 40, she's a loving mother, she just won three Grammys for her latest release, "Ray of Light," and her silver-screen presence cannot be denied. She is an icon of our age.
"She helps give women a stronger stance," Lwin says.
That, more than the music, seems to justify this tribute album.
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