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How Time and I Misunderestimated Madonna

Paul Krugman has an (implicitly derisive) link to Time's 1985 joint profile of Cyndi Lauper and Madonna, which portrayed the former as an enduring new presence on the music scene and the latter as a flash in the pan who'd soon be out of music altogether:

"She's a product of the shopping-mall culture," says Rock Journalist Dave Marsh of Madonna. "But there's also a real rock side to her, a side that's independent and honest, that says, 'You don't like me, that's your problem.' " But some people in the music business have that problem. "McDonna," goes the current industry gag: "Over 1 million served." Others, whether they like Madonna or not, find her different from Lauper. "To me, Cyndi is more of an artist than Madonna," says Irving Azoff, president of MCA Records. "Cyndi Lauper will be around for a long time," says Paul Grein, an editor at Billboard. "Madonna will be out of the business in six months. Her image has completely overshadowed her music." ...

Madonna may indeed have a shrewd notion of both her limitations and her ultimate appeal. "I don't think Madonna, whom I like, has any particular interest in music," says Rock Critic Greil Marcus. "She's going to end up a big movie star. There's nothing wrong with that."

In defense of Time, I had the exact same opinion in 1985, and though I may have read it in Time, I think I arrived at it independently. Both singers seemed to occupy the same cultural niche. The difference between them was that Cyndi Lauper actually had some decent songs, and Madonna just had tight clothing. I've always considered the subsequent disappearance of Cyndi Lauper and the rise of Madonna to superstardom to be one of the tragic developments of the 1980s. Madonna never produced a song as good, or a video as clever, as this: