I have a short addendum to Mike Miliard’s excellent piece on current trends in the Irish and Irish-American communities of Boston. Over the past 10 years, I have fielded hundreds of fundraising pledge calls during the Saturday-evening “Celtic Twilight” broadcast at WUMB. One constant I’ve found is that most of the fervent supporters of “Celtic Twilight” have surnames that suggest little or no Irish lineage.
This is a remarkable turnabout from the early ’50s, when I became captivated by the old-time instrumentals and ballads from Ireland that were broadcast nightly on Boston’s old “Irish Hour” radio program. I kept this particular listening preference a closely guarded secret from schoolmates and neighbors since I was living in what was then a very WASPish part of Newton, where most things Irish were viewed with subtle displeasure at best. I find it pleasantly ironic that at least some of the descendents of those that once scorned traditional Irish music and culture in Boston may now be among its most enthusiastic adherents.
Defending the divas
As usual, Madge fans fly off the handle at anyone who dares question her so-called “reign." For those who clearly have no idea of the popularity of either Madonna or Kylie Minogue throughout the world, both are often over-hyped, but both are incredibly popular in their own way. Kylie happens to be massively popular — except in America — with record chart runs in Europe, Asia, and Australasia. She is the 25th most successful recording artist of all time, selling in excess of 70 to 80 million records. She might be sniffed at by some American singing-star fans, but if you were to strip away American stars’ US sales, many would be left wanting around the rest of the globe. The US is but one country, and to achieve success in one country — however large — is in no way comparable to achieving success across continents.
It’s fairly easy to sell millions in the US, simply because of its population size and consumerist ways. But in Europe we pay good money to actually see and hear singers, and Kylie has more record-breaking arena tours under her belt in the UK, Asia, and Australia than Madonna has. You don’t have to like her, and you don’t have to believe that she is the best singer in the world, but you cannot take away her 20-year career and massive cross-cultural appeal. I wouldn’t discount anything that Madonna has achieved either, but even she has struggled recently to achieve the levels of fame and success she enjoyed in her early career. At least Kylie didn’t resort to standing completely naked in the middle of a busy street in order to justify her existence in some highbrow intellectual way.
Kylie doesn’t make infectious pop. Most of her songs are forgettable, obviously. Madge made it in Europe, Australia, Asia, and the biggest market of all — the USA. Kylie’s name and her limited oeuvre do not ring a bell in Asia and the US, unlike Madonna. Also, Madonna isn’t just a dance artist; she can dig R&B, jazz, and she’s a great balladeer — take “Crazy For You,” “Take a Bow,” and “You Must Love Me,” to name a few. Watch out for her new album and watch how Kylie and the rest of your dance divettes follow her. “Madonna is the speedboat and the rest are just the GoGo’s on water skis.” - Liz Phair. I can see a showgirl trying hard to make just one top-10 US single every decade on those skis.
Ronald C. Rodriguez