Picture it: Rural Alberta, 2005. I wasn't out yet, and part of an Evangelical Christian youth group. It seems like a lifetime ago, and it was, because I have transformed so dramatically since those days.
I was an extremely insecure gay kid who didn't really ever fit in. When my peers all started to discover the world of pop music, I was sashaying around my bedroom listening to "Dancing Queen" and "Daddy Cool." Disco was my genre from as far back as I can remember- and still is. That's probably why Confessions On A Dance Floor resonated with me so much when I first heard "Hung Up" pumping out of my radio speakers.
When I first heard the premiere of "Hung Up" on the radio, my teenage brain kicked into overdrive. I quickly grabbed a cassette tape (it was 2005 and most boomboxes still had cassette decks), popped it into my stereo and recorded the remaining 3/4 of the song. Musically and lyrically, It was a true moment of clarity for me, perhaps my first. This music was different. Perhaps there were other people out in the world why felt just as "different" as I did?
I knew a couple of Madonna's biggest hits, but never fully explored her artistry. It just wasn't for me and it certainly didn't fit into my Christian upbringing. Over the coming weeks, I ventured out to a local record store on a weekly basis to spend my entire part-time paycheques on buying every Madonna album and CD remix single I could get my hands on. I discovered brilliant records like "Erotica" and "Bedtime Stories" that spoke to me on a very profound level and assured me that I was never alone.
It was that music that freed my mind and granted me permission to practice self-discovery and self-acceptance. While today, our culture has come a long way in embracing our differences, these were days before Glee and Lady Gaga, social media and American marriage equality. As a gay community, we were still largely in hiding. Growing up in a small conservative city in Southern Alberta, I've always credited Madonna's message of self-expression for giving me the permission to live authentically.
Confessions started all of that for me, with retro, yet modern, electronic synth beats layered over messages of self-love and self-expression (minus the slight misstep of "I Love New York"). Confessions forced me to realize that Madonna is not just to be revered as a legend of pop, but also as a once-in-a-lifetime social and cultural phenomenon. Her melodies are catchy and her lyrics are profound. We're all able to relate to Queen M on one level or another because her message is universal. Bitch, we're all Madonna.