Madonna’s “Four Minutes to Save the World”
Madonna: Come on boy, I’ve been waiting for somebody to pick up my stroll.
Timberlake: Well don’t waste time, give me a sign, tell me how you wanna roll.
Madonna: I want somebody to speed it up for me then take it down slow. There’s enough room for both.
Timberlake: Girl, I can handle that, you just gotta show me where it’s at. Are you ready to go, Are you ready to go?
Wow. I mean, really, wow. It’s one thing to watch the insipid video, which has unnerving, tranny vampire visual of Madonna spread eagle on the hood of some luxury brand automobile while the world crumples into a void behind her. There, at least, the viewer is rewarded with a morsel of symbolic truth. When you actually see the lyrics of “Four Minutes” flatly stated, it’s lobotomizing how empty this song is. Even superficially, it’s difficult to press this song for content. Is it simply her Mrs. Robinson pop claptrap, initiating young Timberlake into the Q&A game that is getting her to orgasm? It certainly sounds like she’s the Goldilocks of cradle robbing: not too fast, Justin, not too slow. That she would connect her sexual gratification to “saving the world” says much about the tired, engulfing narcissism of cobwebbed Mega-Stars. If pop music ever had the kind of urgency suggested by the chorus, Madonna has certainly done her fair share to lesson its cultural impact beyond the fading, cyclical variations of style. But, wait, there’s more:
Madonna: Sometimes I think, what I need is an intervention, yeah.
Timberlake: And you know I can tell that you like it. And that it’s good, by the way that you move, ooh, hey hey/
Madonna: The road to heaven, paved with good intentions, yeah.
Justin: But if I got a night, at least I can say I did what I wanted to do. Tell me, how bout you?
Is this a transcript of their text messages to each other? Even as traded flirtation, this song sags. It’s actually representative of Madonna in interviews where clichés, or variations of clichés, are supposed to be read with metaphysical weight. “The road to heaven, paved with good intentions” makes absolutely no sense in or out of context in this song, but gives the listener the illusion of wit by inverting a common phrase with a new, but imprecise meaning. Does she mean that Justin’s sexual desire for her will help him achieve everlasting afterlife, even while this song has exactly zero shelf life? Or does she mean that having good intentions is just as good as doing good works, which would be the first criticism that I would level at her entire contribution to the pop canon. Either way, if the song wanted to be dirty, it would do well to have us not debating heaven’s asphalt. Where is the dirt of this liaison that dallies in abstractions or sideshow references to interventions and theology for dummies? This entire track seems like an implosion of Madonna’s insecurities about her persona. She wants to be pervasively sexual, but enlightened in a desexualized mother-figure way. She wants to continue to rake in the cash of her image, but wishes to recast herself in this sacralized savior role. In the end, we get a song that’s ostensibly about screwing some young upstart for a handful of seconds in order to save the planet from impending destruction. If only.
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