Since Madonna seems to be in the mood to throw us back to the 90s (despite cursory “fans” associating her with the 80s), she recently presented the world with a remix (David’s Radio Edit) of 1992’s club hit, “Deeper and Deeper.” But she hasn’t seen fit to stop there via her latest remix single from an upcoming compilation of hits, called Finally Enough Love. That single being “Ray of Light.” And since “Frozen,” from the same 1998 album, launched Madonna into the realm of TikTok virality (with a slew of its own separate Sickick remixes), it only makes sense that she would choose to keep revisiting the record for the purposes of remixing and informing a new generation of her work. A generation that, to be frank, doesn’t know shit about the true joys of clubland. Even millennials could never really know thanks to the advent of camera phones in the 00s that detracted from the full-blown immersive experience of dancing the night away.
So it was that the end of the twentieth century served as its own true form of being “the last days of disco.” Indeed, the 90s was a decade quite into its 70s nostalgia motif thanks to the omnipresence of disco balls throughout the clubs of New York. The very clubs that Victor, the pretty boy model who “narrates” Glamorama, would have frequented. In fact, Bret Easton Ellis released the novel the same year that Ray of Light came out. Her transformation from “Material” to “Ethereal” Girl was already marked by the birth of her first daughter in 1996, which Victor alludes to when he describes “the girl just back from Madonna’s baby shower.” Because the entire “gimmick” of Glamorama is celebrity name-dropping—all in the quintessential Easton Ellis bid to accent the eradication of any true sense of identity as he did in American Psycho with the “everyone is everyone” construct. And everyone truly is everyone because no one actually gives a shit about details (save for: are you rich and hot?).
Victor, who was one of the more minor characters from 1987’s The Rules of Attraction, is meant to be so vapid in part because he’s a product modern culture and in part as a plot device to show the reader how insignificant even the “beautiful ones” are. Madonna’s drugged-out, at-warp-speed sound on this particular remix of “Ray of Light” is something endlessly imaginable within Victor’s own landscape of non-reality and meaningless identity. What’s more, the newly edited video that accompanies the remix creates a similar effect to what Victor endures in the book. Had the “rights” been acquired in time, Easton Ellis might have featured a scene mentioning the song repeatedly, instead of, say, Sinead O’Connor’s “The Last Day of Our Acquaintance.”
The casual conversation about murder as this O’Connor song soundtracks the scene is meant to accent how blasé society has become about the horrors that are but part and parcel of postmodern existence, during which the 24/7 news cycle took hold and the desensitization to violence and decay became a fact of life. That’s why Victor describes, “‘Could you kill somebody?’ I heard a voice ask. A moment passed before another voice answered, ‘Yeah, I guess so.’ ‘Oh, so what?’ someone else moaned.” In short, nothing really matters (to borrow from the title of another song on Ray of Light). Except going through the motions of primping and pretending, as much as possible to be relevant—but also “different.” A complicated dichotomy elucidated in the passage wherein Victor recounts, “I had spent part of the morning trimming my pubic hair and everyone was checking various gossip columns to see if they had made it but they were basically one-shots and it was never going to happen for any of them and there was a Rauschenberg in the bathroom and a Picasso in the pantry and the guy I had slept with the night before—a boy who looked like Paul Newman at twenty—started talking about a friend who had been murdered in Maui last week and then everyone around the pool joined in and I couldn’t follow the conversation.” Mainly because it wasn’t about him.
Among other prescient matters—apart from emotional immunity to carnage—addressed in Glamorama is the sense Victor has of being constantly filmed by some unseen source (which, in his case, is an accurate feeling to have). This would come to roost in many ways as the twenty-first century dawned, including the founding of TMZ in 2005 and the Big Brother culture of social media.
That Victor was originally the non-present boyfriend (deciding to drop out of their college) of Lauren Hynde in The Rules of Attraction additionally speaks to how he’s essentially a cipher. A blank slate on which anyone can project or puppeteer what they want to. In effect, the ideal consumer and the ideal “tastemaker” to sell a product. Which even art is, especially in the present (see: promoting yourself as a “brand” on Instagram to sell your wares). And if everyone is everyone, so, too, is every dialogue every dialogue. With Easton Ellis underscoring the point about all conversation being as void as the people spouting it when he has characters recite song lyrics as responses passed off as one’s own (e.g. “‘I’ve got chills,’ I admit. ‘They’re multiplying.’”). “She’s got herself a universe gone quickly” might be something a character could quote, but then, it sounds a bit too elevated in terms of vocabulary. Nonetheless, the sentiments of “Ray of Light” echo the Glamorama motif of a person’s undeniable inconsequence in a universe that hurtles ever-forward in time (the sped-up spinning Earth just one example of that in the Jonas Åkerlund-directed video). This being illustrated in the lyrics, “Quicker than a ray of light, then gone for/Someone else will be there/Through the endless years.”
While Madonna was insistent the track was about having one’s “eyes open” for the first time to the wonders of the universe, it didn’t stop her from the very Victor-inspired act of featuring the song in a WindowsXP commercial spotlighting a high-speed internet connection. Because “spirituality,” obviously, can’t stand in the way of capitalism.
It’s ironic that “Ray of Light,” a transcendental song about finding purpose and a sense of belonging (even if only among Nature), should come out the same year as Glamorama. Yet Madonna herself offers the duality of being spiritual while also being a poster child for the kind of capitalism-on-steroids (through the conduit of the celebrity-industrial complex) that the twentieth century trumpeted from the mountaintops. Fittingly, the last lines in Glamorama are: “The stars are real. The future is that mountain.” And spreading the “gospel” of the free market from atop it.