67b6/1240157600-madonna80saz9.jpgMadonna Ciccone, flirt-rocker.

Before the Maternal Girl developed the habit of drawing Malawi babies into her sordid web of influence, just any child would do. Or so suggests this unintentionally hilarious London Times article from August 13, 1985.

I found the piece while digging around the Times online archives for something else entirely (I swear). And if you thought Madge has recently had a tough time with Malawi adoption officials and thoroughbreds, just read this column by Oxford-educated, Ian Fleming-biographer Andrew Lycett. The piece is angled around perhaps the single worst attempt ever to fabricate a pop subgenre: "flirt rock," which goes mostly undefined beyond the writer's desperate grab for the term when he's run out of synonyms for "skankalicious." The writer's sexual frustration is clearly the guiding principle here, though he tries to hide behind a smokescreen of gauzy feminism and false gentility. Excerpts included after the jump.

But first—and because I'm sure any of the bohemoths who publish and sell Madonna's work will throw a fit if I try to embed or stream an example of her dark art—I'm embedding this clip of Jeanette MacDonald from the 1932 musical Love Me Tonight, which effectively illustrates Lycett's main idea.

Rickie Lee Jones, whose rather general quote from another article seems to have been appropriated by the writer for this very specific Madonna hit-job, has this to say about flirt rockers:

"There's a lot of crude, uneducated, untalented people that lecherous businessmen are using to make a lot of money. (Their music) teaches some very bad moral codes. It teaches children they'll get what they want if they're devious and sexual and whores"

Oooh... snap? To be frank, I think many of us have seen "lecherous businessmen" exploit "uneducated, untalented people" in about every industry we've worked. Jones' damning indictment set up a sharp insight the writer manages into record promo strategy:

Record company marketing executives have observed the Madonna phenomenon and concluded that if you dress a girl in underwear and have her act and sing in a sexually provocative way, you have a better chance of a hit.

You don't say. I guess we've come a long way since Jeanette MacDonald. By now, I'm wondering just how Madonna pulled off her dastardly deed?

On stage she flaunts her body, revealing much of it to her audience by what she chooses not to wear. Her trademarks are plenty of bare midriff and thigh, and frilly or lace see-through blouses which show off her bra and the outlines of her notably voluptuous figure.

You know, that's a helpful description. A picture would've been nice—but that titillating prose does the trick just as well. Unfortunately, the writer's diplomatic skills fail him when he turns his attention to Scottish-singer-turned-American-hussy Sheena Easton.

The fact that Ms Easton had to go to America to become a pop siren is informative. The British public tends to reject overtly sexual pop singers, certainly if they display no other qualities. This attitude may change, of course. If Madonna's film (the then just-released Desperately Seeking Susan) takes off in this country and parents are confronted with their 10-year-old daughters as Madonna-clone tarts begging for pocket money to buy T-shirts emblazoned with the word '"Virgin".

If the Madonna clone-tarts did covet such T-shirts, it was only because "Frankie Says 'Relax' before you come all over his face" was so last year. So here the writer dips into a double-double-standard, cheating both nationality and gender. Impressive! Perhaps aware of his forecast's bleakness, Lycett closes the article on an up note of sorts, with a quote by advice columnist Anna Raeburn from Cosmopolitan (of all publications). Raeburn tries to put things in perspective for responsible parents worried about the threat "flirt rock" poses for their children's stupid, stupid minds. Raeburn gets the last word there, and here:

"Madonna simply looks like an over-made-up little broad." she says. "All this posturing, it doesn't touch me. It's not a particularly comfortable image. However if Madonna is the scourge of young womanhood, young womanhood is sillier than I thought. The most interesting thing about Madonna now is that she is engaged to be married (to Sean Penn). You can't get more conventional than that. We'll probably see her married with a pearl in her peerless navel. Poor silly cat."