Feeling destructive, wanting someone to treat me like the fake that I was and at the same time looking for someone young and stupid on whom to test out scare tactics that were needed to save my ass, I went to a club. Also, and more truthfully, I was horny and wanted to see whether I still had "it." But the kind of new good looks I had just didn’t cut it in the world I used to know. And the music -- had I changed that much? It was house music -- which was essentially disco given the sturdy backbone of a very audible bass beat. Above this hard thump coasted the melodic voice of a diva -- just like in disco -- singing about lost love, feeling hot and you better watch out, I’m coming into my own, can you feel the love in the house tonight! They’d been playing this music since the late eighties -- when I’d turned twenty -- and by now everything that had been fresh about it was being rendered by rote -- the trademark diva growls and husky delivery in place; the obligatory rap solos serving as counterpoint; and certain surefire words repeated so often from song to song that they no longer seemed like words with any kind of meaning, like the way "God" sounded after you’d said it a million times in a row. The first of these words that I could remember was "party." Madonna’s "Where’s the Party?’ -- remixed and then played to death on club floors setting off a frenzy of copycatting: "Let’s party tonight!"; "Are you ready to party!"; "Party in the house!"; "Party your ass off!" And then, let’s not forget Prince’s "1999," continuing in heavy rotation in light of the approaching turn of the century -- no need for a remix, the original -- more funk than house -- was more than good enough: "We’re gonna party like it’s 1999!" And then after "party," there was "free." Rozalla’s "Everybody’s Free" and En Vogue’s "Free Your Mind," and beneath them, the horde of slogan-runners just cranked up the quantity. "Free": who was being liberated? Gays? Women? Adolescents just making the discovery of sex? Slaves to the nine-to-five? Myself? Was I now free? I looked around, noticing young men attired, or rather unattired, to be bought. Having money, I had graduated to the one who could do the buying. Free: it was just the same old shit. And really, the meaning didn’t matter, it was only that the tail end of the word -- stretched like taffy by the female singer -- sounded great on the dance floor. Like the scene of an accident -- eeeeeeeeeeeee! Inspiring a frenzy of pogoing and hand thrusting and torso writhing. And in this respect, it also sounded like electroshock -- eeeeeeeeeeeee -- "Let’s go crazy!" "Get wild y’all!" "Screammmmmmmmm!"

Where’s the party? Free. Crazy. Wild. A veritable roll call to amnesia. "Leave your troubles," said one song, "outside the dance floor." And then nearing the Judgment Day -- with my twenties left behind like something thrown out a car window -- there were the words "spirit," "soul," "light" to replace the foregoing words. From amnesia to awakening, exemplified by Madonna’s "Ray of Light" album, called "electronica," which was essentially house music with the melodic flourishes of disco traded in for the synth atmospherics of goth (the better to carry quasi-religious lyrics), and with its bass beat trebled and then speeded up -- like the heartbeat of some rat on crank -- or slowed way down -- crack for crank. Meditation, yoga, transcendentalism were once more, as in the seventies, the buzzwords. And you could tell, if Madonna -- the head mall girl who approached everything as a trying on and taking off -- had gotten hold of it, it was only a heartbeat away from dissemination among her disciples, whose idea of profound had been to capitalize and thicken the words SEX and POWER over and over in studiously squalid diary entries. But this time, instead of SEX and POWER, they’d be scribbling down HOPE and LIGHT, trading in black mascara for sparkles around the eyes -- a look which made them appear to have smashed straight into a shower of stars. Near "heaven," as was their avowed goal. They were all here tonight, making me feel laughably square, with their pink and silvery-gray ensembles and their fluorescent wands which made circles in the air that I couldn’t, not without the right drugs, appreciate. And you could tell, once these kids had gotten hold of the music, it would continue, just like house music before it, to get more and more popular, while its juice got more and more drained, until finally it became nothing more than a corpse of its original inspiration. Madonna, that undertaker of music.

-- Han Ong, Fixer Chao