I thought I’d wait a bit after this album’s release before doing this review; sometimes releases come with such insane amounts of hype attached that you need a little time to cool off and let something sink in. I’m glad I did that in the case of MDNA, Madge’s latest dance-pop offering to the world gays.
I found Madonna’s first 2 singles from MDNA to be really lackluster, so I’ll readily admit i didn’t have high hopes for the album, as I did before her opus Confessions came out several years ago. I’ll get the bad stuff out of the way first OK? “Give Me All Your Luvin,'” the first single from MDNA was a misstep. Easily the worst single of her entire career, the song literally made me want to stick a fork in my eye and I’m pretty sure it made my dog run away. I pray to God I never have to hear it again in my life. Ever. I will not mention GMAYL again in this review. Promise.
“Girl Gone Wild,” the second single that preceded the album was a marginal improvement on the previous single, but I still wasn’t feeling it. It has a very flat quality, which I just can’t get into much. It never really takes off. Luckily, things improve drastically from these first two duds. So I’ve put the fork down.
“Gang Bang” sounds like an audio hate-fuck, and is actually pretty intense and fun, especially by the time M. is screeching “Die bitch!” you wonder if she’s gone completely nuts. It’s a jarring song, thematically similar to “Thief Of Hearts,” one of my old faves off Erotica. Madonna, so poised under normal circumstances, sounds batshit crazy and it works. The real sound of MDNA though, comes in the form of “I’m Addicted,” the first really great track on the album, an all-in-one party track that is Madonna at her most effective. I’m hoping for some killer remixes of it.
“Turn Up The Radio,” which had better be a single, has a really great, instantly likeable classic Madonna vibe. “Some Girls” and “Superstar” carry on the MDNA experience in a nice, albeit unmemorable way; the latter is somewhat catchier though the dubstep break at 2:27 is unnecessary and will only make the tune sound dated in a year or two. The survivor theme of “I Don’t Give A” is reminiscent of “Human Nature” from Bedtime Stories, albeit more comical with lines like “Tweetin’ in the elevator” and a reference to “Baby Jesus on the stairs.” The inclusion of Nicki Minaj is a cringeworthy ploy to rope in a younger audience, but the baroque classical outro to the song more than makes up for it. “Love Spent” continues the “fuck you” vibe. I’m not sure how many fuck-you’s Sean Penn warranted, but Guy Ritchie gets at least two, on the same album! You tell ’em, Madge! Bitches.
“I’m A Sinner” revisits “Beautiful Stranger” in another one of those self-referential moments that colour all her later work. I’m not sure if all the self-referencing is intentional or betrays a lack of ideas but it certainly leaves no doubt as to whose record you’re listening to, trendy producers be damned. “Masterpiece,” the song from her panned film W.E. is a pleasant, if unnecessary addition, but the album closer “Falling Free” is a sonically gorgeous sendoff to her listeners. I have never minded Madonna’s ballads, despite her vocal limitations, they kind of remind you that yes, she is human, not just the one-woman media industry that she’s so often styled as.
MDNA is better than 2008’s Hard Candy (who wants to hear a middle aged white lady from Michigan attempt to sound urban?) but nowhere near the heights she hit with 2005’s Confessions On A Dance Floor. Which is fine. At 53, she knows her audience, she’s still contributing to pop culture, and for better or worse, there will never be another Madonna. Sorry Nicki.