There is absolutely nothing new that can be said about Madonna. For three decades, this force of nature from outside Detroit has held the pop music world captive, with a creative and commercial track record that’s matched or surpassed by no other female artist. Unfortunately, we’re now at the point where one could probably say the same about her music-what new can be said about it? Especially when not much has changed about it within the last decade? Kinda disappointing when you think back and realize that there was a time (trust me, I was there,) when Madge was the queen of reinvention, and you couldn’t wait to hear what guise she’d adopt for her latest work.
Maybe it’s fair to say that at 53 years of age and with a lengthy career behind her—there’s nothing more she can do. Which is fine-maybe I just need some time to adjust to the fact that Madonna will never surprise me again. Unfortunately, that also means that new records from her are becoming less important as the years go by. Looking at her last four studio albums-Music, American Life, Confessions On A Dance Floor, Hard Candy-it would be hard to grab a full disc’s worth of great material from all of them combined. The trend doesn’t reverse with Madonna’s latest disc, MDNA. While it’s not the wholesale throwaway I thought it was going to be, it’s still not very good.
When the first crop of artists to be influenced by Madonna popped up in the late Nineties-think Britney, Jessica, et.al., Madge acknowledged their presence and kept moving in her own direction. With GaGa, Katy and Ke$ha pushing the envelope in terms of outrageousness (honoring Madonna in a more direct fashion,) Madge has now decided to fight back. As several of the Popblerd team mentioned in a recent paragraph, Madonna has officially stepped away from leading the pack and now appears to be following. It’s weird for an artist to appear to be trailing behind artists who they themselves influenced, but I could hear anyone of the electronic jams on MDNA (which is synthesized within an inch of it’s life) being sung by many of today’s pop princesses.
A recent Rolling Stone review called MDNA Madonna’s breakup album, and the lyrics definitely are a lot more pointed than the average Madonna album. On the few moments of real emotion you can get from all the machinery, Madge seems bitter-“Gang Bang” suggests that Guy Ritchie should watch his back. It also suggests that Madonna has been listening to Britney Spears’ last two or three albums. One other thing worth mentioning is that Madge could probably use a creative writing class-seems like at least one lyric in each song either references or is directly lifted from a previous Madonna record. We all got into the groove back in ’85, lady…time to take us somewhere else.
Not to say this album is without pleasure. I’ll admit that I’m generally not predisposed to loving modern pop-dance music, and MDNA is certainly not awful if that’s your thing. That said, the best song (to my ears) is “Masterpiece,” a gentle, lilting ballad that suggests Madonna classics like “I’ll Remember” and “Take a Bow” and was originally recorded for her directorial film debut, “We.” The regretful “I Fucked Up” is another winner, and lest you all paint me as a dance-pop spoil sport, “I Don’t Give A” is a fun uptempo track, with Madonna spitting rapid fire verses-it’s kind of like “American Life”-but good. The track features a rap by Nicki Minaj, which also happens to be the worst thing about said track. Neither of the album’s guests (Nicki or M.I.A.-both of whom appear twice) make much of an impact. They seem to be enlisted just for cred purposes.
At any rate, MDNA is one of those situations where I’m extremely thankful for the advances that have been made in technology and the music industry in the past decade and change. If this was 2002, I’d have bought the album and been very disappointed. I’d ultimately have wound up either letting it collect dust in my collection or selling it back for pennies on the dollar. Now, I got to listen to the album on Spotify, discover which songs I actually liked, go onto Amazon MP3, download them, and we’re all happy. With that in mind, I’ll be somewhat charitable and give Madonna’s latest album a C.