For Madonna‘s twelfth studio album, the Material Girl has ditched the ‘hard candy’ in favor of something stronger, something meaner. Something she bills, her ‘MDNA’.
A Pop triangulation of sorts, the set was primary produced by the singer’s longtime collaborator William Orbit and two contemporary composers, Benny Benassi and Martin Solveig, to inject an air of “fresh” and “exciting”. As always, being the businesswoman that she is, M shares a songwriting and producing credit on every track.
As her first release not to be associated with Warner Bros. Records (the label she called home since 1982), all eyes are on whether the ‘Queen of Pop’ has crafted a blockbuster Pop LP. One which firmly plants her as a viable contender against the Rihanna‘s and Katy Perry‘s of the world. And one which, at the same time, reintroduces her brand to the ‘YouTube Generation’.
Beyond this, there also remains the penultimate question: as a solid body of work, how hard does ‘MDNA’ hit? Swallow the full review after the jump.
Opening with ‘Girls Gone Wild’, Madonna is all business as she explains her unapologetic thirst for sin in this flirty, yet safe dance number. ‘Gone Bad’ boasts welcomed elements of ‘Confessions On The Dance Floor’ with its sonic brilliance and aloof air of adolescent lust. A trend continued on classic Madge cuts ‘I’m Addicted’ and ‘Turn Up The Radio’.
It’s not an LP without it’s flaws, however.
“Like a bitch out of order,” ‘Gang Bang’ tries too hard to dethrone Britney‘s ‘Get Naked’ as the best slice of Psychotic-Pop ever recorded. The shock track comes up short with its deadpan, apathetic vocals and lack of a discernible melody. For five minutes Madonna monotonously drawls in a reedy voice her intentions of shooting her lover dead, going to Hell for it, and then shooting him again. We kid you not.
While elsewhere, ‘Give Me All Your Luvin’ is so reductive that it feels as if Lady M is trying to pull the wool over our eyes by spraying ‘Febreze’ on recycled tracks and telling us they’re new. In this case her inability to keep up Martin Solveig‘s high-octane production that ages her far more than any birth certificate ever could.
Still, as with any solid collection, flaws are only a stones-throw away from brilliance. Case point, ‘I Don’t Give A’ , which finds the dance-floor diva in top form rapping of her excellency with the receipts to back it up. She “does ten things at once” and doesn’t “give a f—“ what anyone thinks, especially ex-husband Guy Ritchie: “I tried to be the perfect wife, I diminished myself, it swallowed me, if I was a failure then I don’t give a…” Lyrically poignant and sonically astounding, it would be all sorts of criminal if this Nicki Minaj featured cut isn’t released as a single.
Sure to earn a chorus of scoff courtesy of their heavy coating of auto-tune, ‘Some Girls’ and ‘I’m A Sinner’ are euphoric Pop at its most premium – when divorced from the obvious. Together, they earn Lady Gaga‘s favorite artist all her 10’s as a raving disco diva on the prowl. ‘Girls’ contains psychedelic flourishes reminiscent of 2000’s ‘Music’ that creates a near-perfect platform for M-Dolla to declare “some girls are not like [her],” although they vehemently do try.
‘Falling Free’ appropriately closes out ‘MDNA’, as it’s the album’s brightest ray of light. Produced by Orbit, it’s the most intimate of the two ballads to be found on the 12 song collection. The deliberately enunciated lyrics resonate themes of regret, sorrow, and acceptance, “It turns my hate and washes down the face of God that stands above pouring over hope and love,” she sings hauntingly. As the orchestra swells it creates an atmospheric backdrop that transcends all the copious amounts of over-production that bog down most of the album; it’s sublime.
With ‘MDNA’, Madonna underscores the fact that she’s no longer a musical visionary nor is she trying to be. As the world’s longest withstanding Pop Star and one of the most successful, the 53 year old knows full well what she needs to do to remain relevant; adapt and evolve–it’s her thing.
‘MDNA’ is best served loud at obscene levels and danced to in wild abandon, as there’s a blind entertaining quality to it that should lend itself well to dark club settings or tour arenas. Conveniently so, all signs point to that being the LP’s sole purpose; to work as a catalyst to promote the star’s impending world tour.
Final verdict? ‘MDNA’ is solid pop art, yet nowhere near close to being as revolutionary as it should or could be; nor is it as groundbreaking as it, at times, thinks. With that being said, the album serves as a potent 21st Century reminder of why few can argue with her widely accepted ‘Queen of Pop’ status.
That Grape Juice Rating: 3.5/5 Stars