Music and That: Madonna – MDNA

OK, time for some honesty. I’ve never really “got” Madonna. I mean, yeah, I can see she’s very talented and I enjoy several of her songs (“Frozen” for instance is SO underrated). But I’ve never really understood why she’s SUCH a big deal. Maybe it’s because by the time I’d properly found her, she was down to doing crappy covers of “American Pie”. Even then, I never got the fuss over “Confessions on a Dance Floor”, and don’t even get me started on the mess that was “Hard Candy”. So, it was with some trepidation that I approached her new one, “MDNA”.

Frankly, Madge seems to have done everything in her power to make me even less interested over the last few weeks. Aside from the already legendary Super Bowl performance, she hasn’t done a bit of promotion, and the whole thing has felt like an after thought for her. She just doesn’t seem to give a crap about her music career, when she could be pushing some crappy film about Wallis Simpson. And just FYI, Wallis and Edward was NOT some epic romance, it was two selfish, petty people pissing off up their own arses.

Then there’s the two lead singles. Yeesh. “Give Me All Your Luvin’” is just… meh. From a Madonna lead single you expect amazingness. Even off the car crash of “Hard Candy” we got “4 Minutes” and yet this is so bland, it’s almost not worth commenting on. If it wasn’t for the raps from my new favourite person Nicki Minaj and famed finger-possessor M.I.A. the whole thing would be utterly pointless. I don’t hate “Girl Gone Wild” as much as the rest of the Interwebz seems to, actually I think it’s quite fun, but again it is not worthy of a legend like Madonna, and DEFINITELY not as a single.

So really, my expectations coming to the entire album were ROCK BOTTOM. If I got anything even vaguely listenable, I would have chalked the whole thing up as a success. This was the album equivalent of the Sarah Palin vice-Presidential election debate. And yet, imagine my surprise when I found myself actually really enjoying it!

Now, just like Gaga’s “Born This Way”, there are no absolute stand outs. I don’t think she could have released any of these tracks as a single and have be a worldwide smash. But pretty much all of them would have done better than “Luvin'”. In particular when she shines is when she doesn’t have to sound like she gives a shit. On the two singles she’s meant to sound upbeat and happy and “PARTAY TIMEZ WOOOO”, but that isn’t Madonna. She’s a cold, icy bitch, and that’s why everyone loves her. Tracks like “Gang Bang” (where she gets to yell “If you’re gonna act like BITCH, then you’re gonna DIE like a BITCH”), the gloriously ridiculous “I’m Addicted” (At one point a full thirty seconds of her chanting “M-D-N-A”, amazing), “I don’t even like you that much” extravaganza “Love Spent” show her off to her full potential. On the much more uplifting “Turn Up the Radio” she manages to pull of the whole Ice Queen thing and not sound bored, so that’s nice too.

My personal favourite track is “I Don’t Give A”, which actually manages to sound personal to Madonna, what with all the marriage crapness and the difficulties of raising thirty different children of varying nationalities, and at the same time include an extremely amazing rap from Her Again, Nicki Minaj, who manages the line of the album: “I’m not a businesswoman, I’m a business, woman!”.

The album does sag a little in the middle with a few too many duds. “Some Girls” is not the Rachel Stevens cover I was hoping for, and thus will always be a missed opportunity in my eyes. “I’m a Sinner” is the long awaited reunion between Madge and William Orbit (after they collaborated on “Beautiful Stranger”) and low and behold, they’ve just made “Beautiful Stranger” again. Seriously, it’s ridiculous how much they sound like each other. “Superstar” is just a bit dull.

Towards the end of the album things pick up a bit, quality-wise, if not in tempo. “Masterpiece” is actually a really nice ballad, and the fact it’s wiping the floor with “Girl Gone Wild” on iTunes at the mo, shows it wouldn’t have been a bad single choice. “Falling Free” is also quite nice, but is rather upstaged by following the superior, similar song.

As for the five extra songs on the Deluxe Edition, there’s nothing that worth mentioning. They’re all nice enough songs (M.I.A. pops up again on “B-Day Song”), but they all sort of just pass by without you noticing, really. Well, all except the LMFAO remix of “Give Me All Your Luvin'”. That’s just a pile of wank.

So, all in all, a rather pleasant surprise from the Queen of Pop. What could have been an utter disaster has been rescued into a quiet success. Well done to all concerned. But, it must be said, I’m not sure if that “Queen of Pop” title will be hers for much longer. Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” is far, FAR superior. Step up your game next time, love.

BEST 3 SONGS: “I Don’t Give A”, “I’m Addicted”, “Gang Bang”

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About rmdbutler

2007 Brit Award nominee for Best International Female
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