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Old 06-05-2012, 10:05 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Madonna - MDNA

MDNA

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This review I originally posted on Epinions. I thought I should contribute to the album reviews forum here.
MDNA, Madonna's 12thstudio record, was released this year.

So why am I listening to Childish Gambino instead?

After a nearly twenty year love affair with Madonna Ciccone, Queen of Pop, Queen of Reinvention, Queen of My Life, we have finally hit a severe rough patch. I stuck by her side through Hard Candy and American Life, two albums universally pans across the board. I didn't bat an eye at Swept Away, or ridicule her rather awkward interviews. I even purchased two copies of her sloppy greatest hits collection Celebration. So, what is it about MDNA that rubs me the wrong way? It's not so much that the songs on this record aren't catchy. In fact, quite a few are perfect examples of electronic music done well. And a few even stack up against the fresh outputs from the ever-consistent Robyn. But as a whole, if we step away at look at the big picture, MDNA is a mess from start to finish. From the unfinished production to lazy promotion, this album is a hollow effort that sounds rushed and incomplete. Even the way the running list was compiled seems to have followed no rules or methodology. In comparison to her last electronic record, Confessions on a Dance Floor, MDNA is a shallow, cheap imitator. And it's the first time Madonna has disappointed me musically.

MDNA was produced by Martin Solveig and William Orbit with a few other guest appearances, and frankly, none of them are anything to write home about. The thumping club-bangers are just that, and the balladry only partially hits the target. With a few bad piano tracks, MDNA would have been a perfect ravers album in the 1990s. But it's 2012, and nothing on this LP sounds modern or fresh, and it really shows just how out of touch Madge really is. Despite an impressive Superbowl Halftime performance, MDNA does not live up to all the hype she set forth, and if anything, that performance really spelled out a few things for us: she is the Queen, she is God, she is untouchable. And that's where runs into all sorts of trouble. We're in an era with Twitter, Facebook and a universally recognized global-izing; where celebrities are meant to be approachable and humble. Bunkering down in your mansion while complaining about hydrangeas really doesn't make me relate to you and your rich-white-girl problems. I'm all for mystery-- but take a page out of Kate Bush and humble yourself. Rather than embrace technology and this new world order, Madonna seems keen to play the role of teen idol forever. And in this day and age, with even her contemporaries Kylie Minogue and Cyndi Lauper adapting for the new market better than the supposed Queen of Reinvention, it's all extremely confusing. Where is the woman who was ten steps ahead of everyone else? I know you can't stay on top forever, but there's a difference between abdication and delusion.

But back to the music. What is MDNA comprised of? Dance beats. Some auto-tune. Machine-gun percussion. Vocal effects. Beautiful balladry. Some stompers. Some attitude. Nothing that reinvents the wheel, lots of music that all too comfortably coasts, and some serious missteps. It's a collection of all of her previous sounds, but none that live up to their originals. Aside from Love Spent, which features a banjo riff and heartbreaking, successfully repetitive lyrics that almost plead to the listener, and a memorable melody, nothing on this album really stands out as being truly Madonna. I'm Addicted and Girl Gone Wild set themselves apart by having stellar hooks, but most of the other songs are only good in the moment. Some Girls is a classy strut of a song, but its production wears on the listener.

Give Me All Your Luvin', which features useless but fun cameos from M.I.A and Nicki Minaj, revisits the rough sound from her debut record, and although its underwhelming upon first listen, it does bury itself deep into the ear canal so it sprout up and annoy you later. The bubblegum cheerleader chanting and sassy lyrics seem to be targeting Madge's only real competition Lady GaGa, but she does it all with a little wink and a raspberry. Gang Bang, a violent stab at either Guy Ritchie or GaGa (I can't really tell) will be a lot of fun live, but its a bit one-dimensional in its metaphor. (Edit: The MDNA Tour has premiered, and although the song seems to be mimed, the routine itself is entertaining). I could keep going and describe the 60s-retro I'm a Sinner or the promising Beautiful Killer, but even writing a review for these seems pointless. You're not going to buy it anyway. Madonna is so out of touch with her public, I don't know why anybody outside of her hardcore fans would pick this up or listen to it on a whim. People want music that speaks to them. I'm not sure what Madonna was saying with this album, and I'm not sure what she wanted me to take away from it. The whole project had so much potential that was ultimately wasted and, according to William Orbit, I'm not wrong. Madonna has a lot left in her. But if Hard Candy was her midlife crisis, MDNA is Madonna just not caring anymore.

Girl Gone Wild - 4/5
Gang Bang - 3.5/5
I'm Addicted - 5/5
Turn Up the Radio - 3/5
Give Me All Your Luvin - 3.5/5
Some Girls - 3.5/5
I Don't Give A... - 3.5/5
Superstar - 3/5
I'm a Sinner - 3/5
Love Spent - 5/5
Masterpiece - 3.5/5
Falling Free - 3.5/5
Beautiful Killer - 4/5
B-Day Song - 3.5/5
Best Friend - 2.5/5

Overall: 3.5
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Old 06-05-2012, 10:16 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Excellent review, really enjoyed it. Good to see some mainstream pop (so to speak) being reviewed instead of the latest Radiohead or whatever. And you have a good eye for writing. Very well put together. I'll be watching for more reviews from you.

For the record, my three favourite Madonna songs. I'm not a fan, but I do like these:



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Old 06-05-2012, 10:27 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Thanks! Writing is a hobby of mine.

And yes, those songs are very good. I'm not sure what's going on with Madonna. To be honest, I think GaGa has her a little stuck. Her tour is insanely entertaining, but her music as of late has not been tickling my fancy the way True Blue or Confessions did.
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Old 07-14-2012, 08:27 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Gang Bang

I have read it's about her relationship with Guy....I hope it's not about me..? The spirit in her eyes is what draws me in. Love her always.
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Old 08-22-2012, 03:32 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I can't say i've got into this album (which is a shame). I hate to say it - but is it perhaps time for her to give up?
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Old 08-22-2012, 04:09 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default disappointing album

Another disappointing album from Maddy! I had some hopes that this would be a great collection of songs similar to Confessions but it's just as bad as Hard Candy.
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