I should declare my interest here; I’ve been a big Madonna fan ever since I saw her the ‘Beautiful Stranger’ video on Top of the Pops (something about the way she grinded on Austin Powers said to me that this was someone worth watching). So in this review I cannot promise full impartiality; I’ve come too far, and learned too much of the ‘Vogue’ dance routine, for that.
|So much for ‘Like A Virgin’
|That is not to say, however, that this album doesn’t deserve a good review; after all so far it has scored 7 from NME (yes, really), 8 from Music OMH and a Metacritic score in the 70s, the same as the new Shins and Springsteen albums. Not bad for something that starts with a song as weak as ‘Girl Gone Wild’, a club-by-numbers song too generic even for David Guetta, redeemed only by its use of the prayer from ‘Act of Contrition’, the sort of self-referencing fun that makes ‘MDNA’ especially great for fans (in fact, my theory is there’s a reference to every Madonna album so far here – enough to give a fanboy like me palpitations).
Luckily, the album picks up quickly from this, with the psychotic ‘Gang Bang’, propulsive enough to get even the most conservative listener screaming along to its ‘DIE BITCH…’ finale, and one of the standout tracks , ‘I’m Addicted’ featuring a demented electro breakdown followed by a chant of the album title that is going to be incredible live.
Following this, it’s back to the ’80s, with ‘Turn Up the Radio’, (which has ‘next single’ written all over it. In day-glo.) and ‘Give Me All Your Luvin”, with M.I.A.and Nicki Minaj, who both pop up later on one song each; M.I.A. on ‘B-Day Song’, a bonus track which is fun but tarnished by its novelty and spanking reference (note to Madonna: it wasn’t cool in the ’90s and it’s just embarrassing now), and Minaj on ‘I Don’t Give A’, (whose rap, ending ‘there’s only one queen, and that’s Madonna bitch’, really shows up Madge, who delivers a rap only marginally better than her infamous attempt on ‘American Life’).
‘I Don’t Give A’ marks a turning point – from dancefloor to divorce. Although implied on ‘Gang Bang’ (a wry Ritchie parody if ever there was one), Guy Ritchie is omnipresent from hereon, with Madonna attacking him (pun apologies) Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, with barbs including ‘I tried to be your wife/dimish myself’ (‘I Don’t Give A’) and ‘I want you to hold me like you hold your money’ (‘Love Spent’, also featuring the first banjo on a Madonna record, fact fans!). Finest of these tracks, though, is the majestic finale ‘Falling Free’, a song that reunites her with the producer of her most acclaimed album (William Orbit, producer of ‘Ray of Light’) with stunning results.
All in all, then, a pretty great album, occasional poor lyrics (‘Superstar’ and parts of ‘I Don’t Give A’ particularly) aside. Certainly enough to keep a certain Lady away from her crown for now (after all, no matter how shaky some lyrics are, nothing reaching the sheer bemusement that is Gaga’s ‘Highway Unicorn’), and especially not bad from a woman who has been performing since Nicki Minaj was teething and Stefani Germanotta was still Baby Gaga.