The Material Girl returns with her 12th studio album. Is it any cop? Let’s find out….
Girl Gone Wild
Though most will have heard this track already (it’s the second single off the album) it’s worth a recap. Produced by Benny Benassi, Madonna intros with a spoken word segment about how she wants “so badly to be good“. As the album plays through, the strangeness of the single’s choice will become more apparent. ‘Girl Gone Wild’ does little to set the listener up for what’s about to come next.
With an intro consisting of a revving engine and a solid four-to-the-floor beat, ‘Gang Bang’ is Madge Gone Industrial. We’re certainly not mentioning another blonde female artist who also took inspiration from German Industrial on her last album, but we’re in the same ball park. It’s exciting. Madonna’s ditched the faux English accent and the mood is tense. It feels like something’s about to snap as she declares “You were building my coffin/ you were driving my hearse“. Ubiquitous Dubstep wobble aside, the track tails off into a wonderful ‘Faster Kill Pussycat’ segment, with Madge singing “Drive bitch and while you’re at it die bitch!”
Electronic ripples open the track into something that sounds like ‘Momma’s Place’-era Roisin Murphy. There are some nudging references to Killer Rave Drugs as Madonna sings “It’s like MDMA and that’s OK“. There’s another dubsteppy breakdown that ends with her chanting “MDNA” over an electro explosion. We can’t wait to see this live.
This is the first of the six Martin Solveig-produced tracks on the album(including the bonus tracks). There’s a Dragonette style vocal and lyrics about music helping you to forget your woes. It’s quite sweet, and leads nicely into the next track…
…which is still amazing.
The first William Orbit cut (of five). Direct and bitchy, Madonna’s vocals are treated and hidden beneath a heavy bass. It’s a mid-tempo track with a chorus of “Some girls are not like me / I never want to be like some girls“.
This track feels a bit lightweight amongst the others. There’s a Katy Perry vibe. The “Oh la la you’re my superstar” chorus seems like a incongruous filler with the cheeky cringey teen lyrics: “You’re like Abe Lincoln because you fight for what’s right“. Maybe Lourdes helped her with this one?
Lyrically, this is a list of all the things that Madonna has to do: “Message manager no time for a manicure“. It avoids turning into ‘American Life’ thanks to Madonna letting a little bit of her guard down: “I tried to be a good girl I tried to be your wife“. Nicki Minaj’s guest spot is relaxed and ends with the immortal line: “There’s only one queen and that’s Madonna, bitch“.
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A psychy track that feels like a mix of Peaches and Martha And The Vandellas. It sounds fresh, and tongue firmly in cheek Madonna lists some saints over a “Wo-oh-ah” backing vocal.
Though ‘Love Spent’ could come across as a kind of ‘Exquisite Corpse’ of a track (banjo intro, then violins, then spoken word) it’s really brilliant. Madonna channels ABBA-level spousal hurt as she sings “Hold me like your money, tell me that you want me, spend your love on me“.
The track from W.E. It sounds a bit zzzz here to be honest.
Elegant and classy, the warped piano sounds of the final track on the album proper is a fitting end. This icy ballad fits far better than ‘Masterpiece’ as Madonna addresses a problem she wishes she could forget: “When I move a certain way I feel an ache I’ve kept at bay“.
Yep, you guessed it: beautiful filler, more like.
I Fucked Up
It’s strange that this didn’t make it onto the main CD. This is the track that most critics have pegged to be about Guy Ritchie. Aside from the token French interlude, this is understated and excellent, and could easily have replaced ‘Masterpiece’.
M.I.A. makes an appearance on this 60s-influenced Solveig track. Though there’s a line about how Madonna likes to spend her birthdays (“Give me a spanking start the day off right“) it’s clear why this isn’t a main track.
Madonna lists things she misses in her partner. It sounds a bit like a vocodorized Max Martin track, which would normally be amazing, but in these circumstances, it doesn’t really fit.
So, is the Queen of Pop back on her throne? Just about. We’d pledge our allegiance anyway.