Blending mumble-rap with a mournful core, ‘Crave’ throws yet another Madonna-sized curveball in the run-up to the superstar’s 14th album ‘Madame X’.
Madonna permanently relocated to Lisbon last year, where she posted this faux-tragic picture of herself sipping champagne alone; “Would anyone like to sip Cham-Pain with me?” she asked wryly with a crying emoji – it was all very tongue-in-cheek. So far the influence of her latest hometown stretches as far as the Euro-pop flavour of lead single ‘Medellin’, but in the opening lines of ‘Crave’ she appears to be tackling loneliness and unfamiliar surroundings with a new vulnerability. “I’m tired of being far away from home,” she sings over gently picked guitar, “far from what can help, far from where it’s safe”.
And while Madge’s Mike Dean-produced auto-tuned vocals might cause a minor controversy in a tiled old Taberna, ‘Crave’ certainly draws on elements of Lisbon’s traditional Fado music. Sure, Madonna’s not belting it out like she’s filling up a town square with her intense melancholy, but even so, there’s a vulnerability to ‘Crave’ which also shares the genre’s resignation and fatefulness. “You know I just can’t change, this is how I’m made,” she sings in unison with an understated Swae Lee. “I’m not afraid, take me to that place”. The connection makes sense: Madonna’s been hanging out in Fado bars for at least the last year…
Placing Madonna’s other two singles side by side – the Latin pop channelling ‘Medellin’ and orchestral smoulderer ‘I Rise’ – and they don’t give much away about the overall direction of ‘Madame X’. That’s only confounded by this: a breezy, low-key moment which nods vaguely back towards the heartbreak of her 1989 album ‘Like A Prayer’, and yet sounds nothing like it. A dancer, a professor, a head of state, a housekeeper, an equestrian, a prisoner, a student, a mother, a child, a teacher, a nun… no wonder Madame X has such a varied career path. Thus far, she’s proving tricky to pin down.