f(x)’s Luna’s lofty ‘Madonna’ ambitions falls short in comeback digital single

A courageous musical approach that otherwise holds the singer back from displaying her true strengths

Queen of Pop. Legend. Cultural icon. These are just some of the many terms that have been used to describe the one and only Madonna over the course of her 40-year-long career. It’s no surprise, then, that younger artists would aspire to achieve even a fraction of her legacy and influence – and this includes Luna.

“When I grow up / I wanna be like Madonna”, the f(x) singer earnestly declares at the start of her new solo digital single, her first since 2019’s ‘Even So’. The aptly titled ‘Madonna’ is also her first official release since departing from longtime home SM Entertainment in 2019, and establishing her own agency Grida Entertainment earlier this year.

A fresh beginning calls for a fresh sound, and ‘Madonna’ is certainly a different way for Luna to express herself. She starts off the dance-pop track with a dramatic piano section that allows her to bring out the strength and purity of her voice. This then quickly transitions into a snappier verse, her voice dipping to mirror Madonna’s lower register in the latter’s hit 1990 single ‘Vogue’, which is also referenced in the song’s chorus.

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“The more risky it is / the more frisky it gets”, Luna purrs at the end of that opening verse, but the risks she takes on ‘Madonna’ are questionable at best. Though the song gives Luna room to showcase her vocal range, which is golden when paired with an infectious chorus, the rest of the track leaves much to be desired.

The track’s different sections – the instrumentally sparse verses, the synth driven pre-choruses and the piano-heavy, dancy chorus, not to mention the intro – lack cohesion in a way where they’re almost too well-defined. They aren’t distinct in that Girls’ Generation’s ‘I Got A Boy’ way, where the sections are very much deliberate, and then referenced and brought back to create an interesting sonic palette, but rather feels like a series of sudden stops and resets.

‘Madonna’ also shares similarities with ‘Vogue’, the one Madonna song it references: at their cores, they’re about being true to oneself, or as Luna puts it in the post-chorus: “Care what they think? / Don’t / Be anything you wanna / Be you / Be Jinjja (‘real/true’ in Korean) / Just do it like Madonna”. She also makes inferences to the kind of person, or artist she wants to be: I wanna be mean / I won’t be ‘me-an’ (wordplay on ‘미안’, or ‘sorry’ in Korean) / I’m a shrewd girl”.

This seems timely for Luna, who confessed in a recent Instagram post about how ‘Madonna’ helped her get back on her feet after a slump. “At a point when it felt painful just to stand on stage, when everything felt meaningless and I was tired of my job as a singer, I met ‘Madonna’,” she said, as translated by Soompi. “As soon as I heard this song, I felt the desire to do my best on stage and sing again.”

However, as empowering as the song might have been for Luna, the creative choices in ‘Madonna’ instead hold the singer back from displaying her true strength as an artist. This new single might not be the homerun Luna wished for, but hopefully it marks a restart for this much-missed veteran K-pop idol who has finally gotten her music “pumping” once again, as the real Madonna sings on ‘Vogue’. “You’re a superstar / Yes, that’s what you are, you know it”.

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