The world’s top-selling female recording artist of all time brings another accessible album to the public. Keeping up with the times as usual, Madonna invigorates the new album MDNA with smooth, lyrical house tunes, capturing elements of dubstep and vocal trance – in a watery sort of way.
One thing I like about MDNA is its clever and constant use of synth sounds, including the warm chords but also the beeps, chiptunes and space sparkles that really make computer music fun. “Some Girls” has a groovy beat augmented with interesting laser bits and such. “Masterpiece” has a sensitive quality to it, nicely rounded out by the warm electro sound of vocoders. I like the Brit pop feel of “Superstar” with its large, echoing bass sound.
Not that I’m either a Madonna expert or a die-hard fan, but I do have a couple of complaints about MDNA. The subject matter of the songs is debatably vacuous. I’m afraid my presumptions about what a 50-year-old woman should be writing and singing about are coloured by some kind of ageist bias. Here is an icon, magically still young, effusive, taking no shit – who am I to say?
But I do find Madge’s lyrical emphasis on violence, addiction, pure pleasure and gender stereotypes less than tasteful. For any age level. I mean –“Gang bang, shot you dead. Gang bang, shot my lover in the head.” Nice.
Songs that do nothing for me on an intellectual front are ones like “Girl Gone Wild” (though I enjoy the Skrillexy hook) and the wide range of tracks that run on similar themes. It’s all about wanting what you want and getting what you want. As much as I personally support those ideas in principle, they simply make dull poetry.
All that said, there is a pleasing diversity of styles splashed throughout the list of mostly catchy tracks. Most of them repeat motives we’ve been hearing for the past three years, like the Solveig-esque “Turn Up the Radio”. The ballad “I Fucked Up” is nothing to write home about, but there’s something finally, originally Madonna in “Falling Free”.
Is MDNA different? Does it reveal Madonna’s true genius? In a way, yes. Watching the video for “Give Me All Your Love” increases my burgeoning respect for the sheer might and self-actuation of the woman. She’s a modern classic—Marilyn Monroe and Joan Jett in a stiff martini, stirred with a sleek middle finger. She’s in her power, and you’ve got to respect that.
But in another way, it just doesn’t feel progressive. Madonna’s early image as sort of an anarchic, sexually powerful woman was helpful to the social world then and still is now – but I find her current way of manifesting her talent lacks authority, even sometimes smacking of desperation. Physically, she’s aging extremely gracefully, but I don’t find a lot of maturity in MDNA.
Still, she keeps up with the times, doesn’t she? Whatever is on offer by Madonna – MDNA or anything else – we know we can trust her to give us good hooks and a stable star-power image. By now, Madonna’s beyond originality – most great pop and electro were and still are influenced by her old stuff, so if she’s repeating anyone’s motif, it’s her own.