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Madonna - MDNA

Girl, you have some explaining to do. The pop landscape has changed greatly since Madonna’s last full length LP (the oft-derided 2008 Timbaland led lacklustre R&B Hard Candy ), pop is back in Vogue (pardon the pun) again, thanks largely to the commercial gravitas of Rihanna’s bag of skilful PG temptress numbers, Britney’s electro-pop shenanigans and the pop behemoth that is one Miss Lady Gaga.

Can Madonna, now on the wrong side of the big 5-0 claim her rightful place on the throne she has reigned for near on 30 years? We take a track by track review.

Second single Girl Gone Wild was met with a collective sigh of disinterest and despondence last month when first leaked. Featuring production of dance master Benny Benassi, this one is all thumping bass and synths, yet despite best efforts the song never lifts past second gear. What starts with a promising Sorry -esque spoken intro quickly devolves into a cookie cutter dance / pop hybrid with poor Mads sounding frankly….bored. The accompanying video is classic old school Madonna and is worth checking out for a demonstration on how to make a pop video that keeps you intrigued from the first frame. 5/10

Watch Madonna’s video for Girl Gone Wild below.

And quite frankly all is forgiven. Proceedings quickly take a turn towards the dark side and Madonna has never sounded more dangerous, or fierce. Think Tracy Lords, underground clubs and a whole lot of sweat. A pulsating bass line, almost industrial / trance at times. This is the finest offering from MDNA that is only tainted by the final minute of spoken ramblings which is both equal parts fun and irritating (“if you’re gonna act like a bitch, then you’re gonna die like a bitch’”). If Kill Bill were a pop song it would sound a hell of a lot like this. 9/10

The second Benassi produced number, and far superior to Girl Gone Wild , a powerhouse bass, club ready number that spits fire and call you to the dance floor. Name checking the album title, Madonna delivers her most hard club orientated track yet. Find yourself some speakers that can handle the deep bass and you may appear unable to control your body. Delicious club pop. 8.5/10

What has been pegged as the likely 3rd single, Radio continues the deep bass lines that permeate so much of MDNA (reigns are handled by dance production powerhouse Martin Solveig). Rides high above the previous two singles with its ‘80s style hook and Mads sounding like she’s at the party you want to be at. 7/10

A fascinating documentary would revolve around the decision to release Luvin’ as the lead single from MDNA, as a demonstration of how not to handle an album campaign. Largely seen as a massive misfire which has been detrimental to the entire comeback of Madonna, Luvin’ is all Gwen Stefani hollaback chants with rap diva Minaj and alt-pop maestro M.I.A. shoehorned in to appeal to a younger demographic. Their verses crackle, yet as a first single it rarely meets expectations. 4/10

Reuniting with Ray of Light producer William Orbit after 12 years seems like a misguided move, yet Orbit here has moved on from the sweeping electronic wonderland of ‘Light’ and seems at peace with heavier dance numbers. After the initial punch of tracks Gang Bang and Addicted, Some Girls feels slightly inferior in comparison. Elements of the chorus feel very familiar to some of the grittier moments of Born This Way , but don’t tell Madge… that would just be reductive. 6/10

Beginning with an effective bass-driven hook, Superstar’s lyrically is one of the most naff moments on MDNA, but its light heartedness is almost welcome after a consistently dark first half. Comparing her lover to a list of celebrities (Brando, Michael Jordan, Travolta) this is Madonna in pop mode. Superstar swings along with pleasant moments and is all smiles and sparkle (let’s just not mention her misguided attempt at dub-step half way through). Daughter Lourdes contributes backing vocals to the track, but we’d be hard pressed to hear her amongst the harmonies. 6/10

Haven’t we learned from the American Life single? Madonna the rapper wasn’t embraced in 2003 and surely is not welcome 9 years later. We find Madonna lamenting her empire, marriage and life over a military paced beat (sound familiar). Minaj makes her second appearance with her spitfire cameo before the whole track breaks down towards a grandiose orchestral finale that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Tim Burton film. Odd. 5/10

Orbit’s next contribution is less dance, more pop and the results are Madonna sounding like its 1998 all over again. Taking its pleasure in a 60’s swing pop chorus, Sinner sounds like the sequel to Beautiful Stranger , another Orbit triumph (yes , you should be pleased). Lovin’ the vibe on this track. Welcome back pop Madge. 8/10

What begins with a banjo (yes… a banjo) slowly builds towards a track that is equal parts video game soundtrack, country club (if that were ever a genre) and traditional Madonna pop. If Mario Bros were played at an underground rave club the results would sound something like this. Vocally Madonna ups the pitch and sounds almost girlie, shame the whole thing never rises to its true potential 6.5/10

Taken from her feature length directorial debut W.E. this Masterpiece is a rarity nowadays, a Madonna ballad. Over strumming guitars and folksy beats, everything moves along pleasantly, which is perfectly acceptable, yet you never really warm to the track or its premise (comparing a lover to a priceless work of art). Winning a Golden Globe for the track (which is played over the closing credits of the film), Masterpiece is a welcome change of pace, just try remembering it minutes later. 5.5/10

Completing the non-deluxe edition of the album, Falling Free is another ballad handled with a greater scope, sweeping strings, electronic twinkles (a William Orbit trademark) and Madonna delivering a rousing vocal. The quietest moment of MDNA is antithesis of the opening numbers, but is instantly intriguing and raw. Simply beautiful 7.5/10


MDNA serves up four original tracks that serve their purpose, to satisfy eager, hardcore fans. Beautiful Killer (6.5/10) is worthwhile Solveig produced electro number that pumps along in a snappy style (check out the string section), while I Fucked Up (6/10) is lyrically an honest insight into the demise of her relationship with Guy Ritchie, however, the track never really rises to its subject matter. B-Day Song (3/10) is an oddity, pure ‘b-side’ that is part ‘60s homage, part girl group pop lite (and featuring M.I.A’s second cameo). Best Friend (5/10) finishes up MDNA with Madge rattling off over a stuttering beat what she misses most about her ex, the concept is interesting, but the delivery is undercooked and never moves beyond passable.

Overall, Madonna has rarely been so confessional than here on MDNA. Her divorce to Ritchie is well represented throughout and several tracks require repeat spins to truly get a feel for the record thematically.

There’s elements of previous albums throughout (Ray of Light, Confessions and Erotica come to mind) and Madonna largely feels in control and has chosen producers to both progress her sound and play to her strengths as a pop artist.

Madonna the performer keeps her finger on the pulse commercially and lyrically has revealed a far greater side to her personal life than we normally hear. This is a welcome return to form… now about those single choices…

MDNA is out now.

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MarcH said on the 22nd Mar, 2012

Excellent review...I too am utterly perplexed by the choice of singles, especially considering the bounty of riches on this CD. An unusual mistake on her part...making me wonder if former parent company Warner Bros would have chimed in and recommended better choices. Unlikely she'll win any new fans with this...but her existing fans will be smiling ear-to-ear when they hear Gang Bang and I'm Addicted....I know I was!

Matt Akersten

Matt Akersten said on the 22nd Mar, 2012

I enjoyed many of the songs on that album, but thought that birthday song was just appalling. She is playing a joke on us with that one!


MrAsh said on the 22nd Mar, 2012

I'm not a Madonna fan, yet the one thing I really admirer about her is her athleticism. If more people took inspiration from her and the world would become a fitter place.


twinstar said on the 24th Mar, 2012

Yes! I, too, thought there where nods to industrial music in some of the tracks, but especially Gang Bang. Makes me feel like I know what I'm talking about. : )


Dsquare said on the 25th Mar, 2012

Just listening to it for the first time. I'm up to that awful Give Me All Your Lovin'. So far of the five songs I've heard I think the subtitle of the album should be "Madonna does autotune". So far very unimpressed.

And definately agree that the beginning of Girls Gone Wild was lifted directly from Sorry. Very reductive ;)


genkij said on the 27th Mar, 2012

I think it's RUBBISH. I am seeing her in Barcelona soon & if she is not amazing ...I will be ignoring her from now on. What she needs to do is a George Michael & disappear for 10 years & come back with a jaw dropper of an amazingly solid musical album. have listened to the album, twice - i just feel as there is no edge to it nor anything funky - NEEEEXT !!


MyHorseLikesYou said on the 27th Mar, 2012

I think it's interesting how hard she seems to be promoting it - whether it's showing up on talk shows before the album was relelased, tv ads here or turning up to a rave (american style anyways) in the US talking about Molly. Trying a little too hard to promote the "Girl Gone Bad" BS me thinks.


Light-Bearer said on the 27th Mar, 2012

Madonna has long had more power than her record company.
Infact - I think she owns most of it.

One of the deals that were struck along time ago- between herself and her masters- was that she would be the master. The only other band to do this- was REM, when they negotiated their contract with Warner.

Not only did Madonna ask for complete artistic control and got it- she was also given her own branch of the company- Maverick Records. Which she released artists on.

I think- that Madonna - as much as I loathe her, is a genius. And a adept media whore. She knows how to play her fans. She wants to warm them up slowly- and then BAM. Kill Gaga


Light-Bearer said on the 27th Mar, 2012

This has been a very calculated act on her behalf and her way of wooing back her U.S fans- who she alienated , not only with her remarks about America- but also by the entire " American Life" album.

Just before the release of the " Confessions" album- she started wanting to appear "warm and human". As much as she would like to be convincing -she is not. She appeared on the Letterman show and was amicable despite years of hostility and animosity towards him. He even made her eat pizza- which she did- but you could see in the glint of her glassy eye- she was fantasizing about devouring Letterman's infant son.

Madonna has not eaten pizza for a very long time.

As much as she can be criticised- and I am one of the first to do it- I think the comments being made about her currently- are not reflective of the merit of this album- but rather the age old sexist bullshit- of once a woman attains a certain age- she is spent. Useless. Non Sexual.

Madonna has always challenged concepts of womanhood and sexuality. Why are the people that once applauded her antics- now mocking her for being too old. Should not the applause be louder

I think- that currently, Madonna is in a position to push further boundaries- and I think this is what she will intend to do.


Light-Bearer said on the 27th Mar, 2012

How do I even know this shit!


Light-Bearer said on the 27th Mar, 2012

I don't think so.

She is fucked in the head sometimes.

What explains this song?


Light-Bearer said on the 27th Mar, 2012

This song is totally fucked and drives me insane.

Not only are the lyrics just the shiteous thing in the world. But the vocal track- is ... there are no words for how much this song sucks fucking balls


MyHorseLikesYou said on the 27th Mar, 2012

Don't get me wrong I wasn't really having a go - I too think she is a media/ business genius. I was more thinking she must have had doubts about MDNA herself in order to be, what seems like, so desperately promoting it. I don't even have a problem with her age, more her current wave of music. Personally I think she is no longer an innovator, if she ever really was (addmittedly it is getting harder and harder to be an innovator in the music industry) but has fallen into the trap of trying to follow. Just my personal opinion & it has nothing to do with age or gender.

As for Dear Jessie, if my memory serves me well, it was meant to be an ode/ lullaby to Patrick Leonard's daughter. Patrick Leonard being the guy who "co-wrote" a lot of that album. In my wayward youth I was once a fan of sorts. Now that's embarrassing.


Light-Bearer said on the 27th Mar, 2012

I concur.

I also believe she feels she has lost the connection to the " street" and is coming off kinda desperate.
In the old days- people would kill to work with Madonna- now - she seems to be hitching herself to everyone else's wagon.

I've never been a fan of her music.

But what I do find interesting about her- is her place in women's and sexual politics.
There are times, I have found her motives and ideologies, dubious- but one cannot deny- she has left a gigantic mark.


buffyboy said on the 28th Mar, 2012

Oh my god this album is woeful! When the songs aren't a mess, they are just weak as piss. It suffers from being over-produced and completely forgettable. She's got to realize she is not an innovator anymore and go back to what she does well. This album will go the same way as "Hard Candy", it will sell a bucket load because it is Madonna and then people will get wind of how bad it is and it'll drop out of the charts in a hurry. It reeks of desperation to reclaim Gaga's fans. Yes, we are complicated creatures but completely able to like more than one artist. She would have done heaps better going back to her "Ray of Light" or "Music" sounds instead of trying to be ahead of the game.
Ps "Gang Bang", even to my die-hard Madonna-fan friends is an absolute shambles.


shireboy said on the 13th Apr, 2012

Oh my god this album is woeful! When the songs aren't a mess, they are just weak as piss

Ps "Gang Bang", even to my die-hard Madonna-fan friends is an absolute shambles.

Well you might be 'pleased' to hear the bad news....

Madonna's new CD MDNA has crashed and burned, leaving a record-setting failure in its wake.

With numbers still being finalized, it appears that the Material Girl has become immaterial to listeners, evidenced by an 88 percent crash from week one to week two of sales.

The CD sold 359,000 copies when it debuted at the top of the Billboard charts and has now plummeted to 46,000 copies.