Monday 26 March 2012

Madonna - MDNA

"I'm gonna be ok, I don't care what the people say", Madonna sings on I Don't Give A, a track at the centre of her latest album 'MDNA'.  As such a huge global star, you can almost forgive this statement.  But if the poor sales of latest single Give Me All Your Luvin' are anything to go by, "the people" may no longer be so enamoured with the old queen of pop.

And that's the crux with Madonna.  On the one hand, she's an artist with admirable longevity, constantly reinventing herself for future generations.  On the other hand, she's an artist constantly striving to stay relevant.  Her music is no longer innovative but lagging behind the rest of the pack.  The old diva has been pushed off her queen of pop pedestal by younger, sexier models, leaving her straining to get our attention like a petulant child.

The result is 'MDNA', an album that smacks of try-hard.  The lyrics are imbued with shock tactics, with constant references to drugs and sex.  Even the title itself is a not so subtle reference.  Take second track Gang Bang for instance - at 5'26 it's unnecessarily long, largely due to Madge overly repeating 'drive bitch... die bitch'.  She doesn't quite go the whole hog though, as the title of I Don't Give A suggests.  Comparing bonus track B-Day Song with Rihanna's Birthday Cake - whilst Ri Ri is off doing God knows what, Madge is at home decorating cakes and presents like Kirstie Allsop, licking frosting and enjoying a bit of light spanking.  These days, shocking lyrics just aren't that shocking.

That leaves the production to grab the listener and, working with old collaborator William Orbit, 'MDNA' mixes elements from her previous albums but predominantly 'Confessions On A Dancefloor' and 'Hard Candy'.  Opener Girl Gone Wild begins with a plea to God in an obvious link to Like A Prayer, whilst the song's disco production harks back to Get Together but with a disappointing "h-ey-ey" chorus.  In fact, the weak choruses spread through the majority of the album, hitting a particular low with Superstar which annoyingly repeats "Oh la la you're my superstar" amongst appaling verse lines such as "You're Abe Lincoln 'cause you fight for what's right".  Cliched lyrics continue with Masterpiece's opening gambit "If you were the Mona Lisa, you'd be hanging in the Louvre" (isn't it already?!).  I'm A Sinner meanwhile is simply a poor man's Beautiful Stranger and the string stabs of Love Spent bare a striking resemblence to Die Another Day.  Even bonus track I Fucked Up includes a brief 'je suis desolé' like on Sorry.  And can someone please tell Madge that dubstep middle-eights are really unnecessary?  Despite Orbit being onboard, this lacks the progressive quality of 'Ray Of Light', arguably Madonna's best work.

Are there any positives?  The disco Girl Gone Wild is certainly an obvious single choice, Turn Up The Radio's punchy beats are infectious and there's something endearing about Madonna attempting to semi-rap on I Don't Give A amongst grating synth guitars and pounding kick drums.  The real highlight though is Falling Free, ending the main album with a soft ballad.  Initially it's hidden amongst the up-tempo disco tracks, but ultimately provides 'MDNA's most arresting moment.  It's here that Madonna offers the most honest vocal delivery, accompanied simply by piano, string lines and subtly swirling electronica in typically Orbit fashion.

"There's only one queen and that's Madonna, bitch", claims Nicki Minaj on I Don't Give A, the main vocal collaborator on 'MDNA' roped in for a contrived sense of cool.  But I think many people will beg to differ.  Je suis desolé Madonna, but your latest work is mostly BLLCKS.


Gizzle's Choice:
* Girl Gone Wild

* I Don't Give A
* Falling Free

Listen: 'MDNA' is available now.