Monday saw the release of Madonna’s twelfth studio album and her first since 2008’s ‘Hard Candy’. ‘MDNA’ is also her first since divorcing Guy Ritchie and parting with her old record label, Warner Bros for Interscope.
Not surprisingly then, there is much on Madge’s chest that she feels the need to get rid of. This is Madonna’s divorce album and her lyrics are possibly more personal and detailed than ever before;
“Wake up, ex-wife, This is your life” she sings on ‘I Don’t Give a’, and then goes on,
“Lawyers, Suck it up, Didn’t have a prenup….Make a film, write a song, Gotta get my stockings on”.
On ‘Bang Bang’, aside from boasting about shooting her lover (ex husband?) in the head, Madonna reveals, “I thought it was you, And I loved you the most, But I was just keeping my enemies close.”
Not all of ‘MDNA’s lyrics are confessions and vitriol, however. Girl’s going wild and just wanting to have fun is as much a theme as it ever was, and on ‘Birthday Song’ (on the deluxe edition) Madge shows that her world is not all darkness and angst and that she can still bounce along like a material girl;
“And the beat goes on, I’m a happy girl
It’s my birthday song, in my happy world”.
And unfortunately on ‘Superstar’, Madonna shows that she still has the occasional lapse into pop awfulness;
“You’re Bruce Lee with the way that you move, You’re Travolta getting into your groove, You’re James Dean driving in your fast car, You’re a hotshot, you’re my superduper star”, not so much throwaway as put on a hazmat suit and dispose of instantly!
As far as the music is concerned, ‘MDNA’ rotates around a roster of producers.
William Orbit makes a welcome return after twelve years, reviving some of that ‘Ray of Light’ magic, whilst the bigger, clubbier numbers are handled by Italian duo Benny and Alle Benassi, with Martin Solveig looking after many of the poppier tracks.
In truth the whole album is dancey and poppy, as one would expect, but there is a feeling of retrospective; each track reminds you of a particular era in Madonna’s past, following her musical DNA if you like.
One of the stand out songs, ‘I’m a Sinner’, is reminiscent of ‘Beautiful Stranger’, 60s inspired melodic pop era Madge, whilst, ‘Girl Gone Wild’ casts an eye back to ‘Into the Groove’ and ‘I Don’t Give a’ reminds you of ‘La Isla Bonita’ and so on.
Nothing wrong with this per se, artists are constantly delving into their pasts for inspiration; the problem here is that the songs are not as good.
Of course, with a history as rich as Madonna’s it is hard to top the classics that made her the Queen of Pop, and make no mistake there are hooks here, they’re just not immediate. Perhaps MDNA will be that rare thing – an out and out pop record that improves with repeated playing. No doubt the hard-core fans will love it but for the casual follower there will be pleasing moments clouded by a general air of disappointment.