To me (and I’m sure many can relate), the release of a new Madonna record is a Holy Week. I’ve had no shortage of other stuff going on in my life lately–but over the past few days, I’ve made time to listen to Madame X in its entirety a few times.
I truly do enjoy some of the younger, newer, flourless pop tartlets out there. Your Rhiannas, Beyoncés, Taylors, Gagas what have you. Ok, I especially like Rihanna and Lady Gaga. I do really enjoy them.
That said, to me, they are ALL seat fillers for the years when Madonna is hanging out with her kids, testing scientifically advanced skincare products– and not touring/releasing music.
Pop music is a popularity contest. Even when Madonna was at her Zenith in terms of clout and power, say, 1990 or so, around the time I was born, she has always dared people to hate her. She’s a multimedia Art-ist who’s shaken things up irreparably already, her cultural contribution written in stone– and I am just grateful she’s stuck around.
On Madame X, Madonna is well aware that she’s making perhaps the least commercial record of her career. It’s possible that one day she’ll release another “Confessions” or “Music” full of hits with enormous choruses. It’s been a while since she was expressing herself as vividly as she is here, though. The shortage of collaborators is hugely refreshing.
I love “God Control.” It’s a six-minute disco track about gun control and the fact that Madonna doesn’t use hard drugs, with a cathedral choir in it. Brilliant.
To the few critics out there I’ve seen label Madame X a “mess,” I strongly disagree. It’s nuts and it’s cohesive, and no one could make so many world-music sounds–from the African call-and-answer chants of “Batuka” to the slow-jam American R&B pleasures of “Crave”–work quite like Madonna. And every step of the way, her personality is all over the thing.
The track that’s gotten the most flack–some of it justified–is “Killers Who Are Partying,” a Euro-infused call-to-arms about healing the world. Though well-intentioned, it doesn’t work. But I don’t think Madonna deserves quite as much heat for it as she’s gotten. Remember: she wasn’t always an extremely wealthy person. She’s a self-made woman who worked her way to the top of a damn-near-impossible, male-dominated business. Madame X has gotten mostly positive reviews from critics; I think it would be getting much better reviews if “Killers Who Are Partying” hadn’t made the cut, though. Just being honest.
“Killers” included, there are a couple of major missteps on Madame X that don’t work, but the record is often downright brilliant and inspired, fleetingly masterful. Madonna’s songwriting has always been her most underrated talent. That’s literally insane when you think about it: she’s the most successful female songwriter in history.
The thing I love about Madame X the most is that it’s her most uncompromising, balls-to-the-wall and weird-ass thing since Erotica, maybe ever. She’s not a featured player on Madame X. It’s so very Madonna. To me–and so many other people–that’s freaking HEAVEN.
A few other observations:
The melodies on “Come Alive,” “Crazy,” and of course “Medellín,” are very beautiful.
Of the limited collaborations on Madame X, her chemistry-rich work with Maluma is by far the strongest. I read somewhere that “Bitch I’m Loca” is like a Disney-villain anthem. Agreed. It’s a fun time.
Madonna’s been at this game for going on forty years, so she’s allowed to sample herself. “I Don’t Search I Find” pays homage to “Vogue.” It’s intoxicating in its own right, and Madonna sounds confident and triumphant. I adore that line, “Finally, enough love…” I will be saying that a lot in my day-to-day life.
Anyway. I’m definitely a fan of Madame X; it will dominate my playlist for the indefinite future.
Did you see her on Today? Bliss. It seems like she’s pretty happy and calm. Here’s to fourteen more records. Finally, enough love.