We've met them all over the past 30 years — along with too many more alter-egos to list. So it should be no surprise that the pop queen of 1,000 faces has added a few more self-portraits to her vogue rogue's gallery with her 12th album MDNA.
One you won't meet: Washed-Up Madonna. Co-produced by Ray of Light co- conspirator William Orbit, French DJ Martin Solveig, Italian counterpart Benny Benassi and others, the 12-cut MDNA (out Tuesday) is one of Madge's most intriguing discs in a while, offering a deft blend of pop and dance with doses of hip-hop, electronica, dubstep, balladry and even some seriously weird moments. But what else would you expect from a disc whose title is one letter away from the acronym for Ecstasy?
Along with Reinvigorated Madonna, here are the other characters you'll meet on MDNA.
You're never too old to join the pep squad, as the 53 year old proved at this year's Super Bowl. The highlight of her halftime gig was MDNA's first single Give Me All Your Luvin' (not to be confused with ZZ Top's Gimme All Your Lovin'). "L-U-V, Madonna, Y-O-U, you wanna?”
Smells like team spirit. As we speak, Avril Lavigne and Toni Basil are likely readying their class-action suit.
“Drive, b----! And while you're at it, die b----!” So sez Madonna on the misleadingly titled and magnificently twisted Gang Bang, a dark revenge fantasy in which she shoots her lover in the head. Hope Guy Ritchie has a sense of humour. Remember when Next Big Thing-turned- Never Mind Lana Del Rey tried to pass herself off as "gangsta Nancy Sinatra" a while back? This is what she meant.
Think your divorce was bitter? At least your ex didn't write a rap called I Don't Give A that says: “You were so mad at me / Who’s got custody? ... Suck it up / Didn’t have a pre-nup.” Thankfully, Madonna has softened a bit by the bittersweet closing ballad Falling Free, where she offers: "We're both free, free to go." As long as she doesn't mean 'free to go shoot you in the head.'
When she isn't falling out of it, she's falling in it. Along with Give Me All Your Luvin', the fittingly trippy I'm Addicted, the bouncy Superstar (featuring daughter Lourdes on backup vocals), the eccentric Love Spent, the glammy Some Girls (no, not THAT Some Girls) and the folky Golden Globe-winner Masterpiece all remind us that Madonna is a woman who loves to love. Until she doesn’t.
Religiously Conflicted Madonna
Sure, we've met her before. Many times. But she's back again. Girl Gone Wild opens MDNA with a cheeky prayer for forgiveness ("I want so badly to be good”); I'm a Sinner namechecks the Virgin Mary and a slew of saints with a country tinge; and between the rest of the tunes, she bends of breaks most of the 10 Commandments, with the possible exception of that one about thy nighbour's oxen.
• • •
Track-by-Track Review of MDNA:
Girl Gone Wild | 3:43
More confessions on the dance floor. Beginning with a churchy keyboard and spoken-word prayer, the cut gradually builds to a pumping party anthem. Too bad the chorus is a bit clumsy.
Gang Bang | 5:26
The album's strangest and greatest track is a stark, sinister stomper in which Madonna takes her lover for a last ride before plugging him.
Whispery vocals, whiplash snares and Morse Code synths up the tension, while gunshots, sirens and police scanners add drama. The dubstep breakdown might be too trendy for its own good, though.
I'm Addicted | 4:33
It's about being hooked on a man. But between the ping-ponging bleep- bloop melody, the waves of echo and reverb, the layered vocals and lines about how love "flows through my body, igniting my brain ...like MDMA,” this is Madonna on drugs.
Turn Up the Radio | 3:46
No big metaphors — just a simple, gently pumping pop number about driving in your car and listening to music loud. Lightweight but enjoyable.
Give Me All Your Luvin' | 3:22
Somehow, Madonna and Martin Solveig blend martial snares, cheerleader chants, a chuggy surf-twang bass and ’60s paisley pop — and make it work. Nicki Minaj almost upstages her hostess with a typically skewed verse, while M.I.A. underwhelms.
Some Girls | 3:53
Sadly, not a Stones cover. But this grinding glammy stomper's lyrical structure is kind of familiar ("Some girls goin' off the deep end, some girls livin' for the weekend”).
Superstar | 3:55
"You can have the keys to my car / I'll play you a song on my guitar," promises Madonna on this fawning ditty. Thankfully, the bouncy beat and “Ooh-la-la” refrain make up for the insipid lyrics.
I Don't Give A | 4:19
Another standout. Madonna delivers a boasting rap about how awesome her life is — and tosses in a few barbs about Guy Ritchie. Minaj returns to pay tribute before the cut ramps up into sweeping orchestral pomp.
I'm a Sinner | 4:52
And she likes it that way. With its funky beat, bright ’60s-pop jangle, and mid-song country-gospel-disco fusion, you'll like this Beautiful Stranger-style number too.
Love Spent | 3:45
A low-impact William Orbit production that starts with banjo and then adds strings, video-game squiggles and AutoTune-dusted vocals. Yet it still seems to be missing something.
Masterpiece | 3:58
Over folk guitar, Latin rhythm and strings, Madonna compares her lover to a work of art in this Golden Globe-winning ballad from her film W.E. It's nice, but seems out of place.
Falling Free | 5:13
The real closing ballad — and the better one — has strings and piano decorated with synth dots and dashes, topped with forgiving lyrics about a breakup.
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