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Album Review: Madonna – MDNA

Photo: Steven Klein

The album marches it’s way through beat after hefty beat of club-heavy tracks, opening with recent single ‘Girl Gone Wild’ and the invigorating ‘I’m Addicted’, there is rarely a moment to breathe in the frantic ten tracks that lead the album. ‘I Don’t Give A’ personifies Madonna, bringing drama, infectious hooks and experimentation as ‘Turn Up The Radio’ channels early 90s Madonna. Recent single ‘Give Me All Your Luvin” keeps us firmly in the twenty first century though and the tracks gel together beautifully with a pristine production. Tempo problems get the better of the album though as the only two ballads are tacked on to the end of the track list despite faring better having been slipped effortlessly into the barrage of electropop that precede them.

The William Orbit influence is a welcome touch, however, with album highlight ‘Masterpiece’ easily surpassing an array of Madonna’s past ballads with it’s earnest, poetic sincerity. ‘Falling Free’, meanwhile, hints to the ‘American Life’ era and succeeds as a touching album closer despite the segues between string-lead and guitar-lead being a little jarring at times.

You wouldn’t be wrong to assume that the album is exceptionally dance inspired musically but the lyrics are still, as we’ve come to expect from Madonna,  interesting. The potentially-controversial religious references are at the fore of ‘I’m A Sinner’, whilst a rare glimpse into the icon’s private life elevates the introspective glories of ‘I Don’t Give A’ and ‘I F*cked Up’ onto a new level. It’s not all emotional and philosophical depth though, ‘Gang Bang’  provides a sadistic sense of black humour that perfectly compliments their pounding soundtrack whilst ‘B-Day Song’ tucks a little novelty into the back end of the album, one of the only tracks worthy of it’s bonus track segregation.

And these bonus tracks are one of the qualms I have with the record but it’s not at all aimed at their quality. ‘Best Friend’ has one of the most hypnotic choruses in Madonna’s career and the touching sentiment is instantly relatable, ‘I F*cked Up’ thrives on it’s honesty and works a hefty tempo-change into proceedings with ease and the summery warmth of ‘Beautiful Killer’ is understated and charming, sounding like a mix of No Doubt’s ‘Don’t Speak’ and Sophie Ellis Bextor. So it’s frustrating to know that it’s likely these gems wont be getting the attention they deserve whilst album tracks such as ‘I’m A Sinner’ and ‘Superstar’ don’t quite live up to the rest of the standard edition track listing.

There’s a lot to unlock from that standard edition of MDNA, but the real merit lies in the deluxe release. There isn’t anything as era-defining as ‘Like A Prayer’ or ‘Papa Don’t Preach’, but the incredible manner in which Madonna has managed to retain her identity and unmistakable attitude whilst securing relevance in the ever changing music scene is admirable. ‘MDNA’ is far from perfect, but there isn’t a single intrinsically bad song in the package (though B-Day Song comes dangerously close). So if you’re waiting with baited breath for Madonna’s first failure, you’ll be sorely disappointed, but if you fancy a few dance-oriented tracks to drive and dance the summer away to, then ‘MDNA’ should be promptly downloading into your iTunes ready for the sun to shine.

As Popjustice highlighted, the essence of this record is summed up by the woman herself, intentionally or unintentionally, in the final track ‘Best Friend’ and it seems a fitting close to the album and this review to quote it: ‘it wasn’t always perfect but it wasn’t always bad’.

Photo: Steven Klein
Words: Simon McMurdo

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