Madonna is best when she picks the right people to work with - those who can channel her energy into focused, well-rounded dance pop. Stuart Price, a producer I have previously lauded for his work with the Scissor Sisters, is just as proficient here. After "Hung up" fades into the ring-the-alarm thump of "Get Together", the disc takes a bit of a left turn - danceable, but a bit downcast. Saying "Sorry" perhaps never sounded this sparkly. The mood quickly livens up with the upbeat "Future Lovers" which sounds like Madonna meets Tron meets super-utopia-future-fantasies of half a dozen science fiction writers, all blended together and poured over the dance music candy Price and Madonna are so adept at cooking up.
"I love new york" is a bit clunky lyrically, but it has a certain whimsy in its simplicity as a dance-pop ode to NYC from the eyes of Madge herself. Coming off this whimsy, a classic "price of fame" number comes along in the form of "Let it will be" - well put together, but it's a path Madonna has tread upon before so it seems a bit stale when held up against everything else on this disc. This disc also marks the second time Madonna has recorded a song titled "Forbidden love" - where the first one off Bedtime Stories is a mournful torch ballad, this is equally mournful, but lyrically nothing like the first, and is more a "Should we keep this thing going?" song, where the first was more a "This will never work, and it hurts" tear-jerker track.
Out of those ashes rises "Jump" a vibrant exhortation of sound - an urgent call to live life to the fullest, folding into the surveying-life-when-you-get-older questioning of "How high?" - keeping with the theme and making these songs play as pieces apart, yet seamlessly joined together. This is a trick Madonna doesn't always do well - her albums sometimes jump from subject to subject lyrically - here, the focus is dead-on. She delves into nascent mysticism on "Isaac" for a brief left-turn away, only to come right back to the motivational "Push" and the ultra-defiant "Like it or not" - a perfect rebuttal to her detractors - all of them - in one definitive statement.
Like it or not (no pun intended) this is one of the best discs Madonna has ever done - she cut out the fluff, stopped trying so hard to stay "1 step ahead" as she seemed to in the early 2000's, and here remembered what she does best - dance pop, pure and simple. Worth the listen, fan or not - this is catchy, effervescent fun as only Madonna can do it.