Sunday, March 25, 2012

Confessions on Madonna - or the best of the 2000's

Tomorrow, MDNA will hit stores.  Before that, today's feature looks at what many consider Madonna's best work of the 2000-2010 decade.  Such praise is certainly well-deserved.  After the WTF-was-she-thinking debacle that was "American Life", Madge is back in fine form here.  Opening track and first single "Hung Up" reminds us of a Madonna that just loves to dance.  Riding the melody from Abba's "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)" and a slinky groove worked in, this song builds, dies down, builds up again, and chugs along demanding that you get on your feet.

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.

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