Madonna’s 12th studio album, MDNA, betrays the diva’s obsession with being young and contemporary. That said, it’s also an insistence that had led to an incredibly polished product
There is something to be said for Madonna’s obsession with youth: her 12th studio album is titled MDNA, a play on MDMA, the party drug that heady teenagers tend to club to, occasionally with disastrous results. Two of the twelve tracks adorning MDNA have the word ‘girl’ in it (‘Girl Gone Wild’ and ‘Some Girls’). Fortunately, it is also an obsession that sees Madonna on top of her game at 53. And being 53 also means that she’s trying doubly as hard to produce cutting-edge pop.
Miraculously, with MDNA, the effort pays off. It locates itself on the thin line between a petulant insistence on being trendy at any cost and being a truly gobsmacking product. Those sound mixers must have cost a lot of money. Where her voice fails (it was never that great, in fact) her DJs truly take over. This could well be the story of many a pop diva (including Lady Gaga and Kylie Minogue). True, Madonna was never a Whitney Houston, who was called “The Voice” for her gift. Yet, while Whitney died in a bathtub due to drug abuse, Madonna is clever enough to merely play around with the acronyms of narcotics and never actually consume them. This shrewdness is apparent in how intelligently MDNA is produced, how manipulative (and alluring) its production design is. The cover jacket inside has the 53-year-old in a black bra, looking absolutely dishy. Those fashion stylists and Photoshop experts she’s hired are also the best that money can buy at present.
The opening track is strictly okay, bringing back scary memories of Madge’s earlier career nadirs (Bedtime Stories, American Life and Hard Candy). Track two, ‘Gang Bang’, is a super-silly foot-stomper that many a teenager will gleefully lip-sync to (it ends with these famous last words: “if you’re gonna act like a bitch, you’re gonna die like a bitch.”). ‘I’m Addicted’ is nothing short of brilliant for its electronic bravado, its high-energy mania. And then comes a song that encapsulates Madonna’s universal, timeless appeal. ‘Turn Up The Radio’ starts with a riff that almost reminds you of ‘Hysteria’ by Deff Leppard or ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ by Guns N Roses. And then she croons in that child-like voice that made this material girl a household name globally:
“When the world starts to get you down
And nothing seems to go your way
And the noise of the maddening crowd
Makes you feel like you're going to go insane
There's a glow of a distant light
Calling you to come outside
To feel the wind on your face and your skin
And it's here I begin my story
Turn up the Radio”
The song is quintessentially Madonna because it reveals the one thing she loves more than herself, or something close to it, for that is not really possible in her case: music. ‘Give Me All Your Luvin’, despite being a smash hit that also earned her a place in history as the female artist with the largest number of Top 10 Billboard hits, is genuinely for a teenage market. More seasoned Madonna followers, such as your reporter, might feel a tad ashamed foot-stomping to it, though it will cheer you up on even your worst day. There is a reason this album has been christened around a serotonin booster that is illegal.
Side B is sonic dynamite. Madonna brings out all her Arab steeds into the music studio with it. ‘Superstar’, ‘I Don’t Give A’ and ‘I’m a Sinner’ are all technical marvels. ‘Love Spent’ is hugely disappointing from this line up, but ‘Masterpiece’ is one of those ballads that Madame M can look forward to highlighting in one of those compilations that she must already be planning for her leaner patch (she has one every two years, gets written off, and then returns with dazzling promise). ‘Falling Free’ is the concluding track from the album and not the best from this dirty dozen. But by then you’ve already had a good fix of an addiction called Madonna.
10 INSTANCES OF MADONNA’S FILMIC JINX: Why the Queen of Pop never quite made it as the queen of the box-office
1. Lurid Beginnings: A Certain Sacrifice (1979)
Even though Madge hit the big time with Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), a B-grade semi-soft porn flick titled A Certain Sacrifice (1979) soon started doing the rounds on the video circuit circa 1985. It turns out that Madge acted in the 1979 flick as a struggler in New York City. She acted in the film for a fee of $100, something she desperately needed to pay the rent. Later in the same year, Playboy magazine, cashing in on her meteoric rise on the charts in the mid-'80s, released an issue with Madonna on its cover. It turns out that Madonna had posed nude for the magazine in 1978. The rent in New York might have been rather expensive. But these lurid beginnings didn’t bode well for her thespian ambitions.