Excitement over new music from Madonna has waned over the last decade as her last three releases failed to ignite the spark she was always dependable for. Once a pop culture force, much of her output in that time was seemingly chasing trends while trying to remind everyone who she was, why she was important, and why anyone should still care. It felt like she was losing hold of her legacy and she panicked.
Madame X, her 14th album, comes out of left field because she has no fucks left to give with the result a newly reenergized Madonna and an album that dives into political unrest around the world, attacks on minorities, gun violence, and she does it in true Madonna fashion. With melodic determination, a running theme, and help from some of her greatest collaborating producers.
The record opens with Medellín, a Latin-flavoured track featuring Colombian artist Maluma responding to Madonna’s hushed vocals over a sultry beat. It’s not an obvious hit, nor does it sound like a standard lead-off single, but for that reason it’s quintessential Madonna because it’s unexpected, memorable, and distinct, putting it perfectly in line with some of her other era-defining tracks like Erotica, Frozen and Music. This is followed by the experimental piano-led Dark Ballet, which incorporates the Nutcracker Suite as the foundation for the second half after a series of piano runs. God Control takes a shot at gun control as she uses a disco club as the setting for dialogue; what was once a safe space for minorities to escape and enjoy life is now a battle ground for violence, discussion and activism.
With this album, every song serves a purpose. As soon as one finishes, you want to hear the next. Not everything works, from bad lyrics to decisions that make sense but aren’t quite there yet. Killers Who Are Partying plays as the biggest misstep with lyrics that ring way too shallow, but the musical background is incredibly pleasant – an instrumental is essential. The record does taper off in the second half with fewer notable moments than the first – though longtime fans will appreciate the straight-up 1990s dance flashback of I Don’t Search I Find.
Madame X won’t appeal to all hardcore fans of Madonna, whether it be the lack of straight-up pop melodies, the heavy Latin influences, or its sometimes sporadic musical direction, but you have to appreciate the conviction, confidence and truth behind the music. Those are what have been missing from her music for years and now she’s delivered what just might be her best album in decades. We can care again.
Check out: Medellín, I Don’t Search I Find, God Control
1. Medellín [featuring Maluma]
2. Dark Ballet
3. God Control
4. Future [featuring Quavo]
6. Killers Who Are Partying
7. Crave [featuring Swae Lee]
9. Come Alive
10. Extreme Occident
11. Faz Gostoso [featuring Anitta]
12. Bitch I’m Loco [featuring Maluma]
13. I Don’t Search I Find
14. Looking For Mercy
15. I Rise