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Madonna, ‘MDNA’ – Album Review

madonna-mdna-cover
Interscope

Madonna‘s ‘MDNA’ – her first platter since 2008′s ‘Hard Candy’ and her debut volley for new label Interscope under her megabucks Live Nation deal — has finally dropped.

Honestly, her music has taken a bit of a “backseat” in her multi-faceted career as an entertainer, with ‘Ray of Light’ being the last time she truly reinvented herself on record. Fast-forward to 2012 — how does ‘MDNA’ stack up?

It’s Madge, reborn and revisiting that overly and overtly sexual style that had her name on the media’s tongue through the ’90s. They say women hit their sexual peak later in life and at 53, Madonna is dripping sexuality on this record. She’s always been in need of a cold shower, to cool off her innate hotness — but she could have a sprinkler for a halo and she’d still be a scorcher.

The Material Girl plays with Auto Tune and loads of electronics, thanks to production assists from William Orbit and Martin Solveig. In terms of her overall catalog, the closest relative to ‘MDNA’ would most certainly be ‘Ray of Light.’ But the album can be a bit all over the place too: Mid-album, she revisits her ’80s pop past, sandwiching classic-sounding songs between what’s largely considered laptop pop. But then there’s the ballad-y tracks ‘Falling Free’ and ‘Masterpiece,’ the latter one of her best in years.

The album’s sexual metaphors define the lyrics. That’s ‘MDNA’ in a nutshell.

1. ‘Girl Gone Wild’
Madonna announces that she wants so bad to be good, but it’s when she’s bad that she’s so, so good. This is a paint-by-numbers Madge track, designed to get your butt out of your seat and dancing. [Listen Here]

2. ‘Gang Bang’
Another sexy song that has a darker hue. It’s ripe for dancing in the corner of a dark club somwhere in Europe. The song is drenched in sexual double entendre, When she sings, ‘Bang bang / Shot you dead,” a gun is then cocked. Ahem. [Watch the Music Video]

3. ‘I’m Addicted’
Madonna doles out our fix here — it’s a club banger with an escalating tempo. It’s probably the biggest roof raiser on the record, thanks to the synths and vocal processing.

4. ‘Turn Up the Radio’
If you need or want synthy pop to drown out all the noise around you, then turn up ‘Turn Up the Radio.’ It’s less EDM-influenced and more pure pop, like Madonna of yore.

5. ‘Give Me All Your Luvin” Feat. Nicki Minaj, M.I.A
The first single, it’s easily the poppiest song on ‘MDNA’ with its cheerleader chorus and vocal assists from Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. Madge puts on the brakes (a bit) with the sexualized metaphors and wants to just have fun. [Listen Here]

6. ‘Some Girls’
A beat-heavy, synth pop gem with processed vocals, like many of the songs on ‘MDNA.’ There’s an ’80s nu wave thread in this track, and it’s a prime example of the album’s laptop pop sound.

7. ‘Superstar’
She’s still hanging out in the ’80s (her heyday) at this point in the album. With handclaps and harmonies, this is another extra poptacular moment. Her eldest child Lourdes is also a background singer.

8. ‘I Don’t Give A’ Feat. Nicki Minaj
Oh, this is the song that’s not about ex-husband Guy Ritchie, even though the lyrics reference sacrificing yourself by being a wife. It’s another club banger where Minaj reprises her guest role — dropping a saucy rap at the end of the song.

9. ‘I’m a Sinner’
Madge offers up a summery, percussive anthem that won’t have you wishing you were a saint.

10. ‘Love Spent’
Is it us or does it have a melody similar to Britney Spears‘ recent single ‘Criminal?’ Whatever the case, it makes us want to dance, thanks to the disco vibe. [Listen to Acoustic Version]

11. ‘Masterpiece’
Her Golden Globe-winning song is also featured at the end of her directorial debut ‘W.E.’ It’s a soft, sweet, semi-ballad, which, up until this point, we were waiting for. Some of Madge’s best songs of her early career were power ballads and while she’s shifted away from those, she shows off the sensitive side here, which we love. [Listen Here]

12. ‘Falling Free’
Another ballad-y moment. Notice we said “ballady” as opposed to full on ballad. It’s a string arrangement, so it feels epic. The song is also voice-centric but it’s not so much about the texture of Madonna’s voice as it about how she is saying what she says; plenty of Madonna’s songs are the opposite of that structure. But this is more about how she delivers.

Deluxe Edition:

13. ‘Beautiful Killer’
And the beats go on and on and on with this song, which is less EDM and more pretty pop. This song could have been positioned as the fifth or sixth song on the standard edition, since it has that classic Madge pop style. Only Madonna can coo “Can’t really talk with a gun in my mouth” and make it sound like an enticing option!

14. ‘I F—ed Up’
Gears are quickly switched with this slow and low, down-tempo jam about screwing up. Even the reigning queen of the pop universe f—s up. While she doesn’t seem like the apologetic or emotionally conciliatory type, she is here, singing sweetly about “what could have been” and the potential for suburban life over a modern beat roll. Vulnerable Madonna breaks the surface here and we love the old school fade out.

15. ‘B-Day Song’ Feat. M.I.A
The deluxe tracks pledge allegiance to many different genres. ‘B-Day Song’ reminds us of those classic Motown girl group numbers. It’s peppy pop, full of girlish wonder, not something we normally associate with Madge or her cohort M.I.A. But then they sing about licking frosting off their faces and getting a spanking, so it’s bad girlish wonder, which we most definitely associate with Madge and M.I.A. You’ll be clapping your hands and singing along.

16. ‘Best Friend’
Madge keeps things mid-tempo here, with lots of vocal processing and a rippling beat that’ll get under your skin. She laments losing her “very best friend” but it still won’t stop us from wanting to lean back and dance the night away.

17. Give Me All Your Luvin’ (Party Rock Remix)’ Feat. LMFAO, Nicki Minaj
The deluxe edition ends on a party rock and remixed note. The classic pop of ‘Give Me All Your Luvin” is reworked with LMFAO’s signature synths and it has a stadium feel, which is no accident, since Red Foo and Sky Blu joined Madge at her Super Bowl perf. It’s not just synths, blips and beats added — there’s even a few guitar lines. This one’s got everything. [Listen Here]

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