Album Review: Madonna ‘MDNA’
On Hard Candy Madonna catered a bit too much to the dance scene, and as a result it didn’t have the emotional impact many had hoped for and expected. After all, at that point Madonna could seem little more than a brand name for a compilation of music by different producers. While almost every one of MDNA’s 12 tracks is ripe and ready to be played in clubs, they are also very much complete songs this time around. Not only is Madonna present, but out in force.
She makes a valiant attempt to utilize every single entry in our modern musical dictionary, and for the most part the album is surprisingly successful. In recent years Madonna has followed much more than she has lead, and while that’s still partly true, there is not a lot that is musically awkward about MDNA. She doesn’t necessarily have very much to offer in terms of innovation, but she doesn’t bastardize these schools of music, either.
The lead single, ‘Give Me All Your Luvin’, is an exception, and the most guilty of pandering. It’s an egotistical little romp, and while it’s catchy, it sells the album very short. There are much better songs here, and even better singles.
‘I’m a Sinner’ is one of the album’s best tracks, with musical influences from the past five decades brought all together in a seamless and exciting way. Her anti-religious message wears a little thin, but she means it, and a song this good is able to sell it.
He propensity towards controversial lyrics and imagery comes across as slightly too calculated on some songs, and maybe even forced. When she approaches these things as works of fiction it works very well, and has a big impact, such as on ‘Gang Bang’. However, it doesn’t have the same effect when she is simply talking about how raw and edgy she is, and she spends a good bit of time doing that.
MDNA appears at first to lack any real intimacy, and while ‘Superstar’ tries to fill that void, it’s a little too cute and uninventive to feel authentic. Madonna isn’t speaking from the heart, but instead she provides a collection of cliches that anyone can relate to on the subject of being in love. The very next song, ‘I Don’t Give A’, takes the same approach to the opposite story of a breakup.
It’s not until the album’s final two songs that Madonna truly bares herself, and these two tracks are a return to her early-90s form. ‘Masterpiece’ properly hits that base, and ‘Falling Free’ absolutely nails it. This pairing closes MDNA beautifully and shows that Madonna can still be very artistic and genuine, when she wants to be.
The album strikes a good balance between a dark and alluring sound, and lighter, fun moments. Even without the strength of its ending this would be a better record than any she has put out in the last ten years.