Early reviews of Madonna's 'MDNA' album have been very good indeed. This has surprised us because the singles 'Give Me All Your Luvin' and 'Girl Gone Wild' were, to our ears, Madonna at her very worst. Where once Madonna led the pop world, seeking brave new producers and collaborators - here she jumped on some of music's most overburdened bandwagons, namely a 'featuring Nicki Minaj' track and a very average club tune. So far, so yawnsome.
But you know what? There is life in the old girl yet. As soon as 'Girl Gone Wild' is over and done with, 'Gang Bang' immediately brings back the sort of spark and energy missing from the album's singles. A dedication to murdering your other half, the 'drive bitch / why don't you die bitch' climax, closing with gunshots, is far better than both of the album's first releases.
'Addicted To Your Love' sees Madonna hand her voice over to the producers, taking a backseat to the French electro-inspired production. The references to MDMA are a little tough to swallow here however - does Madonna really encourage the party drug? How does she find the time in between consuming all that steamed veg and exercising?
'Turn Up The Radio' is a welcome respite from the pounding club beats, and a more straighforward pop tune, while 'Give Me All Your Lovin' is still an embarassing attempt to capture the cool of Nicki Minaj and MIA. It reached No.37 in the UK charts due to it being offered as a free track with album pre-orders - but it truly deserved no better.
'Some Girls' is a competent slice of electro-pop - unlike 'Superstar', which may well be one of the worst songs Madonna has ever recorded. 'You can have the keys to my car / i'll play you a song on my guitar / ooh la la you're my superstar / I like the way you are" she sings - with no sense of shame, embarassment or irony.
'I'm A Sinner' and 'Love Spent' pass without event, and it is left to her Grammy Award winning 'Masterpiece' to salvage a little dignity from this whole affair - even with the opening line 'If you were the Mona Lisa / You'd be hanging in the loo' (OK, so it's 'Louvre', but we can't help but hear 'loo'). It's a genuinely decent track that doesn't try to shock and isn't trying to force anyone onto a dancefloor - and a sign of what Madonna can still achieve when she tucks away her gusset and remembers how easily she can craft a great pop tune.
A slew of 'bonus tracks' pad the Delux version of the album out to a massive sixteen tracks (thats even before the additional remixes rear their heads) but pass by in an appropriate blur of forgettable melodies and lyrics. 'I Fucked Up' is pretty decent however, and despite the title, alongside 'Masterpiece' is one of the album's standouts tracks.
'MDNA' isn't a terrible album - but it is the sound of an artist trying too hard to raise eyebrows and remain relevant. The standout moments come when Madonna eases off the thrusting and the grinding and writes a decent pop song - which she can still do with ease.
Every new Madonna album is an event and hopes are always high but this is a huge disappointment. A bland, characterless disappointment. Like the drug on which the album-title pun is built on, 'MDNA' is a bright and energetic blast, but one that will leave even her most hardened fans feeling crappy once the buzz has passed.