Madonna takes on the role of activist Madame X on new album
Madonna’s road to the release of her fourteenth album Madame X was not one without bumps. The Queen of Pop returned with Maluma collaboration ‘Medellín’ back in April and released new tracks roughly every other week ever since. She performed ‘Future’ during the final of the Eurovision Song Contest, but her vocals during ‘Like A Prayer’ were heavily criticized and things got worse when she posted a version with edited vocals on her own YouTube account. There were reports of her first new tour dates not selling well and Madge got into a fight with The New York Times after she wrote she ‘felt raped’ by the ‘ageism’ in their article about her. Things seem to turn around for Madonna over the weekend as Madame X was met with mostly raving reviews and it is not hard to hear why.
While the promo singles like predictable ballad ‘I Rise’, the undeniably catchy trap of ‘Crave’ and hiphop statement ‘Future’ predicted some sort of trend chasing album in terms of style, last week’s experimental ‘Dark Ballet’ hinted that the record might offer more than that. Madame X turns out to be an extremely eclectic album that melts numerous styles and genres, yet somehow it all seems to make sense as a complete body of work which is impressive to say the least. Madonna takes on her role as activist again and is lyrically outspoken on most of the tracks.
Take ‘God Control’ for example. This over six minutes long tune produced by Madonna, Mirwais and Mike Dean, has a children’s choir which almost sounds like Gregorian chants, then turns into a proper disco anthem and in the lyrics Madonna talks about gun violence and immigration laws. It is outspoken, out of the box and easily one of the highlights on the record. On ‘Batuka’, a collaboration with the Batukadeiras Orchestra, she borrows influences from different styles of world music, with lyrics about needing to make a change in the world and telling us not to judge others. On the more stripped back (but still drenched in autotune) ‘Killers Who Are Partying’, she sings partly in Portuguese and uses elements of Fado music. In the lyrics she shows solidarity with different minority groups and those targeted by hate.
This however does not mean that all of the record is dark and heavy. ‘Crazy’ is a bright and sunny break up anthem with again loads of Portuguese influences in both the sound and the lyrics. She even remakes Portuguese hit ‘Faz Gostoso’ by Blaya with the help of Brazilian pop star Anitta. She also cleverly references her hit ‘Like A Prayer’ here. ‘Come Alive’ produced with Dean and Jeff Bhasker has one of the more simple choruses, but at the same time a lush and uplifting production that makes for one of the lighter moments on the album. The same goes for the playful ‘Bith I’m Loca’, another collaboration with Maluma, that brings raggaeton with Madonna’s persona all over it.
Towards the end of the album Madonna returns once more to a disco sound, this time with influences from house music, on ‘I Don’t Search I Find’. It sounds like an updated version of the Confessions on a Dancefloor album from 2005, which is a happy coincidence as Madame X is her best record since that time. Madame X dares to experiment with material that radio would never ever touch, Madame X speaks her mind without holding back and above all, Madame X shows that Madonna’s creativity is still thriving.