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Redundancy of Madonna's album disappoints

By Rachel Gordon
On April 2, 2012

MDMA is a psychoactive synthetic drug commonly associated with raves and electronic music festivals. Not to be confused with MDNA, Madonna's 12th studio album released March 23, 2012 by Interscope Records.

The Queen of Pop has returned to the Auto-Tuned game with a new set of soft-core electronic, bubble-gum singles. At age 53, practically ancient in Hollywood years, the musical veteran proves that she still has a few good tracks up her sleeve, along with her toned, ghastly arms.

The '80s pop-heavy first-released single, "Give Me All Your Luvin'," features fellow bad girls Nicki Minaj and M.I.A., and peaked at number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 this past February. The funky, dubstep-esque song has extended Madonna's reputation as the artist with the most top-ten singles in Billboard's history.

Equally as catchy is the second track, also featuring Minaj, "I Don't Give A." This simmering dance jam confirms my belief that Minaj works better when collaborating than on her own. (Think Drake's single "Make Me Proud." Her voice works better in small doses.) The last track is a "Party Rock" remix of "Give Me All Your Luvin'" with LMFAO and Minaj. Unfortunately, the song sounds the same as every other LMFAO remix, leaving little excitement and freshness.

Released as the second single, "Girl Gone Wild" features house and electro content and draws on the rhythmic four-on-the-floor technique. The feel-good "girls' night out" tune is so good, it feels like something I've heard before. Maybe that's because it's incredibly similar to Madonna's previous songs, "Music," "Hung Up" and "Sorry." Disappointment aside, the fluffy dance beat is difficult to get out of your head, even if it is hand-selected from a recycle bin of repurposed content.

"Masterpiece" is a mid-tempo pop-ballad with tingly lyrics comparable to her ultra-brilliant 1998 single "Ray of Light." Composed by Madonna, Julie Frost and Jimmy Harry, and produced by Madonna and William Orbit, "Masterpiece" won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song this past January. It's a nice distinction (and one of the few) from the handful of slightly repetitive, recycled songs that make up the rest of the album.

Notably, she worked with producer Benny Benassi, among others, on this album, but it's disappointing that popular Italian DJ and record producer of tech house music Bennassi couldn't do more for it. MDNA reminds me of Britney's 2007 Blackout-a bunch of similarly Auto-Tuned songs that don't demonstrate much range but will come on from time to time in a taxi or bar. However, like Blackout, MDNA also has some head-thumping, club-fun beats that'll be sure to momentarily get stuck in your head.

Madonna is talented. That's a difficult statement to challenge. First globally acknowledged after her wildly successful second studio album Like a Virgin in 1984, she went on to win 220 awards (including seven Grammys, two Golden Globes and the MTV Artist of the Decade Award) and received over 400 different nominations. The MTV award, which recognized her artistic achievements in the '80s, spurred Michael Jackson to ask, "Did she outsell Thriller?" Madonna has been referred to as one of the greatest figures in music and one of the most influential women in history-if only she had left fans with 2005's Confessions on a Dance Floor- and nothing more.

On one hand, MDNA feels like an ill-fated attempt to squeeze out one more album at age 53 to prove she's still got it. On the other, it feels like an overly processed disco-fied divorce record. Madonna contributed to writing and producing every song on the album, which is admirable considering how "singer-songwriter" seems to have become a term of the past in pop music.

One track I just can't seem to figure out is "B-Day Song" featuring M.I.A. It sounds more like a monotone Barney ballad being sung at a two-year-old's birthday party than a Grammy-winner's single from her latest album. The song has bland, bizarre lyrics: "I want a diamond. Don't give me a fake/ I'll let you lick the frosting off my cake/ Gimme a spanking, start the day off right (woo-wee)/ 'Cause it's my birthday, you'll be singing my song tonight." Perhaps it's not the best idea to call attention to your b-day, Madonna, unless you're excited to turn 54. Quite possibly the album was actually meant to be titled MDMA, as many of the songs sound slightly drug infused. "B-day" celebrations and MDMA infused recording sessions aside, it's lyrics like these that cause me to ask if it's time for the aging pop queen to hang up the white gloves and pass off the Kabbalah bracelets to Lady Gaga once and for all.  

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