Madonna Madame X review
Madonna's new album, Madame X, is a rich tapestry of influences and a testament to the superstar's continuous embrace of the bold
For Madame X, Madonna has reunited with French producer Mirwais Ahmadzaï, who collaborated with her on both Music (2000) and Confessions on a Dance Floor (2005). Their latest creation is filled with such a rich melange of styles, sounds and languages, that one almost feels that you are listening to an audio travelogue narrating far-flung journeys to Colombia, Brazil, and Cape Verde. The majority of songs are filled with verses in Spanish and Portuguese as well as featuring the megastars of the Latin and Brazilian music world. There is not one, but two duets with Colombian singer Maluma, and Foz Gostoso is sung almost entirely in Portuguese with Brazilian pop-star Anitta.
One unfamiliar with Madonna’s oeuvre might reductively observe that she's simply following the musical zeitgeist of collaborations between American and Latin musicians. But, of course, Madonna was adopting Spanish into her sound and flexing her abilities as a musical chameleon long before Spanish Reggaeton became a cornerstone of the Western music scene – just think of ‘La Isla Bonita’. In the first track of the album, Medellín, Madonna rhapsodises Colombia’s second city. She announces the coming of Madame X in the song's music video, who, we are told, ‘loves to dance'.
And dance she does. Reggaeton rhythms pulsate through bangers like Bitch I'm loca. But Madonna isn't peddling the mindless hedonism which too often is the crux of most club dirges. Political messages are entrenched in songs like God Control, whose protest against America's lax gun laws are deceptively hidden behind a 70s dance-floor beat.
You can already hear the songs set to dominate summer soundtracks with identifiable pop hits such as Crave – a smooth duet with American rapper and singer Swae Lee. But the headline grabbers have undoubtedly been the album's less palatable, off-kilter tracks. A section of Dark Ballet sounds like a weird, warped waltz of A Clockwork Orange proportions and is the song which has perhaps elicited the most conflicted responses from critics and seems to colour their overall verdict of the album. Variety referred to it as 'ambitious and sprawling, the closest Madonna may ever come to her own “Bohemian Rhapsody.”' The Guardian condemned it as 'suitable only for schadenfreude lovers or scholars of extreme camp' and consequently labelled Madame X as 'her most bizarre album ever'. Yet almost all have conceded a sense of admiration for her disinterest in playing it safe.
Read as a cohesive whole, the album is an analogy for the shape-shifting trajectory of Madonna's career. She morphs from a sultry senorita into a disco diva, a political commentator, a dark dominatrix, and then into something quite different – something dark, unearthed, and postmodern, who, for now, we might refer to as Madame X.
Listen to Madame X on Spotify.