Madonna Shows Another Side with Music
By Luca Strike
While Music, the much anticipated follow-up to Ray of Light, has Madonna continuing her experimentation in Electronica, by no means does it define itself exclusively in that genre. Madonna knows better to repeat herself and in so doing, Music becomes a curious hybrid of said Electronica, Funk, 80's synth cheese and oddly enough, Folk and Country. When daring into new territory, it's never certain what the results may be; which is why Music showcases just as many brilliant gems as they do wild clunkers.
Let's get the duds out of the way first: Nobody's Perfect falls flat, relying too heavily on its vocoded delivery and blander-than-soup lyrics. Runaway Lover, for all its sonic knobs and twiddles, can't compensate for what's essentially a lousy hook. Paradise (Not for me) is a posturing ditty without an ounce of charm, while I Deserve It is just a bunch of sullen stew -- though it is somewhat redeemed in Madonna's melancholy delivery of the lines, many roads I have travelled.
While these tracks flounder, you can't say the same about the title track, Music. It's part dance floor anthem/part cheese-fest that bores indelibly into your head and feet. Airy, sleek, and unforgettably catchy, Music is a pure cheddar pop hit that won't let you forget the beat. Impressive Instant is a whirligig roof raiser in which Madonna purrs the utterly silly lines, I like to singy singy singy/like a bird on a wingy wingy wingy. Who would have thought after the dense and high minded seriousness of Ray of Light, that Madonna would actually once again showcase her sorely lacking sense of humor and playfulness? And while Amazing is a straight up DNA splice of Beautiful Stranger, it doesn't make it any less catchy. But the two most indisputably brilliant tracks are the back to back wonders of Don't Tell Me and What it Feels Like for a Girl. The gorgeous Don't Tell Me starts off with a staccato guitar riff reminiscent of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama". It's a smart ballad with just the right touches of synth and guitar that's evocative without being derivative. The flourish of violins toward the end marks this song as a true original.
What it Feels Like for a Girl is a midtempo sparkler about the role of adolescent girls in today's society and coming from an older and wiser Madonna, it also doubles as a poignant metaphor to the legacy the last generation of women have bestowed upon the younger. At first, it can seem lackluster and directionless until Madonna croons the simple poetic lines, silky smooth, lips as sweet as candy. From then on you're hooked and it's delivered with such emotion that the track clearly stands as the heart of the album.
Music, all in all, is a scattershot affair. With hits and misses all over the place, this album gets my praise for Madonna's lack of complacency and willingness to explore new sonic territory. We've all known her as cultural icon, postfeminist chanteuse, reborn mother, lousy actress, etc., but Music should cement the notion of what fans have always suspected about Madonna: that she's a musician.