The Queen of Pop is back with a bizarre 15-track record, based on an identity-shifting secret agent who fights against the world’s injustices. Yes, seriously.
Each track takes inspiration from musical influences from across the globe. One minute you’re listening to a Latin-infused song with a catchy trap beat, the next you’re onto a Bohemian Rhapsody-esque tune which whisks into Tchaikovsky’s ‘Nutcracker’, before bowing out with Madonna uttering a spoken word verse as she blows softly like the wind. Weirdly, it all works wonderfully. This is the voice of an artist who has something to say. And you’d better listen.
Madonna’s always been someone who’s come from a point of view, and this album is no different. She tackles issues of gun control on the aptly titled ‘God Control’ – featuring the Tiffin Children’s Choir. She boldly states that “I’ll be a child, if the children are exploited.” She samples voice clips of the survivors of the Parkland school shooting on ‘I Rise’. Some of it lands, some of it leaves you cringingly uncomfortable, but, at least it makes you feel something. This isn’t a vapid pop record, with hopes of smashing through every chart and lapping up new fans. No, this is Madonna coming from a place of vulnerability, travelling the globe and righting humanity’s wrongs.
The ‘Material Girl’ could’ve played it safe in an attempt to battle her contemporaries, following current trends in an attempt to remain relevant (I mean, she’ll always be relevant, but in the age of social media, fans are fickle). Instead, she does whatever the Hell she wants, and the album dazzles because of it. As she says herself on ‘Come Alive’ “stand out, no I don’t wanna blend in. Why you want me to?” Besides, we had glimpses of the trend-chasing Madonna with her last album ‘Rebel Heart’, which was met to mediocre reviews at best. No, this is the Madonna that we love. The genre-bending, boundary-pushing pop star.
Sonically, it’s not the type of album that you’d stick in the background while you clean your house. It’s a layered, complex album, light on pop bops but heavy on themes. It jumps around from sound to sound, all while, somehow, managing to sound oddly cohesive. There’s ‘Batuka’, with a tribal-based backing track, there’s ‘Crave’, a more mainstream entry, there’s ‘Killers Who Are Partying’ which sounds like it should be featured on the soundtrack of ‘American Horror Story’. By the end of the album, you’re left feeling slightly empty, vacant, as if you’ve journeyed with the mysterious Madame X herself. It’s haunting, but beautifully so.
Featuring Latin-infused pop, soulful choirs, spoken word verses and bops with a unique twist, ‘Madame X’ defies all boundaries
It’s a brash entry into her 14-album discography, with rare moments of reprieve from Madge’s oddities. It’s certainly not background-music, but more the type of record which evokes the feeling to light thirteen candles in a forest on a moonless night. Even the times where Madonna sings in another language – and this happens numerous times across the album – it still manages to remain enticing, despite you (most likely) not having an idea what she’s singing about. She’s always been one of pop music’s biggest risk takers, and with ‘Madame X’ Madonna reminds us of that, with a sly wink from behind a bedazzled eye-patch.
Her vocals aren’t the best they’ve ever been on ‘Madame X’. At times, they sound strangely auto-tuned, but there are glimpses of her more raw, vocal power, hidden behind the layers of editing.
It’s only a minor complaint, but when you do get to hear her unfiltered voice, it makes you wish that it’d been let loose across the whole record.
With her latest entry, Madge makes it clear that she’s not going anywhere.
If anything, this is one of the best records she’s released in years. It’s strange, it jumps about from time to time, but it’s so unique, so different and bizarre, it forces you to pay attention. She grabs you by the ear and yells, “bitch, I’m Madonna”, and she doesn’t let you off her unique voyage until she’s done with you.