Album is loaded with upbeat songs like 'Give Me All Your Luvin' ' and 'Superstar'
On her latest CD, Madonna chirps through a rash of odes to puppy love, blows out the biggest bubblegum song of her career (“Give Me All Your Luvin’”), and corrals the whole disc under a title that cheekily refers to a hallucinogenic drug.
Do these sound like the moves of a 53-year-old mother of four to you?
In fact, much of “MDNA” — out Tuesday — has more the flip zip of a disc by Katy Perry or Ke$ha than something by a woman who may be older than both their mothers. Then again, we are talking about Madonna, a woman who, at this point, seems just as hellbent on giving the finger to expectations about age that she once gave to assumptions about sex.
That stance alone might be enough to give Madonna’s youthful channelings a sense of defiance rather than desperation. But the music itself is what makes her flagrant act of regression not embarrassing but both pointed and exciting.
“MDNA” expands on the best elements of Madonna’s last CD, 2008’s “Hard Candy,” her most easily embraced disc since her very first. For “Candy,” the singer abandoned her least attractive feature — her self-importance. Finally, Madonna stopped marring her albums with songs meant to educate us about starving children, world politics or (gag) spiritual growth. Instead, she gave fans what they wanted all along: pitched dance anthems that doubled as smart pop songs.
Once again, upbeat tracks dominate “MDNA.” The sole ballad, the droopy “Masterpiece,” comes from another source: the soundtrack to the Madonna-directed bomb of a film “W.E.” Better, Maddy has ditched that post-“Evita”/post-elocution-lessons voice to sing again like either a snotty or an ironically innocent imp. In “Turn Up the Radio,” she sounds blissfully infantile. In “Girl Gone Wild,” she plays teen bad girl with nutty verisimilitude.
It helps that the songs themselves have so much snap coursing through them. “I’m Addicted” and “Some Girls” have the dark disco élan of druggier dance club anthems — just the thing for your next trip into a K-hole. “I’m a Sinner” and “Superstar” show a Cee Lo-style love for ’60s Day-Glo pop. They rate among her zippiest songs ever.
So many good tracks crowd the disc, in fact, that even the four extras on the deluxe version rate as must-owns.
The dance songs that dominate aren’t pushing mainstream club music ahead, as Madonna did on albums like “Erotica” or “Ray of Light.” But they’re in step with the most pleasurable tics and beats of now.
Some listeners will see the aftermath of Madonna’s divorce from Guy Ritchie reflected in the lyrics. But the four cuts that promise to be the most autobiographical contradict each other. Two strike an apologetic or regretful tone (“Best Friend” and “I F--ed Up,” both in the deluxe version). The other pair turn vindictive (“I Don’t Give A,” and “Love Spent”).
The only song that inescapably mines Madonna’s life for material — “I Don’t Give A” — reads as too literal and, so, self-indulgent. Worse, it suffers from a draggy melody. The song gossip-lovers may most wish were about her ex — “Gang Bang,” in which she imagines not just gunning a boyfriend down but chasing him into hell to do it again — is a hoot. It’s also historic. It may be the world’s first murder-ballad-as-disco song.
Better, the piece references Cher’s zippy ’60s hit “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down).” Couple that with a reference to “The Beat Goes On” in “B-Day Song,” plus Madonna’s queenly getup at this year’s Super Bowl, and it seems as if the star has, at last, fulfilled a goal many of us have long held for her: She’s becoming Cher.
Still, the album’s greater feat has a far more subversive, if not superhuman, dimension. It finds Madonna aging in the most nose-thumbing way possible — in reverse.