Likes: Gang Bang, I Don’t Give A, Masterpiece, Falling Free, Beautiful Killer
Dislikes: Girl Gone Wild, Give Me All Your Lovin’, B-Day Song
Overall: More conformist than expected; not a ‘must-hear’ album.
I think I can make this short and succinct. The first part of Madonna’s 12th studio album, “MDNA,” is surprisingly conformist. With the exception of the dark and macabre “Gang Bang” (which isn’t a sexual song as implied by the title; “clean” editions omit the track), the first 7 tracks have mostly uninteresting lyrics and production, making them hard to set apart from today’s average pop song. Some of the material just isn’t befitting of an album for the “Queen of Pop,” especially basic techno-dance tracks like “Girl Gone Wild.” The album starts to sound better around “I Don’t Give A,” a sassy day-in-the-life featuring Nicki Minaj. I enjoyed Minaj’s verse (really loved the feministic take on a Jay-Z line: I’m not a business-woman, I’m a business, woman!), but found it to be a blatant and insulting gimmick that Minaj appears twice on the album. Minaj’s current status as an “it girl” was likely the reason behind her being selected as a featured artist. It’s insulting because it implies that Madonna can’t chart or have buzz around her album unless a new chick is on it.
Moving on, the second half of the record was more pleasing to listen to. It still had an electro-pop feel, but was less redundant in pattern (“Love Spent,” for example, includes a banjo) and the lyrics aren’t as pointless and shallow. The slush comes back for “B-Day Song.” In order to give a fair critique, I usually listen to each track all the way through. During this album, I desperately wanted to skip tracks. My general rule is that I have to like or love at least half the album for me to NOT consider it a total waste, which in this case was 8 songs. ‘MDNA’ isn’t an album you can listen to all the way through, but it isn’t a wash. The deluxe songs definitely save this album; without them this review would be much more negative. Despondent songs like “Best Friend,” “Beautiful Killer” and “I F***ed Up” provide some allure that the standard edition is without. You can try this album on for size, but if you never hear it, you’re not missing anything.