A track-by-track review by Michael McCarthy, who wrote this while listening to the album for the fifth time.
“Girl Gone Wild”
The intro immediately calls to mind “Like A Prayer,” sounding a bit derivative. It just seems pointless to start your new album with a reference (basically) to your former glory. It’s like saying this album won’t stand strongly enough on its own without references to her superior works. As for the song itself, Madonna sings, “Girls they just wanna have some fun” and you can’t help but think, “yeah, and Cyndi Lauper said it better 25 years ago.” Which isn’t to say that there’s anything wrong with doing a song about girls just wanting to have fun. I just wish Madonna put a new spin on that. How do girls want to have fun in 2012? Even a little futurism wouldn’t have hurt. As for the production, the beats are warm, pulsating and hypnotic, so there’s no misstep there. But I wish Madonna’s vocals weren’t so buried by the beats, especially during the chorus. It’s her song, let MDNA take centerstage already.
The beats remind me of the dub remixes on Fundalmentalism, the bonus disc that came with Pet Shop Boys under-rated Fundamental album. And this is a good thing. Dark, powerful, even a bit imposing, these beats will hit you right in the gut. But Madonna’s vocals are so buried in the mix that you’ll have to crank it up and pay close attention to comprehend what she’s saying. And I do mean *saying,* as she actually says more than she sings during this one. Lyrically, it’s apparently about shooting her lover in the head and I can get down with that, but don’t make a track where pretty much all you do is talk the second track on the album. (Unless you’re Ke$ha. But I’d like to think Madonna isn’t taking cues from her.) This would have been better as an interlude sort of track halfway through the album. Also, the dubstep break just isn’t very good. It was a good idea, absolutely, but it was nothing compared to the brilliant dubstep break in Britney’s “Hold It Against Me.” Surely Skrillex or Kill The Noise or Noisa or any of the dubstep masters could have contributed a great break to this song. When you have the clout to get you access to anyone, why not use it and employ an expert to help you do what you want to do so that you do it well?
Co-produced by Benassi Bros. and The Demolition Crew, this one is fantastic. It’s got pounding beats that will make you want to move, to get into the groove, meanwhile it’s got fuzzy electro bass giving it a very modern vibe. “M.D.M.A.,” Madonna says over and over again, maybe a few times too many, but it’s all in good fun and I can appreciate that.
“Turn Up The Radio”
Martin Solveig produced this one, but the beats are softer than his typical sound, probably in the interest of making them mesh with the album in whole. Still, he’s a superb producer and he works his magic here with great results. The song sounds like a cross between “Music” and “Love Profusion,” tunes from two of my favorite Madonna records, so I’m loving this one. Madonna’s vocals are stronger here, too, less drowned out by the beats than they are earlier in the album.
“Give Me All Your Luvin’”
This, MDNA’s first single, has harder beats than anything on the album thus far. In fact, the short, punchy beats sound so different that this track sounds like it should be on a different album. That aside, the chorus is plenty catchy and Madonna’s vocals sound fantastic. Unfortunately, the song “features” Nicki Minaj and “M.I.A.,” who only drag it down. Minaj in particular just doesn’t belong here. Her brief rap has no references to the rest of the song whatsoever. She just shamelessly gives herself a shout out – and she ought to be ashamed. M.I.A.’s contribution doesn’t make the song any better either but it’s not as distracting and she doesn’t seem to be self-promoting so it’s ultimately tolerable. Still, to be enitrely honest, I prefer the leaked version of this song sans Minaj and M.I.A. over this album version by far. That’s the version that should’ve been on the album. They should have made the version with the guests a remix, not an album version.
“Some girls only ever like to tease,” Madonna purrs during what passes for a chorus during this one. Most of her vocals are spoken here, and with a hell of a lot of reverb on her voice. I don’t think there’s a moment during this song where Madonna’s vocals aren’t processed with something or other. And the beats just sound like more of what we’ve already heard on the album two or three times already. A pointless song, essentially.
Starts off with Madonna giving a lover all sorts of compliments. “Oh, la, la, you’re my superstar, oh, la, la, that’s what you are,” goes the chorus. This wouldn’t be offensive if it was a Britney track but one would hope for something a little more substantial from Madonna, especially at this point in her career. I suppose the lyrical content wouldn’t be an issue if the song was actually infectious but it just does nothing for me.
“I Don’t Give A”
I didn’t mind Madonna’s rap in “American Life” and that’s what her rap in this song reminds me of. And American Life is my favorite Madonna album. So, yes, I’m actually saying that I really like this track. Except for the Nicki Minaj part. It’s not as shamelessly self-promoting as her previous appearance on the album but I just feel like Madonna’s songs should only feature Madonna, the guest spots reserved for remixes.
“I’m A Sinner”
Another song about being bad. It’s just kind of silly. The beats are nothing special either.
This one starts off with banjo – yes, banjo – calling to mind the movie Deliverance. Which is too bad because this is otherwise a beautiful song, courtesy of William Orbit, who’s arguably the most talented producer to work on this album.
This ballad is probably the best track on the album. Mature, somewhat poetic lyrics, gorgeous production that falls somewhere between R&B and electro, this is exactly what I want from Madonna in 2012.
Another expertly-produced collaboration with William Orbit. Great lyrics, too. At times it’s happy and at others it’s just the right amount of sad. A real gem of a song.
Maybe it’s a bit redundant since she’s already done a song called “Beautiful Stranger,” but it’s still a fantastic track. Smart lyrics, solid beats, just the right amount of gorgeous strings – clearly the second half of the album is far superior to the first.
“I Fucked Up”
Lyrically, it’s an apology to a lover. And a mature one at that. It’s even a bit self-deprecating. Musically, you could probably call it a ballad but the beats are slightly dubstep. This is probably the smartest song on the album and it has a wonderful, modern vibe.
A silly – if not downright giddy – song from the deluxe edition. This one could have been on the True Blue album. A playful little treat.
Begins with stuttering beats that remind me of “The Hunter” by Bjork, which is my favorite Bjork song off of my favorite Bjork album. The first few times I heard it I thought it was a little bit too much like Bjork’s song but it grew on me and I definitely like it now. Like most of the other songs on the second half of the album its lyrics are simple but smart and entirely appropriate. Probably about Madonna’s divorce from Guy Ritchie, which could also be said about plenty of other lyrics here and there throughout the album, but it’s not scornful at all, nor is it whiny. It has just the right amount of melancholy.
“Give Me All Your Luvin’ (Party Rock Remix)”
It’s not bad enough that the talentless duo known as LMFAO had to appear during Madonna’s Superbowl performance, here they are referencing their own “Sexy And I Know It” song, not making Madonna’s song any better, just providing an annoying distraction. Just like the Nicki Minaj appearance on the album version of the song, which is also on this remix. A terrible way to end the album.