March 27, 2012
Top Ten Musical Moments on Madonna's MDNA
Thank the Baby Jesus, Madonna's recent (weak) singles are just a ruse. Her 12th album, MDNA, is a solid collection of party pop songs peppered with a few stunning moments of introspection. It's not Ray Of Light - there is only one of those - but it's a return to quality after the phoned in Hard Candy. Here are a few of my favorite moments...
1 Girl Gone Wild: Let's start low and work our way up. There are a few irritants in this song, like the way she clips the note on the bit at 2:55 ("I'm a bad girl anyway, hey!") and although the spoken opener is a bit - you guessed it - reductive (Act Of Contrition meets Sorry?), I get a little thrill the way she says "because I love thee" at .13 seconds in.
2 Gang Bang: Madonna’s wicked, chaotic Tarantino soundtrack is filled with surprises. It almost seems free of structure, which is pleasing. But the greatest bit is clear: the highly cinematic ascension of “Sgt. Pepper” strings at 3:49 - 3:55. I play that over and over.
3 I’m Addicted: The repeated M-D-N-A bit in the final 45 seconds, especially the way she speeds it up at 4:20. This track also boasts one of the album’s best lines, actually written by Madonna: "All of the letters push to the front of my mouth / And saying your name is somewhere between a prayer and a shout."
4 Turn Up The Radio: A relatively simple, yet effective stadium stormer, my favorite moments in Turn Up The Radio are the most fleeting: the whooshes of sound that come .07 seconds in and reappear later. I also love the line at 2:45 about blown speakers.
5 I Don’t Give A: BABY JESUS ON THE STAIRS, this is a good track! Another MDNA song that seems like multiple tunes sewn into one, I Don’t Give A’s greatest moment comes with the grandiose Game Of Thrones-y coda (3:22), which would be perfect as a show opener or closer.
6 I’m A Sinner: This is Orbit’s trick: creating a song with the “MDNA" sound that Martin Solveig imprinted on his own MDNA tracks - yet it also manages to sound like Music era Madge. I like everything about this song, but the "male" vocals at 3:17 (which may be Jean Baptiste or her slowed down) thrill me.
7 Beautiful Killer has one of Madonna’s prettiest bridges (2:08 - 2:40) in years. Great songs are separated from good ones by bridges that seem like songs within songs. This one is notable for its gorgeous Papa Don’t Preach-like strings. Beautiful Killer is perhaps the most "Madonna-esque" song on MDNA. It has her production stamp all over it.
8 Love Spent: Perhaps because this song comes from the madman brain of William Orbit, it’s filled with true musicality, whatever that means. From the out-of-nowhere use of the banjo throughout the song to the way it's broken into two segments. But for me, it's the zapping percussion in the final 44 seconds that really sends it over the edge.
9 Falling Free is baroque, isn’t it? Like Jane Austen wrote a breakup song and recorded it in the drawing room. I most love the complex structure of this song, particularly the “Your days were to fly...” bit that follows each verse (first heard at 1:39). is it a chorus? I don't think so? My second favorite line from the album is its wisest and saddest (made stronger by her perfect vocal in the song's final moments): “When I let loose the need to know / We're both free, free to go.”
10 Love Spent (acoustic): At first I was annoyed by the autotune remaining on Madonna’s voice - this is meant to be acoustic, right?! - until I realized it creates a nice contrast with the more stripped down vocal on the last half (that comes in at 2:40). The weird unintelligible (backwards? by Priscilla Renea?) bits added at 1:25 and 2:35 are a stroke of genius. "Hold on to me 'til there's nothing left."
If you're curious about what I don't like.... Give Me All Your Luvin', Bday Song, Best Friend. Superstar is a bit sweet for my tastes.
And for the record, I prefer the album cover image above (the standard) to the head shot of the deluxe version.
Stay tuned for more on MDNA over the next two weeks.
UPDATE: Woah... William Orbit tweeted me, unprompted! Questions answered: