If anyone had said to Madonna back in the late 70s that she'd be putting out her 14th album in 2019, she probably wouldn't have believed them. And, to top it off, this 14th album, "Madame X" has debuted at #1! Here's a song-by-song review about Madonna's new album by her biggest fan, Daniel Campbell:
The album's highly anticipated lead single launches the journey of Madame X. The irritable catchy
accapella introduction has you captured right from the start. When her soothing vocals first kick in, you
would expect to enjoy a relaxing, tropical-themed song (the kind you want to hear at the beach while
you sip Pina Coladas) but you suddenly feel tricked; a reggae beat can be heard fading in by the time
Maluma takes over the next verse. Forget that Pina Colada; you want to set it down as you jump up to
dance. Then your mind is blown by the time the chorus kicks in - Madonna and Maluma sing the lines
synchronistically over that Latin beat which has now completely taken over the track. They both own
equal time on the track as they flirtatiously bounce their own verses toward each other. The song comes
full-circle as it closes with the same "cha-cha-cha" tease and then slowly fades away. I dare you to get
through the day without randomly chanting "1, 2, cha-cha-cha." Go ahead; try it.
2. Dark Ballet
This wouldn’t be a Madonna album if it didn’t have that one dark track with experimental elements.
Dark Ballet is it. The track starts immediately with her vocals over a simple piano tune. 45 seconds in, we
get a deep beat over the piano while she seems to sing with a more aggressive, aggravated voice. The
track pulls a 180 as the piano picks up into a ballet-esque routine with energetic classic instruments
chiming in, which ques Madonna singing with vocoder effects at a hyper active speed, so fast in fact,
that you can hardly make out the words she is singing with her robotic voice. She then speaks a few lines
in a haunting tone, like something out of an introduction to a mystery TV show, before breathing into
her microphone with fire sound effects immediately following. Dark Ballet might be too left-field for one
to take in and appreciate due to its strange theme and sudden fall in music style.
3. God Control
One of the album’s highlights! The first verse starts out similar to the previous track, with Madonna
singing almost whisper-like in a mumble tone (it has been reported that she sang the first verse through
clenched teeth to give the feeling of her being angry). Here comes another 180; a choir can suddenly be
heard as the piano and vocals suddenly stop, leading to pleasant strings that flow right into a full-blown
disco beat. Here’s the classic Madonna dance track we’ve been waiting for; if you didn’t know any
better, you would think this was made for her disco inspired album, Confessions On A Dance Floor. The
house beats stay put throughout the rest of the song and Madonna sings her lungs out (with auto-tune
effects) about the politics of gun control and screaming the line “a new democracy!” here and there.
Who knew that a controversial song about guns could be turned into such a dance anthem?!
Reggae meets hip-hop. Another upbeat track with inspiring lyrics, only this time between M and Quavo.
Madonna’s vocals are so altered that it’s unrecognizable, sounding very masculine. While the lyrics have
a clear and important meaning, the chorus tends to grow tired easily and you can’t help but feel a bit of
relief when the song has finished. But if you’re feeling nostalgic, we do get a lyrical sample from her hit
“Don’t Tell Me” hidden in all the mess.
Did I mention this album is experimental? Cause it doesn’t get any unique than Batuka. Right away, you
know what kind of song you’re in for – a tribal folk song that is sung over heavy drums with many
vocalists joining in on the chants. The lyrics however are quite tacky, the type you just make up on the
spot after a few drinks while sitting around a campfire with your friends. As usual, the song has a twist
about half way through with hip-hop beats sounding over the beating drums and Madonna’s (once
again) auto-tuned vocals which seem terribly unnecessary. Not many albums are perfect and this song is
far from it. If you like the kind of song where it sounds like a human sacrifice is being made then this
track has your name written all over it.
6. Killers Who Are Partying
I betcha thought this was going to be a dance track based on the title, didn’t you? Well think again. This
haunting ballad is simple but has the most impactful lyrics out of any other song on this record. Every
verse is about Madonna voluntarily taking the place of those who are part of minority groups that often
get discriminated against, putting herself in their shoes, so to speak. The entire song has a calming tone
with bouzouki strings and light beats which manage to somehow fit perfectly with her story. It’s like the
type of music you would hear overhead at a Greek restaurant but with a hidden dark message. The most
powerful phrase on the album can be heard when she sings “I will be a woman if she raped and her
heart is breaking.” The song may linger on and be a bit boring for some, but the lyrics are so relatable to
me that makes this track an instant top 5 on Madame X in my opinion.
In a session full of twists and turns, Madame X launches off on a new path with Crave. This urban
inspired ballad is both beautiful and addicting. Sure, it may sound like anything else that’s on pop radio
today but that’s why it works. If you didn’t know any better, you would think this were an Ariana Grande
or Rihanna song when you first hear it. Swae Lee joins Madonna on this journey, singing about
heartbreak and the dangers of relationships. The only bad thing I have to say about Crave is that it didn’t
last longer. Besides Medellin, this is my absolute favorite track on the record and is one of the best
songs she has put out in ten years.
I can’t quite pinpoint what this song reminds me of but it sounds too familiar. At first, I thought of 90s
No Doubt music, then on the next listen I got Christmas vibes (don’t ask) and now all I can hear is
something Halsey would release. The intro starts with an accordion before the drums and vocals kick in.
This track is quite nice and is one of the few songs where her vocals are raw with very little altering. It’s
a bit difficult to memorize the lyrics as there are so many words in the verses and she sings them quite
quickly. But it will make you want to challenge yourself by looking up the lyrics online and (trying to) sing
9. Come Alive
Oh boy, where do I start? Let’s start with the positive: the production is unique and sounds very
impressive, instrumental wise. The negative: well, it’s quite annoying. The lyrics are corny and more
than half the song is her repeating the track title repetitively over and over (I counted it – 85 times!) that
just makes your finger want to hit the skip button. Come Alive is like a beefed up sequel to Body Shop (a
track from her previous album, Rebel Heart) but that’s nothing to get excited about since that song
wasn’t well received either. The song does end nicely though with a children’s choir who all sound
beautiful but, like Madonna, they’re just repeating the phrase “come alive” for what feels like hours.
10. Extreme Occident
Things get weird again here but in a good way. Don’t let the creepy music box sound turn you away; just
sit and listen to M’s autobiographical words as she teases the way she has grown to become the star she
is today. Surprisingly, she sings about her political views on how she presumably used to be a Republican
(“went to the far right”) to a Democrat (“went to the far left”). Then halfway through, yet again we’re
surprised with another musical twist: the piano disappears and a sudden middle-eastern breakdown
starts as she continues to sing (with her lyrics getting deeper and angrier) lines such as “I’ve got the right
to choose my own life” and “life is a circle.” Again, this could be a track that some may find to be a bore
but the lyrics once again capture my love for yet another great Madame X gift.
11. Faz Gostoso
What do you get when you put Brazil, Shakira, ecstasy and confetti in a blender and give it to Madonna
to drink? You get Faz Gostoso! This Latin-heavy dance song will make your head spin! The song features
Brazilian singer Anitta and her voice flows absolutely perfectly with Madonna’s to where you’ll have a
hard time telling them apart. You can’t help but picture a wild street party in the middle of the night in
Rio with crowds of people letting loose, dancing, smiling and having the time of their lives. The bilingual
verses are sung with such energy and the music will force you to sway your hips (or your ass if that’s
your thing). A short but pleasant interlude happens towards the end when the music turns into a conga-
line festivity with Madonna happily singing “I like to party, party, party.” But be warned, this song is sung
almost entirely in Portuguese which just makes it THAT much more special. If this track doesn’t make
you smile then I feel sorry for you.
12. Bitch I’m Loca
No, this is not a continuation of the somewhat tacky song, Bitch I’m Madonna. Once again, Maluma and
Madonna sing saucy lyrics to each other, even more flirtatious than on Medellin. In fact, I would
consider this song a prequel to Medellin when these two first meet as they discover how sexually
attracted they are to each other before eventually falling in love (as it seems they did in track one). This
song flows perfectly after Faz Gostoso with the same energetic feel and bilingual lyrics. The song is short
and sweet but a definite highlight.
13. I Don’t Search I Find
Why not one more classic dance track before we wrap this album up, what do ya say? Cause that’s what
you’re getting with this sexy trance song. Right away, your mind will connect this with God Control as it
has a similar disco sound but with a completely different (and less controversial) meaning. This song is
about love and celebration; as simple as that sounds, it is much needed after a string of the deep tracks
we heard so far. Everything you used to love about Madonna’s older music can be found here. We get
the return of the sultry spoken voice that we all recognize which is so comparable to her Erotica album
that I would bet money that this is an old demo she discovered and brought it back to life. The lyrics
aren’t anything to write home about as they’re quite simple and only consist of the chorus and one
verse but the music is what makes you want to play it on loop because you can’t get enough of it. If
Erotica and Confessions had a baby, this would be it.
14. Looking For Mercy
So much potential here. A soft ballad with the most raw vocals we’ve heard from Madonna before
Evita.This track sounds like it came right from the Like A Prayer album. But, like Come Alive, it’s ruined
by the title being repeated annoyingly so (80 times). By the time the second chorus comes, your brain
will be wanting to explode by how many times it’s hearing “looking for, looking for, looking for Mercy.”
What’s even worse is it’s easy to get stuck in your mind, so you’ll be humming the lines in your head
while doing house chores the next day. Do yourself a favor and only give this a listen on the first time
15. I Rise
I Rise is a great way to end this journey with its mid-tempo arrangement and strong political lyrics. It
starts out with an actual audio clip from a young upset woman at a protest against the US Government.
Madonna expresses her feelings and shares memories of battling for rights and how it’s still a challenge
even today. The lines “died a thousand times, managed to survive” and “there’s nothing you can do to
me that hasn’t been done” are perhaps the most genuine lyrics on the album. It’s no secret how many
times Madonna has been a victim of the press and politicians and she doesn’t hold back as she pours out
her experiences on this track. But her being the strong independent woman that she is, she brushes
those negative bashings off her shoulders and continues to rise while encouraging others to do the
same. The concluding words (the last we hear on the Madame X journey) are a reminder that even
though we’re scared or angry, we are in this together as she chants “we’ll rise up, we can get it
photo credit: iHeart Radio