Madonna has always been fearless in her passion for adopting elements of cutting edge electronic dance music, and making them more accessible with her pop ear and sexy attitude. On Music, she puts wannabe dance divas in their place by continuing her hot streak of bringing new underground sounds to dance music.
On Music, Madonna gets production of Ray of Light’s William Orbit, and also from French DJ Mirwais Ahmadzi. Though Orbit and Madonna made Ray of Light a great, trend-setting album, Mirwais makes more of an impression on Music. He brings the unique sound of French electro-pop to the CD, without overwhelming Madonna.
The CD is full of great tracks. It starts with three hot dance cuts, “Music”, “Impressive Instant” and “Runaway Lover”. While the thump of “Music” was inescapable when it was released, it sounds as original and out of left field today as when it was released. Madonna and Mirwais strip the music down to its bare essence, often leaving just thudding kick drums, synth bass, and vocals.
“Runaway Lover” is an Orbit collaboration, and has more of a trance feel. Fans of Ray of Light will love this cut – it sounds like it would have been right at home on her previous album.
On “Deserve it”, Madonna and Mirwais create an almost folk-sounding electro-pop. Her lyrics are personal and direct, and the music exposes her voice, making the song all the more effective.
“This guy was meant for me
And I was meant for him
This guy was dreamt for me
And I was dreamt for him
This guy has danced for me
And I have danced for him
This guy has cried for me
And I have cried for him
Many miles, many roads I have traveled
Fallen down on the way
Many hearts, many years have unraveled
Leading up to today”
“Amazing” is another Orbit-produced cut, and is tasty enough to inspire hopes for more collaborations. This song is pure pop, sounds great, and is “amazingly” catchy.
Madonna occasionally trips up on her slow songs, because her lyrics don’t always rise to her subject matter. On “Nobody’s Perfect”, the production is interesting, and the acoustic guitar adds an interesting element, and there’s some interesting vocoder work. Unfortunately, the track is let down by the song itself.
The next track, “Don’t Tell Me”, covers similar territory, but works great. Her lyrics are better, and the production is innovative without being intrusive:
“Don’t tell me to stop
Tell the rain not to drop
Tell the wind not to blow
’cause you said so, mmm
Tell the sun not to shine
Not to get up this time, no, no
Let it fall by the way
But don’t leave me where I lay down
Tell me love isn’t true
It’s just something that we do
Tell me everything I’m not
(first time:) but please don’t tell me to stop”
The track starts with acoustic guitar that sounds like it has been sliced and diced and then looped. It cuts in and out, but stays in rhythm. Mirwais adds kicks and hi-hat and synthesizer blurps and bleeps to give the track a funky dance vibe, and strings to add a sense of timelessness.
“What it feels like for a girl” is one of Madonna’s strongest cuts, lyrically:
“Girls can wear jeans
And cut their hair short
Wear shirts and boots
’cause it’s ok to be a boy
But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading
’cause you think that being a girl is degrading
But secretly you’d love to know what it’s like
What it feels like for a girl
Lips as sweet as candy, baby
Tight blue jeans
Skin that shows in patches
Strong inside but you don’t know it
Good little girls they never show it
When you open up your mouth to speak
Could you be a little weak “
The song is Madonna at her best. She asks you to questions sex roles and gender identity, all while asking the listener to imagine the sensual experience of being female. Lines like “When you open up your mouth to speak,
Could you be a little weak” cut deeper and ring truer than most of her work, and capture ideas and emotions that you’re unlikely to hear any of the other pop divas take on.
Madonna continues at a more downtempo beat with “Paradise (Not for Me)”. This cut uses strings very effectively, and has a French pop feel. Madonna’s lyrics seem to touch on loss of innocence or love, and are delivered in English and French. Mirwais treats Madonna’s voice with filters or vocoders, which adds some interest to the track.
The last track, “Gone”, sounds less like Madonna than almost anything she’s ever done. It combines a folk feel with lyrics that sound semi-religious:
“Dream away your life
Someone else’s dream
Nothing equals nothing
Turn to stone
Lose my faith
I’ll be gone
Before it happens”
The track is produced with subtle electronic flourishes that don’t intrude on the track, which ultimately emphasizes the vocals. Madonna harmonizes with herself, which adds to the folk flavor. It ends the CD on a quiet reflective note.
Music is one of Madonna’s best CDs, and shows her at the peak of her form. Madonna takes you on a trip from the dance floor, where she gets everybody on the floor, to the after-hours bar, where she spills her guts. Sexy, independent, uncompromising, and innovative, Madonna’s Music shows that other dance divas will have to work a lot harder if they ever want to match Madonna at her peak.