We've had a sneak preview of the new album ? get ready for terrible French accents, amazing pop raves and heartfelt ballads
After the relative failure of the album's first single Give Me All Your Luvin' ? in with a bullet at No 37 in the UK ? this throbbing, having-a-bit-of-a-dance electro-pop stomper was released a few weeks ago in the form of a fairly embarrassing lyric video. Embarrassing because the lyrics are probably the worst thing about it, all "you got me in the zone, DJ play my favourite song" club LOLs. Co-produced by Italian DJ Benny Benassi, it's a lot more exciting musically, especially when the whole thing disintegrates in the middle eight, dropping out completely as Madonna coos "forgive me". A signal we're back in Confessions on a Dance Floor territory following the relative misstep of Hard Candy.
Madonna in playful mode. Big throbbing industrial-tinged beats, spoken word verses, no real chorus, just a ridiculous collection of sound effects (police sirens, gunshots) and imposing menace that's actually pretty fun in a kind of slightly unhinged way. Gang Bang recalls her American Life album in its slightly uneasy marrying of genres, with a sudden dubstep breakdown its most obvious detour. Lyrically it's a twisted revenge fantasy rather than a sordid romp, closing with the line: "If you're going to drive like a bitch then you're going to die like a bitch."
Again co-produced by Benny Benassi, this continues the theme of "Fun!" (however forced it might seem) that permeates most of MDNA's first half. "I need to dance," Madonna trills over squiggly synth squelches and a beat that morphs into a fairly ridiculous Calvin Harris-esque breakdown. By the end she's chanting "M D N A", which you imagine might be shouted back at her by some fairly large crowds come summer.
Turn Up the Radio
This one, co-produced by Martin Solveig, should have been the second single. Its relatively calm intro is a timely breather from the throbbing bass and feels more carefree and instinctive than what has gone before. Over a bouncing beat that filters, stutters and drops in all the right places, it slowly morphs into an anthemic raveathon, with a lovely middle eight underpinned by almost tribal drums. Again, the theme is the need for one and all to chill out and have some fun.
If you were one of the 108 million people who watched this year's Super Bowl halftime show then you've probably heard this first single. If, however, you listen to the radio then you probably haven't, seeing as it wasn't playlisted on Radio 1 and received limited exposure elsewhere. Though admittedly not her best comeback single ? that's Frozen, in case you were wondering ? it's still a fun song, Solveig slightly reworking the bouncing beats and acoustic strums of his amazing Hello single and drafting in Nicki Minaj and MIA to add some personality to a middle section that's slightly dubstep-interlude-by-numbers.
Probably the album's weakest moment, with Madonna's vocals pulled, processed and buried deep in the mix, acting more like another instrument within a deluge of filtered beats. It could have easily been a leftover from her Music album, William Orbit unable to find a melodic core in a song that probably should have been included as a bonus track.
Opening with a massive Cheerleader-style drum beat ? reminiscent of the extended intro to Solveig's Hello ? this is much better, Madonna sounding playful and energised, singing about how her new boyfriend is pretty amazing. In fact, she likes him so much she'll let him "have the password to my phone". Unfortunately, as with most songs on the first half of the album, the chorus is a bit weak, a simple "oh la la, you're my superstar". Also, memo to Madonna: massive pop stars knowing about dubstep is probably a bit old hat now, but we get another dubstepesque breakdown nonetheless.
I Don't Give a feat Nicki Minaj
Brilliantly odd. Opening with a bang, literally, it goes on to morph into an America Life-style rap (no wait, come back) that features a list of things Madonna has to do ("meet the press ? sign the contract"). The industrial beats soon make way for spooky chants and out of nowhere Minaj pops up, finishing her rap with "there's only one Queen and that's Madonna, bitch". If this isn't being made into a T-shirt as you read this then there's something wrong with the world of merchandise.
I'm a Sinner
Futuristic-sounding, double-tracked beats hail a song that veers from having fun on a night out ("all the boys and the girls wanna be like us tonight"), to a religious revelry ("Hail Mary, Jesus Christ on the cross died for our sins"). Produced by William Orbit, his signature motifs are all over it, from the Ray of Light-style guitar line that emerges from nowhere to the bit later on that sounds like Beautiful Stranger.
Back come the guitars, this time working around processed strings, a pretty melody and lyrics about wanting to replace money in a man's affections. "Hold me like your money ? Spend your love on me," Madonna sings over four-to-the-floor beats and a properly ravey middle eight. There's an amusing moment when she deadpans: "Frankly, if my name was Benjamin, we wouldn't be in this mess we're in."
Over a simple fingerclick drum beat and a pretty acoustic riff, this ballad ? which appeared on the W.E. soundtrack ? takes the painting metaphor hinted at in the title and runs with it. "If you were the Mona Lisa, you'd be hanging in the Louvre," Madonna sings, with the implication being that it's hard to love something perfect and distant ("the look but please don't touch me type"). It's one of the best vocal performances on the album, her voice soft and sweet throughout, lifting effortlessly into the chorus of "I'm right by your side, like a thief in the night, I stand in front of the masterpiece." A breath of fresh air after heavy bass and ravey synths.
Opens with a spooky, slightly unhinged piano section that's more lonely woman in haunted house than Coldplay stadium filler. Deep strings underpin the whole thing, with just the piano and strange electronic textures ? similar to Ray of Light's Drowned World ? for company. As with most of the later songs, you could easily read a lot into the lyrics, specifically thinking about Madonna's divorce from Guy Ritchie. "We're both free, free to go," she sings as the strings sigh and slowly settle. It's a haunting way to end the main album.
The first of four bonus tracks, this draws on a fairly popular Madonna theme: that of being drawn to something bad for you. "Baby I'll let you shoot me down" and "I can't really talk with a gun in my mouth" are two lyrical highlights on a song that was rightly left off the main album.
I Fucked Up
This, however, definitely should have been on it. Opening with a big, bass-heavy beat and a snapped "I fucked up", it's Madonna at her self-lacerating best. "I made a mistake, nobody does it better than myself," she sings as the beat is joined by strings and sudden bursts of guitar. Suddenly the beat skips and speeds up, creating the album's grimiest, least polished moment. Fans of Confessions on a Dance Floor's Sorry will be pleased to hear her sing "je suis desol�" in the least convincing French accent.
B-Day Song feat MIA
Rumours that this MIA collaboration was bumped from the main tracklisting following middlefingergate were not confirmed during the playback, but it's more than likely it was left off because it's Motown/Spectorish beat doesn't really fit with the rest of the album. It's a jolly romp though, with MIA joining in on the chorus but letting Madonna deliver the line "give me a spanking, start the day off right" by herself.
A real highlight. With a massive electro beat that pogos all over the place, this is a brilliant rush of darting synths. Lyrically it's about a relationship that should never have been, Madonna lamenting the loss of a friendship after things went wrong. There are nods, perhaps, to her previous life as part of the English gentry ? "I miss the countryside in which we used to lay" ? and it's one of the few times on the album where the chorus truly soars. It ends with the line "it's so sad that it had to end" and, generally, this is true of Madonna's MDNA, an album that's been trailed by weak singles, but contains brilliantly bonkers moments.