Best Friend, Confessions on a Dance Floor, Erotica, Falling Free, Gang bang, Girl Gone Wild, Give Me All Your Luvin', Guy Ritchie, I Don't Give A, I Fucked Up, I'm a Sinner, I'm Addicted, Like a Prayer, Love Spent, Madonna, Masterpiece, Ray Of Light, Some Girls, Superstar, Turn up the Radio, William Orbit
With the deceiving samples offered in the form of the first two singles of MDNA, the cheery ‘Give Me All Your Luvin‘ and the quite reductive ‘Girl Gone Wild‘, Madonna seemed once again trying desperately not to fade away into the oblivion known as cultural irrelevance. But, underneath the surface of a struggling mid-life identity crisis, she was concealing something: she was still in mourning. The failed decade-long relationship with Guy Ritchie is still very much an integral part of her and, for someone who is often considered the epitome of cold and distant, she bares it all.
Yes, there is levity here – like in the anthemic liberation of the Martin Solveig-produced ‘Turn Up the Radio‘ – but even in some of the most vapid and carefree songs brought by new collaborations, it is clear that Madonna is a heartbroken woman. In spite of the re-pairing with William Orbit, MDNA has more of the breakup pain and sexual emancipation of Like a Prayer and Erotica than the mature enlightenment of Ray of Light. And is more confessional and dark than Confessions on a Dance Floor ever tried to be. ‘I’m Addicted‘, a contagious uptempo record that reflects just how infectious this album can be, she is inebriated by a passionate encounter that, like any drug, will eventually wear off. And so will her teenage cheeky flings of ‘Superstar‘ and ‘B-Day Song‘ and the heretic sexual escapades of ‘Girl Gone Wild‘ and ‘I’m a Sinner’. In ‘Some Girls‘, a delicious brit-pop dance number, tired of games, she defyingly announces to her lover she does not intend the perpetuate the fake stereotype of the feminine.
Madonna might seem to be confronting the loss of Love with gargantuan anger in the stylized and murderous ‘Gang Bang‘ and loosely pretending to be over it in ‘I Don’t Give A‘. Neverthless the wounds are still very much open and when her guard is down the result is devastating. Be it in the bittersweet lament of the truly daring and innovative ‘Love Spent‘, the variations of longing in ‘Beautiful Killer‘, ‘Best Friend‘ and ‘Masterpiece‘, the moving mea culpa of ‘I Fucked Up‘ or in the raw and ethereal devastation of ‘Falling Free‘. In this last song Madonna’s voice, layered and emotional, sounds like she hasn’t in almost ten years: heart-wrenchingly vulnerable. She ends it all with the verse:
“Deep and pure our hearts align and then I’m free of mine.
I let loose the need to know and then we’re both free to go”
And so the healing begins, although the scar tissue will forever remain.