Thoughts while listening to MDNA and Googling

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Thoughts while listening to MDNA and Googling

I recently installed Spotify on my laptop, and it told me Madonna came out with a new album, MDNA. As I did for Lana Del Rey, I decided to listen to Madonna's new album in its entirety, with furious Googling and a kind of stream-of-conscience music/personna review.

Let's begin:

-I wish Madonna would stop referring to herself as a girl. If there is any female in the Western world who exists in the fullness of her womanhood, it is Madonna. I mean, really. She's 53. I'm going to relisten to this album and keep a tally.

-Oh wait, I did know Madonna was coming out with a new album. She performed for the Super Bowl. I remember now, because I caught flack on the Facebooks for saying that when I see Madonna perform nowadays, I want to give her a calcium chew and some sensible shoes. My friend John Paul told me that she was moving like that during the half time show because during dress rehearsal she had pulled a muscle or something. I stand (or step mincingly) corrected.

-In "I'm a Sinner," Madonna refers to St. Anthony, St. Sebastian, and other "saints and holy men." I like that she is expanding her Catholic schtick to include more of that religion's pantheon. And Wiki tells me that St. Sebastian is the patron saint of athletes, archers, homosexuals, and, um, the bubonic plague. And that he's commonly shown tied to a post and being shot with arrows--Madonna even mentions arrows. Aha! Now the "Losing My Religion" video makes more sense.

-"Girl Gone Wild." Again, with the girl thing. But more importantly: the mantyhose video! Meggings, mights, male foundation garments. At this point, I can't even hear the song, for the remembrance of that video is filling up my senses like a night in a steamy, homoerotically charged forest.

-Madonna recently did an interview where she talks about how hard it can be to be the single parent of four kids. Four? Someone picked up another accessory baby and didn't send out a press release. It is also surprising that she would play that card, the "I need to connect to my ladies; I'm just like them" gambit. In my opinion, that's below Madonna. I swear, after the Second Lady of the Iron Brassiere, Hilary Clinton, broke down on the campaign trail, crying about the guilt over eating pizza and not being able to find time to take care of herself (I sound dismissive, but I really felt for her), that is the go-to approach for a strong lady looking to connect with a female audience. With Hilary Clinton, you root for her because, let's face it, she looks like someone has made some easy/poor diet choices, but with Madonna, not only does she look like she could break a mountain lion's neck with her thighs, but also she's rich enough that she can hire nannies for each of her kid's appendages. Perhaps I sound anti-Madonna, but really I'm anti-"I'm just like you!" because clearly a celebrity is delusional if they think they can earn seven figures above me and think they are still just like me (hear that, Gwyneth Paltrow?).

-At the end of "Gang Bang," Madonna says, "If you're going to act like a bitch, you're going to die like a bitch." That's not the damn line!

-The First Lady of the Iron Brassiere is Margaret Thatcher. These are designations I have made myself; there is no official First Lady of the Iron Brassiere society, though I would love to see their coat of arms. Madonna could be the Third Lady of the Iron Brassiere.

-I don't want to focus on Madonna's age, but listening to "Gimme All Your Love" ("L-U-V, Madonna!") I was struck how it sounds like a teeny bopper song. Teenage (or younger) singers often get criticized for singing tunes that are too mature for their age; can Madonna be cited for a song that is too immature for her age?

-EW has a small article about the self-referential bits of MDNA ("Some girls are like a virgin..."). Check it out. They may also talk about her videos (eg, how the mantyhose video resembles those for "Express Yourself" and "Vogue").

-There is a heavy cheerleader vibe on this album: "Gimme All Your Love," "Superstar," "Bday Song." How you feel about cheerleaders and their cheering may well affect how you like this album. says that Madonna is 5'4". Doesn't that seem impossible she's so small?

-Naughty girls, sexy time, sinning, Catholicism--done, done, done, and done. So, what's new on this album? Aside from mantyhose. And Nicki Minaj. "Love Spent" talks about how the singer wants her beloved to pay as much attention to her as he does his money (yes, I assume heterosexuality, just because there are a lot of pronouns in the sentence)--and features a banjo. "I Fucked Up" is a sincere musical apology--or not--which has the most Madonna-ness to it. That's about it, I think.

-"If you were the Mona Lisa, you'd be hanging in the Lourve." Somehow, I thought that analogy was going to go in a different direction.

-I think one of the key facets to consider when reviewing Madonna is danceability. That's what she's known for, musically, right? Despite the aggressive percussion and heavy electronic influence, I don't feel this album is particularly danceable (there are a couple tracks where I bob in my chair, but nothing I would classify as a dancefloor killer)--but it's ripe for a kickass remix album (as evidenced by the "Give Me All Your Love" remix at the end of this album).

-Why do we even call them 'albums' anymore?

-Ok, I was too busy to count every instance, but there are over 15 references to Madonna being a "girl."

-To pick up on an a couple earlier points, aside from danceability, what is the level of Madonna-ness on this album? What is Madonna trying to do with album? Is she successful? Do we buy this album because it is Madonna, or because it is awesome? Is this album the next step in her development as an artist? By the title, I figure the theme is something like the parts that make up Madonna, the building blocks of her as an artist. (Or maybe it was just supposed to be catchy.) So, in that sense, with the naughty girl, sexy time, etc. bits, and the self-references (even though that kind of meta, right--that Madonna is made up of bits of Madonna), it's true to the building blocks idea, but having so many blocks, as it were, doesn't leave that much for artist development.

Favorite tracks: I Fucked Up, Girl Gone Wild, I'm a Sinner.

Verdict: I might buy a couple, but no huge iTunes download. 2.85/5 stars

Addendum: An IM convo with Nick Carraway
Nick Carraway [2:50 PM]: wow, kinda harsh funny and true points thoMeredith Enos [2:50 PM]: hm i wanted to like it but i just didn't i do love mantyhoseNick Carraway [2:50 PM]: haha that's the first time i've heard that term it makes sense to me though because i am familiar with "moobs"Meredith Enos [2:51 PM]: and murses?Nick Carraway [2:51 PM]: it's a European Handbag dammit!Meredith Enos [2:52 PM]: hee hee hee i think i might need to write more on artist development. despite the fact that i love madonna, i don't like this album probably because she's had, like, 20 albums already. shouldn't she have better rhymes? melodies? more mature subject matter?Nick Carraway [2:54 PM]: agree about the subject matter i heard an interview from the guy from megadeath not that i really like that band but anyway he was saying that it's much harder to create albums as your career goes on because you have your whole previous life time and experience to create the first album, but the second one has to be cranked out in a much shorter time periodMeredith Enos [2:56 PM]: hmm i guess but madonna lives a rich and full life. you'd think she has a lot stuff to write songs aboutNick Carraway [2:57 PM]: yeah, but has she really faced that much adversity recently ? like u pointed out, she can't relate to everyday working moms Meredith Enos [2:57 PM]: there isn't that much difference in this album than, say, miley cyrus or whoever she did a film about malawiNick Carraway [2:57 PM]: yeah, n george clooney got arrested in sudan doesn't mean they're africanMeredith Enos [2:58 PM]: she could write about world peace, being a strong woman in a man's world, aging, learning, etc.Nick Carraway [2:59 PM]: or the mystical secrets of kabbalahMeredith Enos [2:59 PM]: it makes me think about her 24 year old (or whatever) boyfriend: does she think she's getting this guy because she's a cougar, or because she's as appealing in the same way as a 24 year old? you know what i mean? i would love a song about the kabbalahNick Carraway [3:01 PM]: agreed. i dont think she thinks shes a 24 year oldMeredith Enos [3:01 PM]: but the music feels like something a 24 year old would make. Nick Carraway [3:02 PM]: it could be her trying to keep up with the ke$ha's and katy perry's of the worldMeredith Enos [3:02 PM]: so that's my point: is the appeal of madonna that she's just as appealing as a 24 year old, or because she's effin madonna yep. sadNick Carraway [3:02 PM]: or it could be her producer just pushing her into the radio popular soundMeredith Enos [3:02 PM]: 
 can't think too well; now i'm listening to the new nicki minaj and it's distracting me. she repeats herself a lot i think nicki ran out of lyricsNick Carraway  [3:04 PM]: I want to hear itMeredith Enos [3:05 PM]: there's that song on the radio where she just goes "IIIIIIIII" for 16 measures. Girl needs a vacation. Or a thesaurus.
yep. also sad.

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