Sunday, May 10, 2009
"Music" (Madonna) (2000)
N.B. This review was originally published on e-pinions.com in 2004 and the only addition I did was the rating.
"Rising From The Mosh Pit"
The curse for established pop stars is that fans accept them as thus and nothing else. As the cliche goes, "once you pop, you can't stop." Only a few, determined to show serious artistic intent, shrug off this fact and end up forcing dim witted fans to embrace their diversity as "art". Examples include peerless acts like Michael Jackson and Prince, with the most stunning case being the Beatles. How Ringo, John, Paul and George overcame their innocuous beginning to rule the world...should be studied in universities.
That's harsh. Most pop acts are very talented and use the genre just to get a toe-hold into the biz, but that small step becomes a vice-like grip once success is achieved. Some, like Jackson, never leave pop's heart but others, like Prince, eventually get bored and decide to rock the house in other ways. Note that these are all men. Women, on the other hand, have had it much harder. Fans have been molded to buy into their cosmetic appeal and pay less attention to what they were saying. And no woman has struggled with this divide more than Madonna.
No other female since has had to endure such scrutiny from both sides of a very heated coin. Many will say that she brought this upon herself; why, wasn't it she who clamoured for more, more, more? Wasn't she the one who shamelessly lapped up the good/bad publicity just to sell out records and her immortality? But even ardent supporters felt she went too far on "Erotica" with that steamy, bi-curious video and "Sex" book, yet Madonna was just reversing age-old roles and suffered for it. She was branded, not surprisingly , more by women who dared to do the very thing she was doing and getting away with it.
But from this the artist arose and staying the course was the way to prove us all wrong ; she was not going away or heading into obscurity. In fact she got a running start when , in 1994, an electronic-tinged single penned by Bjork, was included on her new album. "Bedtime Story" clearly intrigued her, cause all her material henceforth has been inclusive of nothing else.
As she started to pander to her techno needs though, she stuttered on her first full pledged album "Ray of Light" ,as her choice of producers left a lot to be desired. Marius DeVris and William Orbit failed to supply the opus with legs simply because they never rocked to begin with. But twice is the lucky charm as Madonna has pulled off stunning results with "Music".
Honestly, she's only ever had one great album before--no need to remind fans, you should know its name by now--, but a lot of great singles. Whole albums got muddled and there was no cohesion or "flow". But this is art in heavy doses and proportionality in even bigger ones.
"Music", the first track, swamps your ears, sucking up all the available space with a persistent bass and employing stylistic tricks. Oh, the synths and loops are relentless, courtesy of the enigmatic Mirawis, without whose help, I doubt Maddie would have pulled it off by herself.
"Impressive Instant" sways us to la,la clubland with an insane techno ride. Mirawis punishes us again with harsh sounds that sound better than "Skin". It even features a clincher-ending..."you're the one that I've been waiting for/ I don't even know your name." Could this really be Madonna?
But amid all the revelry and triumph of creativity lies the issue of her pain and struggles and humility learned through her many experiences. Her highs are expressed on the poignant "I Deserve It", a surprising guitar-wielding affirmation of her happiness and subsequent marriage;"many miles, many roads I have traveled/fallen down on the way/many hearts, many years have unraveled/leading up to today." And she doesn't omit the lows either; "Nobody's Perfect" is a throw away back to a decade best forgotten, but "Gone" is spare and beautifully done, even if Orbit is on board for the ride. The lyrics give a haunting introspect into her life; "letting go/is not my thing/walk away/won't let it happen again/I'm not/I'm not very smart".
But we still love Maddie best when she's naughty. If she can't be good then at least she should be good at being bad. Sensuality is a clever deployed trick she used on hallmarks like "Justify My Love" and "Erotica". This album's lone "bad" song is also one of its most successful tracks. "What It Feels Like For A Girl" opens up with sarcasm, "...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/wouldn't you." Her message gets through with contrasted pretty music, but don't let the irony get lost on you. This track is more akin to "Where Life Begins" than any other track, and only Madonna dare encase such controversial topics like fellatio and gender-bendering in bold packaging.
Yet, the most satisfying track is "Paradise(Not For Me)". Its pace grows maddeningly until it actually mutates in mid-sentences. Unheard of from pop singers, even more so the shameless Bjork-like drawl used on lines like, "I was so blind/I could not see/ your paradise/is not for me." It even packs in a little French for good measure...brilliant. This tune will make electronic-heads realize that she may be serious after all.
The only bad footing is the free reign given to Orbit. His two tracks, "Amazing" and "Runaway Lover", are flat, pointless and best not mentioned. Not even remixing can cleanse or purge the damned things. But one small misstep is counterbalanced by her many big strides forward into the great beyond called uncertainty.