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'Material Girl' turns 'Minimalist Girl'.,
This review is from: Music (Audio CD)
In "I Deserve It", Madonna takes pause to reflect on the current state of her "Music": "Many roads I have traveled/fallen down along the way/many hearts, many years have unraveled/leading up to today/and I thank you/".
Madonna and her creative-not to mention personal-trajectory has led us to this place in 'Music"-her eighth studio release-where the icon comes full-circle relying often on the precepts of her earlier work to chart a course through this most understated, post-modern, minimalist, and intimately candid work of her career that at the same time will prove most challenging to her fans who will see Mo in a new 'light'.
No other Madonna album so aptly follows its predecessor as "Music" does on the heels of "Ray of Light". The critically acclaimed '98 set was itself stylistically a giant leap from '94's "Bedtime Stories", the set on which Madonna began to once again delve into contemporary electronica-on tracks "Sanctuary" and "Bedtime Story". Seldom had so intimate a portrait of the artist been delivered until "Inside of Me"; though direct and unabashedly simple, it was itself a milestone track in that it merged her old-school simplicity with current trends in electronica.
Not since the eponompusly titled debut, had she come across so uncomplicated and sincere. In terms of musical direction, however, Madonna has always been the chameleon. Though on some level, there was a always a logical progression from one release to the subsequent one sonically, there was never a clearly definitive "Madonna" sound that carried from one Madonna album to the next-the matters that make the artist's work more profound and legendary. For instance, the grittier aspects of "Erotica" gave way to the softer R and B tones of "Bedtime Stories; she may have employed Patrick Leonard on "Like a Prayer" then on "Ray of Light", but his contributions on each were distinct.
However, "Music" is the next phase in this chameleon's evolution, and it is not a jump, radical departure, or a calculated dalliance into some fad, but an artistic commitment that was established on the predecessor "Ray of Light"-and even the opuses that preceded it. It is as if this arc is the natural, unaffected next step. Where "Ray of Light" used electronica as sonic underpinnings for its compositions, its use on "Music" is more essential to the lyricism at hand-again a natural progression, not a forced one; even the William Orbit collaborations are tighter-for those who found the "Ray of Light" collection more airy and atmospheric than buoyant musically. Orbit cut "Amazing" owes much to "Beautiful Stranger", while simulatenously evoking '80s trends that Madonna bore witness to: think of "My Sharona" guitar-licks by the Knack meets one of the two Romantics songs "Talking In Your Sleep". The vaccuous opening lyrics of "Skin" are akin to the downright silly lyric on "Runaway Lover": "It doesn't pay to be a runaway lover/it doesn't pay to give away what you lack/you'll never get your money back. Definitely working with Orbit must be the impetus for such levity. This time around, however, this Orbit collaboration is more akin musically to the in-your-face material on Madonna's "Erotica", and a very infectious space-age jam that is club ready.
On "I Deserve It", the mini-diary of her life, reverberating and converging sirens courtesy of Mirwais Ahmadzai almost exponentially increase in a flurry-a perfect musical metaphor for the reverberations and controversies and backlash therein she has been party to and has come to terms with. The Cher-like "Believe" vocal distortions on "Nobody's Perfect" in combination with the clattering and clanging also courtesy of Ahmadzai are the perfect complement to the sincerity, directness, and sense of dejection in the vocal and lyrics; not since her debut in '83 has she sounded at once so vital and yet so unaffected with such electronic finesse. Undoubtedly, the brilliant title-cut "Music" is meant to evoke that period of "Everybody" or "Holiday".
On the electro-funk of "What It Feels Like For a Girl" she evokes her earlier work on the similarly avant-garde feminist power anthem "Borderline". The chic multi-dimensional commentary about women, men's perception of women, and how it affects their perception of themselves that is itself a vicious circle conveys through its use of swirling and swooshing effects in their appearance in the chorus the singular universality and resounds from the recesses of the female conscience, without resorting to a diatribe.
"Paradise (Not For Me)", the composition that is very much akin to the revelatory "Drowned World" in which she revels in and ultimately debunks the myth of her decadent material world, finds her once again visiting the territory of-now think the video- "Like a Prayer": an intriguingly minimalist lyric prevails throughout that concisely examines the struggle to recapture the innocence in God's eye's that we all once had before we had all fallen, and the struggle to reconcile the need for salvation with the immediacy of attention that love-namely sexual expressions thereof provide. One never knows whom she ultimately embraces: the lover or the lord. Religious ecstasy is tied up with sexual ecstasy a la "Like a Prayer".
Newly embraced is a sort of a post-modern acousticism in "I Deserve It" and "Gone" a "Live to Tell" dirge that embraces a folkish sensibility that makes the meshing of electronica and folk all the more innovative, while "Don't Tell Me" is the funkiest folk song ever heard a la Prince's "7". On some level, Madonna is able to erase the stereotype that electronica cannot be anything other than a cold medium or a windowdressing by using it as am essential backdrop against a seemingly opposing style that radiates intimacy through different stages of the album: folk. Never before has she been such a trailblazer , and the cowgirl imagery visible on the cover lends credibility to the stake she wishes to claim.