It's been almost exactly four years since Madonna came out with her last album, Hard Candy (released in April of 2008). In that time, she has opened a chain of gyms of the same name, created a clothing line with her daughter, Lourdes Leon, written and directed a film, and negotiated a new recording contract with Interscope Records (incidentally, the same label Lady Gaga is on). Not to mention continue to piss people off over her mere existence. But, if you haven't guessed by now, Madonna really doesn't give a fuck. There's even a song on MDNA called "I Don't Give A." So what can you expect from the indestructible tour de force's twelfth studio album?: Dance music at its purest and finest. Hence the title, MDNA.
The second single from the album, entitled "Girl Gone Wild," is also the song that kicks off the record. The track opens with a confessional apology extracted from the Catholic prayer, "Act of Contrition" (the title of a song that also appeared as the closer to Madonna's seminal 1989 album, Like A Prayer): "Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee, and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and the pain of hell. But most of all because I love thee and I want so badly to be good." It is, in essence, a sentiment that sums up all of Madonna's actions throughout her career. But you can't keep a bad girl down as the Queen of Pop dives into an electronically suffused beat that champions the cause of every "good girl gone wild."
In an ideal world, "Gang Bang" will reverberate throughout every gay club in New York City. Or perhaps someday be featured as a lip synch for your life song on RuPaul's Drag Race. Madonna oozes vengeance as she sings, "Bang bang, shot you dead/Bitch out of water, bat out of hell/Fish out of water, I'm scared, can't you tell?" It makes so much sense that Mika is a producer on the song. Continuing with the MDMA motif, the next track is called "I'm Addicted." Barring the similarity in lyrical rhymes to "Like A Prayer," this is another standout song on the album in which Madonna reveals, "Something happens to me when I hear your voice/Something happens to me and I have no choice/I need to hear your name/Everything feels so strange/I'm ready to take this chance." The beat then segues into something that only Benny Benassi could create as Madonna laments, "Fame's like a drug and I can't get enough."
Martin Solveig, who also produced the first single from MDNA, "Give Me All Your Luvin'", infects "Turn Up The Radio" with his usual brand of European house sensibilities. It is by far one of the most simplistic songs on the album, designed as more of a summer anthem as Madonna chants, "Turn up the radio" repeatedly, the only divergent lyrics being, "Don't ask me where I wanna go/We gotta turn up the radio."
"Give Me All Your Luvin'" succeeds "Turn Up The Radio" in a seamless transition of Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. chanting, "L.U.V., Madonna!/Y.O.U., you wanna!?" The video for the song, directed by MegaForce, coincided with Madonna's performance at the Super Bowl Halftime Show, thus the football player/cheerleader motif throughout (with a Marilyn Monroe homage thrown in for good measure). The beat and rhythm of the following song, "Some Girls," sets a new tone for the second half of the album, exuding a very reminiscent vibe to Goldfrapp's 2003 hit, "Strict Machine." It is also one of the triumphant auditory reunions between Madonna and Ray of Light collaborator, William Orbit.
And, speaking of collaborations, Madonna also enlists the backing vocals of her daughter on "Superstar." Evocative of "Superpop," a bonus track from 2005's Confessions on a Dance Floor, Madonna uses famous names from history to create analogies on "Superstar": "You're like Caesar stepping onto the throne/You're Abe Lincoln, 'cause you fight for what's right." Not one to pass up another opportunity to work with Minaj, Madonna appropriately features the Trinidadian goddess on "I Don't Give A." Although it is perhaps the most awkward song in terms of what fits in with Madonna's musical style, it is definitely noteworthy for how personal the lyrics-- undeniably directed at Guy Ritchie--are:
"I tried to be a good girl, I tried to be your wife/Diminish myself and I swallowed my light/I tried to become all that you expect of me/And if it was a failure, I don't give a..."
"I'm A Sinner," yet another one of Madonna's theme songs in terms of telling her detractors to fuck off, is the most overt sounding Orbit track on MDNA. Moreover, what would a Madonna song about sinning be without name dropping a few of her favorite religious figures, including Jesus and the Virgin Mary? "Love Spent," the third of four tracks with Orbit's signature on it, once again mirrors an unofficially released Madonna song: "Liquid Love" from, you guessed it, the Ray of Light era.
As the album draws to a close, Madonna chooses to slow down the tempo with her Golden Globe-winning song, "Masterpiece," featured on the soundtrack for W.E. "Falling Free" consummates the standard edition of MDNA. The influence of Joe Henry, country guru and Madonna's brother-in-law, is evident on the laidback, twangy vocals.
For those with the sense to buy the deluxe edition, your ears will also be bestowed with "Beautiful Killer" (a song about French movie star Alain Delon), "I Fucked Up" (a relaxed mea culpa with a message that is the antithesis of "I Don't Give A"), "B-Day Song" (another fast-paced collaboration with M.I.A.--because this was before M was upset with her over the middle finger debacle), "Best Friend" (in which M probes the demise of a relationship that reiteratively seems to be about Guy Ritchie: "You said you wanted more than just a pretty girl/Maybe I challenge you a little bit too much"), and, finally, the LMFAO "Party Rock" remix of "Give Me All Your Luvin'". So, if you aren't inclined toward dancing, having a good time, or escaping into the aural assuagement that only Madonna can provide, then MDNA may not be for you. And MDMA probably isn't either.