By Ryan Hiller
From the minute the drowning techno beats begin on Madonna’s twelfth studio album MDNA, it’s clear that the woman who has spent over 30 years in the spotlight has nothing new to say. Gone are the days of singing taboo lyrics to push the buttons of society and all that is left is a woman desperately trying to hang onto her notoriety.
The album begins with a short plea to God to forgive the singer for her sins before she breaks into “Girl Gone Wild.” The song is a fun dance track, but for Madonna it leaves you with a been there, done that feeling. The religious tones that set up the album are forgotten until she happily sings “I’m a Sinner.” It’s as though she wants to pay homage to Like A Prayer, but abandons those sentiments as quickly as they begin.
“Turn Up the Radio” and “I’m Addicted” feel like songs that an ambitious pop star beginning her career at 15 may sing about, but not someone as industry savvy as Madonna. Ideas of being addicted to love and needing to get away by listening to the radio in your car have been endlessly sung about and just feel tired.
This album is the first that Madonna has put out since divorcing her second husband Guy Richie, but she doesn’t explore much of those complex feelings here. On “I Don’t Give A” she rattles off a few feelings of hurt and tries to remind her listeners that she doesn’t care what anyone says about her. She has covered this material many times and it was much more convincing in the 90s when she had something to apologize for.
Over the years, artists like Britney Spears and Lady Gaga have cited Madonna as one of their biggest influences. With this album, it seems Madonna is too tired to try anything new that could inspire a new generation to look up to her (they will have to look to her past material for inspiration).
The album has a few bright spots. Lead single “Give Me All Your Luvin,” featuring Nicki Minaj and M.I.A., shows that Madonna still has her ear on what today’s youth wants to hear. Minaj appears again later in the album.
Madonna is at her best when she slows down and takes a minute to actually sing and form an intelligent thought. “Masterpiece,” the song written for her film W.E., is the highlight of an album that is filled with mostly forgettable dance songs. When she sings the lyric “every record sounds the same,” you can’t help but wonder if she is referring to herself.