REVIEW: Is MDNA Madonna’s Latest Triumph Or Tragedy?

I took some heat a while back for daring not to approve of “Give Me All Your Lovin,” the lead single from Madonna’s upcoming album, MDNA, out March 26. I stand by what I said about that song, but, having heard the rest of the album, the album is far better than the first single lead us to believe.

Actually, “Give Me All Your Lovin’” stands out on MDNA—not necessarily as its weakest track, but as the one that just doesn’t really fit. It’s more like an outtake from Hard Candy, a happier, bouncier song than seems appropriate here. The rest of MDNA is meaner, darker, harder—well, at least as mean and hard as mainstream dance-pop can be.

Mainstream dance pop made by Madonna, anyway.

“Gang Bang”—written by Madge with assist from William Orbit, Mika, Jean Baptiste and others—is about as dark as MDNA gets. It’s a smoldering track that finds Madonna fantasizing about shooting down her lover—a kind of beat-heavy inverse of Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang.”

“Some Girls”—a personal fave—is of the same strange ilk as Gaga’s “Heavy Metal Lover,” hitting hard but burning relatively slow. Cue the copycat accusations. (How ironic.)

There’s plenty to read into the Ciccone/Ritchie divorce on MDNA: On “I Don’t Give A,” Madge and Nicki Minaj rap at breakneck speed about the fast-paced life that someone couldn’t deal with, apparently. But the Material Woman is a bit more contemplative on “Best Friend,” admitting to the things she misses about her ex over synths and a skittering beat.

MDNA is big on beats, in fact, but there are some interesting flourishes: I’m thinking of the banjo plucked on “Love Spent” and the strong vocal timbre on quieter ballads “Masterpiece” and “Falling Free.”

At 16 tracks—plus a teeth-grinding LMFAO remix of “Give Me All Your Lovin’” on the deluxe edition, MDNA has plenty of padding but there aren’t nearly as many forgettable tracks as on some of her previous releases. “Girl Gone Wild” and, you know, that other song, are taking up all the airplay, but the best tracks have yet to be heard.


MDNA will be released on Monday, March 26, on Interscope Records.

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  • Seaguy

    Triumph. She could release an album of herself humming and it would be a triumph she is the queen of pop, and always will be!!

  • Mike

    Hated the first single but a great album. Turn Up the Radio will be an anthem on summer 2012.

  • K. Michael

    I absolutely, absolutely agree with your review. The forgettable first single (and better, but still subpar “Girl Gone Wild”) had me seriously worried that she’d lost her mojo this time around — but collectively, this is easily one of her best albums in years.

  • keoki3

    I’ve tried listening to the entire effort all the way though a few times, but I just don’t get it. Maybe it’ll grow on me, but maybe she’s wanning.

  • Marcus

    yup…listened to whole album yesterday…the two (very mediocre) singles have nothing to do with the rest of the tracks, and I don’t know why the hell they were released. “Love Spent”, “I’m A Sinner” and “I’m Addicted” are going to be in heavy rotation on my iPod this summer, as will the slightly insane “Gang Bang.” Four amazing songs on an album? Good enough for me.

  • Jake

    Gangbang is one of the craziest and best pop songs I’ve heard in years. Turn Up the Radio is pure classic Madge and wouldn’t have sounded out of place next to Open Your Heart. Love Spent is weird (banjo and all) but awesome and Falling Free is lyrically stunning and her best ballad since Power of Goodbye. 2 so-so singles should not define an amazing pop album. Madonna does some basic dance songs that are fun but not lyrically poignant but then throws in gems like Love Spent and Falling Free and you see why she is am amazing artist and not a cookie cutter pop star like the rest.

  • Franco

    I don’t understand reviews. I think that a good reviewer has to separate their expectations from their criticism. There can be a lot of spitefulness in album reviews. Even those reviewers who cite their comprehensive musical knowledge as reason for their credibility I take with a grain of salt. I’ve read a lot of album reviews criticizing particular artists solely on the basis that the album was too long or the lyrics not accessible enough and I can’t help but think how more a reflection that is on the reviewers ADHD than the artistic merit of the work. If the artist is happy with what they have created then I think that’s all that matter, because let’s face it, making music is not easy, and many people can’t do it. Not consistently anyway. I like what I’ve heard off of Madonna’s new record.

  • Stephen

    Actually, really love “Give me all your lovin”. Catchy, simple, and a nice throwback to the 80s. To each his own, I guess.

  • Seth

    Turn Up the Radio is Madonna’s best and catchiest song in years. If radio doesn’t give that one a chance they’re damn ageist assholes.

  • Aric

    Only like Love Spent.

    Turn Up the Radio had a real chance at being leading edge EDM (Electric Dance Music) it easily could of gone deeper into House or even trance but they played it safe.

    The melodies are weak and the lyrics leave originality to be desired. I hate being this critical but come on, at least try and say something new.

  • Allen D.

    @keoki3: It took me a few times through for it to grow on me. But now I really like it.

    I’m considered by many to be a heretic because “American Life” is my favorite Madonna album. This is by FAR the best thing she’s done since then.

    Two issues with it though.

    1. Using pieces of old songs in “I’m a Sinner” (“Beautiful Stranger” drums and bass in places) and “Love Spent” (the mini-riff from “Hung Up”). There was another one, but I can’t remember what it was. I don’t know if it’s an intentional wink to the audience, or if she’s “phoning it in” (as some other reviews have said).

    2. B-Day song needs to be taken out and shot. Absolutely the stupidest song to be released, by anyone, in several years.

    Other than that, I’ve definitely come to love it.

  • Gauthier

    @Allen D.: Yes! I really despise that song, and I’ve noticed since Ray of light, there will always be that one song on a new Madge album that makes me want to fork my eyes out and pour bleach in my ears. But I agree with most everybody here, I don’t really understand why she chose two of the weakest songs to be released as singles (maybe because they will reach the widest audience?) and it had me seriously worried for the rest of the album… But holy canoli, this is a very, VERY solid album with a LOT of really good, intense, exciting tracks. I’m really happy that she pulled it off so well. So, for me; TRIUMPH.

  • Tommy

    Definitely a triumph for me. I love every song! As far as her lyrics, for the most part the album has her best lyrics in a long time. There are a lot of songs that are deeper and more confessional about her divorce although there are a few fun lighthearted songs.

    @Aric – Madonna is not a hard EDM artist. If you want to listen to that, there are many artists that do that, but that is not what most people want to hear on a Madonna album. Personally, I love pop music and melody. I’m not a fan of the harder club remixes that tend to be played in a lot of gay clubs. Going harder on the beats in a harder house and trance would turn fans like me off. Madonna does try some new things on this album while still being true to herself. Madonna like every artist has a style and genre of music that she does best. She can evolve and reinvent but within the Madonna style of music. When she gets away from her unique style, you get a mess like Hard Candy.

  • Charles The Great

    It was not that bad.

  • Jay

    Of her post Ray of Light career I’d say it falls in the middle about equal to Music.

    Ray of Light > Confessions > Music = MDNA > American Life > Hard Candy

    Regardless some of her most memorable songs in a decade

  • Jay

    And still 10x better than Hard Candy

  • grizz

    This is hilarious!

    Who cares what Queerty thinks? The major papers and music mags have already given it their 2 thumbs up all over the world.

  • grizz

    what is wanning?

  • evji108

    Madonna does not have anything much new to say or do, it’s the same Madonna rehashed and tweaked and rehashed again. If you like that you are happy, if not look elsewhere. No one has endless creativity.

  • Evan

    Madonna’s an easy target. She’s been around for decades (literally), and consistently on top. She’s been innovative, gutsy, trashy, maddening, but- mostly- downright brilliant! I say, -screw the critics- the world is a better, more interesting place with Madonna in it!

  • Nikky m

    I love love love MDNA, it’s freakin amazing. Especially love Gang Bang. This album is so much better than American Life & Hard Candy & is definetly up there with Ray Of Light, Music & Confessions On A Dancefloor. LUV MADONNA.

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