Madonna’s weird, well-traveled ‘Madame X’ is her bid to become the world’s biggest cult artist

Madonna, doing one of her Madonna things

Madonna, doing one of her Madonna things (YouTube)

Rejoice, Madonna fans: She’s still blazing trails. By titling a song “Extreme Occidental,” she’s become the first pop behemoth to use this anachronistic descriptor for a Westerner.

And it’s not a bad song either! One of the many reassurances Madame X offers is that, for all the ways she’s taught us how the pop song can vaporize our received ideas about sex, Catholicism, and motherhood, Madonna remains a dork. She’s the big sister who stumbles on interesting words and figures out how to write songs around them. A syncretic talent till the death, Madonna shares travel notes, invites Swae Lee, Quavo, and Maluma along for a car ride to Lisbon, and proffers theories about gun control along the way. Her 14th studio album is her most satisfying since 2005’s long-ago-and-far-away Confessions on a Dance Floor. Thank her curiosity.

On first listen this wouldn’t seem so. The so-called traditional songs—the on-brand title “I Don’t Search I Find,” the bathos of “Looking for Mercy,” the stu-stu-stuttered Portuguese on “Crazy”—are strong enough that she could’ve kept things simple and gotten a high five from critics for Getting Back to Basics. Return to that Quavo track, “Future,” which unfurls as listeners might expect, or “Crave,” whose fado-indebted melody allows Swae to float on a trap beat away from an on-the-prowl Madonna. These are OK to pretty good songs, recorded, no doubt, because she’s canny enough to know how Spotify (to use a gruesome verb) maximizes streams across artist platforms. But she also no doubt wanted to know how her fascination with non-American musical textures and her impatient lustrous melancholy mesh with younger talents.

Similarly, check those production credits. Diplo you know, and Mike Dean (Travis Scott, 2 Chainz), fine, especially after the frantic attempts to contemporize herself on MDNA (2012) and the better Rebel Heart (2015). But Music’s Mirwais Ahmandzai? Yet he assembled Madame X’s most intricate exoskeletons. Teasing us with piano and one of her more ruminative recent sets of lyrics, “God Control” shifts into “Disco Inferno” turf complete with slap bass and a bubble-headed rap that makes “the double shot-tee” of “soy latte” bit in “American Life” sound like Rakim. The strings go psycho while Madonna, who has struggled with how to mechanize her post-Evita vocal control so that she doesn’t sound like she’s squeezing her larynx with tweezers, shouts, “It’s a new kind of democracy/God and pornography”—damn, girl, express yourself. All this, and the Tiffin Children’s Choir too. And we’re only on the third track.

Fascinated with textures that resonate beyond her Manhattan dance origins yet rarely ossify into occidental (thanks, Maddie!) tourism, Madonna schlocks up experiments with batuque (“Batuka”) and a cover of “Faz Gostoso” (joined by Annita) as if they’re weathered, sturdy branches in her musical tree. “Dark Ballet,” the most successful of these experiments in Fourth World possible musics, applies the chirruped vocal approach familiar to “Don’t Tell Me” aficionados to the album’s most batshit synthesis: rippling piano trills indebted to Michael Nyman, recitative vaguely calling shit on the Supreme Court, and a synth bass that would knock Donald Trump’s smartphone out of his hands. In a welcome callback to her days as an MTV semiotician, the video starring Mykkie Blanco as Joan of Arc would make Carl Dreyer blush.

If MDNA and 2008’s crusty Justin-and-Timbo-riding Hard Candy represented flailing attempts to grapple with a shifting marketplace, Madame X occupies its own space. No way in hell will radio play her—although with Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” and Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” weirding things up, why not? Ambitious in its muddle, versatile by design, a product of an incubation both fruitful and debilitating for a pop polymath, Madame X is deluxe semi-pop: the Madonna equivalent of early-’00s Pearl Jam. Not giving a fuck has liberated her as it did them—would someone who did come up with an English-allergic title like “Killers Who Are Partying”? If she keeps recording streaming experiences like this, she might turn into the world’s biggest cult artist.


About time.

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Madonna thinks Maluma looks ‘cuter’ than her in the Medellín music video: ‘I think he looks really handsome’

Madonna appeared on The One Show this evening for a chat with Rylan Clark-Neal and it seems like the Queen of Pop has a bit of a thing for her collaborator, Maluma. The 60-year-old teamed up with the Latin star for her Medellín music video from her Madame X album. Madge revealed she knows when she wants to collaborate with someone if they have a ‘twinkle in their eye’. The pair perform a seductive dance routine in the video and the signer thinks he co-star looks ‘really handsome’. ‘I think he looks really handsome – I think he looks cuter than me though,’ she joked. ‘I never work with people who aren’t willing to push the envelope, let’s put it like that,’ she told Rylan. Madonna on The One Show (Picture: BBC) ‘When I met Maluma, I said, “we’re going to work together, we’re going to go all the way.”’ Madonna also coaches the Colombian musician with his lyrics and encourages him not to be ‘too safe’.

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Zo overtuigend als op dit veertiende studio-album heeft Madonna deze eeuw nog niet geklonken ★★★★☆

Madame X is een enorm gevarieerde plaat, die na intensieve beluistering alleen maar boeiender wordt.

Madonna, Madame X.

Wie gaf er eigenlijk nog wat om Madonna na haar dramatisch slechte optreden tijdens in Tel Aviv tijdens de finale van het Eurovisie Songfestival? Wat kwam ze daar trouwens doen, met de van raptrio Migos geleende Quavo, een jongen die haar zoon had kunnen zijn?

Zat de popwereld anno 2019 nog wel te wachten op deze 60-jarige diva die al jaren vergeefs zoekende was naar de juiste vorm. De popmuziek is vergeven van dominante vrouwelijke popsterren. Hoe dacht Madonna na mislukte platen als MDNA (2012) en Rebel Heart (2015) weer een plaatsje te bemachtigen tussen Beyoncé, Rihanna, Ariana Grande, en Katy Perry?

Door met een album te komen, Madame X, waarop ze niet al te krampachtig probeert vast te houden aan het dance-popmetier waar ze maar niet los van leek te komen.

In augustus wordt ze 61, dan hoef je niet meer te doen alsof je ieder weekend op de dansvloer staat. En dat doet ze dan ook niet op Madame X. Tuurlijk weet ze wat er speelt. Zo heeft ze goed geluisterd naar Zuid-Amerikaanse reggaeton (in twee liedjes krijgt ze hulp van de Colombiaanse popster Maluma), en weet ze van Beyoncé dat een beetje leentjebuur spelen bij hiphop een popsong kan verrijken.


Maar ze durft eindelijk ook met een paar liedjes te komen die zo krankjorum in elkaar steken dat je na drie keer nog niet weet waar je precies naar luistert. Dark Ballet begint als een ‘gewoon’ midtempo Madonna-liedje om over te gaan in elektronisch vormgegeven fragment uit Tsjaikovski’s Notenkraker. Nog idioter is God Control, dat we gerust haar eigen Bohemian Rhapsody mogen noemen. Drie nummers verwerkt tot een volledig over de top gearrangeerd orkestraal werkje met een discobeat en een stukje oldskool rap dat Madonna heeft geleend van de hit Wordy Rappinghood van de Tom Tom Club (1981).

En het werkt ook nog. Wat helpt is dat ze goeddeels vasthoudt aan één producer, Mirwais, met wie ze in 2000 al samenwerkte op het album Music.

Geen parade aan hippe jongens en meisjes dus die Madonna weer wat hit-credibility moeten geven. Wel een enorm gevarieerd klinkende plaat die na een weekend intensieve beluistering alleen maar boeiender wordt.

Goed, de teksten zijn soms tergend onnozel zoals in het muzikaal best spannende Killers Who Are Partying: ‘I will be gay, if the gay are burned/ I’ll be Africa, if Africa is shut down/ I will be poor, if the poor are humiliated/ I’ll be a child, if the children are exploited.’ 

Niet zo sterk is ook dat Madonna zich als Madame X in allerlei personages verstopt. Professor, chachadansleraar, student, hoer en heilige: Madame X is het allemaal, reizend rond de wereld ‘licht brengend naar plaatsen waar het donker is.’

Maar ze stopt echt meer wereldse muziek in haar liedjes dan op haar andere albums. Crave met Rae Sremmurds Swae Lee is een sterke ballad en het allermooist is I Don’t Search, I Find. Mooi, die dreigende techno-strings die van Massive Attack hadden kunnen zijn. Langzaam ontvouwt zich een stevige dancetrack. Zo overtuigend als op dit veertiende studio-album heeft Madonna deze eeuw nog niet geklonken.


Madonna, Madame X. Maverick/Universal.

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Madonna on Graham Norton: the Queen of Pop is allowed to be outrageous

Madonna is the most successful female musical artist of all time; a music, fashion and culture A-lister for four decades. One of our most defiantly outspoken of all female role models really doesn’t need me to defend her.

But if one ever wondered what misogyny, casual and overt ageism, being patronised and suffering vituperative ridicule looked like, then look no further than the spiteful reactions to her new Madame X persona and her appearance on the Graham Norton Show this weekend.

Celebrities don’t do chat shows for fun, however lovely Norton is. Danny Boyle. Lily James and Himesh Patel were promoting “Yesterday” and Sir Ian McKellan was touting his one-man show.

Madonna is pushing Madame X, her first album in four years. She was drily funny, genuinely pleased to be sitting with Boyle, whose Trainspotting film she admires, and admitted honestly she didn’t recall working with McKellan, with whom she sparred playfully. She has adopted a Madame X vaudeville persona for the album: all bustier and eye patch. 

Madonna is the one time “Material Girl”, “Vogue”, “Evita” and “Queen of Pop” and so many more. Like David Bowie, the key to her longevity is talent, chutzpah and re-invention. Unlike David Bowie, she is ridiculed at every turn for having the temerity to put herself out there and subvert cultural expectations. If that includes pushing up her boobs via an excruciatingly tight bustier and wearing an eye patch for “the look”, what of it?

“Holiday”, her first hit, came out in 1983. What were you like 36 years ago? Do you look, think and sound the same? I saw her first world tour at Wembley Stadium in 1987. There was a real frisson about seeing a global icon then – perhaps like Beyoncé today. She had already created a rebel persona with the attendant criticism for her outspokenness. Fast-forward 30-plus years and her honest concerns about moving to Portugal to be a soccer mom, or the dangers of social media, or being asked for sexual favours by powerful men only lead to her being damned. 


How should she behave at 60? She has no real role models at her level of fame. Why should she conform to notions of behaviour and dress that are rooted in our casual ageism and misogyny? Some admire her for supposedly giving “zero f***s”, but as she spoke of her children perhaps wishing Madonna wasn’t their mother for an easier life, it’s clear she actually does. The kneejerk, patronising and spiteful criticism she receives in truth reveals more about us than her.

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Madame X Releaseparty @ Concerto – report by Dave

Months turned into weeks, weeks turned into days and days into hours…… But finally the waiting was over!!

Thursday evening at 7pm we were FINALLY allowed to buy our copies of Madame X. I arrived early at Concerto to help Kimberly, Amon and the Concerto staff preparing for the party.

Around 6.15pm the first fans already appeared in the shop desperate to buy the album. When you bought a copy it came with a cool goodiebag and 2 posters.
At 7 the album was played for the very first time. I was ‘like a virgin’ and only knew the songs previously released on Spotify. Even though I couldn’t hear much, because of speaking to other fans and handing out posters, I was impressed with what I heard.
It was great to see so many familliar faces, everybody was really enthusiastic and having a good time. The dancefloor was filled within minutes, this makes me so happy. Really love these kind of events.
So in the next few weeks I will have Madame X on repeat!!
This album is GOLD  
Dave Crombeen
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Madonna to appear on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon June 20

Madonna will be a guest on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon on June 20!

Madonna is a Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter often dubbed the “Queen of Pop.” She has released 14 studio albums since 1983, eight of which topped the Billboard 200 albums chart, and had 38 singles reach the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, including 12 No. 1 hits. Madonna has been nominated for 29 Grammys, winning five. In addition, Madonna has starred in the films Desperately Seeking Susan, Dick Tracy, A League of Their Own and Evita. Her newest album, Madame X, was released on June 14, and she will begin touring on September 12 in Brooklyn, New York.

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All indicators point to a #1 debut for Madonna on next week’s HITS Top50. With a ticket bundle and D2C offerings fueling half of the opening total, expect Madame X to give Madge her first #1 since 2012’s MDNA.

Early reads:

Madonna (Live Nation/Maverick/Interscope) 80-100k total activity, 75-95k album
Bruce Springsteen (Columbia) 42-47k, 40-44k

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Recensieoverzicht Madame X van Madonna: ‘Theatraal’ en ‘gedurfd’ (Dutch news)

Het langverwachte nieuwe album van Madonna, Madame X, is vrijdag uitgekomen. Wat vinden recensenten van het veertiende album van de Amerikaanse zangeres? zet de recensies voor je op een rij.

De Telegraaf – vier sterren

Madame X is Madonna’s veertiende en de opvolger van Rebel Heart uit 2015. Ter herinnering: daarop was nog deels de clubberige toon van het afgrijselijke MDMA te horen, maar ook veel van de ‘Queen of Pop’ van vroeger. Die zit dit keer in dik aangezette, bombastische poptracks als I RiseMercy, de lome heupwieger Crave en de Daft Punk-achtige disco in God Control. Niet revolutionair, wel herkenbaar Madonna.”


“Maar waar Madonna dit keer écht excelleert, is toch het waanzinnige Dark Ballet. Letterlijk waanzinnig, want wat hier allemaal in zit, is even onnavolgbaar als moeilijk te beschrijven. Het begint nog als een van vette beat voorziene popballad, over hoe ze zichzelf is gebleven, ondanks de razende wereld om haar heen. Vervolgens volgt er een geheel onverwachte klassieke piano. Het mafste moet dan nog komen, want dat is het flard uit De Notenkraker van Tsjaikovski met een onheilspellend stukje spoken word via autotune. Ja, gedurfd!”

NRC – vier sterren

“Een nonnenkoor en een discobeat in God Control brengen samen waar het in Madonna’s muziek vaker om draait: de bevrijding van religieuze beperkingen en het recht om je seksualiteit en overtuigingen te beleven zoals je dat zelf wil.”

“Op de trap beat van Killers Who Are Partying behandelt ze andere hete hangijzers, na een fragment uit de speech van activiste Emma González, overlevende van de schietpartij op Douglas High School.”

“Madonna als activiste, het is niet helemaal nieuw na de Israëlische en Palestijnse vlag die ze bij de uitzending van het songfestival naar binnen wist te smokkelen. Belangrijker is dat Madame X haar weer fier in een positie plaatst van een artiest die zowel muzikaal als tekstueel iets in de melk te brokkelen heeft.”

Het Parool – geeft geen sterren

“Leek Madonna op haar laatste drie albums achterhaald door de trends die ze ooit zelf hielp te zetten, Madame X betekent een radicale breuk met haar enigszins sleets geraakte dancepop.”

“De zangeres maakte van haar veertiende studioalbum haar meest theatrale ooit. Een album dat behalve in het Engels, ook in het Spaans en Portugees is gezongen, dat een gedeclameerd politiek manifest bevat (Killers Who Are Partying) en zelfs een mini-pop-opera (Dark Ballet).”

“Een album bovendien dat haar beste is sinds Confessions on a Dance Floor uit 2005. Dat heeft Madame X te danken aan de maatschappijkritische teksten die de liedjes urgentie geven, maar vooral aan de omarming van invloeden uit de wereldmuziek.”

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Win a Madame X goodiebag from Dutch releaseparty!

We have received many requests of fans wanting the Madame X goodiebag from the Concerto releaseparty this past Thursday. We have obtained a small number of these fantastic little gems and are giving you the chance to own it.

To try and get one send an e-mail to: and include your full name and address (all entries that aren’t complete will be deleted).

Do so before Friday June 21 and we will notify the winners per e-mail.

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Van der Vorst Ziet Sterren interviews Madonna (Dutch TV) June 27

Peter van der Vorst flew to London a few days ago to interview Madonna for his Van der Vorst Ziet Sterren (Van der Vorst Meets Stars) TV show. Peter van der Vorst has spoken to Madonna previously in 2005 for her Confessions on a Dance Floor album. This wasn’t the most clever interview as some of his questions were ridiculous (will you show your SEX book to your children? How does it feel to be a middle-aged woman?)

We hope Peter has learned from his past experience and will come up with more classy questions.

The show will air June 27.

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