Paul Nolan runs the rule over the excellent Madame X, on which the pop icon successfully incorporates political and social commentary
Madonna’s latest reinvention finds her taking on the guise of Madame X, an embodiment of female empowerment who, in the singer’s own words, acts variously as “A dancer. A professor. A housekeeper. An equestrian” – and more.
There is a notable political dimension to the album, with Madonna regularly alluding to the tumultuous times in which we live. On ‘Killers Who Are Partying’ – half acoustic ballad, half skittering electro workout – she champions a variety of progressive causes: “I will be gay if the gay be burned… I will be Africa if Africa is shot down”.
On up-tempo disco-pop number, ‘God Control’, meanwhile, she says simply, “Honour democracy” (she also sings the striking line “That dope I don’t smoke it’s true”). Musically, Madame X boasts a variety of infectious electro grooves courtesy of a production team that includes Diplo and Madonna’s long-time collaborator, Mirwais. There are also a variety of Latin and world rhythms throughout, an element influenced by the singer’s relocation to Lisbon, where her son hopes to become a professional soccer player.
Madame X kicks off with the hypnotic electro/Latin pop number ‘Medellin’, which finds Madonna establishing the album’s upbeat, optimistic tone: “I took a pill and had a dream / I went back to my 17th year / Allowed myself to be naive”. ‘Dark Ballet’, meanwhile, pretty much does what it says on the tine, musically speaking, with Madonna giving ‘The Nutcracker Suite’ a synth-pop makeover influenced by Wendy Carlos’ celebrated score for A Clockwork Orange.
Other highlights of this hugely enjoyable outing include the skanking reggae number ‘Future’; the afrobeat-influenced ‘Batuka’; the electrifying dance workout ‘Fez Gustovo rev 1’; and the celebratory ‘I Don’t Search I Find’ – the title of which could be a manifesto for Madame X.
The album comes to a close with the stirring ‘I Rise”, on which Madonna defiantly states “I rise above it all”. To promote the record, this autumn Madonna will be playing intimate theatre residencies in a variety of American and European cities.
She’ll no doubt be including a generous helping of material from this wonderfully accomplished and eclectic effort.
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