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Why Madonna’s “Madame X” was a year too early and is the perfect album for Summer 2020


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There’s no doubting Madonna’s cultural significance over her nearly  40 year career but in the most recent decade, the collective opinion was that she was chasing trends rather than blazing a trail as she had on her ascent to become one of music’s most successful artists of all time. 

A year after its release, Madonna’s Madame X is a return to her being ahead of the curve with a record that now was clearly before it’s time and perfect for the summer of 2020.

A cohesive piece of art that is held together by the notion that the power of music is unifying around the world. It is the language that inspires us all, whether you understand the words or not , the rhythms align with our soul’s vibrations universally.  Often times we find comfort in the tribes of our favorite musical genres, with Madame X Madonna brings those tribes together to help us listen and understand, to shift our perspective and ultimately unify.

The album begins in Medellin, Colombia on a slowly percolating romance with latin music star, Maluma.  On this track, Madonna sings of how travel and exploring the world can help us begin again and refresh our soul, especially when we open ourselves to love and romance.  “ I forgave myself for being me” Madonna reflects on the trip.   With Medillin, Madonna and Maluma let you know that you can travel through the music with them  “ Ven ConMigo, Let’s Take a Trip”  Madonna welcomes us on the journey that is Madame X until the slow burn of the song erupts into a Cha-Cha groove that is undeniable.  

With her live shows and best albums, Madonna creates a cathartic journey from darkness to light.   The darkness begins with “Dark Ballet” a song that clocks in just over 4 minutes but feels epic as it takes us on a musical journey as hip hop beats blend with piano before giving way to Tchaikovsky’ s Nutcracker Suite.   This prescient song hints of what was percolating beneath the surface of our society that has erupted this summer.   The song hints of how we have covered up our rage, our disappointment, our spiritual misalignment under our “Supreme Hoodies”  but that ultimately “ the storm inside is beginning to howl” while  reminding us that despite all of this “it’s a beautiful life”. 

On “God Control”, Madonna continues to explore the simmering rage singing through gritted teeth the song equates loosing our spiritual way because we feel powerless.   “Everybody knows the damn truth, we’ve lost control. I think I understand why they get a gun”.   The song then erupts into a disco jam with Madonna imploring us “We need to wake up!”    With a powerful music video that plays more like a film, Madonna contrasts the joy of a dance floor and coming together with others vs. the harsh reality of violent gun assaults on places intended for happiness such as Pulse Nightclub or a country music concert in Las Vegas.    A call for gun control , Madonna explores the notion that it is the loss of God/Spirituality that is the control we have lost.  

As these seemingly disconnected musical genres begin to merge , the journey continues as Madonna is joined by QUAVO of Migos for the reggae tinged FUTURE.  Rather than dwell on the darkness, the journey to the light begins as Madonna encourages us to “let your light shine” and Quavo tells us to “Sparkle” in his signature Migos ad-lib style.   However, Madonna tells us that not everyone is coming to the future, because they refuse to learn from the past.  As light has been shined on the darkness with the social unrest this summer, it’s clear that the future Madonna was alluding is arriving now.

Before the listener gets complacent that Madonna is falling into a comfort zone of a reggae tinged pop song with a mainstream hip-hop feature a refreshing sonic blast takes us to Cape Verde for a call and response call to action with the style of music called “BATUKA”.    In this song, Madonna agains predicts the Storm Ahead of social unrest and that’s it’s been a long journey to social justice but coming together , joining voices, listening and responding as is the style of Batuka that we can progress our society.  

On “Killers who are Partying”, Madonna explores perhaps what is most missing in leadership, Empathy.   Allowing herself to be equated with those who are oppressed in society, Madonna is showing an empathy but also an understanding of her own privilege.   “ I know what I am and I know what I am not”.  

Without blinders on and a sense of empathy and purpose, Madame X continues to span musical genres on some lighter themed songs.   One of the few Madonna singles to get airplay in the last decade,  “Crave” features guest vocals from Swae Lee on one of her most accessible pop songs in years that is perfect for any summertime playlist.  Although not included on the album,  the remix of this song by Tracey Young, broke a glass ceiling as Young became the first woman to ever win a grammy for remix production at this year’s ceremony.    Madonna continues to explore relationships with the bilingual “Crazy” that blends English and Portuguese in what should have been a featured single.     The joy of music from around the world continues with “Come Alive” a song calling for peace which features Moroccan rhythms as Madonna encourage us all to be authentic and express ourselves.  To truly “Come Alive” she sings she/we must “ Stand Out, No I don’t want to blend in- Why Would you want me to?” 

A year after its release the second most streamed track from Madame X, received very little promotion but was clearly discovered by listeners with over 30 million streams on Spotify alone.   Madonna did not perform it on the Madame X tour nor did she release a video but listeners found “Faz Gostoso”.     Not totally inexplicable as the original version of this song by Blaya was a monster hit in Portugal, where Madonna lives and recorded most of Madame X.    For this version, Madonna is joined by Anitta on another bilingual floor filler, that should satisfy long time fans who love when Madonna leads them to the dance floor. 

There is one last blast of sassy Madonna fun, as Maluma returns for “Bitch, I’m Loca” a bi-lingual back and forth that highlights the undeniable chemistry between the two.   Madonna returned the favor of  vocals on Maluma’s album with another track “Soltera” making him one of the artists Madonna has collaborated the most with over the years.  

Now that we have taken the journey around the world , through musical genres and languages ,Madame X begins to bring the journey to a cohesive finish for the final three tracks of the deluxe edition.    With “ I don’t search, I find” , Madonna merges the comfort of a track sonically reminiscent of the iconic “Vogue”, this time Madonna lets us know that “ there is finally enough love”  because she has stopped searching elsewhere and found it within.   “I found peace, I found love, I found a new view.”  This song earned Madonna her 50th #1 Dance Song, making her the artist with the most top songs on any individual chart by any artist in musical history.  

The album ends with a song about the power of protest.  An anthem ahead of its time and perfect for the summer of 2020.   “I Rise” ends the album with hope that we can rise above any challenges we face personally or as a society , that with challenges there is opportunity and ultimately belief that together we can and will rise above our differences and “get it together” 

Nearly four decades into her career, last summer Madonna was way ahead of the curve, aware of simmering tensions , the power of music and vibration to unite us through common experiences and being open to listening to one another.  A year early Madonna created the perfect album for the summer of 2020.

https://www.elephantjournal.com/?p=2541213 

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So true, the album is also prophetic.

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Great review. Madame X is amazing. I haven't stopped listening to this album since its release.

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It's a great review and I like the reviewer's interpretation of the album. The only bug bear for me is the description of 'I Rise' as an anthem. A powerful message and repetitive chant it may be but an anthem it is not. It's not melodically or structurally interesting enough as a song.

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39 minutes ago, Elysium said:

It's a great review and I like the reviewer's interpretation of the album. The only bug bear for me is the description of 'I Rise' as an anthem. A powerful message and repetitive chant it may be but an anthem it is not. It's not melodically or structurally interesting enough as a song.

Agreed. 

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BRAVO. I agree wholeheartedly. The album sounds even better and more relevant a year later!

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15 hours ago, Suedehead said:

As ever she is ahead of everyone else. Such a good album. 

 

 

👏  Exactly what I was saying while reading this - great article!  Thanks for sharing!

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On 6/16/2020 at 4:48 PM, Flip The Switch said:

Agreed. 

Me too. I rise from songwriting POV is not good. Love the idea, but musically it leaves me cold.

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Erotica was first, then it was American Life. And it seems that Madame X will be the next revalued album. More and more people appreciate it.

I love Madame X.

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Thank you for posting this @Flip The Switch! Wonderful interpretation of the songs in this review. Have to say, this album is almost chilling for me to listen to now with everything going on. Madonna knew what was up, our girl is almost always a step ahead of the curve in one way or another. No, I'm not saying she's a prophet (before anyone gets their panties in a bunch...lol) but I do feel that a lot of times artists have an intuition about things that evades many people. Madame X is most definitely one of those albums like Erotica and AL that will be revisited down the road. Erotica, AL, LAP, ROL and MX......all of them delve deep into Madonna's psyche at that given moment in time. 

This is a somewhat petty "complaint" but my only beef with this review is the exclusion of Extreme Occident. Would've loved to hear what they have to say about that one. Yeah, I know it's not on the regular edition but it's absolutely essential in my view. 

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For the past few album, it seems that whenever a new Madonna album comes out, it's immediately taken at face value by the general public and discarded. Then years later, a light bulb goes off and new things are discovered! "Oh! This album was before it's time!" LOL This is not necessarily a bad thing. We have shorter attention spans now. As long as the praise comes, it's fine if it's a few years off.

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Yes, I’ve always thought that M has an incredible intuition and almost everytime she was 2 steps ahead.

Beginning with 1984 “To rule the world!”, following with her tours, especially Blond Ambition which paved the way for today’s modern tours, her intuition to fight and play Evita Peron, the classic answer regarding Whitney, Mariah and Janet: “They can’t do what I do!”, the electronic pop sound of Ray of Light and Music albums which sounds like they are released today and so on... until Ghosttown message and video and last year Madame X album which seems it was released today. 
Just incredible!

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it's crazy how this woman is just seen as a "popstar".

shes such an artist, a creative force.. a woman who dares to experiment and takes creative risks. 

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  • 1 month later...

I wholeheartedly agree!❤️
Such a good album! I listen to it all the time! 

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