Friday, March 30, 2012

Madonna's MDNA Marks the End of an Era

"Oh my god, I'm heartly sorry for having offending thee, and I detest all my sins," begins Madonna's 2012 album, MDNA. She may not sound like a 53 year old singing, but she most definitely doesn't sound like any spring chicken, either. In a succession of dance tunes, Madonna offers up cliché after cliché like an epilogue of the most recent synthpop explosion.

The recording quality is excellent, but the content isn't fresh. The album opens with second single "Girl Gone Wild," a phrase that began exiting the public lexicon about a half a decade ago, hinting that Madonna just got the memo that this might be a cute phrase to use. And it's all downhill from there.

The album immediately takes a turn for the cringe-inducing worse on "Gang Bang." (The double entendre is obvious, though the lyrics directly reference a gun violence interpretation.) Just when you think the song couldn't possibly continue, she wails, "I wanna see him die over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over—now die, bitch!"

Madonna has a habit of popping up right in the middle a dance revival. 1989's Like a Prayer was a cornerstone of the early 90s dance craze. Ray of Light came out of nowhere in 1998, hitting at exactly the right moment for a comeback. Unfortunately, MDNA feels more like the end of an era.

Aside from the tired clichés employed on the first two tracks and the TR-909 drum samples, the dated production and subject matter continue as Mrs. Ciccone tells us all about what she is. "I'm Addicted" sounds like a rejected KMFDM B-side. "I'm a Sinner" could easily have been released by Boss Hogg ten years ago.

But the album also serves as a summary of all the gimmicks of the scene from the past couple years. "Girl Gone Wild" features overcompressed bass hits that temporarily mute the treble à la Deadmau5. "Gang Bang" has a surprise and obligatory dubstep bridge. Tracks like "Love Spent" feature over-processed and distant autotuned vocals. She even jumps on the party rock bandwagon with a remix featuring LMFAO on the Deluxe edition's second disc.

And on the lead single, "Give Me All Your Luvin'," featured guest Nicki Minaj—no matter how irritating—is such an abrupt and fresh stylistic diversion that her verse leaves us wishing we weren't listening to a dinosaur singing like a teenager. MIA seals the deal, and we're sold.

"Every record sounds the same," she admits during the chorus. Synthpop just lapsed into a coma, ready to be awakened in nine or so years.

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