It’s a bit weird doing these reviews now. With other artists I was mostly on new ground with their back catalogues. Even with some of the earlier Madonna albums I wasn’t completely familiar. But how do I objectively rate albums that I’ve known for nearly 10 years?
Still, I’m going to ANYWAY. I went through periods when I thought “Music” was more exciting and futuristic (and therefore better) than “Ray of Light”, but maybe I was younger then (actually I’m quite sure I was). But also I don’t want to judge it too harshly in comparison to “Ray of Light”, which is still a superb album.
Someone once summed it up well for me, noting that the grace and sophistication of “Ray of Light” threw into stark contrast the follow-up, with Madonna in a cowboy pimp costume with Ali G like some hen night. Though let’s not forget she was ripping her trousers in her “American Pie” video earlier that year.
While THAT side of it felt like unfulfilled potential, I feel Madonna is more the core of this album than in “Ray of Light”. By that I mean that she is usually the main feature of the music whereas in “Ray of Light” it was too easy for me to get distracted by the lush arrangements of William Orbit.
Oh I know what I mean … let’s just get on with this. (BTW I love the artwork)
08 Music: I was a bit unimpressed this the first time around but after a loooong time I think it is semi-justified in its signature tune status. It’s a bit more carefree than the previous singles campaign, but I still find it odd that this was such a worldwide hit when the production isn’t super-commercial. I mean sure it’s all beepy and bloopy, and there was never a better time to go French than 2000, but it’s not something that jumps out as me as a hit single. I don’t know, I think the video might have ruined it a bit for me. Oooh have we all heard the Kelis “Milkshake” mashup with it? LUSH
09 Impressive Instant: We’re on more familiar dancey ground now. I can see how this could have been a single, I know there was some controversy about that, chalk it up to a missed opportunity. This is one of those songs that I do really like, and it’s a great dance song, but I just forget about it. It hasn’t really got a lyrical hook, it’s just a load of futuristic sounding swirls and beeps. SINGY SINGY SINGY (God I hate that line)
09 Runaway Lover: Again, I can never immediately remember this one – which is odd as they are among my favourites on the album. I think this would have been a better single, bridging the gap between “Music” and “Ray of Light”, which makes sense as Mirwais and Orbit both had a hand in this. Lyrically this is made more of an impression, I don’t feel like she’s being swamped by the production.
08 I deserve it: Time for an emergency stop… acoustic ballad time. It’s an odd mix of styles that I feel she never really perfected until “American Life” but it does work out well. I still wish she’d never picked up a bloody guitar in the first place though. I have grown to like this song, though it is going down the well-trodden “new boyfriend/husband” path of inspiration. Maybe it’s just because I never really liked Guy that all the songs about him I feel a bit anti towards. I do like the middle 8 “I have no regrets…” bit, but this does drag a little.
09 Amazing: Back uptempo now, with more Orbit synths from the outset, turning into a sort of dancier cousin of Beautiful Stranger. I always cringe a bit when she talks about what a boy can do. 14 years before this she was talking about what a MAN can do. First catchy chorus of the album though, finally. The computer/guitar mix is about right here for me.
08 Nobody’s Perfect: Vocoder holocaust time now. I used to DETEST this, but in the same way I ended up loving American Life’s harsh production, I am oddly drawn to this. That swirly meowing instrumental bit after the first minute is still a bit grating though. I wonder how this would have sounded without the vocoder… but then “Music” isn’t really about STRONG VOX is it? It feels more like an experiment than the assured feel of “Like a Prayer” or “True Blue”. They felt like albums comprising of songs that just turned out however they turned out. I think in that respect “Music” (and even “Ray of Light”) suffer slightly just because it feels like some of the variety and spark was lost when a coherent-sounding album was made the priority.
08 Don’t tell me: Now I always had this down as the best single, but I’m going off it a bit these days. The video is great, love it, but maybe it’s just because this was overexposed as the ‘big single’ just as much as the title track. It’s lost a bit of its shine. Something sounds a little off about it now, like her vocals don’t really go with the music. I can’t put my finger on it. Oh and can you settle something, is it a “Kaftan on his knees” (whatever that is) or a “cat down on his knees”? Love that extended outro though!
08 What it feels like for a girl: Am I right in thinking this isn’t exactly a fan favourite? I used to LOVE this in the beginning, and while it’s not the most exciting song ever, the production is lovely and it’s in the background where it should be. I was disappointed when that shitty generic remix was used for the video and the character she was playing seemed totally at odds with everything from “Music” or “Ray of Light”, or even the song… a big misfire for me. I will say that I don’t hate the video itself, especially after another go on the Celebration DVD, but it could’ve been so much better.
10 Paradise (not for me): A definite case of overplay now, this is such a strange one. Fascinating, and I love how miserable it all is. A French bit too *croaks*, I love the 8-bit Casio bit after that too, and the orchestral bits. I just don’t know what to think of it, maybe a little over-produced but definitely the track I am looking forward to reaching on the album. The Confessions Tour version was pretty lovely too. INTO YOUR EYES, MY FACE REMAINS.
07 Gone: Selling out is not my thing… Hmm.. well “I’m not very smart” is probably more fitting. Anyway another acoustic ballad to close the album (ish). I like this too for some reason, I like her voice and the lyrics actually stayed with me even if the melody is a bit meandering. Paradise would have been the better closer but this will do.
09 American Pie: I don’t care what you whingers say, I LIVED FOR THIS when it came out, it was the first single she released after I came out of my LOON COCOON as a fully-fledged fan. It was comfortingly Orbit-ish (maybe a bit of a lazy retread, truth be told), I don’t really know why she suddenly did this, even if it was for her movie. Anyway I feel like any defence will fall on deaf ears so I will just say that I love this, more than the original (ohh no he di’int!)
So there we have it. Now I am very conscious that everything here has scored well which should really mean it’s one of my favourite albums ever, but while I can listen to the whole thing through and not feel the urge to skip, it lacks that spark that “Ray of Light” had. You could argue that both albums were experimental for her, but I feel like “Music” is more an experiment in the sound rather than her breaking new personal ground. I don’t think Madonna is good enough as a writer to take her eye off the ball in that respect, and that’s what I feel she did on “Music”.
To its credit, “Music” hasn’t dated at all, mainly because the French sound (while it scored some acts a number of hits at the time) never really went mainstream to spawn other similar (and potentially better) albums.
But each track on Music is like a sausage roll. I really like sausage rolls and I would always be happy to eat one (or three), but 10 sausage rolls (and a bonus sausage roll) would give even a big fan indigestion.
Keepers for the iPod: You know what, the whole lot … that’s quite rare for my iTunes, I just don’t dislike any of the songs. I’ll avoid listening to the whole album in one go though.