Here we are now, the great rejuvanation of her career (again), or should I say revagination. So the leotard wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea… to be honest I thought it was great for the first single until I realised it was going to be a permanent fixture for the rest of the campaign. But after the politics of “American Life”, the experimental “Music”, the spiritual awakening of “Ray of light”, it was time to do some proper balls-out (or vag-out) pop music and this delivered in SPADES.
I will save the hyperbole for the track-by-track, but giving this album a bit of space has really helped me remember how great it was and is.
10 Hung up: As if any introduction is needed here. My inner loon went atomic when this leaked at the tail end of 2005. I know some people never got over the use of the ABBA sample, but I just don’t think of this as having a sample any more, it’s a crucial part of the song but so are many other aspects that contribute to it. That big bang when the beat first bursts in is just an 11/10 moment, and of course the chorus is just catchy as hell. The video was magnificent and fit the song like a sequinned glove. That throbbing instrumental bit in the middle … it’s all just magic. *dies*. I hope I live to see Madonna reach these sort of heights again.
10 Get together: Now can I just say, I loved the purple live-ish video for this. It was great, AND she didn’t need to do anything. Considering her album campaigns had a habit of fizzling out after this, why couldn’t they have produced similarly good videos? Never mind. A big fat trancey gay coma, a bit cooler than the full-on Hung up, but the tranciest thing she’s ever done (or at least in the 21st century definition). The song makes good use of her ‘range’ and it never feels that she is competing with the production. It’s a shame this wasn’t as big a hit as the other songs, if only for that immense breakdown, coming back into that incredible final chorus.
08 Sorry: Like “Hollywood”, this was an obvious single. But the sheen hasn’t lasted as well as it has for the first two songs. It’s still an impressively strong pop song. As with “Hollywood” (but to a much lesser extent) the video didn’t really help things after the fabulousness of Hung Up, but I’ll let that slide. Still grade A but I’ve worn this one out. I don’t like the way she says GOMEN NASAI either, she sounds like a mogwai.
09 Future Lovers: This really made sense when I saw it on the Confessions Tour, I could have seen this as the intro to the album. Reminds me a little of Kylie’s “Light Years” title track but it really feels totally up to date, even now in a genre that can quickly feel dated if not done right. That beat is just mental, I love it, and the outro is amazing.
08 I love New York: I never used to rate this much, I never hated it but it was a bit ineffectual (especially as I did NOT love New York… it was alright). But it seems to have clicked a bit with me recently, those big drum booms are great, they really give some gravity to it, the production shines as always. SHIT lyrics though, EFF OFF? Sometimes I feel like I don’t know her anymore. She did overcompensate for that in the tour though, with a rather unhinged “you can SUCK GEORGE BUSH’S DICK!!” replacing it.
08 Let it will be: Another FAN FAVE I gather, and while I think it is great, it’s never really shone for me. I think this is one where the production is the best feature, while Madge has to settle for some killer one liners (“just watch me BURN”). Another goodie from the tour but never quite kicks it for me on disc.
10 Forbidden Love: NOW we are talking, that spacey intro, probably the first time where the beat has taken a rest. But the beat really makes it when it comes back, with that alien buzzy noise making contact throughout the track. That throbbing aside “just one KISS, just one TOUCH..” etc is just sex though, both times. That’s just one of those magic moments when the music really grabs me and excites me. It’s an odd parallel but I remember a similar feeling the first time I heard that midpoint in “She’s not me” from “Hard Candy”. I don’t know, it makes sense in my head. GORGE.
10 Jump: A surprise fourth single, and a welcome one. The beat coming in there is just great .. I actually liked the video, I think it fitted it well. It was a bit low on effort but I love a bit of Japan. These self-help songs are usually a bit cliche and crap but it really resonated with me for a while, and as a result has always been one of my favourites from this album.
08 How High: I really liked this in 2005 too, not sure why, it’s got more of a darker edge to it, a little TOO reminiscent of Goldfrapp’s Train (but much better IMO). I know she goes on about fame etc but it just feels a bit more real on this one, like she’s finally worked out how to articulate it. Maybe it’s just me, I think it’s a well written song on that level at least. Maybe if she was being totally serious here, it would have been an explanation to her apparent lack of effort later in the decade.
07 Isaac: I never used to really like these next two, they felt a bit like an emergency stop – what happened to the all-dance tour de force? But lately I’ve warmed to it, no thanks to the snoozy Confessions tour rendition. I actually like how it comes together on this, a bit jarring considering the rest of the album, but it reminds me of 80s Jean Michel Jarre stuff, or something.
07 Push: I used to HATE this. Down-tempo (comparatively), that annoying jingle-jangle noise, the vocals trying to fit too much in. But I think now I’m starting to appreciate its harshness against the sumptuous backdrops of the rest of the album. Still not something I particularly look forward to but I’ve grown to accept it at least.
08 Like it or not: Bit of a naff one to end on, but this is great just for its great one-liners, mostly in the bridges. Feels more like an American Life track but as you can see that won’t really count against it. An odd one to close but I still rather like it. Love that dark little synth bed that emerges in the background.
08 Fighting Spirit: Yes I looned and had to do the special edition version, so this bonus track made the cut. I love the piano intro and the bassline that creeps in. Not great vocally but once the chorus kicks in it, I love it in all its squelchy glory. Probably best staying as a bonus track but I still am rather fond of it.
So there we have it. I TRIED to restrain myself where possible. It annoys me that because it is ‘too pop’ or whatever that this is often dismissed, when she originally made her name with dance-pop music. This album deserved every ounce of success it got, and I really feel like it is something special.
She has a vagina, and yes I’m not in a rush to see it as much as she might insist, but I’m not going to let that devalue what is a superb dance-pop album. MAD PROPS go to Stuart Price who really made something wonderful with this. Just interested to see if he can ever do it again.
Keepers for the iPod – The whole lot! Except Push… this is an awesome cardio album, no need to ruin it!