Madonna ‘MDNA’ – Reviews
March 7, 2012 News

Madonna ‘MDNA’ – Reviews

We already posted our very own review of Madonna’s upcoming album, MDNA which can be read by clicking here.

Multiple critics were invited to the Abbey Road Studios in London for an exclusive listening party.
Here’s an overview of the different MDNA reviews…

MTV

Madonna, Queen of Everything, has just released her 12th studio album, MDNA. Almost four years have passed since her last effort, Hard Candy. And a lot has happened since then, including a highly publicized divorce from husband Guy Ritchie in late 2008 and the release of “W.E.,” her self-directed film. But Madonna’s current mantra du jour is probably best captured in the new album’s most defining lyric:”I need to dance.”

Madonna’s in a rapturous state of mind in 2012, and the bulk of her latest effort — a thundering, explosively defiant breakup album full of searing club cuts, blood-soaked revenge anthems and swoon-filled psychedelic ’60s pop ditties — seems to be tripping on acid… or, more accurately, ecstasy. After all, Madonna’s cheeky album title, MDNA, is a nod to the euphoric club drug. Looks like Madonna’s in a state of dance floor transcendence once again.

Madonna teamed up with the likes of Martin Solveig, the Benassi Bros. and William Orbit (of Ray of Light fame), and the result of all of that forward-thinking production is one of her most youthful and high-energy records since True Blue — and one of her better albums, period. MDNA serves as a reminder of what Madonna has always represented (and what many pop stars these days fail to truly grasp): fun.

We couldn’t just let a new Madonna album hit the streets without giving you our track-by-track breakdown. Here’s everything you need to know about MDNA.

1. “Girl Gone Wild” — “Oh my God,” Madonna declares during the album’s opening moments, channeling the “God” opening of “Like A Prayer” with a spoken rendition of “Act of Contrition” (which made its first appearance on her 1989 album Like A Prayer — full circle). From there, Madge quickly dives into a booming Benassi-produced club banger, playing like a lighter take on Benassi’s mix of Madonna’s own “Celebration” from back in 2009.

2. “Gang Bang” — “Gang Bang” is not only the highlight of the record, but a highlight of Madonna’s career. Revisiting the role of the scorned songstress from Erotica’s “Thief of Hearts” whom she first played almost 20 years ago, Madonna delightfully wields a weapon while in hot pursuit of her ex-lover across a dark, throbbing beat. With a gritty dubstep breakdown (a nod to Britney’s dub-pop masterpiece “Hold It Against Me”), gunshots and bullets dropping to the ground, “Gang Bang” plays as violent as the bloodthirsty, Quentin Tarantino-friendly lyrics imply. “Now, drive bitch!”

3. “I’m Addicted” — The lifeblood of MDNA. “I’m Addicted” revels in the ecstatic state of “Ray of Light,” the trance of “Get Together,” and throws in some rather unexpectedly poetic lyricism to boot: “All of the letters push to the front of my mouth/ And saying your name is somewhere between a prayer and a shout,” she cries. By the time the chants of “M-D-N-A!,” kick in during the final seconds, there’s no looking back — it’s aural addiction.

4. “Turn Up The Radio” — Martin Solveig’s summery big room Euro-House anthem (a la “Hello”) is practically begging to be the next single from the campaign: “Don’t ask me where I want to go, just turn up the radio!” Madonna demands, seemingly blasting away the demons in her head at full volume.

5. “Give Me All Your Luvin’” — The Super Bowl single! (That’s how it’ll go down in history, anyway.) Aided by a kicky surf guitar and a solid electronic pulse, the Solveig-produced track packs a power punch of self-congratulatory revelry and cheer-tastic choruses (“L-U-V, Madonna!”). While the two blink-and-you’ll-miss-it verses by M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj feel phoned in, the song’s “Hey Mickey!”-like structure is enough to get my pom-poms in the air — even if it’s one of the album’s least compelling moments.

6. “Some Girls” — The darkest cut on the record, apart from “Gang Bang.” “Some Girls” is Hard Candy’s “She’s Not Me” injected with a gallon of battery acid. “Some girls got an attitude/ Fake t**s and a nasty move,” Madonna ferociously declares on top of the gritty electronica beat recalling Norwegian duo Royksopp’s “Vision One” — or even Britney. Not surprising — “Piece of Me” producer Klas Åhlund co-produced the song.

7. “Superstar” — Madonna’s positively slap-happy on this breezy, summer-friendly pop number, co-produced by Hardy “Indiigo” Muanza and Michael Malih. She’s offering massages and giving away the password to her phone (which, from what I’ve gathered, is either “GuyRitchieSux1″ or “ILuvBrahim”). To make it even more of a family affair, Madge’s daughter, flawless style icon Lourdes, provides a lovely background harmony.

8. “I Don’t Give A” — That rap in “American Life” was hard to swallow, even for the most devout Madonna fans. (“The room is full of hot-tays”? I try to forget.) Luckily, she’s got the formula down a hundred times more convincingly on the defiant “I Don’t Give A.” Tripping on top of a ballsy electronic hip-hop beat, Madonna lays down the business: “You were so mad at me/ Who’s got custody?,” she raps. And then comes Nicki Minaj, spitting out one of her most ferocious features in ages: “There’s only one Queen, and that’s Madonna… bitch!” she growls. Damn straight.

9. “I’m A Sinner” — 1999′s psychedelic, ’60s-tinged “Beautiful Stranger” gets a touch of divinity on MDNA in the form of “I’m A Sinner.” Ever the pious pop princess, Madonna rattles off a dozen religious figures above bouncing drum beats and swinging guitar riffs.

10. “Love Spent” — This song. This SONG. “Love Spent” plays like 17 electronica songs (and a banjo!) smashed into a rocket and catapulted into deep space. “Hold me like your money, tell me that you want me/ Spend your love on me,” Madonna swoons. All at once, the song suddenly shoots skyward: “Love spent, wondering where the love went,” Madonna croons above 8-bit twinkling electronica and a four-to-the-floor stomp: It’s not a ballad, not yet a club banger. Oh, and a complete masterpiece.

11. “Masterpiece” — It’s fitting to follow up a masterpiece with another, no? The Golden Globe Award-winning theme from Madonna’s film W.E. begins the record’s soft touch down back to Earth. With its poetic lyrics and gorgeous orchestration, “Masterpiece” is an instant classic addition to Madonna’s back catalog of stellar balladry.

12. “Falling Free” — The album’s gorgeous final comedown finds Madonna delivering unexpectedly rich vocals above tender orchestral production and light electronic textures, courtesy of Orbit. Madonna’s prim and proper delivery mixed with the lovely violin strings makes “Falling Free” feel nearly royal: a fitting finish for the Queen.

MSN

Forget the four “Deluxe” extras, not one of which except maybe the pretty little “I F***ed Up” improves on the updated ’90s arena-dance power tracks of the first 43 minutes, although they top the deadly-dreamy closer “Falling Free” as well as the penultimate “Masterpiece,” which begins “If you were the Mona Lisa . . . .” Granted, I could mock “Ooh la la you’re my superstar/Ooh la la that’s what you are” just as easily. But lyrics have never been where she showed off her gorgeous brains, and anyway, the 10-track mix I propose as an alternative goes out on a real song called “Love Spent”: “Hold me like your money/Tell me that you want me/Spend your love on me/Spend your love on me.” Nikki Minaj shines bright, but she’s no more crucial structurally than the cheerleaders who garnish “I’m Addicted” at its close and embellish “Give Me All Your Luvin’” throughout. Play loud. She’s smart and she’s proud. A MINUS

SPIN

One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small. And the pill Madonna wants you to associate with her 12th studio album, MDNA — the imaginary, Ecstasy-like drug that Beverly Hills, 90210 adorably called “Euphoria” — will make you feel just that… until it doesn’t. The comedown is a teeth-gnashing, serotonin-sloughing, damn-the-daylight free-fall. It sucks. So does going through an ugly public divorce, seeing your efforts to build schools in Africa go to shit, and watching pop stars half your age strip-mine your career for inspiration.

Staring down the unique triad of crapitude that’s been her reality since releasing 2008′s Hard Candy and finishing its record-breaking Sticky & Sweet support tour, Madonna kicks off MDNA guzzling from the Fountain of Youth, cooing about how “girls, they just wanna have some fun” over a four-on-the-floor Eurodisco tsunami from Italian electro-house maestro Benny Benassi. For five additional tracks, Madonna twirls around the club with her face in the bottom of a glass, and it’s all good. She bops back to the ’60s, fashioning herself a Nancy Sinatra-esque revenge fantasy on thumper “Gang Bang,” and partying with M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj on bouncy hip-swiveler “Give Me All Your Luvin’.” She channels the gooey pleasure of cranking up the radio and hitting the road on the playful, Martin Solveig-produced “Turn Up the Radio.” She tumbles well past the rabbit hole on swirling synth concoction “I’m Addicted.” And she bobs and weaves over crunchy banger “Some Girls,” helmed by longtime collaborator William Orbit and Robyn’s secret weapon Klas Åhlund.

Then the real dance-floor confessions arrive. MDNA isn’t Madonna’s true breakup album — she did most of her emotional heavy lifting on Hard Candy’s “Miles Away” and “She’s Not Me,” as her relationship with British filmmaker Guy Ritchie fizzled before our eyes. But the second half of this album is far more earnest; and in related news, far less fun. She breaks out her cache of clichés to gush about a new man on “Superstar,” and fills “Love Spent” with painful comparisons between marriage and money. She goes into Evita mode for “Masterpiece,” the orchestrated ballad that appeared in her feature-length directorial debut, W.E. She slips into an “American Life” flashback for “I Don’t Give A,” a breathless bitch-fest about her hectic life, only rescued by another Minaj cameo and some glitchy production work by Solveig.

But if there’s one producer who knows how to pluck Madonna’s heartstrings, it’s Ray of Light’s Orbit. He lifts up this sagging second half with “I’m a Sinner,” a mod, “Beautiful Stranger”-like romp that combines two of Madonna’s most reliable tropes — Catholic guilt and hedonistic glee — and gives her a pretty outlet for her woe on mournful closer “Falling Free.” Singing in a vulnerable, resigned soprano, Madonna sinks into the tune’s soothingly repetitive melody like a warm bath and admits there’s a chink in her armor: “Deep and pure our hearts align / And then I’m free, I’m free of mine.”

Beneath the fishnets and chiseled arms, Madonna is a 53-year-old divorced mother of four, and despite what you think you saw in her “Girl Gone Wild” video, this is the most naked she’s been in years. Love, like club anthems, public opinion, and luck, does cycle through your system like a drug. Whatever Madonna was on has worn off by now, but a star this ferociously focused on what’s next can always pop another.

Ratin: 7 out of 10

updt.me

If Madonna were a corporation instead of calling all her own shots, then whichever VP was in charge of picking her singles would be in a serious woodshed right now.

Despite its Super Bowl ubiquity and star cameos, “Give Me All Your Luvin’” didn’t set her fan base on fire. But that was nothing compared to the unpopularity of “Girl Gone Wild,” which debuted outside of the Billboard 100 and, as of this writing, sits at No. 127 on the iTunes chart.

“Girl Gone Wild” may be the worst single she’s ever released — and maybe as bad as anything anyone else could or will release this year — but it’s no bellwether. Because who could have guessed from that ghastly teaser that “MDNA” would turn out to be Madonna’s best album since the Material Matron was still in her 30s?

Granted, getting through the entire 17-track deluxe edition requires an imperviousness to joltingly vapid rhymes, and not just on numbers that take inspiration from Joe Francis. But if you can put on your lyric blinders, “MDNA” is mostly good, unpretentious, highly danceable fun that makes willful middle-aged regression seem like a perfectly sound idea.

Initial reports may have left you unclear whether it’s a disco record or a divorce album, so rest assured that it’s both, although not necessarily in equal measure. She saves the confessionals for the latter stretch of “”MDNA”,” and even then puts a dance-floor thump on a couple of them, so the transition from “Lucky Star” updates to complaining about how Guy Ritchie took her money isn’t quite as jarring as it could be.

The divorce stuff does provide a vestige of Madonna’s “mature” middle period, which began with “Oh Father” in 1989 and ended when the “American Life” album bombed in 2003. But she doesn’t overdo the serious stuff here. Listening to her sing “Bang bang, shot you dead, shot my lover in the head… Die, bitch!,” you know you’re not hearing the same Madonna who was self-importantly covering “Imagine” in the early 2000s.

In spirit, if not genre, “MDMA” continues along the same lines as 2008’s “Hard Candy,” which unabashedly harked back to her earliest, most carefree early days. If that last album didn’t turn out to be the return to chart domination that was intended, it may have been because its combination of ‘80s synth fluff and ‘00s hip-hop didn’t quite gel, and because the literally sticky sexual innuendos seemed over-the-top. In contrast, the dirty stuff is way toned down here, and she’s paired herself with producers who do nothing if not make contemporary dance music feel effortless.

The list of songs that would have left a far more anticipatory taste in listeners’ mouths than the two already out there runs at least five potential singles deep, starting with the nearly sublime electro-pop of “I’m Addicted,” “Turn Up Your Radio,” “Superstar,” and “Some Girls,” a declaration of superiority that features the producer super-team of William Orbit (her primary electronic collaborator since “Ray of Light”) and Robyn’s brilliant aide de camp, Klas Ahlund.

The most winning number, “I’m a Sinner,” also co-produced by Orbit, sounds like a vintage Monkees number successfully transplanted to the cheery future shock of Eurodisco. Giving in to the infectiousness of this track also means giving in to more of Madonna’s habitual Catholic-baiting, which is a small price to pay for such pop perfection.

(Seriously, though, Madonna, we get it. You know the Act of Contrition just well enough to misquote it in the not-so-taboo-shattering opening of “Girl Gone Wild,” and you can think of three saints to invoke on top of Jesus and Mary in “Sinner.” Even Catholic League watchdog William Donahue is surely asleep at the switch at this point.)

On her last album, Madonna took time out from the froth to devote just one song to her presumably already-rocky relationship with her husband: “Incredible,” which included the line, “I’m missing my best friend.” This time around, she actually titles one song “Best Friend,” and as a statement of how presumably lonely it is at the top without Ritchie around, it’s unusually vulnerable. That goes double for “I Fucked Up,” which couldn’t be a more tender ballad, or commercial one, if not for one obviously risible element.

But other numbers are pointedly devoted to the idea that it’s her ex who effed up – and who deserves a painful death (if “Gang Bang” is also aimed at Ritchie, anyway). The Material Girl apparently wants us all to know that he was the real materialist in the family.

“Would you have married me if I were poor?” she asks her ex-BFF in “Love Spent.” “If I was your treasury, you’d have found time to treasure me…/Frankly if my name was Benjamin/We wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in…/I want you to take me like you took your money.”

The more defiant “I Don’t Give A” has her doing a “Subterranean Homesick”-style fast blues talk that boasts about multi-tasking and self-realization: “You were so mad at me/Who’s got custody/Lawyers suck it up/Didn’t have a pre-nup…/Gotta sign a contract, gotta get my money back…/I tried to be a good girl/I tried to be your wife/Diminished myself/And I swallowed my light.”

These are the money moments — literally and figuratively — as far as quotability. Better to bring out those pained, pointed couplets than the ones like “We’ve gotta have fun if that’s all that we do/Gotta shake off the system and break all the rules” that pepper the happier tunes.

At least Madonna doesn’t have the worst lines on the album; those come via Nicki Minaj’s raps on “Give Me All Your Luvin’” and “I Don’t Give A.” If there’s anything that you will come to dread on repeat listens, it is the sound of Minaj declaring “I’m Conan,” or “I ain’t a businesswoman, I’m a business, woman! And I’m known for giving bitches the business, woman!,” or “There’s only one queen, and that’s Madonna — bitch!”

On the other hand, the other M.I.A.-aided tune, “B-Day,” is great fun, a simple exercise in Madonna doing garage-rock. That number (and certainly not the “Give Me All Your Luvin’” remix that tiredly drags LMFAO out as yet another celebrity endorser) is the best reason to pay a few extra bucks for the handful of extra tracks.

So spend the extra $3 or so and get the full-length version. Madonna will thank you, and, if she’s telling the truth about her divorce, so will the Guy Ritchie alimony fund.

Fanboy Comics

I feel like sinnin’. Must be the Tanqueray. Damn, I picked the wrong life to quit drinkin’. Madonna’s new record MDNA drops this week, and I’m spinning, baby, out of control. Madonna came up in the clubs with music that double dog dared you not to dance to it, and MDNA is a face slapping reminder of that.

You know how to whistle, baby. Just put your lips together…and blow. And now, I offer you a blow-by-blow of the tracks off of Madonna’s killer new dance album, MDNA. (You gotta love that title!)

“Girl Gone Wild” is a thrashing dance song and controversial new video with a little boy-on-boy action. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

If you’re gonna act like a b*tch, you’re gonna die like a b*tch, you’re gonna die like a b*tch! Or, so says the angry lyrics to “Gang Bang.” We in for a ride, girlfriends.

I need to dance. It puts me in a trance and fits me like a glove. I’m addicted to “I’m Addicted.”

“Turn up the Radio?” No problem. A love anthem to the uplifting power of music. Music raises your spiritual vibration and takes you where you want to go. And, this song is a place I want to visit often. Don’t ask me where I wanna go. You gotta turn up the radio.

“Some Girls” celebrates the harder side of Sears with an ode to not the girl next door. Some girls have a filthy mouth. Hey, naughty girls need love, too!

“Superstar” is one of my favorite cuts with a super sweet and catchy melody reminiscent of an ’80s synth pollination of “Cherish” and “Lucky Star.”

“I Don’t Give A” is catchy and deep, when Madonna sings about tweeting in an elevator. Throw in Nicki Minaj and it’s a party, y’all. Timeless.

“I’m a Sinner” wears gorgeous 69′s false eyelashes. I like it that way. Where are my platform, patent, white go-go boots?

“Love Spent” opens with the banjo and I feel fine.

“Masterpiece” speaks for itself.

“Beautiful Killer” is a beautiful surprise with violin rubs that would put “Papa Don’t Preach” to shame.

“I F*cked Up” is uncharacteristically vulnerable of her highness and beautiful, despite its gasp-inducing 4-letter title.

“Bday Song” and “Best Friend” round out a more than solid effort by Madonna and her posse, including transcendental genius producer William Orbit.

A lifelong Madonna fan and self appointed co-president of the West Hollywood Chapter of the Madonna fan club (Hi, Matthew!), I am happy to report I am pleased as Hawaiian Punch. I was known as “that Madonna freak” in school. Gee, that would make a smokin’ tattoo.

I truth or dare you not to love it. You “Madonna Freaks” can get MDNA here www.itunes.com.

Greenbay Press Gazette

“MDNA” marks the return of the pop queen so many have forgotten about since the saturation of new pop stars in the mid-’00s. Carelessly promoted by two incredibly lackluster singles that work better within the context of the entire album than in isolation, “MDNA” is quite possibly Madonna’s best album in more than a decade. More danceable than “American Life,” and more varied and confession-ridden than “Confessions on a Dancefloor,” her 13th studio album (everyone forgets that “I’m Breathless” was not the official “Dick Tracy” soundtrack, but a solo Madonna album with more than half of it original material) is a welcome return to form in so many different ways.

GoErie

Madonna says it best on the opening track of her 12th album: “No one can put out my fire.” At 53, she’s still got it going on.

And thankfully so.

Her newest release, “MDNA” — her first apart from her longtime label, Warner Bros. — is full of upbeat dance jams and simmering slow grooves, and it delivers for the most part.

True, it’s not nearly as top-notch as past records from the pop icon; the songs on “MDNA,” despite some risqué language, are much safer and tread familiar ground. Still, there are some standouts.

“Girl Gone Wild,” produced by Benny and Alle Benassi (Chris Brown’s “Beautiful People”), starts things off nicely with its European flavor and addictive hook.

Then there’s “I Don’t Give A,” the second track on the album to feature Nicki Minaj, and the better one (first single “Give Me All Your Luvin’” sounds like a Gwen Stefani demo circa 2004, and that’s not a compliment).

The album’s best song is “Love Spent,” with its Bollywood beat. It finds Madonna calling out a lover with lyrics like: “You had all of me, you wanted more, would you have married me if I were poor?”

It’s worth noting that the album is Madonna’s first collection of new songs since she divorced director Guy Ritchie in 2008.

The dance sound dominates most of the 12-track set, but Madonna sometimes trips over on her own disco ball. “Gang Bang” is a complete mess, “I’m Addicted” sounds overproduced and “I’m a Sinner” is mediocre.

She shines brightest when she brings down the pace. “Falling Free” is soothing, the Golden Globe-winning “Masterpiece” from her film “W.E.” is soft and classic, and “I (Expletive) Up” sounds like a raw and honest apology to an ex.

On “MDNA,” Madonna has a wide array of helpers: Singer Priscilla Renea, who has written for Rihanna and Selena Gomez, cowrote two tracks.

Alain Whyte, the main songwriting partner to Morrissey, cowrote a song; and Klas Ahlund, the producer behind Swedish dance singer Robyn, coproduced a tune.

The CD also has assists from producer Jean-Baptiste (Chris Brown, Black Eyed Peas, Kelis); British singer-songwriter Mika; and French DJ-producer Martin Solveig. Then there’s usual suspect William Orbit, who produced Madonna’s “Ray of Light.”

It’s a bit of a mashup, and may be the reason why “MDNA” is good, but not great.

SIlive

It’s been seven years since Madonna released “Confessions on a Dance Floor,“ her last great album and what could have been a winning blueprint for the remaining chapters of her career. The beats were bubbly, the melodies were colorful, and the good times were undeniable. After decades of using pop music to explore and explode America’s sexual taboos, the queen of clubland sounded like she wanted to spend the twilight of her reign having fun.

Her new album, “MDNA,“ feels more like “Tears in a Nightclub Bathroom“ — a joyless collection of impersonal dance tracks spiked with very personal lyrics that ruminate on her 2008 divorce from director Guy Ritchie.

Madonna’s music has never invited us into the gnarly nooks of her personal life, and “MDNA“ illustrates why. She’s lousy at it. “I tried to be a good girl / I tried to be your wife,“ she sings on “I Don’t Give A,“ a kiss-off that feels paper-thin and cardboard-stiff. “Diminished myself and I swallowed my light.“

A good girl? It’s vexing to hear Madge, 53, referring to herself as a child throughout “MDNA.“

“All the boys and girls want to be like us tonight,“ she declares on “I’m a Sinner.“

“Don’t play the stupid game, ’cause I’m a different kind of girl,“ she warns on “Gimme All Your Luvin’ ,“ the peppy trifle she performed at the Super Bowl last month.

Why Madonna isn’t embracing her post-Gaga matriarch status is puzzling. This woman built her career pushing envelopes, but now she seems eager to fit in with her followers and win over younger fans. Instead of gracing old-media magazine covers, she’s launching press campaigns on Facebook and Twitter. And instead of pushing pop’s moral or sonic boundaries, she’s making music that sounds clumsy and juvenile.

Her passions feel childish on “Superstar,“ a dollop of sonic Cool Whip that might as well have been written for the latest tweener to roll off the Disney Channel production line. “I’m your biggest fan, it’s true,“ Madonna sings. “Hopelessly attracted to you / You can have the password to my phone.“ The song takes on the tone of a fifth-grade history report when she compares her “super-duper star“ with Al Capone, Julius Caesar and Abraham Lincoln — “ ’cause you fight for what’s right.“

Her anger feels puerile, too. On “Gang Bang,“ she fantasizes about putting a bullet in her lover — and then offing him for a second time in the afterlife. “How could I move on with my life if you didn’t die for me, baby?“ she asks over toad-croak bass lines that resemble dubstep.

Are we having fun yet?

Her collaborators don’t help. A fleet of producers, including William Orbit, Martin Solveig and Benny Benassi, dresses these scenes in unwelcoming electronic tones — the synths on “Girl Gone Wild“ feel cold and soggy, while the ascending melodies of “Addicted“ are presented in timbres that bristle instead of lift. Cameos by M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj sound like paychecks being cashed.

At times, Madonna hints at her glorious yesteryears by referencing the strict Catholic upbringing she turned inside out with her defining 1989 hit, “Like a Prayer.“ But here, her references to the church are graceless gestures. “I’m a Sinner“ includes nursery-rhyme-ish prattle about the crucifixion, Thomas Aquinas and Saint Sebastian, and the album kicks off with Madonna reciting the act of contrition — as if pre-emptively atoning for the dozen songs we’re about to sit through.

There’s one song that doesn’t require an apology: “Love Spent,“ a forward-thinking tune that blends an Abba sample, a banjo and a heartbreaking refrain. “I want you to hold me in your arms like you hold your money,“ Madonna sings. “Hold me in your arms until there’s nothing left.“

It’s a smart metaphor for a bankrupt romance, but it also underscores the dilemma of “MDNA.“ There’s not much to hold onto.

Central Wisconsin Hub

Madonna says it best on the opening track of her twelfth album: “No one can put out my fire.” At 53, she’s still got it going on.

And thankfully so.

Her newest release, “MDNA” — her first apart from her longtime label, Warner Bros. — is full of upbeat dance jams and simmering slow grooves, and it delivers for the most part. True, it’s not nearly as top-notch as past records from the pop icon; the songs on “MDNA,” despite some risqué language, are much safer and tread familiar ground. Still, there are some standouts.

“Girl Gone Wild,” produced by Benny and Alle Benassi (Chris Brown’s “Beautiful People”), starts things off nicely with its European flavor and addictive hook. Then there’s “I Don’t Give A,” the second track on the album to feature Nicki Minaj, and the better one (first single “Give Me All Your Luvin’” sounds like a Gwen Stefani demo circa 2004, and that’s not a compliment).

The album’s best song is “Love Spent,” with its Bollywood beat. It finds Madonna calling out a lover with lyrics like: “You had all of me, you wanted more, would you have married me if I were poor?” It’s worth noting that the album is Madonna’s first collection of new songs since she divorced director Guy Ritchie in 2008. Bitter much?

The dance sound dominates most of the 12-track set, but Madonna sometimes trips over on her own disco ball. “Gang Bang” is a complete mess, “I’m Addicted” sounds overproduced and “I’m a Sinner” is mediocre.

She shines brightest when she brings down the pace. “Falling Free” is soothing, the Golden Globe-winning “Masterpiece” from her film “W.E.” is soft and classic, and “I (Expletive) Up” sounds like a raw and honest apology to an ex (perhaps another ode to Ritchie).

On “MDNA,” Madonna has a wide array of helpers: Singer Priscilla Renea, who has written for Rihanna and Selena Gomez, co-wrote two tracks; Alain Whyte, the main songwriting partner to Morrissey, co-wrote a song; and Klas Ahlund, the producer behind Swedish dance singer Robyn, co-produced a tune. The CD also has assists from producer Jean-Baptiste (Chris Brown, Black Eyed Peas, Kelis); British singer-songwriter Mika; and French DJ-producer Martin Solveig. Then there’s usual suspect William Orbit, who produced Madonna’s “Ray of Light.”

It’s a bit of a mash-up, and may be the reason why “MDNA” is good, but not great.

CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: Both Minaj and Madonna bring the swagger on the enjoyable “I Don’t Give A.”

New York Post

Hell hath no fury like Madonna scorned.

In the four years since she recorded her last studio album, Madonna blew up her marriage to Guy Ritchie, made a tedious film about two supposedly glamorous Nazi sympathizers and allowed herself to be upstaged by M.I.A.’s middle finger in front of 111 million people. Distracted by ventures into clothing lines, fitness centers and international adoption, she drifted from her roots as a pop diva with a knack for popularizing cutting-edge electronic music.

Rage, however, seems to have focused the Material Girl on what she does best. With “MDNA,” she’s made her best record since 1998’s “Ray of Light.” It’s a collection of club tracks and confessionals that drops white-hot disco bombs with laser-guided precision.

Working with “Ray of Light” producer William Orbit, Italian electro producer Benny Benassi and French DJ Martin Solveig, she serves up a succession of intoxicating grooves that stand up to anything Lady Gaga and Beyoncé have sent up the charts.

Where Madge manages, at 53, to actually outpace her far younger peers is her willingness to lay bare the raw, jarring emotions of the past few years. Her break with Ritchie has inspired surprisingly catchy observations of hearts imploding — Sean Penn and Warren Beatty never worked her into such a lather.

“I Don’t Give A” and “I F – - ked Up” (available as a bonus track on the deluxe edition) capture two facets of the horror of being newly divorced. The first rails against the process — “You were so mad at me, who’s got custody? The lawyers suck it up, didn’t have a prenup” — but pledges that she’ll survive and move on. The second expresses the guilt and remorse of a woman who accepts her own role in the split: “I f — ked up, I made a mistake. Nobody does it better than myself.”

Yet even at her darkest, Madonna keeps intact her legendary instincts for a killer hook. “Gang Bang” is a straight-up hater’s anthem. “I thought it was you, and I loved you the most,” she chants, “but I was just keeping my enemies close.” As the Orbit-produced bass track grinds through the mix like a tank tread, she merrily pronounces herself a proud assassin: “Bang bang, shot you dead, shot my lover in the head.” It’s an exquisite kiss-off that’s equal parts meditation on spite and rump-busting dance-floor workout.

While most of the album wades through the debris field of her failed marriage, there are glimpses of brighter times. “Girl Gone Wild” leans on Benassi’s thumping house production for a party track that could have easily been a single from her 2000 album “Music.” Then there are the breath-like keyboards on LMFAO’s remix of “Give Me All Your Luvin’ ” (another deluxe-edition cut) that sound like they were lifted straight from one of the Material Girl’s “Express Yourself” sessions.

Managing to find substance in fury and freedom in tears, “MDNA” is an uplifting testament to resilience. Better still, it’s evidence that Madonna has finally returned from her sojourn as a would-be Renaissance woman and to deliver an album with the guts and groove of her finest work.

Houston Chronicle

Rumors of Madonna’s irrelevance have been greatly exaggerated.

They started almost three decades ago, when her second album was supposed to be a flop. It was “Like a Virgin,” and we all know how that turned out. Rumblings resurface every few years – “Shanghai Surprise,” the “Sex/Erotica/Body of Evidence” trifecta, “American Life,” 2008′s uneven “Hard Candy.”

This year’s Super Bowl extravaganza, an introduction of sorts to “MDNA”-era Madonna, was supposed to signal another downturn. She’s too old to be doing that. Too weirdly muscular. Too slow. Too silly. Why is LMFAO there? (A fair question, unless you’re not sorry for party rockin’.)

At its core, however, it felt like a three-pronged attack: sexism, ageism and pop-ism. Nevermind that Madonna is the only pop star of an elite ’80s group who has remained a true commercial force. (Prince, Cyndi Lauper, even fallen idols Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson were abandoned by radio years ago.)

There’s no denying Madonna’s iconic status, legacy or influence. She’s moved more than 300 million records worldwide and is the Guinness World Records’ best-selling female artist of all time. She’s a member of the Rock Hall of Fame. Her Sticky & Sweet Tour is the most successful by a solo artist – ever. That boast is likely to be smashed by the upcoming trek, her biggest in years, which plays Oct. 24 and 25 at Toyota Center.

“MDNA” is already setting records, too. It hit No. 1 on iTunes in 50 countries and became the largest one-day preorder of any album in the site’s history. Super Bowl-fueled first single “Give Me All Your Luvin” was Madonna’s 38th top-10 hit, the most by any artist in chart history. More than Elvis. More than the Beatles. More than Jackson. (That song’s shiny-happy sound, by the way, is nowhere near representative of the full album.)

But it’s not just about numbers. The best pop music captures moments in time and typifies movements. It’s both immediate and timeless, like the best of Madonna’s catalog. Few artists today will likely stand that test of time. (I’m talking to you, Katy Perry.)

“MDNA,” online and in stores Monday, flies, twirls and snaps in the face of all those accusations. It wisely draws inspiration from the fuzzy brilliance of “Ray of Light” and the luxurious grooves of “Confessions on a Dance Floor,” two of Madonna’s best albums.

At its best, this is deep, dark, sometimes disturbing dance music. There are a few sonic themes happening throughout, from after-hours club sweat to pop-starlet sparkle. Madonna says she felt like a “caged animal” during the process, and that urgency anchors the best tracks.

“Gang Bang” finds her wielding an ominous whisper atop a dank leather-bar groove. The lyrics are pure B-movie camp (“And if I see that bitch in hell/I’m gonna shoot him in the head again”), and as the title indicates, it evokes the smoky spirit of Cher’s (or Nancy Sinatra, if you prefer) “Bang Bang.” It’s biting, aggressive and gleefully over-the-top.

“I’m Addicted” soars like a fluttering haze of dance-floor strobe lights and plays on the album title. MDMA is the clinical name for the drug ecstasy, and the song revels in a mix of danger and euphoria. M.I.A. features on the kitschy, ’80s-inspired “Some Girls” and lends the song’s entire framework a bit of her swagger. (The collaboration repeats on frisky bonus cut “B-Day Song.”)

No current female is digging into such aggressive sounds. Not Gaga. Not Rihanna. Neither of whom would be around, by the way, if it weren’t for Madonna. (Only Britney Spears, surprisingly enough, has mined similar territory on her past few albums.) It helps that Madonna doesn’t pander to obvious production (RedOne, Max Martin, StarGate), instead enlisting William Orbit, Martin Solveig and Benny Benassi.

Second single “Girl Gone Wild” is hardly ground-breaking, but the beat and hook are undeniably infectious and pound more intently with each listen. The newly released video is an orgiastic homage to some of Madonna’s most iconic imagery, including her “Sex” book. And like the best of her clips, it ups the appeal considerably.

To be sure, Madonna fills out the album with more commercial fare. “Turn Up the Radio” is a bright-eyed dance track tailored for airplay and sing-alongs; and “Superstar” is a pop trifle whose earnest wonder and lyrics (“You can have the password to my phone/I’ll give you a massage when you get home”) seem better-suited for a simpler singer. Daughter Lourdes contributes backing vocals, which might explain the girly feel.

There’s a retro, ’60s line running through “I’m a Sinner” and “Beautiful Killer,” accessorized with swoops of disco. Madonna revisits her “American Life” rap cadence during “I Don’t Give A,” a superstar mom credo of sorts that drafts another Nicki Minaj cameo and a kooky operatic finale. It’s so random it works. And she’s likely addressing her dissolved marriage to filmmaker Guy Ritchie on pointed, poignant tracks “Best Friend” (“I miss your brain/The way you think/But I don’t miss the way you used to drink”) and “I F’ed Up” (“I’m sorry/I’m not afraid to say/I wish I could take you back but I can’t”).

“Falling Free” is the album’s emotional showpiece, a somber, stop-start ballad built on eerie piano, gentle guitar licks and electronic twitches.

“Deep and pure our hearts align/Then I’m free, I’m free of mine,” she repeats throughout the song’s five-plus minutes. Love and loss in one gorgeous swoon. That’s not the sound of irrelevance. It’s the Queen of Pop, settling back into her throne.

Blogcritics

Brimming with pumping electro-pop confections, Madonna’s newly arrived 12th studio album, MDNA, evokes an inescapable club ambiance, even as it compellingly reminds us why the music legend still reigns as the enduring Queen of Pop. In short, the album is a dancefloor slave/party animal’s dream record fueled by a channel-surfing of moods and emotions running the gamut from rage and longing to danger and desire. At a tidy 50 minutes, the 12-track CD deserves repeated listens. It’s so tantalizingly good that there’s hardly a dull moment.

Like the expert manipulator she’s always been, Madonna lures you into the groove and you can’t help but obey and play along – even when the lyrics occasionally dip into violent connotations, sly innuendos and sexual deviance. To wit, provocative song titles like “Gang Bang,” “I’m A Sinner” and flirty album opener “Girl Gone Wild” immediately arrest your attention. But upon giving them a couple spins, you are positively drawn into this perennial Material Girl’s uber-sexy world, where a kind of tongue-in-cheek brilliance is offset by the usual risqué sensibilities and slick production work from the likes of collaborators William Orbit and Benny Benassi.

Madonna’s signature dalliance between tough and tender, fun and fierce, plays out on cuts like snappy lead single “Give Me All Your Luvin” (featuring cheerleaders M.I.A and Nicki Minaj) and the brazen “I Don’t Give A …,” where Minaj reprises her one-of-a-kind rude-gal sass. But the real winners here are the slow-burning instant classics “Masterpiece” and “Falling Free,” two elegant slices of nostalgia and glamour that transport you back to Madge’s golden Ray of Light era.

Given her penchant for crafting timeless records that leave a lasting dent in the cultural psyche (“Like A Virgin,” “Papa Don’t Preach,” etc.), it’s no surprise really that the pop superstar has managed to strike gold again with MDNA, which is certainly a worthy entry into the esteemed Madonna canon. What’s more, you simply have to take your hat off to a woman who continues to defy the rules and expectations by proving her staying power and relevance in a youth-obsessed industry now dominated by a tireless string of Gagas and Rihannas.

Associated Press

Madonna says it best on the opening track of her twelfth album: “No one can put out my fire.” At 53, she’s still got it going on.

And thankfully so.

Her newest release, “MDNA” — her first apart from her longtime label, Warner Bros. — is full of upbeat dance jams and simmering slow grooves, and it delivers for the most part. True, it’s not nearly as top-notch as past records from the pop icon; the songs on “MDNA,” despite some risqué language, are much safer and tread familiar ground. Still, there are some standouts.

“Girl Gone Wild,” produced by Benny and Alle Benassi (Chris Brown’s “Beautiful People”), starts things off nicely with its European flavor and addictive hook. Then there’s “I Don’t Give A,” the second track on the album to feature Nicki Minaj, and the better one (first single “Give Me All Your Luvin’” sounds like a Gwen Stefani demo circa 2004, and that’s not a compliment).

The album’s best song is “Love Spent,” with its Bollywood beat. It finds Madonna calling out a lover with lyrics like: “You had all of me, you wanted more, would you have married me if I were poor?” It’s worth noting that the album is Madonna’s first collection of new songs since she divorced director Guy Ritchie in 2008. Bitter much?

The dance sound dominates most of the 12-track set, but Madonna sometimes trips over on her own disco ball. “Gang Bang” is a complete mess, “I’m Addicted” sounds overproduced and “I’m a Sinner” is mediocre.

She shines brightest when she brings down the pace. “Falling Free” is soothing, the Golden Globe-winning “Masterpiece” from her film “W.E.” is soft and classic, and “I (Expletive) Up” sounds like a raw and honest apology to an ex (perhaps another ode to Ritchie).

On “MDNA,” Madonna has a wide array of helpers: Singer Priscilla Renea, who has written for Rihanna and Selena Gomez, co-wrote two tracks; Alain Whyte, the main songwriting partner to Morrissey, co-wrote a song; and Klas Ahlund, the producer behind Swedish dance singer Robyn, co-produced a tune. The CD also has assists from producer Jean-Baptiste (Chris Brown, Black Eyed Peas, Kelis); British singer-songwriter Mika; and French DJ-producer Martin Solveig. Then there’s usual suspect William Orbit, who produced Madonna’s “Ray of Light.”

It’s a bit of a mash-up, and may be the reason why “MDNA” is good, but not great.

CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: Both Minaj and Madonna bring the swagger on the enjoyable “I Don’t Give A.”

Herald Scotland

What’s this? Madonna praying for forgiveness for having offended God at the start of her 12th studio album? Surely not, because within seconds she’s rhyming “hypnotic” with “erotic” on Girl Gone Wild and lining up songs called Gang Bang, I’m A Sinner and, on the deluxe explicit edition, I F***** Up. At the age of 53, the Material Girl knows she’s competing head-to-head with Rihanna and Lady Gaga in a racier pop world (although the very thought of this is like granny slipping you the tongue during a Christmas kiss). MDNA is a better pop album than predecessor Hard Candy, but there’s no future classic here: only a proliferation of simplistic hooks, lyrics that swing from awful to inane and banging production from William Orbit and others that’s often so hard-edged it bullies rather than seduces you onto the dancefloor. This is not necessarily a sound old-school fans will warm to, although closing ballad Falling Free suggests Madonna still has more to give if only she’d leave the next generation to get on with its own thing.

Metro US

Madonna is a bitch out of order, a bat out of hell and a fish out of water. At least that’s what she compares herself to in the song “Gang Bang,” off her brand new album, “MDNA.” The album officially comes out tomorrow, though it leaked online late last week. Madge’s claim about being broken, angry and alienated is a succinct self-analysis.

It’s been four years since her last album of new material, the longest gap of her nearly 30-year career, which would explain the fish-out-of-water feeling.

As far as the bitch out of order and the bat out of hell, her venomous personal lyrics on this album make it difficult to distinguish Madonna, the pop legend from Madonna, the mortal whose eight-year marriage to director Guy Ritchie ended in a bitter divorce.

“I tried to be a good girl, I tried to be your wife,” she sings on “I Don’t Give A.”

This confessional intimacy makes it difficult to criticize Madonna for imitation, which she does indulge in a bit on “MDNA.” To that charge, the material girl is just as much of a smart shopper as she’s always been, using the baddest guest stars (including Nicki Minaj and M.I.A.) and the best producers (including Martin Solveig) to bring her sound into now. If she can’t define the times, she’s certainly not going to be behind them. And really, anybody she’s borrowing from wouldn’t be making music if it weren’t for her. The racecar basslines and Skrillex-style monster breakdown would seem forced if not done properly. But it’s Madonna, and even if she is a fish out of water, she can always get into the groove.
Add it up
The chemical makeup of the deluxe edition of ‘MDNA’

Approximate number of times the words “girl” or “girls” are used: 63
Approximate number of times the word “bitch” is used: 13
Approximate number of songs that are most likely about Guy Ritchie: 6.5
Number of previous Madonna hits referenced by title: 3
Number of Nicki Minaj guest appearances: 2
Number of songs with spoken prayers: 2
Number of songs where a banjo is clearly audible: 1

The Observer

Sometimes Madonna doesn’t receive enough credit. I don’t mean for winding up the government of Malawi so thoroughly it recently declared itself “fed up” with her charity work. Or declaring that she occasionally “finds it a struggle” to balance life as a one-woman corporation with raising four kids, which will at least give many other single mums a good laugh.

Then there’s the release of her 12th album, MDNA, which arrives shortly after her new range of footwear but before the launch of her new perfume. (Does an album from the original Material Girl now exist only to help flog other, more lucrative objects on which she’s slapped her brand name?)

She hasn’t got where she is these past three decades by sheer willpower alone. There’s still an expectant buzz around Madonna’s music, new as well as old. Were she a veteran rock musician she’d be judged by a different standard. The ups, downs and extracurricular activities of the likes of Dylan, McCartney or Neil Young all feed into their mythologies. Pop is more ruthless: you’re only good as your last single.

But if you’d only heard the singles from MDNA you’d mistakenly think it was as much of a dud as its predecessor, 2008′s Hard Candy. “Girl Gone Wild” and “Give Me All Your Luvin’” are clumsy rave-pop, a style so effective at erasing Madonna’s personality that during “I’m Addicted” she’s reduced to chanting the album title in a bid to be heard above the clattering drums. Even this is just a feeble bid for the youth vote: “MDNA” sounds a bit like MDMA, aka ecstasy, but only if your ears need a good clean.

Yet the more relaxed, less stentorian tracks sparkle. “Turn Up the Radio” is the kind of giddy, live-for-the-moment tune that made everyone fall for her in the first place. Think “Into the Groove” or “Open Your Heart”, at least in spirit. And the final stretch, all of it co-produced by her most longstanding and sympathetic collaborator, William Orbit, sounds as if it’s been borrowed from an entirely different and much better project.

The flirty “I’m a Sinner” name-checks so many saints that Madonna practically gives the come-on to the entire Catholic church, and “Falling Free” is one of her better ballads – just voice, strings and a credible sense of vulnerability. It’s a glimpse of a fascinating possible future, of a grownup Madonna at ease with herself, trusting her talent over passing trends. It makes you crave her next album, not this one.

Allmusic Blog

Most pop stars reach a point where they accept the slow march of time, but not Madonna. Time is Madonna’s enemy — an enemy to be battled or, better still, one to be ignored. She soldiers on, turning tougher, harder, colder with each passing album, winding up with a record as flinty as MDNA, the 2012 record that is her first release since departing Warner for Interscope. That’s hardly the only notable shift in Madonna’s life since the 2008 release of Hard Candy. Since then, she has divorced film director Guy Ritchie and has seen her ’80s persona co-opted and perverted by Lady Gaga, events so cataclysmic she can’t help but address them on MDNA. Madonna hits the divorce dead-on, muttering about “pre-nups” when she’s not fiercely boasting of shooting her lover in the head, and she’s not exactly shy about reasserting her dominion over dance and pop, going so far as to draft Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. as maid servants paying their respect to the queen.

Whatever part of MDNA that isn’t devoted to divorce is dedicated to proving that Madonna remains the preeminent pop star, working harder than anybody to stay just on the edge of the vanguard. All this exertion leads to an excessively lean album: there’s not an ounce of fat on MDNA, it’s all overly defined muscle, every element working with designated purpose. Such steely precision means there’s no warmth on MDNA, not even when Madonna directly confesses emotions she’s previously avoided, but the cool calculations here are preferable to the electronic mess of Hard Candy, not least because there’s a focus that flows all the way down to the pop hooks, which are as strong and hard as those on Confessions on a Dance Floor even if they’re not quite so prominent as they were on that 2005 retro-masterwork. MDNA does echo the Euro-disco vibe of Confessions — “Love Spent” consciously reworks the ABBA-sampling “Hung Up” — yet as a whole it feels chillier, possibly due to that defensive undercurrent that pervades the album. Even if she’s only measuring it in terms of pretenders to her throne, Madonna is aware of time passing yet she’s compelled to fight it, to stay on top, to not slow down, to not waste a second of life, to keep working because the meaning of life is work, not pleasure. Naturally, all that labor can pay off, whether it’s through the malevolent pulse of “Gang Bang” or the clever “Beautiful Stranger” rewrite “I’m a Sinner,” but, ironically for all of Madonna’s exhausting exertion elsewhere, these are the songs that benefit from her finely honed skills as a pop craftsman, illustrating that no matter how she combats it, she can’t escape her age and may indeed be better off just embracing it.

Daily Star

HER best album since Ray Of Light, Madge is always at her best when people try to write her off.

Full-on hardcore club mayhem, from lunatic murder fantasies (Gang Bang) to sweet love songs (Superstar) MDNA will leave fans in ecstasy. 8/10

Los Angeles Times

Twenty years ago, when Madonna was at the top of her game, she published her provocative art book “Sex.” In it, she included photos of herself in various states of undress and wrote about the art of seduction. Her tips included wearing good perfume, garter belts but no underpants and that “on every date you have to say one really disarming thing.”

Decades later, the now-53-year-old confirms, for better or for worse — OK, worse — that Madge of the Dance Floor is nothing if not consistent. On her 12th studio album, “MDNA,” she follows the advice she laid out at her peak. Madonna is garter-belt sexy for “Girl Gone Wild,” metaphorically takes off her undies on “I’m Addicted” and tosses off half a dozen typically “disarming things” about her private life (thus the reason that this has been dubbed her “divorce album”).

But the Madonna of today has lost the art of surprise, and the shock and awe she used to inspire with each new move have gone the way of her bullet bra and taffeta skirts. More important, Madge seems to have lost her ability to create in that magical space that pushes pop forward while remaining completely of the moment.

The music here is certainly not disarming, and while it’s dangerous to speculate on the listening habits of artists, “MDNA” more than anything sounds like an album made by someone who’s lost touch with the desires of today’s popular music while pursuing other endeavors, including child-rearing and moviemaking.
For example, the second song, “Gang Bang,” has a good beat you can dance to, as does “I’m Addicted,” a driving love anthem produced by Italian superstar DJ Benny Benassi, so both accomplish a key goal of most of Madonna’s work. But like the rest of “MDNA,” neither offers much in the way of innovation.

The album offers evidence that the singer has fallen behind, that she is no longer setting the conversation in a genre she essentially invented — blending Top 40 pop with club music. While Madonna keeps banging away, the template she helped build is ruling the charts via the work of Rihanna, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Kesha, each of whom not only sings about club life but also lives it, thus delivering more convincing fantasies.

Yes, a few tracks on “MDNA” are punctuated with a dubstep “bass-drop,” a current electronic effect-song hook typified by a halting sonic skid and massive low-end rumble that drives dance floors batty. But each appearance of it sounds tacked on “for the kids,” as if Frank Sinatra had used a sitar on “My Way” in 1969.

Much of the music on the new album could have appeared on any random electronica collection of the last decade. Frenchman Martin Solveig’s work at its worst feels like watered-down Daft Punk or Basement Jaxx, and the bonus track, “Masterpiece,” features a dance hall-infected rhythm that sounds positively 2006. And despite a few life-injecting moments with rapper Nicki Minaj, the deluxe package also features a remix by joke-rap duo LMFAO, which the Madonna of 1992 no doubt would have ridiculed.

To Madonna’s credit, her idea of disarmament has evolved on “MDNA,” and it includes addressing her 2008 divorce from husband director Guy Ritchie. The songs that address the end of love, such as “Falling Free,” co-produced by longtime collaborator William Orbit, are surprisingly transparent stories about her split and arrive with genuine emotion. But none is as inspired as her more personal work over the years, from “Papa Don’t Preach” to “Frozen.”

On Madonna’s best albums — “Like a Virgin,” “Ray of Light” and “Music” — she lived in that pocket between pop’s present and future, and with each hit single she offered a dose of the new that confirmed her ability to seduce us. But the enemy of seduction is familiarity. The power to jar a lover requires the element of surprise, one that’s sorely lacking on “MDNA.” We’re 30 years into this relationship, after all. Surprising us at this point would require a drastic new approach, one that Madge seems unable to muster this time around.

The looming question is whether the next step for Madonna is a sordid affair, a relationship counselor or a divorce lawyer.

Pitchfork

Madonna’s 12th studio album is the product of both a merger and a divorce, but as much as the singer attempts to milk the latter event for pathos over the course of its 16 tracks, the tone is mostly set by corporate dealmaking. MDNA is the star’s first record as part of a $120 million deal with concert promotion juggernaut Live Nation and a separate three-album pact with Interscope, and like a lot of new records by artists of her stature, it’s essentially a mechanism to promote a world tour that will inevitably drastically out-earn the profits from her new music. These sort of records don’t need to be cynical or uninspired on an artistic level, but this one feels particularly hollow, the dead-eyed result of obligations, deadlines, and hedged bets.

Madonna has made her share of bad music in the past, but for the most part, her failures have come from taking artistic chances that didn’t pay off, as on her experiments with hip-hop on American Life and Hard Candy. Large chunks of MDNA are shockingly banal, coming across not so much as bad pop songs per se, but as drably competent tunes better suited to D-list Madonna wannabes. The worst of these numbers were produced by French DJ Martin Solveig, whose anonymous, unimaginative arrangements for “Turn Up the Radio”, “Give Me All Your Luvin’”, “I Don’t Give A”, and “B-Day Song” are paired with excessively bland lyrics. The latter track, a collaboration with M.I.A., is horrifically regressive, the sound of two of pop’s great feminist provocateurs joining forces for what amounts to a tacky children’s song about birthday parties spiced up with a couple of tired double entendres. (Sorry ladies, Rihanna beat you to that frosting-licking line.)

Madonna’s tracks with house duo the Benassi Bros. and William Orbit, the principal architect of her 1998 album Ray of Light, are much better, if not up to par with previous career highlights. “I’m Addicted”, a dynamic electro throbber by the Benassis, is the big keeper here, and their work on “Girl Gone Wild” yields a reasonably strong single that rises to the challenge of competing with Ke$ha, Britney Spears, and Katy Perry on pop radio. The Orbit collaborations mainly call back to their work together on Ray, the record that essentially established the aesthetics of the singer’s past decade of music. “I’m a Sinner” is a serviceable rewrite of their Ray-era soundtrack hit “Beautiful Stranger”, and “Falling Free” plays to her strengths as a singer of ballads, though it lacks the generous hooks of, say, “Take a Bow” or “Live to Tell”.

The most interesting of the Orbit productions is “Gang Bang”, a campy revenge fantasy that essentially uses her filmmaker ex-husband Guy Ritchie’s sub-Tarantino aesthetic as a weapon against him. The title suggests porn, but it’s really a nod to mobsters, particularly as her over-the-top, Ana Matronic-esque monologue turns especially violent and bloody. It’s the album’s boldest, most experimental track, and it’s marred only by a just-off vocal performance that renders her very familiar voice a bit anonymous, and a half-hearted attempt at a dubstep bass drop. (Next time just hire Skrillex, okay?)

Madonna reckons with her divorce from Ritchie elsewhere on the record, but her attempts to address lingering bitterness and affection for her ex are so remote that the songs have all the soul of a carefully edited press release. “Love Spent”, an Orbit production with brittle electro-acoustic accompaniment, at least approaches the topic from an interesting angle, focusing on the tension and power dynamic of a relationship in which one half of the couple drastically out-earns the other. The song picks up steam as it goes along, but it ultimately comes out like a tepid, ponderous rework of her 2005 smash “Hung Up”. “I Don’t Give A” starts off strong with her spitting out the lines, “Wake up, ex-wife/ This is your life,” in a robotic rap, but she is upstaged by guest Nicki Minaj, who turns in an entertaining performance that is nevertheless below the standards of her usual features.

It’s almost impossible to approach MDNA without some degree of cynicism, but it’s equally difficult to imagine anyone being more cynical about this music than Madonna herself. Unlike previous late-period records in which she had the luxury to indulge in creative tangents and not get too hung up on scoring several hits, MDNA is a record that comes with major commercial expectations. The “this has to work” factor is high, and it’s hard to shake the impression that she has some measure of contempt for the contemporary pop audience. We all know that Madonna is an extremely intelligent woman– even if she’s never been known for penning great lyrics, it’s easier to take the mesmerizingly dumb lyrics of tracks like “Superstar” and “B-Day Song” as spiteful trolling rather than vapid pandering. It doesn’t really matter whether or not this drivel is insulting to Madonna’s audience– the most loyal fans seem to embrace being submissive to her domineering persona– but it is disheartening when one of the most influential pop artists of the 20th century is tossing out the world’s umpteen-millionth “Mickey” retread as a lead single. She’s the one who deserves better.

Scotsman

Madonna’s got news for Lady Gaga: she wants her Queen of Pop crown back. Trouble is, she’s too stuck in her ways to take the necessary risks

SINCE the release of her previous album Hard Candy in 2008, Madonna’s 1980s superstar peers Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston have met inauspicious ends, while her status as the queen of pop has been sorely challenged by a brazen pretender who has aped her visual and, to a lesser extent, musical style, sweeping all before her in the process. So in returning to a market which has embraced a newer model of herself, it’s time for some cultural revision, some words of warning which she puts in the mouth of Nicki Minaj. “There’s only one queen – and that’s Madonna,” purrs the hip-hop starlet (while eyeing her throne, probably).

Did you get that, Gaga? Her Madgesty wants her crown back. Having snatched that vulgar Superbowl showcase from under your nose, Madonna is playing hardball on her 12th album, proving she can churn out a load of catchy but insubstantial dance pop filler as mindlessly as the next girl in the designer meat frock.

The strikingly titled MDNA demonstrates again her nose for a shrewd partnership, one which benefits Madonna in cred points and her collaborators in exposure. Her Ray Of Light saviour William Orbit is back on board, along with Euro house producers Martin Solveig and Marco Benassi. But this time, it’s also about the girls, with high-profile cameos from femme rapper du jour Minaj and DIY auteur MIA, who revels in her Madge-like capacity for troublemaking.

Admittedly, their inaugural effort Give Me All Your Luvin’ made a particularly poor showing in the hit parade – Madonna’s worst, in fact, since her debut single Everybody, back in 1982 when no one knew who the NY club queen was anyway. However, she’s probably not too broken up about that, given that monster pre-sales for MDNA have placed it at the top of the iTunes chart in 50 countries – commercial justification, I presume, for not just jacking it in and leaving Gaga to clean up unchallenged.

Yet, for an album which carries her name so assertively, MDNA plays it reasonably safe around the formulaic but functional live-for-the-moment dance pop vibe of Confessions On A Dancefloor and Hard Candy – fruitful territory for Madonna ever since her definitive Into The Groove – and comes frontloaded with some serious club cuts.

She also reprises her bad girl who tries ever-so-hard-honestly to be good schtick right from the off, with the teasing spoken word intro to throwaway new single Girl Gone Wild, which introduces the theme of quasi-contrition. Later, she has her cake and eats it on the insouciant I’m A Sinner – “I like it that way” she claims over a shimmering Ray Of Light backing before calling on Jesus, Mary and the saints for succour. At least it doesn’t sound like she’s trying too hard here, unlike the charmless electro throb of Gang Bang on which she aspires desperately to B-movie badass credentials, snarling “I’m going straight to hell and I’ve got a lot of friends there.”

She’s on safe ground with the dance pop of Turn Up The Radio and the empty-headed Superstar, in which she vacantly compares her beau to James Dean, Marlon Brando, Bruce Lee, John Travolta and, ahem, Caesar and Abraham Lincoln, declaring “you can have the keys to my car, I’ll play you a song on my guitar”. Better still, why not work a bit on those trite lyrics?

There are modest highlights peppered throughout the mix, such as the cool, hypnotic clarion call of Some Girls and the unexpected banjo intro of Love Spent which cuts through the processed beats. I Don’t Give A has been garnering a lot of attention for its explicit references to her divorce from Guy Ritchie but its bullish demand that “lawyers, suck it up, didn’t have a pre-nup” is hardly the stuff of self-revelation.

After all this clubby muscle-flexing, the closing ballads come as a refreshing tonic. Masterpiece is a little pallid but the tremulous Falling Free is close to Frozen par with its atmospheric, reverberating piano backing.

Interestingly, Madonna squirrels away her most genuine acts of contrition on the bonus disc. I F***ed Up is a sweet, sparely arranged rueful pop song which doesn’t fit with the defiant survivor image of the main album. Likewise, the brooding electro pop of Best Friend is prepared to display some vulnerability.

There’s also time for one final break from the safe haven of the dancefloor. B-Day Song, a hip, skippy cheerleader number with MIA’s DNA all over it, contrasts its innocent, girlish tune with some particularly naughty birthday wishes and packs a personality lacking elsewhere on the album. But what do we expect from pop royalty anyway? Innovation? Individuality? That’s not the way of the monarchy.

Rating: ***

Businessweek

Madonna sets herself some tough challenges on her 12th studio album, “MDNA.” She wants to attack her former husband, keep up the tempo, look relevant and sweep away all those preening young pretenders to her crown.

“There’s only one queen, and that’s Madonna,” she has one of those pop princesses, Nicki Minaj, declare on one song.

“MDNA” tries hard, often too hard, and is soaked in slick production. After 30 years in the business, Madonna Louise Ciccone should know she doesn’t need the lavish studio effects of newer stars such as Lady Gaga, Britney Spears or Rihanna.

It’s a better record than was suggested by the first single, “Give Me All Your Luvin’.” That cheerleader number was previewed to 111 million viewers on Feb. 5 at the most-watched Super Bowl Halftime Show in history — then stalled at No. 10 in the charts. Not content with that piece of disposable pop recalling Toni Basil, Madonna’s lightweight follow-up single “Girl Gone Wild” references Cyndi Lauper’s 1980s disco line “girls, just wanna have fun.”

The first four tracks sound like castoffs from Madonna’s dance-crazed “Hard Candy” from 2008, “Confessions on a Dance Floor” from 2005 and accompanying live releases.

The twist this time is her renewed desire to provoke. While she says “MDNA” is an abbreviation for “Madonna DNA,” it also references the drug MDMA on “I’m Addicted.”
Lover Shot

“Gang Bang” — another misguided title — has her wanting to shoot a lover and ends “I wanna see him die, over and over and over and over.”

It’s like a Guy Ritchie movie. Her divorce from the U.K. director looms over the record. “Would you have married me if I were poor?” she asks on “Love Spent,” adding “I guess if I was your treasury, you’d have found the time to treasure me.”

In “I Don’t Give A,” Madonna declares “I tried to be your wife, I diminished myself” and “you were so mad at me, who’s got custody? Lawyers, suck it up. Didn’t have a pre-nup.”

As ever, Madonna’s words and singing rarely match her catchy tunes and attitude. She’s happier recalling past glories. “MDNA” opens by quoting from the excellent “Like a Prayer” (1989). The final four tracks reunite her with William Orbit, who produced her glacial “Ray of Light” in 1998.

With Orbit at the helm, the boasting ends. We hear the confessional side of the woman behind the Madonna brand. There’s the acoustic “Masterpiece,” a Golden Globe-winning love song from the film “W.E.” The ballad “Falling Free” is better, all tender strings and a vulnerable voice shorn of bombast.

Madonna, 53, is preparing for another world tour. (The last raised $408 million, the most by a solo artist, according to its promoter Live Nation (LYV) Entertainment Inc.) She has fame and fortune aplenty, of course, yet signs off with the wistful hope that she can “turn around a love again.”

Rating: ***.

Consequence of Sound

There’s something depressing about Madonna’s latest video for “Girl Gone Wild”. For one, it’s the exact same concept as “Vogue”, which is now 22 years old, and for some reason Americans consider it provocative. How is that even possible? Not only did she perform at this year’s Super Bowl halftime show (a night which charted the highest ratings in American television history), but in the age of Jersey Shore, 1000 Ways to Die, 16 and Pregnant, Toddlers & Tiaras, and TMZ, the Queen of Pop – ahem, the same royalty who’s even published children’s books – is hardly “too raunchy.” Let’s not even get started on the half a billion videos processed through YouTube on a daily basis.

Perhaps that explains why Madge feels the need to hammer in the idea that she’s still a bad girl. What most might consider established truths in the Madonna mythos has become renewable information on her 12th studio album, MDNA. ”Girls they just wanna have some fun,” she sings, echoing Cyndi Lauper on “Girl Gone Wild”, later stating that her “inhibition’s gone away.” Sound familiar? It’s a retread of almost everything she’s said before in the past 30 years, and though ultimately catchy, it lacks any subtlety or nuance to make you feel this is doing anything but reaching.

This sort of plasticity continues throughout the album. The pandering shock ‘n’ pizazz of “Gang Bang” melds dubstep with a femme fatale spoken-word vignette that might have others rethinking their slams against Lana Del Rey. “If you’re gonna act like a bitch, then you’re gonna die like a bitch,” Madonna exclaims over digitized warbles and, ugh, race car samples. The whole thing might have worked if the dubstep didn’t feel so catered and she actually added more theatrics. On “Superstar”, she works with a rhyme scheme that’s beyond infantile and lyrics seemingly stripped from a fifth grader’s notebook at the history fair (e.g. “You’re Abe Lincoln because you fight for what’s right”). Later on, the phony sentiments reach a startling peak on “I’m a Sinner”, a track so obvious that it’s baffling her producers didn’t stop her at first glance of the song’s title. Whereas she used to craft dizzying spectacles that were both insightful and emotional, she lays it all out here, bolds the key terms, and highlights the fluff.

What’s puzzling is that producer William Orbit lent a hand on these particular tracks. Having previously worked with Madonna, most notably on 1998′s dynamite Ray of Light, the man’s familiar with her strengths and weaknesses, and on MDNA, he proves it. While the aforementioned three of his six tracks suffer remarkably, the other half consists of the album’s most solid inclusions. ”Love Spent” segues banjo-plucking with 8-bit instrumentation that catapults an emotional confession revolving around a romance fractured by fortune. It’s a fitting anthem for Madonna and one that seamlessly blends into the sparkling decadence of “Masterpiece”. Lifted off the soundtrack of her recent directorial effort, W.E., the track swings back to her early ’90s days (think 1995′s Something to Remember). The last of the three is closing track “Falling Free”, an indelibly poignant track that adds flesh to a fairly robotic album. Coming off a divorce to Guy Ritchie, it’s these three tracks – especially the closer – that truly feel as if she’s speaking candidly.

It’s only then that she hits the heart. Now, this was a feat she exercised with ease once before, but something she’s struggled with over the past decade. On MDNA, she almost skips the cardiac attention completely, and it’s likely because she masks herself with so much clutter. She forces herself into these aural experiments, as if she feels compelled to stay relevant by dabbling with present-day talent and genres. Why else would she throw in haphazard appearances by M.I.A. or Nicki Minaj on her boisterous first single “Give Me All Your Luvin’”? Or attempt to rap on a messy track like the Martin Solveig-produced “I Don’t Give A”? These follies only discount her credibility, opening her up to discourse on whether she still claims the throne. To counter, her genre husband Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, once put these moves to action back in the late ’80s and especially in the early ’90s by marrying his style to new jack swing, Eddie Van Halen, Slash, and even Michael Jordan (well, on video at least), but he never took backseat. The collaborations always felt whole, fresh, and necessary. By comparison here, Madonna’s work alongside the Benassi Bros. on the electrified “I’m Addicted” is the only unique match up that storms out unscathed.

It’s not hard to figure out why Madonna’s kept such strong focus on her collaborators. Since she’s hit the scene, she’s dealt with a string of admirers, detractors, and imitators. In today’s era of pop, she’s surrounded by a rogue’s gallery of juggernauts, who are all admittedly doing far more with their sound than she is. That’s okay, though, because that was always bound to happen. Rather than try to top them, however, she should put her energy into her strengths instead of parading around marquee names and treading through genres that, most of the time, she’s late to reach. (Having said that, her delicious tinkering with disco on 2005′s Confessions on the Dance Floor remains an absolute joy.) Maybe it’s just the nepotism that explains this way of thinking. After all, she does have the aggressive Nicki Minaj growling, “There’s only one queen, and that’s Madonna, bitch.” Regardless of the endorsement, it might behoove her to start thinking of her successor.

Then again, Elizabeth I never named hers, either.

Essential Tracks: “Falling Free”, “I’m Addicted”, “Masterpiece”, and “Love Spent”

Rating: 2 stars out of 5

NY Daily News

On her latest CD, Madonna chirps through a rash of odes to puppy love, blows out the biggest bubblegum song of her career (“Give Me All Your Luvin’”), and corrals the whole disc under a title that cheekily refers to a hallucinogenic drug.

Do these sound like the moves of a 53-year-old mother of four to you?

In fact, much of “MDNA” — out Tuesday — has more the flip zip of a disc by Katy Perry or Ke$ha than something by a woman who may be older than both their mothers. Then again, we are talking about Madonna, a woman who, at this point, seems just as hellbent on giving the finger to expectations about age that she once gave to assumptions about sex.

That stance alone might be enough to give Madonna’s youthful channelings a sense of defiance rather than desperation. But the music itself is what makes her flagrant act of regression not embarrassing but both pointed and exciting.

“MDNA” expands on the best elements of Madonna’s last CD, 2008’s “Hard Candy,” her most easily embraced disc since her very first. For “Candy,” the singer abandoned her least attractive feature — her self-importance. Finally, Madonna stopped marring her albums with songs meant to educate us about starving children, world politics or (gag) spiritual growth. Instead, she gave fans what they wanted all along: pitched dance anthems that doubled as smart pop songs.

Once again, upbeat tracks dominate “MDNA.” The sole ballad, the droopy “Masterpiece,” comes from another source: the soundtrack to the Madonna-directed bomb of a film “W.E.” Better, Maddy has ditched that post-“Evita”/post-elocution-lessons voice to sing again like either a snotty or an ironically innocent imp. In “Turn Up the Radio,” she sounds blissfully infantile. In “Girl Gone Wild,” she plays teen bad girl with nutty verisimilitude.

It helps that the songs themselves have so much snap coursing through them. “I’m Addicted” and “Some Girls” have the dark disco élan of druggier dance club anthems — just the thing for your next trip into a K-hole. “I’m a Sinner” and “Superstar” show a Cee Lo-style love for ’60s Day-Glo pop. They rate among her zippiest songs ever.

So many good tracks crowd the disc, in fact, that even the four extras on the deluxe version rate as must-owns.

The dance songs that dominate aren’t pushing mainstream club music ahead, as Madonna did on albums like “Erotica” or “Ray of Light.” But they’re in step with the most pleasurable tics and beats of now.

Some listeners will see the aftermath of Madonna’s divorce from Guy Ritchie reflected in the lyrics. But the four cuts that promise to be the most autobiographical contradict each other. Two strike an apologetic or regretful tone (“Best Friend” and “I F–ed Up,” both in the deluxe version). The other pair turn vindictive (“I Don’t Give A,” and “Love Spent”).

The only song that inescapably mines Madonna’s life for material — “I Don’t Give A” — reads as too literal and, so, self-indulgent. Worse, it suffers from a draggy melody. The song gossip-lovers may most wish were about her ex — “Gang Bang,” in which she imagines not just gunning a boyfriend down but chasing him into hell to do it again — is a hoot. It’s also historic. It may be the world’s first murder-ballad-as-disco song.

Better, the piece references Cher’s zippy ’60s hit “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down).” Couple that with a reference to “The Beat Goes On” in “B-Day Song,” plus Madonna’s queenly getup at this year’s Super Bowl, and it seems as if the star has, at last, fulfilled a goal many of us have long held for her: She’s becoming Cher.

Still, the album’s greater feat has a far more subversive, if not superhuman, dimension. It finds Madonna aging in the most nose-thumbing way possible — in reverse.

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

The Daily Vault

Consider this one “The Attack Of Robo-Madge!” After not only splitting with her longtime record label Warner Bros., but her husband Guy Ritchie as well, there was no telling what Madonna would do next from a purely creative standpoint. The result has now come to us in a sleek, streamlined package with the triple-entendre title of MDNA.

But is it any good? Does Madonna have anything left to say – or reveal – about herself? The answer is yes, of course she does. Who wouldn’t have a lot to get off their chest (or in this case, bullet bra) after a bitter divorce and continual thumping by the critics? Remember when she dared to show how vulnerable she was after her divorce from Sean Penn on Like A Prayer, a masterpiece she has yet to top?

For me, the main sticking point on MDNA has to do with the track listing. Not only does Madonna put all the lightweight dance fluff up first, but she all but buries the important autobiographical songs as mere bonus tracks on the deluxe version ONLY! Note to Madonna: by not including “I Fucked Up” and “Best Friend” in the regular version, you missed a real opportunity to make a mature artistic statement. They’re some of the best songs you’ve ever written! On the poignant co-dependent theme song “I Fucked Up,” Madonna shows some rare vulnerability – something we really need her to show more of these days, while on “Best Friend,” she expresses how living in England was a double-edged sword and that losing Guy was like losing her best friend. It’s quite a change from the defiant tone of the bulk of MDNA, for sure.

Elsewhere, Madonna is all over the map with her moods and unfortunately, it’s reflected in the over-production of the songs (especially on “Some Girls” and “Love Spent”). It’s a dizzying affair initially, and is something of a mess, though that may well be intended as part of its chaotic charm. Yep, she’s hell-bent on revenge on the experimental “Gang Bang,” which, like “Thief Of Hearts” and “Revolver,” only adds up to a sick gun fantasy running in place ultimately getting us nowhere. Then there’s “I Don’t Give A,” which returns us to the hip-hop rhythms of the mis-fire Hard Candy, with Madonna challenging Nicki Minaj to something of a speed-rap throwdown ala “American Life,” (another disaster that will go down in infamy). Its “ho ho ho” ending makes it sound like a gangsta Christmas carol, I kid you not.

And now – wait for it – the good news. We actually get a breather from all the techno and processed, monotone vocals with some William Orbit guitar, which we haven’t heard since his stellar Ray Of Light collaboration with the superstar in 1998. There’s even a song titled “Superstar” to be found on MDNA. Both lyrically and melodically, Madonna is always at her best when she’s straightforward pop like she is on this mesmerizing ditty.

I appreciate the fact that most of the songs on this album are under four minutes – oh damn, I made another Hard Candy reference, sorry…Two other tracks that stand out and offer something we haven’t heard before are “I’m Addicted,” which has a cool, liquid feel and sweet synth-tinged melody, and “I’m A Sinner,” a track that seamlessly merges the style and theme of both “Ray Of Light” and “Like A Prayer” with its chugging rhythm and propulsive energy. Even “B-Day Song,” a duet with an unrecognizable M.I.A., comes a welcome change of pace, showing M’s cheeky and playful sense of humor.

All in all, MDNA is right up there with the best Madonna albums. It may be overly derivative at times, but it is certainly not boring.

Rating: B

Chicago Tribune

3 stars (out of 4)

On her 2008 album, “Hard Candy,” Madonna let her A-list producers steer. Timbaland and the Neptunes were hired to give her some club-banging hits, but all they really did was bury her personality. It continued a decade-long string of relatively uneventful Madonna releases, as Rihanna, Katy Perry, Beyonce and Lady Gaga surpassed her on the charts.

“MDNA” (Interscope), her first studio album since then, is a different story. It finds Madonna once again in charge and apparently motivated, cowriting and coproducing every track – and this time, the cocredits aren’t just cosmetic. It’s her best album since “Ray of Light” in 1998, an album that balanced introspection and pop dazzle in collaboration with U.K. electronic artist William Orbit. Not coincidentally, Orbit returns for the first time in a decade to play a key role on the new album.

Orbit splits most of the production with Italian DJ Marco “Benny” Benassi and French techno maven Martin Solveig. Benassi and Solveig focus on the dancefloor, and they service the machine while recycling Madonna-isms from decades past.

Benassi’s “Girl Gone Wild” starts with a confession: “I detest all my sins… I want so badly to be good.” The singer was flirting with the naughty Catholic girl imagery in the ‘80s, and she doesn’t take it anywhere new here, unless the vocoder-soaked vocals count as progress. The disappointing Solveig-produced single “Give Me All Your Luvin’ ” turns on a silly cheerleader-style chorus (Toni Basil got there first, 30 years ago), and brief cameos from Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. “Every record sounds the same, you got to step into my world,” Madonna sings, without giving us a single compelling reason why.

The Madonna-by-numbers up-tempo romps (“Addicted,” “Turn up the Radio”) dominate the first half of the album, but she excels on the Orbit tracks. “Gang Bang” is a slice of Tarantino-like Grind House spectacle, with Madonna as an abused lover-turned-avenger. The ominous, minimalist soundscape, flavored by whipcracks and screeching tires, makes for top-tier club drama. On “I’m a Sinner,” which blurs Saturday night grime and Sunday morning grace, her voice projects both vulnerability and defiance.

Like few Madonna albums in the last decade, the album has an emotional center, informed by the latest upheaval in her personal life. In 1998 for “Ray of Light,” it was the birth of her first child that colored that album’s more open tone. On “MDNA,” it’s the dissolution of her marriage to movie director Guy Ritchie.

“Love Spent” – the rare disco track to prominently feature a banjo — addresses the divorce: “Love me like your money … I want you to take me like you took your money.” The Spanish-flavored ballad “Masterpiece” meditates on what might have been. Madonna takes some shots at her ex, but the overall tone set by the last quarter of the album is one of sadness – and when was the last time we could say that about Madonna’s music?

“Falling Free” ends the album on a bereft note. “We’re both free to go,” Madonna sings. Unlike anything in her catalog, it’s a woozy, almost psychedelic slice of chamber pop. At points, Madonna sounds like she’s channeling the ‘60s Brit-folk ballads of Sandy Denny or Anne Briggs. It’s a contemplative wind-up to an album that starts in the disco and finishes at home, in solitude.

3 stars out of 4

JournalStar

Madonna, “MDNA.” Madonna is back.

That’s the simplest summary of “MDNA,” the 12th album from the 53-year-old Material Girl, which is available Monday. She spends about half the release referring to her divorce with Guy Ritchie, opening up to create her most personal, revealing set of songs ever.

“Love Spent” wonders where the love went and makes reference to the millions Ritchie received in the divorce. The insistent “I wish I could take you back” ballad “I (expletive) Up” and the rattling “Best Friend” from The “Deluxe Explicit Album” are the most direct of those songs.

But the semi-rap “I Don’t Give a (featuring Nicki Minaj)” includes this little couplet, “I tried to be a good girl/I tried to be your wife/Diminished myself,” as it re-establishes Madonna as a strong woman with a head for business, music and love.

And the dark techno “Gang Bang” is a sinister little number about a woman shooting her lover. Care to guess how she really feels?

Madonna marshals a flotilla of producers to apply their magic, most notably bringing back William Orbit from “Ray of Light” for three songs, including the ultra-catchy “I’m a Sinner.” It’s the best song on the record and spins her Catholic upbringing into its irresistible beats and hooks.

Another gem from the deluxe version is the bouncy “B-Day Song,” a reminder of Madonna’s garage rock/girl group vocal roots that’s just fun.

Madonna’s never drifted far from the club. Nor does she here. The record opens with the pop banger “Girls Gone Wild,” which feels like vintage Madge, and swirls Daft Punk-like on “I’m Addicted” where she chants “MDNA.” That’s either a knockoff on her name or a sly reference to the club drug Ecstasy (MDMA).

Strangely, the weakest track on “MDNA” is the cheerleader pop of “Give Me All Your Luvin’ featuring Nicki Minaj and MIA” that they performed at the Super Bowl. Her “Masterpiece,” a pretty little number, came out early too, as the Golden Globe-winning theme song for her movie “W.E.”

The regular version of “MDNA” ends with “Falling Free,” a string-filled ballad that is a declaration of independence — “we’re both free/free to go.” It’s a perfect ending to a very strong disc from, as Minaj calls Madonna, the “only one Queen.” Grade: B+

Boston

What’s your favorite flavor of Madonna?

As is usually the case, there are several to choose from on “MDNA,’’ the pop icon’s new release, out Monday.

The one that Madonna seems to have been pushing in the run-up to her album’s release is the most familiar: queen of the dance floor, here to help us boogie our, and more crucially her own, troubles away.

From “Everybody’’ to “Into the Groove’’ to “Music,’’ Madonna has successfully helped us surrender to the transporting catharsis of moving to the beat for nearly 30 years.

So the two test balloon singles sent out as precursors probably felt like sure things, and yet neither was promising. First there was the irritating branding jingle “Give Me All Your Luvin’,’’ with its cheerleading reminder that we “L-U-V’’ Madonna. The more recent “Girl Gone Wild’’ imagines setting a fire but barely generates smoke – it’s an anonymous Ibiza-targeted jam that could have come from anyone from Rihanna to Jennifer Lopez.

It is the same 808 drumbeat she’s been churning out for her last few spins around the club, 2008’s “Hard Candy’’ and 2005’s “Confessions on a Dance Floor.’’ For the diehard members of Madonna’s core fan base, who remain hung up on every little thing that she says or does, that will be just fine.

But, like the drug to which it alludes, a chunk of “MDNA’’ feels more like a pre-fabricated high, one cooked up in a chem lab with collaborators old (William Orbit) and new (Benny Benassi, M.I.A., and Martin Solveig). The often chilly bloodlessness of the buzzing, shimmering, glistening, burping, tremulous synths and her distant, disaffected, reverb-heavy vocals raise a wall between the sentiment of ecstatic celebration and the actual practice of it – it takes some work from the listener to warm them up. Sometimes the album strains to be vibrant, but is merely uptempo.

And a few, like the silly, sing-song trifle “B-Day Song’’ and the bubbly cliche-ridden “I’m Addicted’’ and “Turn Up the Radio’’ feel a lot like filler to justify a “deluxe’’ configuration of the record.

“MDNA’’ isn’t a perfect Madonna album, but it greatly surpasses its immediate predecessors when Madonna cracks that hard candy shell and allows us to get at the gooey emotional center: This is a Madonna who is angry, mournful, occasionally funny, and most of all, specific – at one point, she raps about not having a prenup.

This is a Madonna who is not just sticking to her guns, but unloading them. Sometimes at herself, sometimes at her critics, and, presumably on several pointed songs, at her ex-husband, film director Guy Ritchie.

“I [Expletive] Up’’ dials back the volume and tempo but ratchets up the drama over martial drums and acoustic guitars, as she laments the woulda-coulda-shouldas and owns both her missteps and her “big mouth.’’ (But in admirably Madonna-esque fashion, she claims nobody makes mistakes better than she does.)

But if she is contrite there – and actually recites “Act of Contrition’’ elsewhere in one of “MDNA’’s several religious nods – on “I Don’t Give A,’’ (which features Nicki Minaj) she’s not so sorry: “I tried to be a good girl/ I tried to be your wife/ Diminished myself/ And I swallowed my light/ I tried to become all/ That you expect of me/ And if it was a failure/ I don’t give a . . .’’

(Interestingly, “Act of Contrition’’ isn’t the only callback to Madonna’s past. There are several echoes and allusions to previous songs, including “Lucky Star,’’ “Like a Virgin,’’ “Material Girl,’’ and even “Hanky Panky.’’)

She saves most of her ammunition to unleash on the scathing, superbly titled “Love Spent.’’ Opening with a burbling banjo and segueing into an irresistible marriage of string orchestration and menacing grooves, she worries in retrospect about someone’s romantic motives: “You had all of me, you wanted more/ Would you have married me if I were poor?/ Guess if I was your treasury/ You’d have found the time to treasure me.’’

While some of the album feels alienatingly icy, “Falling Free’’ earns its cool breeze. Co-written by, among others, Madonna’s supremely talented brother-in-law, singer-songwriter Joe Henry, it is a more impressionistic, haunting look at connection featuring one of the best vocals here.

And before it devolves into an awkward repetition of the word “bitch,’’ the rage of “Gang Bang,’’ with its fidgety, fuzzy, Morse code groove, bleeds bright red as Madonna envisions a violent end to the one who did her dirty: “And then I discovered, it couldn’t get worse/ You were building my coffin/ You were driving my hearse.’’

(The album comes in several different configurations, ranging from 11 to 18 tracks. They include a deluxe model, an iTunes exclusive, and a “clean’’ version for Wal-Mart that deletes the tracks “Gang Bang’’ and “I [Expletive] Up.’’)

These songs represent the Madonna of “Oh Father’’ and “Something to Remember’’ and “Don’t Tell Me’’ (also co-written by Henry).

The songs that find her venturing beyond lazy sloganeering and mechanized approximations of joy and into more personal and abstract territory gain power through storytelling, pathos, and smaller strokes of the brush, often without sacrificing the backbeat.

While there is plenty of fun to be had in the primal thumps of the better dance tracks here, it is this more vulnerable Madonna that inspires L-U-V, the one who gets down to the DNA of “MDNA.’’

SFGate

Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime spectacle – complete with tightrope juggler, M.I.A.’s raised middle finger and excessive huffing and puffing – didn’t exactly ramp up anticipation for her 12th studio album, “MDNA.” That’s a good thing. The pop titan’s latest offering just might be her least accessible – yes, that includes “American Life.” Songs such as “I’m Addicted” and “Love Spent” are built around the kind of cheezoid techno beats that result from downing too many energy drinks in the studio. “Girl Gone Wild” is insistent and sleek, but surely the 53-year-old industry veteran and working mother could have come up with a more substantial title, without quoting Cyndi Lauper in the lyrics and avoiding the refrain “I’ve got a burning hot desire/ Nobody can put out my fire.” It took eight songwriters to cobble together “Gang Bang” – yes, “Gang Bang” – and not one of them comes close to the sublime genius of a vintage cut such as “Into the Groove.” The whole thing feels so synthetic, so clinical, so robotic it’s hard to know how to value moments when it seems as if Madonna might actually be turning reflective, such as on the head-hammering “Turn Up the Radio,” when she sings, “It was time I opened my eyes/ I’m leaving the past behind.” Is it about her doomed relationship with Guy Ritchie? Who knows? Who cares? The M.I.A.- and Nicki Minaj-zabetted single “Give Me All Your Luvin,’ ” meanwhile, flopped because Gwen Stefani already did the same thing much better. Throughout, it feels as if Madonna is merely playing catch-up. The dubstep breaks. The throwaway lyrics. The lack of vowels. In the age of Gaga, this simply won’t do.

NME

“If I see that bitch in hell/I want to see him die/Over and over/Over and over” Madonna deadpans on ‘Gang Bang’, the second track on MDNA, her 12th album. The music is cold and minimal, recalling the grubby house beats of ‘Erotica’, and Madge bleats on like some antagonistic disco Fury driven to the edge by her thirst for vengeance.

And gosh, it’s thrilling stuff. Our guess is that this slice of boldly crafted noir-house is the once-Mrs Ritchie addressing her divorce from Guy in blackly comic terms. (Is it a coincidence that the song’s title sounds like a parody of one of the flicks in the mockney auteur’s cinematic oeuvre? We think not.)

If ‘Hard Candy’ was weary and unconvincing in its attempts to distract from the fact that her marriage was falling apart by using limp sweet metaphors and Justin Timberlake, ‘MDNA’ is a riot of uncontrolled emotions. It takes a Stanly knife to revenge, religion and disco. Musically, it’s a sprawl through late-period Madonna, taking its touchstones from the last 15 years of her career.

Re-teaming with William Orbit, producer of 1998′s ‘Ray of Light’, makes for cuts like ‘I’m a Sinner’, laying Middle Eastern vocal styles over some digitised psychedelia and adding a role call of Catholicism’s biggest stars (St Christopher, Mary, St Sebastian). ‘Love Spent’ broods like something you’d hear at ’80s New York nightclub Danceteria – ‘Dare’-era Human League, Soft Cell, etc – as Madonna whittles at the corpse of her marriage with a cold, Thatcherite sentiment (“Spend your love on me”). Best of the Orbit bunch, though, is closer ‘Falling Free’, an odd elliptical synth ballad that swoons like the first half of her beloved ABBA’s ‘The Visitors ‘Cracking’ Up)’. Swathes of keyboards conjoin, resulting in the most satisfyuingly odd thing she’s done since ‘Mer Girl’.

These moments are so accomplished that they make dreck like ‘Girl Gone Wild’ and ‘Superstar’ sound better than they have any right to. Bang in the middle sit songs like ‘Turn Up The Radio’ and ‘Give me All Your Luvin’”, continuing her career-spanning themes of getting into the groove, of uniting the bourgeoisie and rebelling.

Meanwhile, her relationship with Ritchie is addressed with a little more contrition on ‘I Don’t Give A.’ She sings “I tried to be your wife/I diminished myself” over a trippy beat from Parisian electro producer Martin Solveig that sees Carly Simon’s ‘Why’ distilled down to its hip-hop elements before gorging on a ridiculously opulent, cinematic close.

In the end, ‘MDNA’ is a ridiculously enjoyable romp, but oddly not for the bits that are supposed to be fun. Instead it’s the psychotic, soul-bearing stuff that provides listeners with some of the most visceral stuff she’s ever done.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Newsday

Madonna is at a crossroads.

The windup for her 12th studio album, “MDNA” (Interscope), was huge, drawing more than 114 million viewers for the most-watched Super Bowl Halftime Show in history, where she rolled out the album’s first single “Give Me All Your Luvin’.” However, radio didn’t really embrace the giddy, cheerleader-driven pop song, which stalled at No. 10 after its initial burst of sales, even after it was augmented with current A-listers Nicki Minaj, M.I.A. and LMFAO. That welcome re-raised the question that has dogged Madonna for the past decade or so: Can she still be a pop star?

Part of what makes “MDNA” so extraordinary is that the answer seems unclear — even to Madonna. On half of “MDNA,” Madonna, surrounded by such state-of-the-art collaborators as hot producer Martin Solveig, sounds like she is readying her last stand as the Queen of Pop, marshaling upbeat dance numbers, well-crafted enough to match anything today’s crop of pop princesses — Rihanna, Katy Perry and, of course, Lady Gaga — could muster. On the other half of “MDNA,” though, Madonna, with her “Ray of Light” producer William Orbit, sounds like she could easily leave pop behind to create dark, challenging EDM and work on her far-more-lucrative concert tours.

Throw in the fact that Madonna clearly still has unresolved feelings about her divorce from director Guy Ritchie — and is willing to openly discuss them — and “MDNA” not only becomes her most interesting album since 1998′s “Ray of Light,” but her most artistically fearless album since 1989′s “Like a Prayer.”

There is no filler here, no unrealized potential. Each song on “MDNA” is part of Madonna’s internal argument about her future as a pop star, an artist, a wife and a woman. And over the course of an hour or so, they all try to hash it out.

The songs produced by Solveig, best known in America for the dance hit “Hello,” are all timely pop songs, ranging from the catchy escapism of “Give Me All Your Luvin’ ” and “Turn Up the Radio” to the defiant “I Don’t Give A,” which features Madonna rapping about her post-divorce life (“You were so mad at me / Who’s got custody? / Lawyers, suck it up / Didn’t have a pre-nup”) and employs Minaj in another song-stealing turn.

The songs produced by Orbit are more diverse. There’s the tabloid-fodder dubstep “Gang Bang,” where Madonna cleverly adopts Ritchie’s violent filmmaking style into her lyrics, and the electronic “Some Girls.” However, even more thrilling is the gorgeous, vulnerable trio of tracks that close out the regular version of the album — the Abba-esque, banjo-riffic “Love Spent,” the Golden Globe-winning love song “Masterpiece” and the epic, “Frozen”-like “Falling Free,” where Madonna looks for a way to move on.

“MDNA” shows that Madonna, who celebrates the 30th anniversary of her breakthrough debut this year, can still pull out some surprises — even for herself.

Grade A

Digital Spy

“Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for offending thee,” Madonna confesses on the opening of her new album. Her sense of humour has always been drier than a good Martini, but it’s been particularly arid in the build-up to her 12th studio opus. Anyone in doubt need only watch the music video for the LP’s lead single ‘Give Me All Your Luvin’, in which the 53-year-old breastfeeds a doll before tossing it to one side.

It’s merely the tip of the iceberg on MDNA (the title itself is proving contentious amongst proud-parent types), which sees her acting her shoe size in latest cut ‘Girl Gone Wild’ and going on a gun-wielding rampage on ‘Gang Bang’. Both are aggressive, four-to-the-floor club thumpers that not only prove she can pull off the latest trends, but she does so one better than most.

In between the silliness, Madonna also sheds an almost disconcerting amount of light on her private life. “Lawyers suck it up, I didn’t get a prenup,” she sing-speaks on the bratty ‘I Don’t Give A’ about her failed marriage, before finding inner peace on stirring closer ‘Falling Free’ – the result of a long-awaited reunion with producer William Orbit that more than lives up to the hype.

There are plenty of duff lyrics to be found (“You’re like James Dean driving in a fast car” on ‘Superstar’), but it doesn’t overshadow the fun to be had here; particularly on the funky and carefree ‘I’m A Sinner’ and the see-sawing melody of ‘Addicted’ where she chants “M, D, N, A” for a full 45 seconds. She’s always known how to cause a stir, and on this particular occasion it’s for all the right reasons.

Rating: 4 out of 5

The Globe and Mail

Just in case you had imagined that age had mellowed her — or, worse, rendered her safely irrelevant — Madonna opens her 12th studio album with one of the cannier provocations of her career. As synthesized strings hum in the background, she begins to recite the Act of Contrition, a traditional Catholic prayer for the forgiveness of sins. But rather than end the prayer with the usual promise to do penance and amend her life, Madonna simply declares, “I want so badly to be good.”

Not the way you’d expect a song called Girl Gone Wild to begin, is it?

Contrite she’s not, but that’s precisely the point. MDNA is about addictions, the seductive allure of good times and bad behaviour; even the album’s title is a pun that equates the singer’s name with MDMA, the chemical acronym for the drug ecstasy. So as the synths pulse and the drum machines pound out a post-house groove, what else is she going to sing but “I know I shouldn’t act this way … but I’m a bad girl anyway”?

Ever the tease, she fills the album with provocative titles like Gang Bang and I’m a Sinner, but the songs themselves are hardly what you’d think. While the defiantly upbeat I’m a Sinner finds her insisting in the chorus she’s a sinner “and I like it that way,” the bridge has her asking Sts. Christopher, Sebastian, Anthony and Thomas Aquinas to “catch me before I sin again.” Rick Santorum will doubtless find it shamelessly immoral, but the lyric is a pretty apt summation of the modern moral dilemma, in which everyone decries sin but no one really wants to be free from temptation.

Gang Bang, meanwhile, is a Frankie-and-Johnny-style revenge fantasy with club beats augmented by small arms fire. Madonna knows that she’s going to hell for shooting her lover down, but that’s fine with her, because she hopes to meet him there and kill him again. Still, that’s almost mild compared to I Don’t Give A, in which she rehashes the end of her marriage to Guy Ritchie. Different circumstances, but once again she sings the same refrain: “I tried to be good.”

The thing is, Madonna is actually very good this time out. The music is never less than invigorating, striking a perfect balance between dance-club insistence and pop-radio insinuation, while the lyrics are as playful as they are provocative. Even if some of the new tunes simply update old tricks, as when Give Me All Your Luvin’ taps the same girl-group vein that Cherish mined 26 years ago, she still manages to be modern enough to give both Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. a run for their money.

Never count this woman out.

Rating: 3,5 out of 4

Express

SHE’S a busy old 50-something, that Madonna. When she’s not bringing up four children, organising African countries, making movies and winning Golden Globes she’s putting together her 12th studio album and it certainly doesn’t suffer from her other commitments.

Working with William Orbit, the producer of Ray Of Light, she has turned in an album of edgy clubby numbers that stand up to the likes of pretenders such as Lady Gaga. It might all sound a little electronic but there’s no doubting this is a smasher.

VERDICT: 4/5

State Magazine

It’s okay, we can all rest easy. The embarrassment of Hard Candy is well and truly over. No more hiding behind your hands, cringing and wishing Pharrell and Timberland would just leave the Candy Shop FOREVER. Soon those horrific memories of the farty beats of ‘4 Minutes’ and the utterly transparent marketing creation of ‘Urban Madonna’ (for the kidz) will be completely erased. Lessons have been learned, the most important one being: Madonna does not need to take advice from Justin Timberlake…she is not Jennifer Lopez.

If her last record seemed like a strangely craven, lazy attempt to cling to the zeitgeist instead of sourcing from the underground or shining a light on the undiscovered, then MDNA is all about making up for lost time. Opening with Madonna uttering the oath ‘Oh my God I am heartily sorry for having offending thee’ it’s as if she is apologising to the dance kids, the hardcore bitches and more importantly her massive gay fanbase that she bewildered with her flirtation with the vocally homophobic and sexist side of music.

As apologies go, our first taste seemed mealy mouthed and disappointingly nicey-nicey of Madge, skipping through the fun time froth of ‘Give Me All Your Lovin’’ with her new crazy, cool pals MIA & Nicki Minaj, she then gave us the Madonna-by-numbers soft-porn raunch of ‘Girl Gone Wild’. Had she turned into a faded facsimile of herself? Whither the darkness, the depth, the strength, and the deep vein of gleeful, mischievous insanity that ran through the core of all her best work? Thankfully, Madge was holding out on us, storing up all her brutally bonkers moments to be unleashed as one crazed whole, she’s not the Queen of Pop for nothing…

The excitement begins (for everyone but Guy Ritchie) on the reverse Nancy Sinatra revenge trip ‘Gang Bang’. Here she is cast as a demented assassin inflicting terror on her disappointing lover over a thumping, bleeping backbeat that descends into a chaotic climax with a frenzied singer bellowing ‘Die Bitch!’ as screeches and gunshots echo all around. It’s ‘Erotica’ turned nasty on steroids. Nice to see her mellowing a bit.

‘I’m Addicted’ is the bratty, drug fuelled twin of Mirwais’ ‘Impressive Instant’, the vital connecting link from Stuart Price’s glitzy disco of Confessions to the beat bleeding fierceness of Benny Bennassi. Along with the psychotic ‘I Don’t Give A’ it may well be MDNA’s linchpin. As it metallically whirs into life it rapidly sweeps you into the eye of the frantic, electro-hurricane, spiralling ever more blissfully out of control that by the time it gets to the air punching, drug chanting finale you’re just about ready for the comedown.

But Madge hasn’t got time for comedowns. She’s too busy charging through her own musical history, pulling apart the perfection created before, boiling it down to its very essence. MDNA is a concentration of the past to create something familiar yet original. Thus we get the breezy, pure hearted old-school bubble gum charm of ‘Superstar’ and ‘Turn Up The Radio’ distilling the girlish summery sweetness of ‘Cherish’ and ‘True Blue’ (a genre that her tough girl imitators have so far failed to capture) and the ‘Beautiful Stranger’ retro kick of ‘I’m A Sinner’. The latter touches on Madge’s ever enduring obsession with all things Catholic (and incidentally has the looniest and most unintentionally hilarious outro of any upbeat pop song ever) as she gives a ‘shout out’ to all her favourite saints from Mary to the arrow strewn St. Sebastian over a slappy ’60s drum beat. It’s an unforgettable lesson in religion.

One trip to the past that fails to yield the new rewards expected is Madonna’s relationship with William Orbit. Whilst he puts his familiar stamp on the aforementioned ‘I’m a Sinner’ and the oddly moving ode to Mr. Ritchie ‘Love Spent’, he cannot recapture the intense magic forged on Ray Of Light to make closing ballads ‘Masterpiece’ and ‘Falling Free’ memorable or original. They feel tacked on and at odds with the sweaty fiesta feel of the album. Indeed with the deluxe edition crammed full of gems such as the ‘Where’s the Party’ effervescence of ‘B Day’ and the brutally honest ‘I Fucked Up’ they could have easily been substituted.

Ultimately what MDNA offers is the ideal that pop doesn’t always have to be the newest, craziest thing to be effective; it doesn’t have to deny the past to be relevant. Fluidity is in pop’s bloodstream, uniting the old with the new to create a vision of the future, remade, and re-modelled with its own unique strand of musical DNA. Thank heavens it’s a concept that Madonna once again understands.

HitFix

For all her success, there’s always seemed to be something remote about Madonna, as if she’s behind glass. So it comes as a bit of a shock at first that tucked within “MDNA’s” often sterile beats, she shows the most emotion that we’ve heard from her. Talk about confessions on a dancefloor…

Madonna’s 12th studio album, out March 26, touches on two of her favorite go-tos: religion and dance, but she’s added scorned spouse to the mix. “MDNA” is triptych into her psyche and there’s a lot going on in that platinum head of hers, most of it set to throbbing beats per minute.

Above all, “MDNA” is a dance album and Madonna enlisted a platoon of producers, including William Orbit, Martin Solveig, and Benny Benassi, to keep the the thumping at a maximum.

The album opens with current single, “Girl Gone Wild.” Madonna has a confession to make: as badly as she wants to be good, she just can’t help herself.

And there’s plenty here to confess to, including murder. On “Gang Bang,” “MDNA’s” most compelling tracks, Madonna sings in a low whispery register, detailing that she’s shot her lover dead in the head and, furthermore, she has no regrets. We hear the shells hitting the floor and the echoes of a police radio juxtaposed against a hypnotic, lulling beat. It’s violent and explicit and it’s what Madonna used to represent: a sense of danger.

In the song, she goes after ex-husband Guy Ritchie (presumably), but she’s not done with him yet. On “I Don’t Give A” featuring Nicki Minaj, Madonna sings in a robotic, autotuned voice, lamenting that she “tried to be a good girl/I tried to be your wife/diminished myself/swallowed my life” and “in the end it was a failure.” Despite her swearing she’ll be “OK,” as she repeats “I’m a fool” over and over at the end, the music swelling in dramatic, operatic fashion, it’s clear she may have moved on, but she’s far from healed.

Her anger switches to sadness on “Best Friend,” a skipping, electro-dance track where she realizes “It was inevitable it would end” and that “every man who walks through that door” will be compared to her ex.

There’s real vitriol in tracks like “Gang Bang” and “I Don’t Give A,” but Madonna effortlessly segues into two of the most uncynical songs she’s ever recorded: “Turn Up The Radio” is a sweet, Bangles-like, slab of ear pop candy that recalls her earliest singles, “Holiday” and “Borderline.” That same sweetness pervades clapfest, “Superstar,” on which she unabashedly compares her beloved to Abraham Lincoln, James Dean and John Travolta, backed by an infectious “oh la la” chorus. “I’m Addicted,” with its bouncing synth line, is, at its heart, a fun ‘70s pop tune.

She abandons the dance stance for “Masterpiece,” from “W.E.,” and for “Falling Free,” a string-laden, mid-tempo ballad that features Madonna singing beautifully, if mannered, throughout on the tender track about letting go.

There’s an adventurousness to Madonna here, which makes the need for guest stars like Nicki Minaj, M.I.A. and LMFAO, featured on the two versions of “Give Me All Your Luvin” on the deluxe set, all the more confusing. She doesn’t need them to give her any extra cachet. She’s Madonna.

Not all the songs work(especially on the 19-song deluxe version). “B-Day Song” featuring M.I.A. is a completely disposable track, if a catchy one. “I’m A Sinner” opens with a promising Phil Spector/girl group production before yielding to horns and a gentle bounce that don’t follow through on the strong start. “Beautiful Killer” boasts some of her worst lyrics: “Like a samurai you can handle the heat” or “can’t really talk with the gun in my mouth/maybe that’s what you’ve been dreaming about.” SImilarly, “I Fucked Up,” where, against a slight, militant beat, she takes the blame for destroying “the perfect dream,” but the lyrics take a weird, awkward turn when she lists everything they could have done, but now never will.

“MDNA” is far from a perfect album and it’s not likely to make any fan forget her classic hits, but it far surpasses Madonna’s last studio album, 2008’s “Hard Candy.” With her career passing the 30-year mark, “MDNA” is an effort by a truly iconic artist who seems, in many ways, to be letting us see her for the first time.

Boston Herald

In “Sunset Boulevard,” Joe Gillis tells forgotten film star Norma Desmond, “You’re a woman of 50, now grow up. There’s nothing tragic about being 50, not unless you’re trying to be 25.”

Madonna is 53. On her first album in four years — out Monday — she tries to be 25 (thankfully, she doesn’t know how to) and tries harder to court 25-year-old ears. It won’t work.

Young pop tarts bludgeon you with a big hook and repetitive production (think Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” or Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass”).

Madonna wants a hit as badly as any fresh face, but she’s too artistic to stick to the blunt formula that delivers today’s chart toppers.

Instead of teaming up with the same five Holly-wood hit-makers every new-millennium star uses, Madonna’s key collaborators were British producer William Orbit (who worked on “Ray of Light”) and French DJs Benny Benas-si and Martin Solveig. Compared with the catalogs of the typical wannabes, the sound they’ve crafted is cooler, less aggressive and with layers of ’90s synths and hypnotic beats — “I’m Addicted” skips the instant gratification of Top 40 for a long, classic Depeche Mode throb.

The result is almost a “Ray of Light” sequel, which fits with “I Don’t Give A” lyrics: “I tried to be your wife/Diminished myself and swallowed my light.” Yes, this is a divorce album — her breakup with Guy Ritchie sneaks into every other song.

When not talking about divorce, Madonna is (once again) kicking Catholic guilt with her thigh-high leather boots. “Girl Gone Wild” begins with a whispery confession about conflicting drives to be both good and bad; “I’m a Sinner” celebrates vice with baby-doll cooing and mid-tempo electronica.

The songs are tame compared to the please-let-this-be-considered-blasphemy of Lady Gaga and Minaj, but they’re refreshingly introspective — reflecting on religion’s role in your life and a failed marriage aren’t kid stuff.

There’s nothing tragic about making a ruminative dance record for -Ciroc sippers in a -Parisian discotheque — it’s actually a lot of fun at points. But young Americans raised on Perry won’t buy it.

Vulture

In the interest of fairness, I should let you know that some people think Madonna’s new album, MDNA, is pretty good. Even if you exclude the obvious outliers (those who get worked up and claim it’s her best since Like a Prayer) and partisans (who’ll ride and die for anything with her name on it) — even if you take into account the low standards set by the album’s singles — even after all that, there’s a definite streak of appreciation for this release. People crave and root for the all-caps version of Madonna who’s meant to be appearing here, confident and cutting loose, eyes and ears focused on the dance floor, ready to be bad. This should be a perfect moment for the regal reemergence of that person. Not only is the pop world near-obsessively fixated on dance music (and the intersection of dance music and sexual/religious theater where Madonna once set up shop), but it seems to be shot through with a sudden wide-eyed reverence for the icons of the pre-Internet world, the stars who were titans back when titans were well and truly titanic.

Also, the album is called MDNA, a three-way pun whose every arm seems promising: The album should (a) be very Madonna, (b) reengage with her stunning musical history, her (so to speak) DNA, and (c) sound like it’s on ecstasy. This should be exactly the Madonna the world wants, the one who controls the universe.

I’m glad there are listeners savvy, sensitive, and invested enough to actually locate that version of Madonna on MDNA, because the record I’m hearing spends most of its time pinballing from “decent” to “wan” to “okay.” Dispiritingly enough, the one element that doesn’t fit into it is Madonna’s own voice, which has never been the most robust or expressive in the world — it can feel flat and flimsy — but she’s made decades’ worth of fabulous music that’s perfectly tailored to it. Matched with luxurious nineties house beats, it could be a steamy moan, or sound flinty and tough. On ballads it seems small, brave, and lonesome. For a while she had producer William Orbit — who returns to the fold on MDNA, joining a fleet of others — to make whooshing, propulsive tracks she could skip her high voice over like a stone on water. She’s found countless sounds that welcome her, but the dance-pop of 2012 is not one of them. It’s hard-edged, dense, shiny, and mechanistic, a harsh and unforgiving environment for an instrument that’s always fared better in sonic hothouses. Put MDNA’s production and her vocals together and everything’s flat, colorless, and blocky — as if made out of Legos and photographed in black and white — and no number of chirpy hooks can combat that.

Okay, a few can: the gleamy rush on “Turn Up the Radio”; Madonna and Orbit both echoing their own “Beautiful Stranger” on “I’m a Sinner”; a solid shot of electro machinery on “I’m Addicted.” Those all work well enough; they’re likable, especially if you have reason to want to like them. But a lot of the music here feels hollow and strained, and all the lyrical and sonic references to Madonna’s history — lines about lucky stars and getting into grooves, a winking reuse of the Abba sample from “Hung Up” — only underline that fact. There is much expensive workmanship and machine-tooling around here, but not much … Madonna.

It’s frustrating, because there are things toward the end of MDNA that suggest the project could have been more interesting. The last few tracks — like “Love Spent” and “Masterpiece” (from Madonna’s film project, W.E.) — circle back toward that brave-and-lonely ballad voice: It’s the sound of Madonna singing songs, as opposed to the sound of Madonna making awkward small talk with machines. And the bonus tracks, naturally, include ideas many times better than anything on the album. (“B-Day Song” sees Madonna and M.I.A. doing a gleeful duet that evokes Sonny and Cher, and “Best Friend” has an ominous, fluttering beat I dearly wish I could hear on the radio sometime.) It’s odd: If there’s one thing MDNA is extraordinarily good at, it’s reminding you of all the less businesslike and perfunctory music you could be listening to instead.

NJ

No artist of the past three decades has achieved more with less than Madonna. A singer and songwriter of deliberately limited range, she has made herself an undisputed champion of popular music through the force of her personality and her fierce commitment to doing one thing well, over and over, diminishing commercial returns be damned. There is much about this to be admired, and with the release of “MDNA,” her umpteenth studio album, she has scored another circumscribed success. Once again, those who don’t appreciate her music will find nothing to enjoy, or even tolerate, on this streamlined, frothy, proudly one-dimensional set of dance-floor burners. And once again, Madonna will not care. With nothing left to prove, she will keep right on dancing.

Theoretically, this should be the perfect time for Madonna, 53, to release a new album. Electronic dance music is all the rage, and Madonna hitched her star to that wagon in ’98 with the William Orbit-produced “Ray of Light.” Orbit is back in the fold for “MDNA,” along with a slew of hot continental electro producers: Italian Benny Benassi, Frenchman Martin Solveig and the Swedish Klas Ahlund. When they pitch Madonna something in her sweet spot — music reminiscent of the ’80s and ’90s electropop she did so much to popularize — she hits it out of the park. Solveig’s infectious “Turn Up the Radio,” Benassi’s blithe “I’m Addicted” and especially Orbit’s “I’m a Sinner,” which is highly reminiscent of the “Ray of Light” album, are fine additions to the great disco playlist she’s been assembling for 30 years.

Yet as it turns out, the ostentatiously hip Madonna is no better at integrating modern sounds and styles into her formula than her fellow ’80s pop titans have been. Efforts to cede verses to rappers Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. on the brainless “Give Me All Your Luvin’ ” and the nasty “I Don’t Give A” are predictable failures, in part because Madonna does not share the spotlight comfortably. She fares no better with trendy dubstep breaks and the rough electro middle-eights; every time she dips her toe into those swirling waters, she gets sucked in just like any other stylistic carpetbagger would. The polarizing track here is “Gang Bang,” a murky, violent nightmare that attempts to swipe some of Lana Del Rey’s homicidal thunder, complete with automobile and munitions noises. Whether you find it chillingly effective or inadvertently hilarious will depend on your appetite for death threats from Madonna. I can keep a straight face for the first half of the six-minute song; after that, I’m on the floor in stitches.

Madonna has not gotten better as a lyricist as she’s aged — she’s still all strong-arm directives to the deejay, facile rhymes like “car” and “guitar,” and lengthy name-dropping sequences. Under the mirror ball, that might not matter much, and at this late stage, artistic growth is probably too much to ask. But Madonna is eventually going to have to develop some new wrinkles; otherwise, she’s going to end up dancing with herself.

US Weekly

At age 53, all Madonna wants to do is dance. That, and take down her ex-hubby Guy Ritchie! The icon’s 12th studio CD is an intense set of pumping synth-pop (“I’m Addicted”) and electronic dubstep (the fierce “Gang Bang”). But the real sting comes from barbs, not beats.
“Didn’t have a prenup,” she bemoans in “I Don’t Give A.” And on the blistering “Love Spent,” she cracks, “Would you have married me if I were poor?”
Seems M got the last word.

3,5 rating (on 4)

The Guardian

Amid the distorted synthesisers and razor-sharp beats of Girl Gone Wild, the second single from her 12th studio album, we find Madonna repeatedly insisting: “Girls, they just wanna have some fun.” Let us banish from our minds the thought that there are perhaps more dignified approaches for a 53-year-old woman than singing “Girls, they just wanna have some fun” in a song named after a series of porn videos in which women are encouraged to strip off in exchange for free baseball caps, and which has furthermore been dogged by a series of allegations of the sexual exploitation of minors. This is a Madonna album, which means that if we start worrying about the value of its lyrical content, we’ll be here all day. It may self-consciously reference her three unequivocal long-playing classics – opening with a quote from Like a Prayer’s Act of Contrition, returning Ray of Light’s sonic architect William Orbit to the producer’s chair and carrying a hint of Confessions on a Dancefloor in the four-to-the-floor pounding of its opening four tracks – but the words weren’t up to much on those, either. Suffice to say that MDNA also includes a rather saccharine song called Superstar, on which Madonna opines “You’re like James Dean driving in a fast car”, then adds “you can have the keys to my car”, which does rather prompt the response: if he drives like James Dean, love, I’d keep your car keys to yourself, unless you want to lose your no-claims bonus.

Let us instead recall that another singer once suggested girls just wanna have fun, and that said singer, Cyndi Lauper, was briefly considered to be Madonna’s rival. It sounds bizarre now, a reminder of just how remarkable Madonna’s career is. In the week she first made the British charts, she was vying for attention with Tracey Ullman, the Thompson Twins, the Flying Pickets, Roland Rat and That’s Livin’ Alright by Joe Fagin. Hip-hop was still in its infancy, house music had yet to be invented and one of the guest artists on MDNA, rapper Nicki Minaj, had recently celebrated her first birthday.

What’s striking isn’t that Madonna is still with us – everybody’s still with us, up to and including the Flying Pickets, who are about to wow the Schloss Burgfarrnbach in Nuremberg – so much as where she still is: a commanding presence at the absolute centre of pop, as capricious and changeable a genre as music has to offer. The question of how she’s managed it is a good one. The stock, rather snide answer is that it has more to do with perspiration than inspiration, and there are certainly moments on MDNA when it’s audibly straining to keep the pace or to shock you. The ecstasy-referencing title seems unwittingly quaint in a world of meow meow and black mamba. Give Me All Your Luvin’ may be the weakest thing here: its position as the album’s lead single seems to have had more to do with showing off the presence of Nicki Minaj and MIA than its featherweight melody. On the other hand, Gang Bang (not, alas, a cover of the song performed by Agadoo hitmakers Black Lace in Rita, Sue and Bob Too) isn’t a bad track: augmented by a dubstep interlude, its atmosphere somewhere between brooding menace and the trance-state of a dancefloor at 4am. But it’s way too long, extended largely in order for Madonna to say “bitch” a lot.

Equally, however, she can make the business of maintaining a career in pop into its 30th year look entirely effortless: Turn Up the Radio’s sudden shift from ballad into house music; I’m a Sinner’s metallic clank and see-sawing chorus riff. There’s something hugely appealing about I Don’t Give A’s fizzy remodeling of the old Too Much Monkey Business/Subterranean Homesick Blues model of rapid-fire lyrical inventory, its focus shifted from not needing a weatherman to know which way the wind blows to the more pressing matter of how Madonna’s polymath talents are thriving following her divorce from Guy Ritchie. The closing Falling Free is flatly fantastic: an Orbit-helmed, beautifully turned ballad, subtly decorated with strings and soft electronics.

It’s one moment when MDNA reaches the heights of the predecessors it keeps referencing. The rest is neither the return to form it thinks it is, nor the disaster Madonna should rightly have delivered at some stage in her musical career but never quite has: there have been highs and lows, but never an outright catastrophe – a state of affairs she’s more than made up for in the world of celluloid. Instead, MDNA turns out to be just another Madonna album. It’s already had the biggest single-day pre-order in iTunes history: business as usual for the most remarkable business enterprise in pop.

SameSame

Girl, you have some explaining to do. The pop landscape has changed greatly since Madonna’s last full length LP (the oft-derided 2008 Timbaland led lacklustre R&B Hard Candy ), pop is back in Vogue (pardon the pun) again, thanks largely to the commercial gravitas of Rihanna’s bag of skilful PG temptress numbers, Britney’s electro-pop shenanigans and the pop behemoth that is one Miss Lady Gaga.

Can Madonna, now on the wrong side of the big 5-0 claim her rightful place on the throne she has reigned for near on 30 years? We take a track by track review.

GIRL GONE WILD
Second single Girl Gone Wild was met with a collective sigh of disinterest and despondence last month when first leaked. Featuring production of dance master Benny Benassi, this one is all thumping bass and synths, yet despite best efforts the song never lifts past second gear. What starts with a promising Sorry -esque spoken intro quickly devolves into a cookie cutter dance / pop hybrid with poor Mads sounding frankly….bored. The accompanying video is classic old school Madonna and is worth checking out for a demonstration on how to make a pop video that keeps you intrigued from the first frame. 5/10

Girl, you have some explaining to do. The pop landscape has changed greatly since Madonna’s last full length LP (the oft-derided 2008 Timbaland led lacklustre R&B Hard Candy ), pop is back in Vogue (pardon the pun) again, thanks largely to the commercial gravitas of Rihanna’s bag of skilful PG temptress numbers, Britney’s electro-pop shenanigans and the pop behemoth that is one Miss Lady Gaga.

Can Madonna, now on the wrong side of the big 5-0 claim her rightful place on the throne she has reigned for near on 30 years? We take a track by track review.

GIRL GONE WILD
Second single Girl Gone Wild was met with a collective sigh of disinterest and despondence last month when first leaked. Featuring production of dance master Benny Benassi, this one is all thumping bass and synths, yet despite best efforts the song never lifts past second gear. What starts with a promising Sorry -esque spoken intro quickly devolves into a cookie cutter dance / pop hybrid with poor Mads sounding frankly….bored. The accompanying video is classic old school Madonna and is worth checking out for a demonstration on how to make a pop video that keeps you intrigued from the first frame. 5/10

Watch Madonna’s video for Girl Gone Wild below.

GANG BANG
And quite frankly all is forgiven. Proceedings quickly take a turn towards the dark side and Madonna has never sounded more dangerous, or fierce. Think Tracy Lords, underground clubs and a whole lot of sweat. A pulsating bass line, almost industrial / trance at times. This is the finest offering from MDNA that is only tainted by the final minute of spoken ramblings which is both equal parts fun and irritating (“if you’re gonna act like a bitch, then you’re gonna die like a bitch’”). If Kill Bill were a pop song it would sound a hell of a lot like this. 9/10

I’M ADDICTED
The second Benassi produced number, and far superior to Girl Gone Wild , a powerhouse bass, club ready number that spits fire and call you to the dance floor. Name checking the album title, Madonna delivers her most hard club orientated track yet. Find yourself some speakers that can handle the deep bass and you may appear unable to control your body. Delicious club pop. 8.5/10

TURN UP THE RADIO
What has been pegged as the likely 3rd single, Radio continues the deep bass lines that permeate so much of MDNA (reigns are handled by dance production powerhouse Martin Solveig). Rides high above the previous two singles with its ‘80s style hook and Mads sounding like she’s at the party you want to be at. 7/10

GIVE ME ALL YOUR LUVIN’ (FEATURING NICKI MINAJ & M.I.A)
A fascinating documentary would revolve around the decision to release Luvin’ as the lead single from MDNA, as a demonstration of how not to handle an album campaign. Largely seen as a massive misfire which has been detrimental to the entire comeback of Madonna, Luvin’ is all Gwen Stefani hollaback chants with rap diva Minaj and alt-pop maestro M.I.A. shoehorned in to appeal to a younger demographic. Their verses crackle, yet as a first single it rarely meets expectations. 4/10

SOME GIRLS
Reuniting with Ray of Light producer William Orbit after 12 years seems like a misguided move, yet Orbit here has moved on from the sweeping electronic wonderland of ‘Light’ and seems at peace with heavier dance numbers. After the initial punch of tracks Gang Bang and Addicted, Some Girls feels slightly inferior in comparison. Elements of the chorus feel very familiar to some of the grittier moments of Born This Way , but don’t tell Madge… that would just be reductive. 6/10

SUPERSTAR
Beginning with an effective bass-driven hook, Superstar’s lyrically is one of the most naff moments on MDNA, but its light heartedness is almost welcome after a consistently dark first half. Comparing her lover to a list of celebrities (Brando, Michael Jordan, Travolta) this is Madonna in pop mode. Superstar swings along with pleasant moments and is all smiles and sparkle (let’s just not mention her misguided attempt at dub-step half way through). Daughter Lourdes contributes backing vocals to the track, but we’d be hard pressed to hear her amongst the harmonies. 6/10

I DON’T GIVE A (FEATURING NICKI MINAJ)
Haven’t we learned from the American Life single? Madonna the rapper wasn’t embraced in 2003 and surely is not welcome 9 years later. We find Madonna lamenting her empire, marriage and life over a military paced beat (sound familiar). Minaj makes her second appearance with her spitfire cameo before the whole track breaks down towards a grandiose orchestral finale that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Tim Burton film. Odd. 5/10

I’M A SINNER
Orbit’s next contribution is less dance, more pop and the results are Madonna sounding like its 1998 all over again. Taking its pleasure in a 60’s swing pop chorus, Sinner sounds like the sequel to Beautiful Stranger , another Orbit triumph (yes , you should be pleased). Lovin’ the vibe on this track. Welcome back pop Madge. 8/10

LOVE SPENT
What begins with a banjo (yes… a banjo) slowly builds towards a track that is equal parts video game soundtrack, country club (if that were ever a genre) and traditional Madonna pop. If Mario Bros were played at an underground rave club the results would sound something like this. Vocally Madonna ups the pitch and sounds almost girlie, shame the whole thing never rises to its true potential 6.5/10

MASTERPIECE
Taken from her feature length directorial debut W.E. this Masterpiece is a rarity nowadays, a Madonna ballad. Over strumming guitars and folksy beats, everything moves along pleasantly, which is perfectly acceptable, yet you never really warm to the track or its premise (comparing a lover to a priceless work of art). Winning a Golden Globe for the track (which is played over the closing credits of the film), Masterpiece is a welcome change of pace, just try remembering it minutes later. 5.5/10

FALLING FREE
Completing the non-deluxe edition of the album, Falling Free is another ballad handled with a greater scope, sweeping strings, electronic twinkles (a William Orbit trademark) and Madonna delivering a rousing vocal. The quietest moment of MDNA is antithesis of the opening numbers, but is instantly intriguing and raw. Simply beautiful 7.5/10

BONUS TRACKS

MDNA serves up four original tracks that serve their purpose, to satisfy eager, hardcore fans. Beautiful Killer (6.5/10) is worthwhile Solveig produced electro number that pumps along in a snappy style (check out the string section), while I Fucked Up (6/10) is lyrically an honest insight into the demise of her relationship with Guy Ritchie, however, the track never really rises to its subject matter. B-Day Song (3/10) is an oddity, pure ‘b-side’ that is part ‘60s homage, part girl group pop lite (and featuring M.I.A’s second cameo). Best Friend (5/10) finishes up MDNA with Madge rattling off over a stuttering beat what she misses most about her ex, the concept is interesting, but the delivery is undercooked and never moves beyond passable.

Overall, Madonna has rarely been so confessional than here on MDNA. Her divorce to Ritchie is well represented throughout and several tracks require repeat spins to truly get a feel for the record thematically.

There’s elements of previous albums throughout (Ray of Light, Confessions and Erotica come to mind) and Madonna largely feels in control and has chosen producers to both progress her sound and play to her strengths as a pop artist.

Madonna the performer keeps her finger on the pulse commercially and lyrically has revealed a far greater side to her personal life than we normally hear. This is a welcome return to form… now about those single choices…

Geekscape

Divorce might be a bad thing for Madonna, the human being…but it turns out to almost always be a great thing for Madonna, the artist. When Madonna first emerged in the early 80’s, she was instantly capable of making infectious pop tunes that rightfully earned their place on the charts. Her albums, however, well…. that was another story. Aside from the hit singles everyone knows and loves, the first few Madonna albums were filled with capital F Filler material. There’s a reason her first greatest hits compilation The Immaculate Collection is the biggest selling “best of” from any solo artist; no casual fans wants those early, amateurish Madonna albums like Like A Virgin just for the hit singles.

That all changed after her 1989 divorce from her first husband actor Sean Penn, when she unleashed her first great album Like A Prayer on the world. It was the first entirely listenable from start to finish Madonna album, and showed that she was more than just another generic Top 40 hit maker. Maybe it took an abusive marriage and a painful divorce to bring that out of her, but after that, there was no turning back.

Flash forward to Madonna’s last album, 2008’s Hard Candy. Although an overall fun, fluffy album, in hindsight the whole endeavor reeked of desperation. Instead of working with little known European electronic music producers (as she had done since her critically acclaimed album Ray of Light) she made a desperate attempt at getting airplay on American radio by teaming up with an assorted collection of the top hit makers of the moment. Justin Timberlake, Kanye West, Pharell Williams and Timbaland all contributed to that album, and while it was fine for what it was…it just didn’t sound like Madonna. Madonna always follows the beat of her own drummer, and for once, she didn’t. Yeah, she got a fairly big hit out of it (4 Minutes) but the album was one of her lowest selling to date.

And then there is the elephant in the room; in the four years since Hard Candy, Madonna’s slot in pop culture has been filled by Lady Gaga, who has done a better job at being Madonna than Madonna herself has these past few years. So with her latest album MDNA, Madonna has a lot to prove. Can she compete with the pop ingenues that are single handedly keeping the music business afloat? Does she even need to compete with them at this point? After all, with nearly thirty years of top ten hits behind her, she can rest on her laurels and just tour with her greatest hits forever and rake in the cash.

But it seems its as if she viewed the arrivals of the Gagas and the Rhiannas and the Katy Perries over the past few years since her last album as a throwing down of the gauntlet, and with MDNA she has truly responded in kind with one of her best albums yet. Never quite reaching the creative heights of Ray of Light and Confessions on a Dance Floor, MDNA is still up there with the best of them, and sounds more creatively fresh and new than someone who has been this long in the business really has any right to.

With MDNA, Madonna has re-united with William Orbit, the producer for her seminal 1998 album Ray of Light on six tracks, and teamed for the first time with hot French electronic artist Martin Solveig on another six tracks, and rounded it all out with Italian Ministry of Sound producer Benny Benassi. Instead of a giant mish-mash, instead MDNA coheres into something wonderful, if not always perfect. Both old and new Madonna fans will be eating this one up upon release.

So, without any further ado, is my track by track assessment of MDNA (standard version)

1. Girl Gone Wild (3 *** out of 5 *****)

-The second single off this album should have absolutely been the first. It is far from my favorite on this album, but it sets the tone for what follows well enough. MDNA is mostly up tempo club beats, and GGW lets you know what you’re gonna be in for in suitable fashion. The album version of the track opens with the Catholic prayer the Act of Contrition (how very Like A Prayer of you Madge) and then descends into total Britney Spears land. In fact, GGW could have easily been a track on Britney’s last album Femme Fatale. But that’s not really a bad thing. Plus, we got a really homolicious video out of it. So I’m ok overall with GGW.

Choice Lyrics: The room is spinning/It must be the Tanqueray/I’m about to go astray/My inhibition’s gone away (I sure hope Tanqueray gin gets a cut of the profits)

You’ll Like This Song If You Like: Britney Spears music from the past five years, Madonna’s 2009 single Celebration.

2. Gang Bang (4 1/2 **** out of 5*****)

-Despite the title, this song is not about group sex (she covered that subject pretty well back during the Erotica/Sex Book era) But like the song Thief of Hearts on Erotica, where she threatened to kick ex hubby Sean Penn’s new wife Robin Wright’s ass, this song is Madonna at her bitter and angriest. (Believe me, compared to Guy Ritchie in this song, Robin Wright got off easy) Essentially, this song is a fantasy of an angry woman shooting her lover in the head, going to Hell for it, and shooting her lover in the head all over again once they both get there. This is the first of many songs that are so clearly about her ex husband as to almost be uncomfortable. But Madonna’s bitterness results in one of the hottest, grittiest tracks on the album.

Choice Lyrics:

And I’m going straight to hell/And I’ve got a lot of friends there/And if I see that bitch in hell/I’m gonna shoot him in the head again/Cause I wanna see him die/Over and Over and Over and Over and Over and Over and Over and Over

You’ll Like This Song If You Like: Thief of Hearts from Erotica, 90’s Old Skool techno music, the Kill Bill movies.

3. I’m Addicted (5 ***** out of 5 *****)

-Easily my favorite track on the album. Some artists are their most emotionally compelling and real when they are singing heartfelt ballads and love songs. A few songs like that aside (Live to Tell, Take A Bow) that sure ain’t Madonna’s strong suit. Madonna is most resonant when singing about the joys of losing yourself to the beat on the dance floor, and letting the groove carry you into euphoric oblivion. Whether it is Into the Groove or Vogue or Ray of Light or Music, killer dance music is what Madonna does best. And I’m Addicted is right up there with the best of ‘em.

Choice Lyrics: Now that your name /pumps like the blood in my veins /Pulse through my body /igniting my mind /it’s like MDMA /And that’s ok

You’ll Like This Song If You Like: Dancing. Plain and simple. Also, if you like Daft Punk’s TRON: Legacy score. (and ecstasy)

4. Turn Up The Radio (4 **** out of 5*****)

– Not sure why on Earth Madonna didn’t choose this as her first single, as it is a perfectly wonderful little radio friendly dance tune. French electro artist Martin Solveig’s hand is heavily felt throughout this track. A fun song about getting in your car, turning up your speakers really loud and driving fast as you sing along. A simple song about simple pleasures, but done well. If this were ten years or so back, this song would be a Summer radio anthem, but at Madonna’s age it will be difficult to get enough signigicant radio play in the States for that to happen. Oh well, our loss.

Choice Lyrics: Turn down the noise and turn up the volume /Don’t have a choice cause the temperatures pounding /If leaving this place is the last thing I do /Then I want to escape with a person just like you (I never said this was a complex ditty folks. Just a fun one)

You’ll Like This If You Like: Martin Solveig’s current hit song Hello

5. Give Me All Your Luvin’ (feat. MIA and Nicki Minaj) (2 1/2 ** out of 5 *****)

-This first single landed with a giant meh, and while it isn’t offensive by any means…it sounds way too much like most modern pop hits today for my taste, as it is the same first minute or so just repeated for the duration of the rest of the four minute song. I’ll say it is less offensive as album filler than as a single. And at least we got a cute video out of it, and that whole awesome cheerleader section she did during the Superbowl. But this is one of the weaker tracks on the album, and when some of the fan made remixes are better than the final product, you know you’re in trouble. I think the only reason it became a single is she realized she was doing the Super Bowl and saw a cheerleader tie in and saw a marketing opportunity. Madonna the business woman won out over Madonna the artist.

Choice Lyrics: L-U-V-Madonna! (I know, I’m reaching here)

You’ll Like This Song If You Like: Mickey by Tony Basil?

6. Some Girls (4**** out of 5*****)

– And now we’re back to form again. Some Girls is a killer dance track, where M reminds everyone that unlike “some girls” she’s never gonna become a hot mess, have a public nervous breakdown, or any of that nonsense that seems to plague so many of these pop princesses these days. If Madonna wants to show you her vajayjay, it will be because she wants to, not because she was a sloppy drunk mess coming out of a limo. And she’s never gonna pull a Whitney and drown in hotel bathtub (too soon?) Bitch has got way too much shit to do, like making sure everyone gets down on the damn dance floor.

Choice Lyrics: Some girls got an attitude/Fake tits and a nasty mood

You’ll Like This If You Like: Ladytron, Lady Gaga’s Heavy Metal Lover.

7. Superstar (2 1/2 ** out of 5 *****)

In my opinion, Madonna doesn’t really do cutesy and cuddly very well (I’ve never much liked her attempts at doing so with songs like Cherish) And this song is a little too cutesy for my taste. The song doesn’t really go anywhere, and is just M comparing her latest love (presumably her thirty years younger boyfriend Brahim Zabat) to the likes of Marlon Brando, John Travolta and Abe Lincoln (for reals) by the time the song is over, I’m eager for her to go back to talking smack on her ex husband and being slutty on the dance floor. I imagine a lot of fans will think this song is cute, and frankly it could be worse. But to me, this one is pretty much filler material.

Choice Lyrics: You’re Bruce Lee with the way you move/you’re Travolta getting into your groove

You Might Like This Song If You Like: Cherish, Little Star

8. I Don’t Give A…

- This is probably my second least favorite song on the album. This is also the second song on the album where Madge works with current ”it girl” Nicki Minaj. Madonna “rapping” brings back too many bad memories of her awful song American Life. (note to Madonna- you can’t be good at everything. Rapping is one of those things…kinda like acting.) Around the halfway mark though, the Nicki Minaj totally takes over and the song becomes more fun and interesting, with Nicki standing in for M and rapping much better than she ever could, saying cheeky things like “I’m not a business woman, I’m A BUSINESS, Woman!” Minaj’s second half of the song kind of saves it in my opinion.

Choice Lyrics: Madonna’s still the only queen…bitch. I can’t wait for Gaga’s little monsters to have aneurisms over that line.

You Like This Song If You Like: Nicki Minaj.

9. I’m A Sinner (4**** out of 5*****)

– If Madonna fused her 1999 hit William Orbit produced song Beautiful Stranger with say, some of her more blasphemous sentiments from Like A Prayer, then you’d get I’m A Sinner. Channeling some of her “fuck you” attitude she displayed towards her critics from her song Human Nature, Madonna cheerfully sings “I’m a sinner/And I like that way/All the boys and girls/Wanna be like us tonight” Madonna is always political even when it isn’t obvious, and I can’t help but think this is her way of giving her finger to all the Santorums and Rushes of the world, who thrive on their hate of gays and “loose” girls. At the end of the day, they’re just jealous, cause they wanna be like us, but don’t have the balls to be “sinners who like it that way.”

Choice Lyrics: Jesus Christ hanging on the cross/died for our sins/it’s such a loss

You’ll Like This If You Like: Beautiful Stranger, Madonna’s song Amazing from Music

10. Love Spent (5 ***** out of 5*****)

- My second favorite song on the album. Just the kind of pure pop magic that can happen when Madonna gets in the studio with William Orbit. The song starts with some country banjo of all things, then some disco-esque violins. This is another pointed song at ex hubby Guy Ritchie, where she pretty much accuses him of marrying her for her massive bank account. (oh, who didn’t think that?) More than anything, I love this song for the fact that at the halfway point, it just becomes another song entirely. With most pop songs, you know what the entire three to four minutes is gonna sound like by the time you hit that one minute mark; repetitiveness is the key to selling. Hell, Give Me All Your Luvin’ is a perfect example of this, and one of the reasons I hate most modern Top 40. I love that this song does not do that. I just adore this one.

Choice Lyrics: I want you to hold me /Like you hold your money /Hold on to it /Till there’s nothing left

You Will Like This Song If You Like: Don’t Tell Me, another Madonna hit William Orbit produced. Actually, if you loved either of the albums Ray of Light or Music, you’ll likely fall for Love Spent.

11. Masterpiece (2 1/2 ** out of 5*****)

- the song that won Madonna her Golden Globe for Best Song and made frenemy Elton John so very irritated. It’s a pretty song, but Madonna and William Orbit have done much better together, on this album and others. It’s vibe doesn’t match the rest of the album really, and it shouldn’t, as it was written for her movie no one saw W.E. It was a last minute decision to include it on MDNA, and actually, the whole song feels last minute. It’s not bad, its just…there. There are at least two tracks on the “Bonus Songs” that should have been included instead of Masterpiece. Ultimately, this is my least liked song on MDNA.

You’ll Like This Song If You Like: Sappy Madonna ballads like This Used to be My Playground.

12. Falling Free (3 1/2 *** out of 5 *****)

A much better, more interesting ballad than Masterpiece. Kind of a downer way to end the album proper, but its really quite beautiful, very melancholy without being cheesy. William Orbit’s fingerprints are all over this one, in fact it sounds like it is a missing track from Ray of Light. But again, that’s not really a bad thing. As far as break up songs go, this one’s a classic.

Choice Lyrics: When I loose a certain claim/That tries to know and needs to blame/Whatever ever runs the ground/It turns my hate and washes down

You Might Like This Song If You Like: The Power of Goodbye & To Have And Not To Hold from the album Ray of Light.

But Wait! There’s More!

The digital “Deluxe” version of MDNA has the option of having five extra bonus tracks. Some of these are great and deserve to be on the album proper, and some I totally get why they were left off. Since these are just bonus tracks, I’ll keep these reviews more brief:

13. Beautiful Killer

-Very 80’s inspired, this could have almost been a hit Madonna song in 1985. Well, except maybe for the part where she seems turned on by a gun being put in her mouth. That probably wouldn’t have flown on Casey Kasem’s America’s Top 40 radio show back in the day. I would have replaced Masterpiece with this.

14. I Fucked Up

-Not really a great song, but an interesting coda to a whole album where she spends so much time blaming her ex-husband for all her marriage’s problems. Here she admits, that despite it all, it was she who fucked up royally. But as an actual song, its not that great. Has its moments.

15. B-Day Song

-Her other collaboration with MIA. Rumor has it after the whole Super Bowl “flipping the bird” incident with MIA, Madonna pushed this off the main album. (She’s vindictive like that, so I believe it) Or, it could be that’s it’s just filler at best and never had a chance. This song is pretty much just about how Madonna loves to celebrate her birthday (yeah right. Maybe when she was a teenager.)

16. Best Friend

-Another song where she cops to missing her ex, you know…the one she tried to kill and called a bitch several times at the top of the album. With lyrics like your pictures off my wall/but I’m still waiting for your call/because every man that walks through my door/will be compared to you forever more. It shows M is more than a little conflicted when it comes to her feelings about one Mr. Ritchie.

17. The LMFAO Remix of Give Me All Your Luvin’

-I really hate to say this, but it is way better than the regular version.

And there you have it. If you’re a Madonna fan, there’s no way you won’t get this one, but if you’re a lapsed Madonna fan or even a new Madonna fan, get on iTunes and order this puppy already. MDNA officially comes out on Monday, March 26th from Interscope.

PolariMagazine

MDNA is the 12th studio album proper from the musical chameleon Madonna, and it’s as bold and dark as the artwork suggests, with elements of personas of yore as well as newer components in the mix. Prefaced by the cutesy Martin Solveig produced-by-numbers ‘Give Me All Your Luvin’ featuring the smoking Nicki Minaj and the mysterious M.I.A., MDNA is without a doubt one of her most eagerly anticipated albums. And she certainly delivers the goods, armed with a team comprising of accomplished dance producers Benny Benassi and Martin Solveig, along with ambient wunderkind William Orbit.

It opens with the thumping Benny Benassi number ’Girl Gone Wild’, which is reminiscent of his remixes of ‘Celebration’ with a chorus of “hey-yay-yay” that is impossible to get out of your head. The tone shifts deftly on the dark and sinister ‘Gang Bang’ where our muse takes on the role of a badass gangsta that Lana Del Rey may aspire to. The innovative, deconstructed dubstep obscurity of the track is welcome, but it falls prey to some rather hackneyed lyrics however, “Fish out of water, Bat out of hell”. This is somewhat ironic, as eight writers worked on the sparse prose, including Mika and William Orbit. Benassi then picks up the baton with the hypnotic number ‘I’m Addicted’ echoing Kylie Minogue’s maverick ‘Speakerphone’. While the track is a huge dance-floor thriller, the lyrics are, dare I say, quite reductive; the “Love Is The Drug” premise is hardly ground-breaking. MDNA is, in parts, quite self-referential but Madonna has always had her tongue firmly in cheek so can pull this off, as highlighted magnificently on the vocal stutters of ‘I’m Addicted’, where her highness appears to repeat, “I’m A Dick”.

One of the record’s lyrical misfires is the track ‘Superstar’ with its incessant name-dropping and self-referencing and lines that are far too contemporary, rendering the song immediately disposable. Although it is rather endearing to hear daughter Lourdes on backing vocals.

You can have the password to my phone,
I’ll give you a massage when you get home.

The album truly begins to sparkle at track four, the epic ‘Turn Up The Radio’ with Solveig’s beautiful spacey shimmer all over this future pop stomper. The French DJ truly shines with the vitriolic bird-flipper ‘I Don’t Give A’ on which Madonna finally nails a rap with some segments pouring with opportune lyrical disdain, only to be overshadowed by a fantastic, effortless Nicki Minaj middle-eight. This culminates in a fierce operatic ending that literally comes out of nowhere.

I tried to be your wife, diminish myself and swallow my light
I tried to become all that you expect of me,
and if it was a failure, I don’t give a…

It must be said that when William Orbit presides, the album truly ignites. ‘Some Girls’ is Orbit and Ciccone at their most glam. This synth-pop composition with diverse vocal styles builds into a genuinely adorable bridge. ‘I’m A Sinner’ is the nefarious sister to ‘Beautiful Stranger’ with some wondrous ’60s touches and an inspired recital of “Hail Mary”. And ‘Love Spent’ begins with an exquisite Romany guitar riff more than reminiscent of ‘Hung Up’ that reappears in the chorus.

There are however two stand-out tracks. The first, the sensitive and glorious ballad ‘Masterpiece’ where Madonna’s vocal is truly heart-breaking underpinned by an acoustic guitar, gentle drums and subtle strings. And the second, the ambient closer ‘Falling Free’ with a velvet-smooth vocal and ethereal undertones that resonate with the inner peace felt when the dust settles after an overwhelming sense of loss. The alchemic teaming with brother-in-law Joe Henry again proves pure gold, closing the album with the redeeming lyric, “I let loose the need to know, we’re both free, both free to go”.

The album’s deluxe release includes three further Solveig produced tracks ‘Beautiful Killer’, ‘B-Day Song’ and the magnificent ‘I Fucked Up’ evoking the genius of Neneh Cherry’s ‘Manchild’ before bursting into a brilliant bridge. In addition, there is a further Benassi produced track, the trancy ‘Best Friend’, and an LFMAO remix of ‘Give Me All Your Luvin’.

MDNA is a somewhat cathartic journey where we perceive vitriol, scorn and bitterness, but also elements of the carefree, fun-loving, acceptance and redemption. This makes for great pop record with touches of innovation and heralds a reinvigorated Madonna.

rating: 4 stars out of five

MusicOMH

“There’s only one queen, and that’s Madonna, bitch,” quips Nicki Minaj on I Don’t Give A, a track that, in its tantalising incomplete titular provocation, very much stands as a mission statement for what MDNA seeks to do as a whole. Because, quite frankly, when it comes to pop sovereignty, there is only Madonna, and here, she casts cares and judgement aside to produce some of the most energetic, vital-sounding music she’s delivered in years.

Perhaps what’s most striking is that, for all the hype that the involvement of Ray Of Light and Music producer William Orbit has generated, the majority of its best moments come in an explosive opening salvo from Benny Benassi and The Demolition Crew.

The first of the Benassi tracks, Girl Gone Wild, looks back to Confessions On A Dancefloor, sidling up close to the likes of Get Together for a sleek commercialism that comes out effortlessly as the sound of ‘now’ in a way that Hard Candy, with its penchant for aping faux urban credibility, never did. Gang Bang is exceptional; a filthy, lewd slab of thumping bass that harks more to Erotica in its breathy, foreplay-like vocals. It’s Madonna playing the tease, and on MDNA, she’s somehow achieved the rejuvenative effects to pull it off. As a dance record, it excels, often simply because it does what it does with such unbridled confidence, of the kind that could only ever stem from Madonna. From the police sirens to the warehouse party vibes of the deftly inserted dubstep middle-eight, there’s an allure of the naughty and the lawless, a promise of intoxicating pleasures backed up with Madonna’s open admission: “I’m going straight to hell.”

Likewise with I’m Addicted, Madonna seems to have hit upon the most important element of MDNA and her continued persistence as a relevant pop star: creating music that makes people feel good. Bass explodes likes an atomic volcano, burbly techno synths splice across like something off Daft Punk’s Tron soundtrack – everything about the opening handful of tracks on MDNA is about unadulterated enjoyment in its purest of forms. Refreshingly, Madonna realises her place within these tracks too, content where needs be to employ her voice merely as a tool like any other instrument – there’s no strained showboating, just clinical insertion and delivery.

While furthering the playful exuberance, Turn Up The Radio repositions Madonna as the American Queen triumphant with the aid of a properly classic ‘Madge melody’ that echoes her ’80s greats. It’s the album’s obvious ‘big’ radio hit, its airwaves-optimism and carefree abandon writ all over it. Madonna’s lyrics of “I wanna go fast and I’m gonna go far” might be inelegant and overly blatant, but it’s in a plain, honest, doesn’t give a damn way. Confessions, for all its many merits, often felt shrouded in mysticism and introspection, but Turn Up The Radio touts a more blithely spirited way of existence; a readiness for the open road and life in all its assorted majesty.

Superstar is equally sublime, like a Ray Of Light for a new, glorious generation. In its refrain of “Ooh la la, love the way that you are” and the sheer prettiness of its chorus hook it somehow preaches a message of acceptance better than the likes of Gaga ever could. Along with I’m A Sinner, it stands as the album’s ‘rock’ moment, with the latter also canvassing classic William Orbit tropes – tribal beats, celestial, chiming synths – to rapturous effect. Even when Madonna gets all religious – “All these saints and holy men, catch me before I sin again” – there’s a sort of knowing playfulness, that this time round, everyone’s in this together. Indeed, with the inclusion of the Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. guest slots, beyond the obvious attempted investment of a certain youthful hipness (which to a degree they help pull off), there’s the notion of sisterhood, of unity; as electro-cardio workout Some Girls helps hammer home with aplomb. Throughout MDNA, Madonna paints herself as the woman supreme, the master article to which every listener, for the duration of the album, is part of.

Of the slower numbers, Masterpiece feels like something of a let down. In its own right it’s a perfectly solid, dependable Madonna ballad, but after the break-neck intensity of the rest of the album, it feels oddly out of place. Indeed, there’s the sense that divorced of its original W.E. soundtrack setting, it’s a bit of a fish out of water, something that Falling Free thankfully manages to avoid. With what’s easily Madonna’s strongest vocals on the album, it’s like a trippy, stripped back re-kindling of Drowned World replete with piano and strings that swell with a synthetically crafted fidelity. There’s an air of sumptuous epiphany as Orbit’s production gently eases down from the higher gears, leaving an impression of Madonna definitively reasserted as Queen and mother superior. MDNA is her delicacy, her treat to the assorted masses whose interest was in urgent need of recapturing. Perhaps that is MDNA’s greatest virtue then, the fulfilment of that urgency, the satiating of that desire. Because when it comes to partaking in pop, MDNA has easily set itself out as 2012’s go-to drug of choice.

The Salt Lake Tribune

Lady Gaga and Caribbean sensations such as Rihanna and Nicki Minaj have threatened to make Madonna irrelevant now that the Material Girl approaches her 54th birthday. But Madge, in a welcome surprise, still has some tricks left and lessons to impart now that he has reached the September of her life on her new album “MDNA.” You can be forgiven if you don’t remember Madonna’s performance of “Give Me All Your Luvin” at the Super Bowl, because that single is one of the least catchy tracks on an otherwise cohesive album that will satisfy those who want disco-influenced fluff for the dance floor — as well as those who would prefer a window into her confessional. The singer, the co-writer of all 12 tracks, uses her divorce from director Guy Ritchie as fodder for songs that arguably are the most personal she has ever penned. But, frankly, all would be bollocks if these weren’t songs that made your hips swerve, so the phalanx of European producers that includes Benny Benassi, William Orbit (who helmed Madonna’s career-best 1998 album “Ray of Light”) and Martin Solveig ensure that she is not just modern but forward-thinking, as well as the Madonna who entranced us in the 1980s and 1990s. “MDNA” is the best Madonna album since 2000’s “Music,” and with Minaj guesting on two tracks, it is the rare case when Minaj is overshadowed by her elder, still in top vocal form.

Grade: B+

Time Out London

Everybody needs a slogan – even Madonna. And the ‘sell’ for her brand new album is ”Confessions on a Dance Floor’ meets ‘Ray of Light”. Whatever the sound, it ain’t that. William Orbit, who produced the latter record is back on board, but the resemblance begins and ends with the final four (out of 12) cuts, which tap Bollywood pop, Prince’s ‘When Doves Cry’, ‘La Isla Bonita’ and erm, the Irish folk tradition respectively.

The rest of the record is a monstrously throbbing and insistent, jack-booted stomp through the electro/fidget- house heartlands, with notes of deranged rave, dubstep and (on lead track, ‘Give Me All your Luvin’) rapid-fire dancehall raps from Nicki Minaj and MIA, Madge’s guests at her recent Superbowl appearance. Co-producers Martin Solveig and Benny Benassi have given Madge the 20-ton rhythm, batter-listeners-into-submission treatment, but there’s a (welcome) shift in mood with ‘Superstar’, which – despite the rhyming dictionary lyrics (superstar/car/guitar) – is sure to set tongues wagging as to the subject’s identity.

The brutal ‘Gang Bang’ is a highlight – all Teutonic beats, juddering bass and featuring police sirens and the sound of burning rubber – with Madge barking out a dark litany: ‘bang, bang, shot you dead, shot my lover in the head’ and ‘I said drive, bitch.’ Not entirely suited to International Women’s Day! As for its place in Madge’s personal pop pantheon, ‘MDNA’ is more ‘Hard Candy’ part II’ than ‘Confessions…’. Similarly, it’s a case of suck it and see. Sharon O’Connell

The Wild Magazine

The past 24 hours were all about insomnia for hardcore Madonna fans (and worried Lady Gaga fans). After last night, the songs off Madge’s new album – out on the 26th of March, now internationally called #madonnamonday – started to leak online many of us spent our Tuesday without trying to catch our breath. As a very sexy cherry on the top, E! presented to us the second music video of the era, ‘Girls Gone Wild,’ directed by Mert & Marcus, fashion photographers and pop cultural “it boys.” Madonna’s great comeback after the forgettable Hard Candy album was somewhat like Eva Peron’s famous Rainbow Tour in Europe, and as the lyrics of the musical go, Let’s hear it for the Rainbow Tour, “We weren’t quite sure, we had a few doubts Will Evita win through? But the answer is yes!”

Madonna did come back: her Super Bowl phenomenon single, ‘Give Me All Your Luvin’’ peeked at number one on Billboard’s Dance chart this week. Her World Tour is selling out everywhere from Israel to Australia. And with a Golden Globe in her pocket for her song ‘Masterpiece,’ presented in her movie W.E., she smartly decided to use this fruitful time to launch a new fragrance and footwear line called Truth or Dare. The name refers to her memorable documentary from the 90’s – best known for performing a perfect blowjob on a soda bottle. Lola Leon, her 15 year old fashionista daughter, has the trend brand Material Girl – an ironic self-reference in and of itself. On the new record Madonna proves she does mean it when she says, “I don’t like to repeat myself… or others.”

MDNA is the perfect soundtrack of 2012. In the year when spiritual elevation is more needed than any time before, the Queen of Pop and controversy are elevating our spirit by pushing us down into the rabbit’s hole. Because for me this is what MDNA is: Madonna falling down into the depth of her most beautiful dreams and worst nightmares. And like Alice brought us to Wonderland, Madonna takes us into a surreal world, filled with sensuality, pain, anger, silliness and joy where she can survive confusion and insanity only with disarming honesty.

This record is not the new Ray of Light or Confessions on a Dancefloor. It’s not even the new Erotica as many of the fans predicted by looking at the promo shots for the album – Madonna dressed up in tiny underwear, bringing “Mistress Dita” back to life, her alter ego in her infamous SEX book. It’s better than any of these. How? By finally collecting on one album all the Madonnas we love or hate, but most importantly we all know. The New Yorker, the Londoner, dance queen, the woman in love, the underground weirdo, the trash princess, the spiritual goddess, the sex idol, the broken flower, the bitch, the fighter, the mother and the daughter.

And not surprisingly at all, we also have some new sounds here, what in some years the fans can easily refer to as “The MDNA Sound.” The ever-happy french dj, producer and musician Martin Solveig and Madonna’s long time collaborator, the gloomy scientist of music. William Orbit seems to bring out the best of her. Of course there is nothing surprising about Madonna starting a musical revolution, apart from her 2008 album, where she couldn’t catch the stream in time. She got on the sinking boat of the very 2006-ish Timbaland-grove – she was always incredible in choosing her collaborators, and while as a pop musician she connected to an already very popular scene, as a performance artist she was brave enough to bring an absolutely infrequent phenomenon.

BBC

Madonna’s 12th studio collection has a few faults, but it’s still a fantastic pop album

Madonna is judged to a higher standard than the common or garden songbird. When you’ve sold 300 million records, racked up enough hits to omit Deeper and Deeper from your two-CD greatest hits set, and generally become the sort of pop culture colossus who can publish a book featuring a photo of yourself hang-gliding naked, well, people just expect more.

Which is why the opening song on her 12th studio album is so disheartening. It’s a fairly charmless genero-banger called Girls Gone Wild on which this 53-year-old mother-of-four trills: “You got me in the zone / DJ play my favourite song.”

MDNA picks up as soon as it finishes, but it’s never the most innovative or sonically adventurous Madonna LP. Featuring production from French DJ Martin Solveig, house maestro Benny Benassi and Madge veteran William Orbit, it sounds contemporary(ish) rather than cutting edge. Nor is it a cohesive artistic statement like 1998′s Ray of Light. At times, Madonna seems to be using her lyrics to teach her kids the meaning of the word cliché. If she’s not “a fish out of water”, she’s “a bat out of hell” or “a moth to a flame”… Got it now, Rocco?

However, there’s no denying MDNA delivers thrills. In true Ciccone fashion, club pop pounders like Some Girls, Love Spent and Turn Up the Radio seem to push a bit harder than the competition – that last one’s got a drop like an open manhole. MDNA also has something the last two Madge albums lacked: ballads, both of which are quite lovely.

Best of all, several moments prompt a welcome sigh: “God, only Madonna”. Gang Bang is a preposterous piece of pop schlock featuring gangster film sound effects and the old girl gunning – quite literally – for revenge. I Don’t Give A has Madge rapping and ribbing herself in the process: “Ride my horse, break some bones / Take it down a semitone.” I’m Addicted climaxes with a pulse-quickening “M-D-N-A” chant; when they’re old enough, it’ll define ‘iconoclastic’ to her brood.

The result? It’s got its faults, but MDNA isn’t just a good pop album, it’s a good Madonna album too.

Slant Magazine

Madonna – MDNA (3,5/5)
MDNA finds Madonna continuing to defy the laws of nature.

In 1993, when asked by a Mexican journalist what she feared most, Madonna admitted plainly, “Dying.” Looking at her body of work, it’s embarrassingly obvious now, and it’s funny to think she’s best known as the queen of sex and not, in fact, the queen of death. Beating the clock, moving fast, accomplishing things because time is scare and life is short are themes that have permeated almost every aspect of Madonna’s life and career. Her mother, also named Madonna, died at the age of 30, and her namesake spent the next 25 years believing she would meet the same fate. When Madonna became famous at the height of the AIDS crisis, her friends began succumbing to the disease one after the other, which turned the singer into an activist, but also ostensibly became an impetus behind her near-pathological drive to leave her mark on the world.

In the past three years, two of the three biggest pop superstars of the ’80s have died tragically. But unlike Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, Madonna wasn’t thrust into the spotlight by way of an enterprising family or the kind of prodigious talent that, with or without its owner’s consent, begs to be hoisted up and exalted by the masses. That Madonna was forced to compensate for her perceived lack of natural “talent” with, in addition to unbridled creativity, supreme self-control and focus is probably what’s helped keep her from succumbing to the demons that have plagued many of her contemporaries. It’s also, perhaps, the thing that makes her a somewhat unsympathetic character, an attractive target for ridicule among even those who claim to love her.
Everyone is afraid of death. But how that fear manifests itself when you’re one of the most famous women on the planet and how it’s compounded when you reach middle age in an industry that increasingly values youth and beauty were revealed, respectively, in Madonna’s largely graceful quest for answers to life’s most universal questions on Ray of Light and her often awkward, misguided attempts to reconcile those lessons with a habitual desire to preserve her status in the years that have followed. Social, cultural, and political impact aside, Madonna’s career has been a demonstration of endurance.

To that end, while Madonna was accused of running out of ideas long before she actually did, her recent propensity to rehash her own canon seems deliberate—not to mention cynical. Last month, she told The Advocate that while she “never left” her gay audience, she’s “back.” (Back from where is unclear, though her estranged brother’s claim that ex-hubby Guy Ritchie is a homophobe offers a clue.) The video for “Girl Gone Wild,” the second single from her first album in four years, MDNA, is like “Human Nature” redux, seemingly tailor-made to snatch the title of Most Played Video Artist at Gay Bars from Lady Gaga.

But while “Human Nature” was an intentional sendup of Madonna’s Erotica period, the seemingly straight-faced Catholic Girl Gone Bad shtick of “Girl Gone Wild” is just—you guessed it—reductive. Even though Madonna’s dressed up like her, the feisty pop singer who went on Nightline in 1990 and clumsily but zealously called out the media for its hypocrisy and sexism is missing here. Madonna pilfers the title of one of her earliest rivals’ songs during the hook of “Girl Gone Wild,” only to defang it of its feminist bent: Just like Madonna’s own “Material Girl” was meant to be ironic, the point of Cyndi Lauper’s signature anthem is that girls want to have fun, but that’s not all they want to do.
The song’s intro, during which Madonna recites an act of contrition over canned disco strings, is just a ruse; the rest of MDNA is reminiscent of neither Like a Prayer nor Confessions on a Dance Floor. It’s unclear what Madonna’s motivations were for reuniting with William Orbit after more than a decade; a smarter move would have been to call on longtime collaborator Patrick Leonard to help her excavate and examine the remains of her second marriage. But while the album is no Ray of Light either, MDNA is surprisingly cohesive despite its seven-plus producers (most notably, Martin Solveig, the man behind the regrettable lead single “Give Me All Your Luvin’”), and it’s obvious Madge and Billy Bubbles can still create magic together. “I’m a Sinner” harks back to the pair’s most ecstatically joyous work—not just sonically, but vocally. Something about recording with Orbit again has inspired Madonna to abandon her recent insistence on singing like she’s wearing a clothespin on her nose.

Likewise, her performance on “Love Spent” is confident enough to transcend Orbit’s superfluous vocal effects. It’s not just the most melodically sophisticated song on the album, it’s also the most revealing, rather poignantly alluding to the tens of millions Ritchie received in the couple’s divorce settlement: “I want you to take me like you took your money,” she longs. What makes the lyrical faux pas of songs like “Girl Gone Wild” and “Superstar” so frustrating is the pop mastery of tracks like this and the Italo-disco “I’m Addicted,” a meditation on the power of language that’s both profound (“All of the letters push to the front of my mouth/And saying your name is somewhere between a prayer and a shout”) and tongue-in-cheek (“I’m a dick-, I’m a dick-, I’m addicted to your love”). When she’s not rapping about child custody and prenups on “I Don’t Give A,” she admits: “I tried to be a good girl/I tried to be your wife/Diminished myself/And I swallowed my light.”

But in case the title of that song didn’t tip you off, the Madonna of MDNA is more defiant than heartbroken. Ritchie’s impact on the singer’s personal life is obvious, but his influence on her work is just as apparent: He bought her a guitar when they met, changing her approach to songwriting, and he was responsible for the introduction of violence, often seemingly gratuitous, into her videos and stage performances, starting with his clip for her 2001 single “What It Feels Like for a Girl.” So, in that sense, it’s disappointing to see guns and violence continue to play such a prominent role here. But the twisted “Gang Bang,” a standout cut in which Madonna quite convincingly portrays a jilted bride turned femme fatale in the vein of Beatrix Kiddo, plays more like a piss take of Ritchie’s gangster fetish than a glorification of it.
Madonna’s Super Bowl performance last month—spectacular but lacking spontaneity—was indicative of her overall approach to her career these days: meticulously orchestrated down to every dance move, every mimed syllable. The non-controversy of M.I.A. flipping the bird was notable only because it served as a reminder of just how “safe” the rest of the performance was. But songs like “Gang Bang” serve as reminders that what separates Madonna from most other mainstream pop stars is her willingness to try new things. Fear—of failure, of looking uncool, of death—can either paralyze or propel you. MDNA finds Madonna continuing to defy the laws of nature by doing both.

USA Today

Madonna opens up to reveal inner pain and turmoil on her new album, but the dance groove never slows.

Madonna, MDNA
* * * 1/2 stars (out of four)

Vulnerability isn’t likely the first trait that comes to mind when you think of Madonna. The woman who titled her last studio album Hard Candy (2008) is contemporary pop’s most durable alpha female, coolly courting fascination and controversy on her own terms.

Yet in some of her most beguiling songs, Madonna has opened her heart and let her defenses down a bit. Think of the pregnant teenager in Papa Don’t Preach, begging for support even as she declares her resolve. Or the giddy lover pledging eternal devotion in Cherish.

Then imagine that those gals had lived a few more years, maybe married and divorced, and you’ll have an inkling of the emotional wallop waiting in Madonna’s most personal effort to date, MDNA, out Monday.

The album opens with single Girl Gone Wild, a breathless ode to dance-floor hedonism. “Girls, they just wanna have some fun,” Madonna chirps over a thumping club groove. Several tunes share an almost defiant buoyancy; I’m Addicted and Turn Up the Radio celebrate romantic surrender, but there’s a sense that what’s being sought more is escape.

The standard and deluxe explicit versions of MDNA offer an early hint that we’re headed for darker terrain. The second track, the pulsing, sardonic Gang Bang, describes not an orgy but a revenge fantasy, in which a woman shoots and kills a wayward and possibly abusive partner. Chanting profanely, Madonna could either be mocking a persecutor or turning the tables on him.

Anger isn’t this album’s defining quality, though. The songs that seem to allude to Madonna’s ex, Guy Ritchie, are charged with sadness and self-doubt. Love Spent is the most stinging: “Would you have married me if I were poor?” she asks, after a bluegrass-tinged intro segues into a radiant electro-pop arrangement.

Spent is one of numerous tracks co-written and co-produced by Madonna’s Ray of Light and Beautiful Stranger collaborator William Orbit, whose sonic savvy is just as keen here. I’m A Sinner has a groovy ebullience reminiscent of the latter hit, even as the lyrics again evoke a woman racing past pain. On the gorgeously ethereal Falling Free, Madonna sings of finding both grace and alienation in love.

But MDNA is no self-pity party. There’s wry humor and unabashed yearning; check out the semi-confessional multi-tasker’s lament I Don’t Give A, co-written and featuring a rap by Nicki Minaj. And Madonna emerges, as always, a survivor.

“Nothing’s indestructible,” she admits on the Latin-kissed Masterpiece, but still vows, “I will not renounce all hope.” And why should she, of all people?

EW

”Girls, they just wanna have some fun!” From the moment Madonna utters those words on MDNA, it’s clear that she’s trying really freaking hard to have a good time. With dance-music vets William Orbit, Martin Solveig, and Benny Benassi helming her return to the Euro-club stylings of 2005′s Confessions on a Dance Floor, Madge spends nearly half the album insisting that this is the Best Party Ever, from the pom-pom-shaking ”Give Me All Your Luvin”’ to the Mardi-Gras-beads-tossing ”Girl Gone Wild” and stereo-blasting ”Turn Up the Radio.” The album title even suggests that Ecstasy is part of Madge’s DNA.

But while there are a few genuine moments of double-rainbow bliss here (check the ”whoo-ooh!” chorus of ”I’m a Sinner”), there’s also real darkness lurking under the air-popped beats. If Madonna’s sending us a message, it’s this: I spent all year perfecting my cartwheel for the Super Bowl, and now I’m gonna have fun, even if it kills me.

Maybe it’s just that MDNA’s so hell-bent on showing how much energy the 53-year-old puts into her job. Many songs recap her gold-star résumé referencing her past hits lyrically (see sidebar, right) or musically. ”Girl Gone Wild” shares its sassy legwarmer-disco vibe with 2005′s ”Hung Up,” while ”I’m a Sinner” reunites her with Orbit for a very cool guitar-boosted rave-up that echoes 1998′s ”Ray of Light.”

But all those reminders of her work ethic can feel exhausting. On the ridiculous electro-rap ”I Don’t Give A,” she runs through her insane schedule as a celebrity supermom. Before finishing her power workout, hiring a babysitter, ”tweeting on the elevator,” and riding a helicopter to her divorce lawyers’ office, she has an epiphany: ”Wake up, ex-wife/This is your life.”

Are you listening, Guy Ritchie? Because Madonna’s not done yelling at you. After revealing that she ”didn’t have a prenup,” she gets a decent gold-digger joke into the ABBA-remix-esque strains of ”Love Spent”: ”Frankly, if my name was Benjamin,” she deadpans, ”we wouldn’t be in this mess we’re in.” Less charming is the industrial thumper ”Gang Bang,” where Madonna holds a gun to her lover’s head, demanding, ”Drive, bitch!” True, she also recorded a mea culpa — on ”I F—ed Up” she says ”I’m sorry” in French — but it’s telling that she cut it from the album. Her apology’s just as unconvincing as her Gallic accent.

So it’s surprising that Madonna is at her best on the love songs. The W.E. ballad ”Masterpiece” (which won her a Golden Globe in January) begins with Spanish guitar and a finger-snap rhythm — a refreshing break from the relentless bass throbbing. When she’s singing about a guy who’s as pretty as the Mona Lisa, her voice is lovely. And the synth stomper ”I’m Addicted,” a warm ode to a crush, offers a good excuse to join in when she says, ”I need to dance.” Elsewhere, Nicki Minaj even shows some L-U-V for Lady M, proclaiming, ”There’s only one queen, and that’s Madonna, bitch!” Judging by MDNA, she may be overestimating her idol. But there’s just enough dance-floor bonhomie here to get that catchphrase bedazzled on a few dozen leotards. B-

Best Tracks:
Spiritual electro? Sacrilicious! I’m a Sinner
A flamenco-style ballad Masterpiece

Rolling Stone

Early one morning the sun was shining and she was lying in bed, wondering why he had her cash and if her hair was still red. An idea for a song bubbled, and she wasn’t sure if this one should be about heartbreak, revenge or the old get-into-the-groove thing. And then – light bulb! – why not multitask it? That was her therapy, after all. Failure? Not an option. Resistance to her will? Futile. The husband who was no longer there? Well, it was nice sometimes to imagine his head popping like a melon. Till death and all that. Now — where did she put her phone?

Yup, MDNA is our lady’s divorce album. Seven out of 16 songs address her split directly, and that’s low-balling if you think the chick with “fake tits and a nasty mood” in “Some Girls” could be the lingerie model who became Guy Ritchie’s new baby mama.
Revealing herself has always been part of her art, and this is hardly her first album that’s dark, messy and conflicted. But MDNA stands as Madonna’s most explicit work. Only who would have expected her to be this explicit with her… feelings?

How explicit?
“Wake up, ex-wife/This is your life.”
“I tried to be you wife/Diminished myself, I swallowed my light.”
“Lawyers/Suck it up/Didn’t have a prenup.”
“Every man that walks through that door will be compared to you for evermore.”
She’s been personal, but never this detailed before. In part, it’s an old punk-rock impulse: Show the world no one can hurt you more than you hurt yourself. Except she has cross-wired exposure and pain, which gives this set of confessions their discomforting immediacy.

As the beats swirl, Madonna pursues release, vows to rise above and wishes things had turned out differently. She also sings about new love (fits like a glove), and asks for someone to lick the frosting off her cake on “B-Day Song.” The music chases the latest articulations of club land ecstasy, but often returns to the blend of synth-driven electro and Sixties-pop classicism she’s staked out since “Like a Prayer.” Back after a 12-year layoff is William Orbit, who handles the most pained tracks (including “Gang Bang,” which bitch-slaps Ritchie’s shoot’em -up aesthetic with a nod to Kill Bill). New in town is Martin Solveig, the French producer behind the cheerleader fantasy of “Give me all your Luvin’” who is forced to curb his love of Prince, in service of sounding like William Orbit. Handling the big dance-floor tracks are Italian duo Benny and Alle Benassi, who put the empty boom of the club into songs like “Girl Gone Wild.”

Hooks emerge quickly; there’s lots of naughtiness for the DJ to bring back, and the music has depth that rewards repeated listening. The first impression is a desperation most people will mistake for Madonna’s old impulse for commercial connection. That’s never far away, but this is something far more personal. There’s something remarkable about Madonna’s decision to share her suffering the way she once shared her pleasure. Her music has always been about liberation from oppression, but for the first time the oppression is internal: loss and sadness. Stars – they really are just like us.

Key Tracks: “I Don’t Give A,” “B-Day Song,” “Love Spent”

Joe Levy – 3.5 / 5

Daily Telegraph

YOU have to wonder why Madonna didn’t insist on a strip search.

Critics privileged to preview her new album MDNA had to hand in their phones and their bags before sitting down in a record company boardroom yesterday.

You just can’t trust anyone these days.

MDNA is the many shades of Madonna finally brought together on one album.

Opening track Girl Gone Wild reaffirms her mission to be a dancefloor diva who is one step ahead of the pack.

While her pop princess peers have been riding the 90s Euro house bandwagon for the past three years, Her Madgesty takes a defiant detour into darker, edgier and harder territory. Less wave your hands in the air and more get down and get dirty.

You can hear it most strongly on the underground hardcore of Gang Bang which finds Madonna shooting her lover dead and heading straight to hell. It sounds like The Kills if they went electronic and you’ll be hearing the lyrical hook “Drive bitch!” everywhere for the rest of the year.

Those who grew up with poptastic Madonna need not fear – she has not forsaken you.

Like any song with “radio” in its title, you can expect to hear Turn Up The Radio all over the airwaves. Co-written with French electronic DJ and producer Martin Solveig, it is one of the bigger pop songs on the album and follows a similar template to his smash hit Hello.

Superstar features her daughter Lourdes on backing vocals, I’m A Sinner sounds like Donna Summer doing a less bombastic version of Bollywood while Falling Free is a heart-striing ballad with stripped-back strings and simple synths and the album’s bravest vocal performance.

One of the standout tracks is Beautiful Killer, which is earmakred for the deluxe version only.

Inspired by French film star Alain Delon, the songs sounds like it was plucked from a Cafe Del Mar compilation circa mid 1990s.

Fans should get the deluxe version which includes other bonus tracks including Best friend, B-Day Song and I F…ed Up which are some of her stronger songs.

Why they didn’t make the “standard” version is a mystery unless you are one of those cynical types who suspect her record label may be trying to get a few more bucks out of her fans.

MDNA is out on March 23.

Star Observer

The Star Observer’s resident entertainment writer Nick Bond visited Universal Music’s head offices this morning and sat down for the first Australian listen of Madonna’s new album MDNA, out next Friday.

Here’s his track-by-track verdict on the queen of pop’s 12th studio album.

GIRL GONE WILD
No doubt you’ve heard this one by now — it’s the second single. Things start promisingly with a melodramatic spoken-word prayer intro (very Act of Contrition) but soon go downhill once the song kicks off: for a party song about going wild, Madge has never sounded so bored and lifeless. There are ingredients for a solid Confessions-esque dance song here, but the production (courtesy of the Benassi brothers) sucks the drama out of the song — it’s rushed and monotone throughout. And once you’ve seen the bizarre unofficial parody video that’s been circulating over Facebook in the past few weeks, it’s hard to listen to it the same way again (YouTube ‘Madonna Girl Gone Wild Official Music Video’ if you want a giggle). But fear not, dear readers: there’s much, MUCH better to come…

GANG BANG
…Like this. A bizarre (that’s a good thing) five-plus minute mix of pulsating beats and super-dark lyrics. Rifles crack in the background as Madonna snarls one of the album’s most memorable choruses: “Bang bang, shot you dead/shot my lover in the head”. It’s a little bit Nancy Sinatra, a little bit trance. Trancy Sinatra? In the song’s final minute, the camp melodrama gets ratcheted up as both the music and lyrics become more and more aggressive, with Madge finishing the track screaming like a ’70s sexploitation siren: “Drive bitch! And while you’re at it, die bitch!”

I’M ADDICTED
This wall-of-sound electro house banger sounds like Girl Gone Wild done right. The track builds from quiet verses into an ear-splitting ’90s house chorus. Lyrically, we get our first nod to the true inspiration for the album’s title — “Flows through my body igniting my brain/it’s like MDMA”. “I need to DANCE,” Madge growls at one point, and it’s hard to argue with her.

TURN UP THE RADIO
Earmarked as the campaign’s third single, this really should’ve been our first taster of MDNA. It’s producer Martin Solveig’s best track on the album — gorgeous ’80s Madonna verses give way to an immensely catchy chorus, and Madge’s vocals are at their sugary best. Basically, it’s the antithesis of Girl Gone Wild — a party song about having fun that ACTUALLY SOUNDS FUN.

GIVE ME ALL YOUR LUVIN’
We’ve all heard it, and — judging by the pisspoor chart positions — very few of us like it. We maintain the unpopular opinion that it’s a great ’60s-influenced slice of dance-pop, with killer (if all-too-short) verses from Nicki Minaj and MIA. In the context of the songs around it, though, it certainly screams ‘album track’ rather than ‘comeback single’.

SOME GIRLS
A solid electro-glam stomper. Not the strongest track here, either lyrically or musically, but comes with a VERY William Orbit bridge that could’ve been lifted straight off the Ray of Light album.

SUPERSTAR
A gorgeous slice of effortless Madonna pop fluff, in the vein of True Blue or Cherish. Lourdes provides backing vocals but we couldn’t hear her – what we could hear were lyrics that ranged from the sublime (“like John Travolta, getting into the groove”) to the ridiculous (never has the phrase “You can have the password to my phone” been delivered with such gravitas). Sadly, also comes with the most unwelcome dubstep interlude in a song since Vanessa Amorosi’s Gossip.

I DON’T GIVE A F
Lyrically, this one treads a similar path to American Life, It’s Madonna in defence mode, telling us all just how hard it is being head of the global empire that is Madonna Inc. Probably not her most GFC-friendly track, but we could see Gina Rinehert getting down to this one. Musically, it’s the damp squib that was Hard Candy done right: pop-flavoured hip-hop, with a guest verse from Nicki Minaj. Nicki announces, “There’s only one queen and that’s Madonna, BITCH!” before a demented orchestral finish — grandiose choirs, crashing cymbals and escalating strings.

I’M A SINNER
Produced by William Orbit, this comes off like an updated version of Beautiful Stranger and Amazing. Could’ve been on Ray of Light or Music (this is a very very good thing — we love you William Orbit!) This ain’t no church confessional — it’s Madonna at her most joyful: “I’m a sinner/I like it that way” runs the chorus. There’s even a bridge in which Madge namechecks Jesus, the Virgin Mary and a few saints in dismissive, tongue-in-cheek fashion. Sure to piss a few people off.

LOVE SPENT
A very nice surprise — the one-minute clip that’s been circulating doesn’t do this track justice. With banjos, video game noises, strings and electro beats, this is Orbit’s most eclectic production. Top-shelf pop, with more of those gorgeously sugary ’80s-era vocals from Madonna.

MASTERPIECE
Keen fans will have already heard this one as it surfaced late last year on the soundtrack to Madonna’s film W.E. It’s nice to hear her in ballad mode — something of a rarity these days — but this isn’t one of her best. If stunning soundtrack ballad Time Stood Still (from the 2000 film The Next Best Thing) never found its way onto a Madonna album, then this shouldn’t either. It does have a lovely, folksy chorus, but the song’s central conceit — comparing a lover to a priceless work of art — is stretched to absolute breaking point by song’s end.

FALLING FREE
That’s better! A classic Madonna ballad, her first in many years. Stunning vocals, a tasteful smattering of trademark Orbit blips and bleeps, and lush strings, it’s reminiscent of American Life album closer Easy Ride. Lyrically, it’s about making peace with the end of a relationship — the first lyrical hint about her failed marriage to Guy Ritchie, of which there’s more to come.

DELUXE EDITION BONUS TRACKS

BEAUTIFUL KILLER
A tidy slice of pure pop with a VERY Martin Solveig electro riff. A great chorus and a fantastic breakdown with Papa Don’t Preach strings. Should’ve earned a place on the album proper (in place of Masterpiece, if you ask us).

I FUCKED UP
Madonna in confessional mode, as she claims at least partial responsibility for the demise of a relationship. Lyrically, she’s at her most raw and interesting. Musically, though, it’s all rather tame — a lighters-aloft power ballad.

B-DAY SONG
The ‘60s vibe of this track is heralded from its opening line “…and the beat goes on.” A collaboration with MIA, it’s a daft homage to girl groups of yesteryear. The very definition of ‘bonus track’, but a cute little oddity nonetheless.

BEST FRIEND
Again, Madonna in reflective, confessional mode. “I feel like I lost my best friend,” she sings as she lists — in intimate detail — exactly what she misses about an ex-partner. Musically, though, this one’s a bit naff — stuttering, R&B-lite beats that reminded us of Kylie’s career misstep, Red-Blooded Woman.

VERDICT:
Wisely ignoring the flaccid R&B that stunk up much of Hard Candy, MDNA sees Madonna cherry-picking the best bits of her previous few albums and making them new: the thumping dance beats of Confessions, the quiet introspection of American Life, the William Orbit squiggle-pop of Ray of Light. In doing so, she sacrifices cohesion — this feels more like a collection of songs than an ‘album’ — but comes up trumps way more often than not.

4 STARS

The National

1. Girl Gone Wild: Benny Benassi-produced electro-pop thumper that gets better the more (and louder) you play it.

2. Gang Bang: Throbbing electronic romp on which Madonna plays a wronged woman out for revenge: “Bang bang, shot you dead!”

3. I’m Addicted: Catchy club tune that’s like a post-Guetta take on her mid-Noughties work Confessions on a Dance Floor.

4. Turn Up the Radio: Infectious paean to escapism that recalls her 2006 hit Get Together. This should have been MDNA’s lead single.

5. Give Me All Your Luvin’ feat. Nicki Minaj & M.I.A: The actual lead single, as performed at the Super Bowl, is a lighter pop morsel than most on the album.

6. Some Girls: “I’d never wanna be like some girls,” Madonna sings on this vocodered electro tune that’s as sinewy as her gym-toned arms.

7. Superstar: On which she compares her new boyfriend to Marlon Brando, James Dean, Bruce Lee and, erm, Abe Lincoln.

8. I Don’t Give A: Guy Ritchie should skip this mid-tempo electro track, which references his failed marriage to Madonna in unflattering terms.

9. I’m a Sinner: Co-produced by William Orbit, this recalls three of their previous hook-ups: Ray of Light, Beautiful Stranger and Amazing.

10. Love Spent: This banjo-flecked banger features a fabulous middle 8.

11. Masterpiece: Golden Globe winner from the soundtrack to the film W.E. Would slot neatly onto Something to Remember.

12. Falling Free: This cascading, string-swathed ballad is the loveliest thing Madonna’s sung in almost a decade.

13. Beautiful Killer: One of four bonus tracks is decent rather than dazzling. Nice Papa Don’t Preach strings though.

14. I F***** Up: Madonna’s remorseful on this mid-tempo confessional, which recalls her 2003 album American Life.

15. B-day Song feat M.I.A: A fun throwaway that could soundtrack a nightclub scene from an Austin Powers movie.

16. Best Friend: MDNA ends on an affecting note, as Madonna mourns a relationship: “I feel like I lost my very best friend.”

17. Give Me All Your Luvin’ (Party Rock Remix): MDNA’s first single is remixed into a club banger.

NME

The Material Girl returns with her 12th studio album. Is it any cop? Let’s find out….

‘Girl Gone Wild’
Though most will have heard this track already (it’s the second single off the album) it’s worth a recap. Produced by Benny Benassi, Madonna intros with a spoken word segment about how she wants “so badly to be good”. As the album plays through, the strangeness of the single’s choice will become more apparent. ‘Girl Gone Wild’ does little to set the listener up for what’s about to come next.

‘Gang Bang’
With an intro consisting of a revving engine and a solid four-to-the-floor beat, ‘Gang Bang’ is Madge Gone Industrial. We’re certainly not mentioning another blonde female artist who also took inspiration from German Industrial on her last album, but we’re in the same ball park. It’s exciting. Madonna’s ditched the faux English accent and the mood is tense. It feels like something’s about to snap as she declares “You were building my coffin/ you were driving my hearse”. Ubiquitous Dubstep wobble aside, the track tails off into a wonderful ‘Faster Kill Pussycat’ segment, with Madge singing “Drive bitch and while you’re at it die bitch!”

‘I’m Addicted’
Electronic ripples open the track into something that sounds like ‘Momma’s Place’-era Roisin Murphy. There are some nudging references to Killer Rave Drugs as Madonna sings “It’s like MDMA and that’s OK”. There’s another dubsteppy breakdown that ends with her chanting “MDNA” over an electro explosion. We can’t wait to see this live.

‘Turn Up the Radio’
This is the first of the six Martin Solveig-produced tracks on the album(including the bonus tracks). There’s a Dragonette style vocal and lyrics about music helping you to forget your woes. It’s quite sweet, and leads nicely into the next track…

‘Give Me All Your Luvin’’
…which is still amazing.

‘Some Girls’
The first William Orbit cut (of five). Direct and bitchy, Madonna’s vocals are treated and hidden beneath a heavy bass. It’s a mid-tempo track with a chorus of “Some girls are not like me / I never want to be like some girls”.

‘Superstar’
This track feels a bit lightweight amongst the others. There’s a Katy Perry vibe. The “Oh la la you’re my superstar” chorus seems like a incongruous filler with the cheeky cringey teen lyrics: “You’re like Abe Lincoln because you fight for what’s right”. Maybe Lourdes helped her with this one?

‘I Don’t Give A’
Lyrically, this is a list of all the things that Madonna has to do: “Message manager no time for a manicure”. It avoids turning into ‘American Life’ thanks to Madonna letting a little bit of her guard down: “I tried to be a good girl I tried to be your wife”. Nicki Minaj’s guest spot is relaxed and ends with the immortal line: “There’s only one queen and that’s Madonna, bitch”.

‘I’m A Sinner’
A psychy track that feels like a mix of Peaches and Martha And The Vandellas. It sounds fresh, and tongue firmly in cheek Madonna lists some saints over a “Wo-oh-ah” backing vocal.

‘Love Spent’
Though ‘Love Spent’ could come across as a kind of ‘Exquisite Corpse’ of a track (banjo intro, then violins, then spoken word) it’s really brilliant. Madonna channels ABBA-level spousal hurt as she sings “Hold me like your money, tell me that you want me, spend your love on me”.

‘Masterpiece’
The track from W.E. It sounds a bit zzzz here to be honest.

‘Falling Free’
Elegant and classy, the warped piano sounds of the final track on the album proper is a fitting end. This icy ballad fits far better than ‘Masterpiece’ as Madonna addresses a problem she wishes she could forget: “When I move a certain way I feel an ache I’ve kept at bay”.

‘Beautiful Killer’
Yep, you guessed it: beautiful filler, more like.

‘I Fucked Up’
It’s strange that this didn’t make it onto the main CD. This is the track that most critics have pegged to be about Guy Ritchie. Aside from the token French interlude, this is understated and excellent, and could easily have replaced ‘Masterpiece’.

‘B-Day Song’
M.I.A. makes an appearance on this 60s-influenced Solveig track. Though there’s a line about how Madonna likes to spend her birthdays (“Give me a spanking start the day off right”) it’s clear why this isn’t a main track.

‘Best Friend’
Madonna lists things she misses in her partner. It sounds a bit like a vocodorized Max Martin track, which would normally be amazing, but in these circumstances, it doesn’t really fit.

So, is the Queen of Pop back on her throne? Just about. We’d pledge our allegiance anyway.

MTV

Yesterday I was lucky enough to get an advance listen to Madonna’s much-anticipated new album MDNA, and I’m thrilled to tell you that it’s exactly the return to form fans have been hoping for from the Queen of Pop. A nice mix of dark, heavy club jams, mid-tempo electronic and some truly lovely ballads, MDNA has something for every sort of Madonna fan.

While we’re only now getting a snippet of the video for the album’s second single, “Girl Gone Wild,” listening to the album already has me thinking ahead to her next single. That’s how loaded with hits this thing is. Frankly, I can name three songs that I’d have gone with as the lead single over “Give Me All Your Lovin,” and I’m on the record as liking that song just fine!

But the real winner is as obvious as the nose on my face and I can’t believe Madonna didn’t lead with it. The song is “Turn Up The Radio” … and it’s the best thing she’s done since “Hung Up.”

Perhaps she’s just knowingly waiting to drop the track as an official single until early May because she knows it’s a perfect summer song. It’s a big, anthemic dance-pop wonder with glittery synths and fun lyrics like “I don’t know how I got to this stage / Let me out of my cage cause I’m dying / Turn up the radio, turn up the radio / Don’t ask me where I wanna go, we gotta turn up the radio.”

She needs freed because she’s ready to have a good time, you see! There’s a propulsive energy here that feels authentic and alive. The calculated perfectionism of some Madonna’s club jams can leave you feeling a little chilly but that’s not the case here. In my notes I scribbled the words “effervescent” and “happy.”

“You feel the wind on your face and your skin and it’s here that I begin,” Madonna sings as the music cues up. It’s almost like she knows this is a song to be listened to at full volume with the windows down.

There are quite a few potential hits on MDNA but “Turn Up the Radio” is the most accessible to a mass audience. Take, for example, “Gang Bang,” another song I really liked. The song is a dark and aggressive club track with gunshot sound effects and a pounding William Orbit beat. It also contains some of the album’s stronger lyrics – “I thought it was you, and I loved you the most / But I was just keeping my enemies close” – and a driving chorus (“Bang bang, shot you dead / Shot my lover in the head / Bang bang, shot you dead / And I have no regret”). But while I can see it playing deep into the night at a New York nightclub, I can’t see it being embraced by Top 40 radio.

“I’m Addicted” isn’t anywhere near as dark and is more typically Madonna than “Bang” and could work well as a single – but it’s a walloping dance track that would probably be better served if it were preceded by a big hit. It’s a great song, one that deserves some attention, and I think any hesitation radio programmers might feel about adding it to their lineup would be assuaged if they felt there was demand for it.

“Turn Up the Radio” could be the song that creates that demand. Give the people what they want, Madonna. Make it your next single!

Billboard

Madonna is still very much the Queen of Pop.

Nearly 30 years after first hitting the Billboard charts in late 1982 with her debut single “Everybody,” Madonna is still showing the pop world how it’s done.

“MDNA” — her 12th studio album — is a collection of thoroughly pumping pop tunes, some of which are slices of sheer brilliance. Not only does Madonna take us to the club with “MDNA,” she exhausts us, drains us, and confides in us. Five minutes after an aerobic workout on the dance floor, we’re in her private booth, where she’s spilling her guts about relationships and how things just didn’t turn out the way they planned. Then, another five minutes later, we’re back to dancing up a storm to a song like “Gang Bang.”

Yes, “Gang Bang.”

The track is one of the album’s many stand-outs. It’s a dark, throbbing tune that is twisted and surprising and altogether pop-tastic. (Yes, that’s a word.)

Also notable is the summery pop nugget “Turn Up the Radio,” the full-throttle digital rave-up of “I’m Addicted” and the driving, clever word play of “Love Spent.”

“MDNA” reunites Madonna with her “Ray of Light” co-producer William Orbit, who polishes her songs with cosmic flourishes and rushes of fuzzy-retro bits. Madonna also enlists the production assistance of Martin Solveig, the Demolition Crew, Benny Benassi, Alle Benassi, Hardy “Indiigo” Muanza and Michael Malih.

Curiously, the set’s first single — the rah-rah “Give Me All Your Luvin’” — doesn’t properly prepare the listener for what they’re going to get on the album. Basically: set it aside and go into “MDNA” with a clean slate.

Here’s a Track-By-Track Take on “MDNA”:

“Girl Gone Wild” The second single from “MDNA” is also the dance floor-ready opening number from the set. In a way, it’s very dance-by-the-numbers with Madonna — a “good girl gone wild” — singing about her “burning hot desire” to have some fun. The production is familiar Benny Benassi — all driving, thumping, electronic beats. It’s comparable to his remix of Madonna’s own “Celebration” single. The track does a good job of getting stuck in one’s head, thanks in large part to its “hey-yay-yay” sing-song chorus. One notable difference in hearing this track on a proper stereo setup with quality speakers: you get carried away a bit more by the “whoosh,” shall we say, of the song.

“Gang Bang” Commence freaking out, hard core Madonna fans, as “Gang Bang” is the song you’ve been waiting for. It’s dark, clubby, driving, thumping and altogether sickening. (Meaning: It’s fantastic, y’all.) Consulting our notes, the scribbles include the words “OMG,” “dubstep breakdown” and “GOD THE BEAT.” So yeah, it’s freaking amazing.

Eight songwriters, including British pop singer Mika (?!), collaborated on the song. On March 8, he Tweeted that it’s “weird as fuck, underground and lyrically cool, it’s amazing and bizarre. I love it, she sounds so good singing words so harsh.” Madonna sing/speaks over the tweaky production about how she keeps her “enemies close” and how she “shot my lover in the head.” Truly, “Gang Bang” is going to be one of the most talked-about tracks on the album and is completely unexpected after hearing “MDNA’s” first two singles (the cheery “Give Me All Your Luvin’” and dance-by-numbers “Girl Gone Wild”).

“Gang Bang’s” lyric “Drive bitch!” — so eloquently used in the song — will become quite the catchphrase in the coming months. (Notably, as “Gang Bang” is explicit — and perhaps un-editable — it will be omitted from the “clean” version of “MDNA.” A shame.)

“I’m Addicted” Hey, you wanna go dancing? We’ll meet Madonna at the club, as she’s got this fantastic, swirling, digital get-down number she wants to play for us. “Something happens to me when I hear your voice and I have no choice,” Madonna sings on the hypnotic, Daft Punk-y song. And when Madonna says in a cool, instructive tone, “I need to dance,” you know what — you’ll need to dance too. (And now we know where the title of the album comes from, as Madonna chants “MDNA” in “I’m Addicted.”)

“Turn Up the Radio” A cousin to “Girl Gone Wild,” this tune is a summery pop number that’s as effortless as it is simple. It’s mindless fun where Madonna sings about how the “temperature’s pounding’” and longing to “escape” and how she’s “sick and tired of playing this game.” (Haven’t we heard that before? Enough with the games Madonna!) — Basically the point of the song here is: “turn up the radio until the speakers blow.” While the lyrics aren’t provocative or necessarily new, it’s still a peppy little tune that would sound great “on the radio.”

“Give Me All Your Luvin” (featuring Nicki Minaj & M.I.A.) You’ve already heard “Give Me All Your Luvin’,” the album’s lead single, which peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The throwback cheerleader-like song almost seems like it was a commercial for Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime show as opposed to a proper promotional single for “MDNA.” Its lyrics and vibe aren’t indicative of “MDNA” as a whole and mislead the listener into thinking the album is going to be full of singsongy jingles with by-the-numbers lyrics.

“Some Girls” The album’s second William Orbit co-production, “Some Girls” will likely remind listeners of his work on the “Ray of Light” album. The tune has his trademark swirly, cosmic-like flourishes that zig-zag out of the speakers. On the track, Madonna lyrically references herself with the line “put your loving to the test” (oh hay “Express Yourself!”) whilst elsewhere singing “I never wanna be like some girls.”

“Superstar” Notably this track features the backing vocals of Madonna’s eldest child, Lourdes (credited as Lola Leon), and name checks everyone from Marlon Brando and Michael Jordan to Julius Caesar and Abraham Lincoln. The gist here is: “Ooh la la, you’re my superstar” and “I’m your biggest fan, it’s true.” Armed with yet another kicky dubstep bridge, Madonna also amusingly sings about how the “Superstar” subject of her devotion is “like John Travolta, getting into the groove.” (Get it? She’s referencing herself again — but in a smart, cheeky way.)

“I Don’t Give a F” (featuring Nicki Minaj) A very rat-a-tat-tat song, where Madonna barrels through a list of rants that vaguely reminds one of her rapping on the “American Life” single. She sings about how she “tried to be your wife” (Hey, Guy!) and “in the end it was a failure.” Nicki Minaj puts in her second appearance on the album, where she closes her feature with the swipe “There’s only one Queen and that’s Madonna. Bitch!” The song ends with a rather lengthy orchestral bit that’s epic and sweeping, but comes out of nowhere.

“I’m a Sinner” Reminiscent of William Orbit’s own Ultra Violet remix of the “Ray of Light” single, the chugging track is so very, very Orbit. It’s like the love child of “Beautiful Stranger” (another Orbit co-production) and “Ray of Light.” Mid-way through, Madonna gets inspirational and recites “Hail Mary full of grace / get down on your knees and pray” followed by “Jesus Christ hang on the cross, died for our sins it’s such a loss” and so on. (Yes, there’s more, but we couldn’t write that fast.)

“Love Spent” “You played with my heart, till death do we part,” Madonna sings on this driving, building track. It’s got these whooshes (yes, a technical term) that hark back to ’80s tracks like Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes.” It’s a mesmerizing song that includes a wonderful little strummy bit (possibly a banjo?). The lyrics work some clever word play comparing love to money: “I want you to hold me like you hold your money / hold me in your arms till there’s nothing left.” Madonna co-wrote this track with a team of professional writers, and the assistance is evident and welcome. (We love you Madonna, but we also love it when you collaborate and produce amazing, beautiful pop, like “Love Spent.”)

“Masterpiece” This was the first taste the public got of “MDNA,” as it was unveiled late last year as the closing-credits song of the Madonna-directed film “W.E.” (Though, at the time, it was unclear if the track would ultimately turn up on “MDNA.”) The Golden Globe-winning track is very pretty — percolating along with a clicky little beat, an acoustic guitar and delicate strings. Madonna’s vocals are lovely, comparing someone to “a rare and priceless work of art.”

“Falling Free” The quite gorgeous ballad reunites Madonna with her brother-in-law Joe Henry, who has co-written at least one song now on four different Madonna albums. He co-penned “Don’t Tell Me” from 2000′s “Music” album, as well as “Jump” from “Confessions on a Dance Floor” and “The Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You” from the diva’s last set, 2008′s “Hard Candy.” As an album-closer, it’s perfect, with the lyric “I let loose the need to know / we’re both free — both free to go . . . ”

“Beautiful Killer” A concept song, certainly. Madonna goes on about how there’s a “gun in my mouth” and “maybe that’s what you’ve been dreaming about” and “maybe I’ll let you shoot me down.” There’s an persistent string element here that brings to mind “Papa Don’t Preach.”

“I F****d Up” It’s Madonna just straight out saying how craptacular a particular relationship turned out (we’re guessing her marriage to Guy Ritchie). She sings, “I’m so ashamed, you’re in so much pain,” “wish I could take it back” and how she “destroyed the perfect dream.” There’s a whole lot of “couldas” here that just strike us as odd, as Madonna never was the “I’m sorry” kind of gal. She’s all about no regrets and no apologies.

“B-Day Song” A fun girl-group ditty that’s a throw back to Madonna’s “True Blue” era of good time goof-off songs. It’s light, fluffy and effortless — and very stripped down. Think Go-Go’s meets Madonna with lyrics like “Light my candles,” “make a wish” and “give me a spankin’!” (Yes, really.) Sample silly lyrics include: “I wanna diamond, don’t give me a fake!”

“Best Friend” Perhaps too personal of a song to be included on the “standard” version of the album, “Best Friend” can only be read as being about her ex-husband, Ritchie. Absolutely confessional in tone, Madonna sings “I feel like I lost my very best friend” but she has “no regrets” and that she “survived the biggest test.” The song closes, monumentally, with the heartbreaking lyric: “It wasn’t always perfect, but it wasn’t always bad.”

“Give Me All Your Luvin’” (featuring Nicki Minaj & M.I.A.) (LMFAO Remix) LMFAO reworks “Give Me All Your Luvin’” party rock style, dumping M.I.A.’s rap for lyrical insertions from Redfoo and SkyBlu.

Evening Standard

Pretty much every band or musician who doesn’t split up or die reaches a point where they must accept that their fanbase is ageing with them and settle into making music of a signature style again and again. This is where Madonna is out on her own, still striving for contemporary relevance as she releases her 12th album later this month.

That she is increasingly ridiculed for seeking out the youngest, hottest collaborators, a pop vampire chasing eternal youth at 53, shouldn’t matter because here she consistently succeeds. Clubbers less than half her age will have to admit that she has earned her place on the dance floor with MDNA, its title presumably a cheeky play on the chemical name for ecstasy.

If party drugs had been available instead of jellybeans at the Abbey Road press preview for the album, the spiritual home of The Beatles would have witnessed some seriously embarrassing dance moves. MDNA doesn’t let up until the very end, driven by relentless techno beats until the underwhelming Latin sidestep, Masterpiece, near the finish. Weak early singles such as the cheerleader’s chant Give Me All Your Luvin’ (first heard at the Super Bowl) and the generic dance of Girl Gone Wild suggested she’s losing her touch but there’s lots more here that is fantastic.

Gang Bang is weird, minimal and very dark, lurching towards dubstep for a window-rattling climax as Madonna shouts: “Now drive, bitch!” I’m a Sinner, one of several new collaborations with her Ray of Light production partner William Orbit, fizzes along on a speeded-up We Will Rock You beat towards a gloriously catchy chorus. Both of the guest appearances from hotshot rapper Nicki Minaj are a fine fit.

It’s the blatant bid for A-list airplay that is Turn Up the Radio that should ensure that her glitterball shines brighter than ever. A breezy tune with an exhilarating breakdown and loads of stadium synths, it bodes well for a July 17 Hyde Park show that looks increasingly like a heck of a party. Out on March 26.

Drowned in Sound

“I’ve been to a couple of playbacks,” comments one journalist after hearing Madonna’s MDNA in full for the first time. “The louder they play the album, the more worried the record label tend to be worried about it.”

‘How loud was this particular listening session in the bowels of Abbey Road?’, you ask. In a word, earsplitting.

For those of you unfamiliar with the story of MDNA so far, this is Madge’s 12th solo album in total, her first for Universal and it has spawned her lowest ever charting debut single in ‘Give Me All Your Luvin”. Its follow-up ‘Girl Gone Wild’ has hasn’t been rapturously received either, so there’s a fair bit riding on this swanky event attended by pretty much every major media outlet in the country… and your humble reporter.

Despite the obvious temptation to declare a phenomenal comeback after the disappointing Hard Candy or a continuation of that muddled slump, what follows is a guide to where the album is at. Not how good it is.

Opinions need time to fester and we wouldn’t want to embarrass ourselves 12 months later for the sake of some easy hyperbole. This is simply our account of what happened when a 53-year-old singer’s latest dance-pop record, primarily aimed at a market of teenage Radio 1 listeners, was played to a room of music critics in their early thirties.

1) Girl Gone Wild
The album’s second single, revealed via a cringey lyric video, sets the mould for MDNA. That mould being a whole lot of synth and some frivolous good time lyrics. A modern on twist on the old school fun of ‘Holiday’ and ‘Open Your Heart’.

2) Gang Bang
Despite the eye-raising title this track is more concerned with smoking firepower than demeaning group sex. An orgy of pithy lyrics for your earholes, this song includes the hilarious spoken word kiss off “If you’re gonna act like a bitch, you’re gonna die like a bitch!” Cue blazing shotgun My notes also mention the phrase, ‘Obligatory dubstep breakdown’. Take that as you will…

3) I’m Addicted
Produced by Benny Benassi, ‘I’m Addicted’ is the track from which MDNA gets its name. You can pick this up quite easily because Madge takes to chanting her album’s title repeatedly over some squelching electronic vibrations. A song with an irresistible chorus which comes pretty close to an instant favourite.

4) Turn Up The Radio
So far the Material Girl she hasn’t pulled any punches in pushing for a club-friendly audience but ‘Turn Up The Radio’ feels more like one for the oldies. That is, the theatrics are toned down a bit in favour of a whopping chorus which goes something like this, “Turn up the the radio, turn up the radio. Don’t ask me where I wanna go, we’ve gotta turn up the radio.” Big but in no way clever.

5) Give Me All Your Luvin’ feat. Nicki Minaj & M.I.A.
For all its flaws, it’s easy to see why ‘Give Me All Your Luvin” was selected as the lead single for MDNA. A likeable song with the guest vocals from two critically claimed and commercially successful rappers could have spelt chart gold. If only the whole affair didn’t seem so half-hearted.

6) Some Girls
The first of five William Orbit tracks on the album, this is a disappointment for those expecting the blissed out vibes of Ray Of Light. These come a little later, so for now it’s another slightly tired banger which goes heavy on the vocoder while pushing the vocals right to the back of the mix. Seems to be trying too hard to impress but will hopefully even out on repeated listens.

7) Superstar
Not the first song to see Madonna name check Marlon Brando, this is decent enough mid-album album fare. “Ooh la la, you’re a superstar” goes the idiosyncratic chorus and we bob our head along obligingly. As another bassy wobble reigns in, the album is beginning to feel like a more refined version of Britney’s Femme Fatale. We liked Femme Fatale, a lot.

8) I Don’t Give A
Just when we were getting worried MDNA was too light on personality ‘I Don’t Gives A’ arrives to allay our fears with lashings of brash sentiment. Tabloid hacks will no doubt have a field day with Guy Ritchie referencing lines like, “I tried to be a good girl. I tried to be your wife”. The real scene stealer comes at the end of the track however, with Nicki Minaj proclaiming, “There’s only one Queen and that’s Madonna. Bitch!” On this form, it’s hard to disagree with the ‘Stupid Hoe’ chanteuse.

9) I’m A Sinner
As everyone knows, Jesus Christ died for Madonna’s right to make mildly controversial statements. While not quite up there with ‘Like A Prayer’s’ comparison of solemn meditation to a good old blowjob, an “I’m a sinner and I like it that way” line at least keeps up the tradition of Catholic-baiting. William Orbit’s track through and through, this mix of looping drums and reverb-laden guitar tees the album up for a decent home run.

10) Love Spent
Featuring a banjo-lead intro and a proper (auto-tune assisted) key change, ‘Love Spent’ is a silly little romp which we were rather fond of. Much like Confessions On A Dance Floor there’s no real message to MDNA, just a series of four-to-the-floor tracks and more reflective numbers like this one.

11) Masterpiece
The album’s penultimate offering and its only straight up ballad, ‘Masterpiece’ is overwrought but underwhelming. Admittedly Madge isn’t famed for her cracking pipes yet a sudden reach for the high notes would do well to distract from a humdrum acoustic backing track. It’s no ‘Crazy For You’ that’s for sure.

12) Falling Free
A complete contrast to the opening synthetics of ‘Girl Gone Wild’, ‘Falling Free’ is a sombre and string-drenched affair. After an avalanche of opening dramatics, it’s pleasing to hear MDNA end on a reflective note. “We’re both free, free to go,” coos the world’s best-selling female artist of all time.

In truth, we would leave but there’s the small matter of some bonus tracks to skip through. Of this ramshackle bunch ‘Beautfiful Killer’ and ‘I Fucked Up’ reward our perseverance but ‘B-Day Song’ and ‘Best Friend’ feel a bit kitsch on first impressions at least.

Summary
Madonna has stepped back into the pop fray with a something for everyone. The first Demolition Crew and Benny Benasssi-produced half of MDNA sees her try and play to a synth-hungry 21st century audience. The second returns to the comforting fold of William Orbit’s mellow ambient bliss.

What we’ll be grappling with as we get down to our review is whether the record hangs to together well enough as a whole. In the opulent surroundings of a free bar and several bowls full of jelly beans, it’s easy to get carried away with your own enthusiasm. Still, we arrived at Abbey Road with no little trepidation and left reassured that Madge hasn’t succumbed to Top 40 drudgery yet. That will do for the meantime.

Los Angeles Times

Madonna’s new album, “MDNA,” which comes out March 26, is her first record in four years and her first since leaving her longtime home with Warner Bros. Records.

The singer arrives untethered to offer the first of a three-release deal via LiveNation/Interscope — and her newfound freedom isn’t limited to her professional life. Since her last album, “Hard Candy” in 2008, she and husband Guy Ritchie have divorced, and the combination of events seems to have pushed her to let loose both physically and lyrically.

This isn’t a review of the album — that will come closer to the release date. But as someone who’s been privy to an early copy of the record, here’s a little teaser.

On first listen, “MDNA” draws from the range of the singer’s styles — some hard dance tracks, some introspective ballads — while adding new producers into her world. These include, most notably, Frenchman Martin Solveig and the Italian producer Benny Benassi, best known Stateside for his work on Chris Brown’s “Beautiful People.” William Orbit, who has been one of Madonna’s key point men since “Ray of Light,” is a continued presence and helps pace the album’s waning moments with softer textures, including the luxurious “Love Spent.”

Madonna’s collaborations with Solveig, of which there are six on the 16-song deluxe version, are, overall, the kind of hard house productions (made with her underappreciated producer, Mirwais Ahmadzai) that helped make her 2000 album, “Music,” such a vibrant injection. One of the best bonus cuts on “MDNA,” “Beautiful Killer,” is supported by a ’70s-era disco string section. (Solveig will be performing as one of the dance-tent headliners at Coachella in April.)

And “I Don’t Give A,” produced by Madonna and Solveig, is a Daft Punk-style banger in which she addresses divorce: “I tried to be a good girl, tried to be your wife/Diminished myself, and swallowed my life/I tried to become all that you expect of me/And if it was a failure, I don’t give a …” There’s a dose of dubstep — replete with deep bass-drop — on the track, right before Nicki Minaj jumps in to reinforce Madonna’s argument: “When I let a dude go that’s his loss/I was cutting those checks I was his boss,” she sings, before declaring, ‘I’m not a businesswoman, I’m a business, woman.”

The final of the bonus tracks is by far the most personal; called “Best Friend,” it’s a love letter to a former beau, and listening to it you can’t help but draw the conclusion that its intended recipient is Ritchie. For someone who’s so often “a business, woman,” “Best Friend” is one of the most personal and moving songs of her career.

Examiner

San Diego’s Z90.3 will be premiering tracks from Madonna’s upcoming spectacular album MDNA starting on Friday, March 23. But you don’t have to wait—yesterday, we drove all the way to Los Angeles for a listening party. Needless to say, nearly getting in two accidents and driving in back-to-back rush hour traffic was worth it.

We won’t be able to post our full and detailed review until sometime closer to the release date. However, we can reveal our first impressions after listening to the album just once.

MDNA can best be described as Ray of Light on steroids. You can also throw in some Confessions on a Dance Floor.
The first two singles don’t do this album justice. “Give Me All Your Luvin” still sticks out like a sore thumb on the album. “Girls Gone Wild” is a great dance track, but doesn’t display Madonna’s full capabilities.
Our favorite track on the album is “Love Spent,” an amazing electro-ballad that is beautifully sung and produced. We were told that an acoustic version of the song is set to be released.
Our second favorite song is “Gang Bang,” which is wild, scary, and sexy all in the same breath.
Guy Richie is still on Madonna’s mind. “Best Friend” and “Falling Free” will put a smile on his face.
Sorry, Little Monsters—we love Lady Gaga, but this album makes everything she has ever done seem reductive.

MusicOMH

Yesterday we repaired to London’s Abbey Road Studios to waggle our ears just the once at Madonna’s new album MDNA. The Queen Of Pop’s first album for new label Interscope (Polydor in the UK), it sees her join forces with Italian housemeister Benny Benassi and France’s Martin Solveig, and team up again with Ray Of Light and Music cohort William Orbit.

Ahead of a standard-format review nearer to MDNA’s release date (26th March), Laurence Green runs through the album track by track…

Girl Gone Wild

Kicks off with a spoken word intro – already placing it in classic Madonna territory. It’s that ego-centricness of Confessions On A Dancefloor all over again, but with even louder beats. There’s the slick veneer of the commercial dance number here too, echoing recent Greatest Hits teaser single Celebration. The vocals aren’t Madonna’s best – a defining feature across the album – but when the clubland backing is so explosively loud, that’s hardly a detracting feature. There’s even a persistent energy of sorts to the vocals that, twinned with the buzz-saw synths, firmly establishes Girl Gone Wild as the sound of ‘now’. With its aping of the ‘girls just wanna have some fun’ refrain, there’s a real ’80s sentiment beating at the heart of the track too.

Gang Bang

“If I see that bitch in hell I’m gonna shoot them in the head again” – Madonna’s brawling for some action here, via a filthy, almost Erotica-esque onslaught of breathy vocals. It teases and plays, proper between the covers stuff; which you’d kind of expect from a song with a title as blatantly lewd as Gang Bang. At moments it all sounds like something off Daft Punk’s Tron soundtrack; hard techno, brutal, uncompromising and industrial. Gang Bang feels vital and on point in a way Madonna hasn’t sounded in years. There’s police sirens and an obliging dubstep middle-eight (there was always going to be one on the album, wasn’t there?) – Everything about Gang Bang is menacing and comes on at full-throttle, right down to Madonna’s flippant remark of “I’m going straight to hell”.

I’m Addicted

The burbly techno synths continue here, again it’s all very Tron-esque. If Confessions was dancey, I’m Addicted is dancey with a capital D. The bass positively explodes outwards and it’s refreshing to see Madonna putting out something with real punch. For an artist of her age and experience, she could easily rest on her laurels, and I’m Addicted is about as far away from that as it’s possible to get. Some rave synths get whacked into the mix too, like it’s 1991 all over again – this leads into a hyper-fast outro of the “MDNA!” hook, putting the track forward as a real centrepiece model for the rest of the album.

Turn Up The Radio

This is where the real Madonna melodies of old surface, mining the kind of exuberant stuff that characterised her ’80s greats – that playful spirit is well and truly back. As obvious as its airwaves-courting title might be, this is *the* big radio hit on the album, the kind stations up and down the country will lap up in the summer. There’s an incredible abundance of optimism here, a carefree abandon in thrilling degrees of magnitude. Here Madonna is the American queen triumphant, proclaiming “I wanna go fast and I’m gonna go far” in an up-and-at-em call of readiness for life and anything it chooses to throw at her.

Give Me All Your Luvin

In hindsight, and with the hype and drama of the Superbowl performance behind her, the truth is that Madonna doesn’t really need Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. on the album. In the wider scope of MDNA as a whole, they pale into the background – though to be fair to them, they’re a much better fit than Timbaland and Justin Timberlake were on Hard Candy. Clearly, the aspect of sisterhood combined has something going for it though, and it’s nice to hear Madonna so rejuvenated and youthful here, having some fun and laughs with her ‘hip’ pals.

Some Girls

The first of the five William Orbit tracks on the album, and it kicks off with yet more of the palpably massive levels of bass that mark out the record’s opening tracks. The industrial techno theme is continued too with a massive wedge of robotic treated vocals snaking out across the song. There’s a harking back to the more electronic moments of Music and American Life, everything pumping with the air of Madonna as superior, as the pinnacle of her contemporaries. As with Orbit’s Ray Of Light era productions, the track thrives on a sense of experimentalism that still remains effortlessly commercial at the same time.

Superstar

Ironically, Superstar isn’t one of the William Orbit tracks, but it sure sounds like one. It’s the album’s ‘rock’ track and stands as another prime single candidate. The melody is sublime, the kind of thing long-time Madonna fans have been waiting years for, and released here, it’s like a cleansing burst of pure radiance. Even the slightly shoe-horned in dubstep section can’t detract from the song, it’s that good.

I Don’t Give A

Here, the industrial influences meet hip-hop beats amongst a grinding cacophony of sound and borderline raps from Madonna (though thankfully it never reaches the silly, pretentious levels of the ill-fated American Life single). “I’m gonna live fast, and I’m gonna live life,” she claims, with a sort of wry simplicity, as if that’s all there is to it. It’s probably one of the album’s weaker tracks, stemming chiefly from the fact that – as Hard Candy proved – Madonna just can’t do ‘urban’ (Bedtime Stories excepted). Nicki Minaj pops up again and then the track descends into a weird cod-orchestral outro. It’s regality defined, and Nicki eagerly clamours to hold up Madonna as such: “There’s only one queen, and that’s Madonna, bitch.”

I’m A Sinner

That trademark psychedelic William Orbit sound is out in force here, with crunchy guitar riffs once again suggesting the Ray of Light era. There’s some lovely tinkling, celestially imbued synth bits and tribal sounds going on too. At times, it all feels a bit like Madonna’s about to don her Earth Mother makeover, and by any measure, this is definitely the album’s most religious track as she reels off names of saints.

Love Spent

The opening moments sound akin to the country n’ beats combo of Music’s Don’t Tell Me and while Love Spent takes some time to get going, it’s worth the wait. In the final choruses, everything all comes in at once, backed up by thunderclap beats – as far as firmly defined ‘album tracks’ go, this is a pretty good effort, even if it feels a little by-the-numbers at times.

Masterpiece

Yes, it might be a Madonna ballad of a certain esteemed ‘class’, and yes, it might be on the W.E. soundtrack, but that’s probably where it should have stayed. After the hi-energy pace of the rest of the album, Masterpiece feels out of place.

Falling Free

Compared to Masterpiece, Falling Free makes a far better stab at positioning itself as a ballad that fits into the wider context of MDNA. Echoey piano lines and string sections set up a lovely trippy vibe that shares more than a little in common with the likes of Drowned World/Substitute for Love. Falling Free sounds properly sumptuous; there’s a richness to its production that serves to close the album down as a real assertion of Madonna ‘the artist’. Her vocals here are excellent, both moving and tender in a way that genuinely touches at the heart. Like scented rose petals and jasmine cast loose on water, Falling Free has a rippling beauty to it that is utterly enchanting.

Beautiful Killer

The first of the bonus tracks, and of all the Martin Solveig-produced songs on MDNA, this sounds most stereotypically of his ‘style’. As is often the wont with bonus tracks, Beautiful Killer is pretty disposable, a bog standard clubland floorfiller – but the middle-eight is rather good.

I Fucked Up

A slow grind of swirly synths and guitar that feels restrained from ever becoming properly great because of that really quite cringeworthy title. It’s just one step too far on the crudeness barometer. But as with Beautiful Killer, the pace ups in the closing moments and the song improves with impressive agility. There’s also a neat reference to Sorry as Madonna recycles her “Je suis désolée” line.

B-Day Song

Featuring M.I.A., B-Day Song feels like the obvious counterpoint to Give Me All Your Luvin, with M.I.A. feeling far more at home here than she does on the album-proper. It’s bratty with a Material Girl punkiness to it but the chorus hook is predominantly more annoying than catchy, with only the choppy guitar riffs helping salvage affairs.

Best Friend

Another wary dip into a more urban soundbase, there’s some cute blippy GameBoy-style synths to play with here, but for the most part Best Friend sounds like an unfinished demo or drum machine exercise. There’s a bare boned minimalism to the track that, as with Beautiful Killer, sets it very much out as ‘just’ a bonus track.

In summary, whereas Hard Candy felt like it was grasping at fading trends, MDNA is far more Madonna just being Madonna. And that usually turns out best for everyone involved.

The Times

Madonna punches out younger rivals, not least Lady Gaga, with her new album, argues Will Hodgkinson

A lot rides on Madonna’s new album. Her acting career never took off. W.E., her biopic of Wallis Simpson with the clunky parallels to Madonna’s own life, is a misguided exercise in narcissism. But on MDNA Madonna successfully returns to what she does best: hi-energy disco, as thrilling as it is unhealthy. Central to a 360-degree deal worth a reputed £40 million, the album, which features a host of producers and cameos from Nicki Minaj and M.I.A., sends out a clear message: there can only be one queen of pop.

Girl Gone Wild

Produced by Euro dance sensation Marco Benassi, this features a big thumping beat, an ultra-low electro bass, and Madonna’s voice, speeded up and put through a vocoder, carrying a pop song so cheesy it could have fallen off the last Britney Spears album. That’s not a dignified place for a 53-year-old woman to be, but this is one of those creations in which a series of unpleasant ingredients make a tasty meal. With lines like “I don’t want to be like them, I just want to have some fun,” it’s liberating in its meaninglessness.

Gang Bang

An ultra-modern musical setting gives the opportunity for Madonna to don a murderous sexpot persona. Over police sirens and an air of urban malevolence, Madonna lists, in a deadly calm voice, the horrors she will impart on a rival. These include not only shooting him/her in the head, but also going to Hell so she can shoot them all over again. Studying the Kabbalah doesn’t seem to have brought inner peace.

I’m Addicted

Here’s a return to the Madonna of old with a light piece of disco. Giorgio Morodor-style keyboard squiggles come and go, while a rave piano arrives half way through. Madonna sings about love feeling “like a drug, and I can’t get enough”. The Demolition Crew add club-friendly sounds.

Turn up the Radio

This is another dancefloor smash that will go down well at G.A.Y. “There’s a glow of light, calling you to go outside,” she sings, reviving the spirit of classics such as Ray of Light and Like a Prayer. Uplifting, escapist pop.

Give Me All Your Luvin’

As performed at the Super Bowl, with guest vocalists Nicki Minaj and M.I.A acknowledging their debt to the queen by spelling out her name in cheerleader shouts. It’s a great song until M.I.A ends her spot by saying “I don’t give a shit.” She sounds like she had second thoughts halfway through, so it comes out as “I don’t give a shirt.”

Some Girls

Not a Rolling Stones cover but another club tune, this one with odd electronic squiggles from producer William Orbit. She sings about “crying in a limousine”, presumably to reassure us that the rich and famous have problems too.

Superstar

The album’s first electric guitar before Madonna pays her lover a series of compliments. “You’re like Brando on the silver screen,” she says, which any man would like — more than “You’re like Caesar, stepping on to the throne.”

I Don’t Give A

The missing word of the title might well be “fig”, since this is the song in which Madonna comes to terms with the end of her marriage to Guy Ritchie and resulting loss of position in the British upper classes. “I tried to be a good girl, I tried to be the perfect wife,” she claims, before pretty much admitting this is a lie by saying in a robotic voice, “And if I was a failure, I don’t give a … [fig]”

I’m a Sinner

The best song on the album finds Madonna rejecting her Catholic upbringing and claiming that she’s happy to be a sinner. Once the cross goes in, however, it never comes out, and Madonna admits as much: “St Sebastian don’t you cry, let those poison arrows fly.”

Love Spent

This unremarkable disco filler is intended to pad out the album before the glorious climax. The music is boring but the words are intriguing: “You played with my heart, till death do us part, that’s what you said.” Is this an arm outstretched to Guy Ritchie?

Masterpiece

Madonna seems to be reflecting on the sadness of life’s impermanence here, as she sings about nothing being indestructible while admitting that she fell in love with someone’s work, or their masterpiece, rather than the person within. Rather schmaltzy, but with stirring strings, not unpleasant.

Falling Free

MDNA ends with a song of heartbreak that is tinged with cautious optimism. With her best, most natural vocal delivery on the album, Madonna sounds genuinely emotional — rare for her — as she describes a break-up and the bittersweet feeling of freedom its aftermath brings. A classical setting brings all the drama you want from Madonna: she may be strong, but she cries real tears. “We’re both free, free to go,” she sings, dabbing at the corner of her eye with a handkerchief.

The Independent

With digital technology making it possible to create hits quite acceptably in your spare room, the older studios are feeling the pinch, and keen to find new ways of monetising their profile. Which may be why Abbey Road’s Studio 2, is tonight playing host to a playback of the new Madonna album, MDNA.

She’s opted to work primarily with three co-producers, the Italian Marco “Benny” Benassi, Frenchman Martin Solveig, and Englishman William Orbit – all of them celebrated for their cutting-edge work in electronica. Orbit, of course, has worked with Madonna before, helming the hugely successful Ray Of Light album; but he’s not the only echo of former glories present on MDNA, which at times seems determined to remind one of her previous achievements.

There’s the faint melodic similarity to “Hung Up” in part of “Give Me All Your Luvin’”; the reference to Brando in the obvious hit single “Superstar”, which reminds us of “Vogue”; and the religious undertones of “I’m A Sinner”, with its lines about “Mother Mary, full of grace” and “Jesus Christ up on the cross”, which is like a less complex play with the same themes so brilliantly manipulated in “Like A Prayer”.

Is she, one wonders, bringing the full weight of her CV to bear in re-establishing her pop dominance in the face of inroads made by the likes of Rihanna, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga? Because MDNA represents a determined, no-nonsense restatement of the Madonna brand following the lacklustre Hard Candy, on which her hip-hop collaborators failed to apply their talents as rigorously as they might.

Here, the likes of Solveig and Benassi, for all their parochial successes, are still hungry enough to ensure the zonking great beats and synthesiser riffs are sculpted for maximum propulsion. “Girl Gone Wild” opens the album with a variant on the “girls just wanna have fun” theme, Madonna’s introductory spoken “confession” quickly giving way to a fulsome electro stomper laced with blurry dubstep touches. “Gang Bang” is all too eager to court controversy, its martial beat and twitchy minimal strands of synth hosting the star’s arch commands to “Die, bitch!”. M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj guest on “Give Me All Your Luvin’”, chanting “L! U! V! Madonna!” before contributing babble-raps swamped by the techno pulse.

Minaj reappears on “I Don’t Give A”, like a henchman adding muscle to Madonna’s assertive claims of being the best: “There’s only one queen, and that’s Madonna, bitch!”. Wherever Lady Gaga is, her ears are probably burning.

The Sun

Now the singer is 53 and knocking out her 12th studio album, you might expect her tastes to change.

But no. Her appetite for making music to get a sweat on to is showing no sign of dinner lady’s arm.

I’ve had a listen to new collection MDNA and it is packed with special little chemicals – including dubstep.

Her daughter Lola is a huge fan of producer Skrillex and it sounds like mum might have been listening in.

In fact, Lola gets a gig on backing vocals on the album’s stand-out track Superstar. Opener Gang Bang also follows the dubstep trend.

Nicki Minaj
Class … Nicki Minaj

Madge has gone back in the Confessions On A Dancefloor direction for an album packed with big pop classics.

Her past release, Hard Candy, was a let-down for even her most loyal followers. So it’s a wise move to return to what she does best.

And it’s all thanks to her successful partnerships with top European producers.

William Orbit – who was behind Ray Of Light – is back on board, plus Benny Benassi and French club DJ Martin Solveig.

Having rappers M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj on board was a shrewd move and they bring quality as well as credibility to their guest appearances.

Guy Ritchie
In the firing line … Guy Ritchie

Lyrically, she spits out a few harsh words for ex-husband Guy Ritchie on I Don’t Give A.

But she also accepts some responsibility for a broken marriage on bonus track I F***** Up.

Fans will love I’m Addicted, Turn Up The Radio and Some Girls – they are classic Madge.

Falling Free is the most stripped-down Madonna track I’ve heard for years.

The album should be the spine of an incredible live show – just what her army of followers will want to hear.

It’s a return to form and out on March 26.

Daily Star

“THERE’S only one queen…and that’s Madonna,” she sings on new tune I Don’t Give A, but Madonna knows she’s been overtaken by Lady Gaga and Katy Perry in the four years since Hard Candy.

That was hardly her best album anyway, so it’s surprising and a joy to report that Madonna is back at her absolute best with the biggest all-out dance album she’s ever made.

The opening trio of songs are brutal techno, as heavy as The Prodigy, especially the bonkers murder fantasy Gang Bang.

There are classic catchy pop songs such as Superstar and the only two slowies at the end, but MDNA is so geared up for the clubs it makes her previous disco album Confessions On A Dance Floor look chilled out.

When Madonna’s able to rock a dancefloor as assuredly as I’m Addicted or Some Girls, it’s time for Gaga to start taking notes again. Madge’s regal boast sounds genuine again. MDNA?

It’s prtty dmn grt.

Guardian

We’ve had a sneak preview of the new album – get ready for terrible French accents, amazing pop raves and heartfelt ballads.

1. Girl Gone Wild
After the relative failure of the album’s first single Give Me All Your Luvin’ – in with a bullet at No 37 in the UK – this throbbing, having-a-bit-of-a-dance electro-pop stomper was released a few weeks ago in the form of a fairly embarrassing lyric video. Embarrassing because the lyrics are probably the worst thing about it, all “you got me in the zone, DJ play my favourite song” club LOLs. Co-produced by Italian DJ Benny Benassi, it’s a lot more exciting musically, especially when the whole thing disintegrates in the middle eight, dropping out completely as Madonna coos “forgive me”. A signal we’re back in Confessions on a Dance Floor territory following the relative misstep of Hard Candy.

2. Gang Bang
Madonna in playful mode. Big throbbing industrial-tinged beats, spoken word verses, no real chorus, just a ridiculous collection of sound effects (police sirens, gunshots) and imposing menace that’s actually pretty fun in a kind of slightly unhinged way. Gang Bang recalls her American Life album in its slightly uneasy marrying of genres, with a sudden dubstep breakdown its most obvious detour. Lyrically it’s a twisted revenge fantasy rather than a sordid romp, closing with the line: “If you’re going to drive like a bitch then you’re going to die like a bitch.”

3. I’m Addicted
Again co-produced by Benny Benassi, this continues the theme of “Fun!” (however forced it might seem) that permeates most of MDNA’s first half. “I need to dance,” Madonna trills over squiggly synth squelches and a beat that morphs into a fairly ridiculous Calvin Harris-esque breakdown. By the end she’s chanting “M D N A”, which you imagine might be shouted back at her by some fairly large crowds come summer.

4. Turn Up the Radio
This one, co-produced by Martin Solveig, should have been the second single. Its relatively calm intro is a timely breather from the throbbing bass and feels more carefree and instinctive than what has gone before. Over a bouncing beat that filters, stutters and drops in all the right places, it slowly morphs into an anthemic raveathon, with a lovely middle eight underpinned by almost tribal drums. Again, the theme is the need for one and all to chill out and have some fun.

5. Give Me All Your Luvin’
If you were one of the 108 million people who watched this year’s Super Bowl halftime show then you’ve probably heard this first single. If, however, you listen to the radio then you probably haven’t, seeing as it wasn’t playlisted on Radio 1 and received limited exposure elsewhere. Though admittedly not her best comeback single – that’s Frozen, in case you were wondering – it’s still a fun song, Solveig slightly reworking the bouncing beats and acoustic strums of his amazing Hello single and drafting in Nicki Minaj and MIA to add some personality to a middle section that’s slightly dubstep-interlude-by-numbers.

6. Some Girls
Probably the album’s weakest moment, with Madonna’s vocals pulled, processed and buried deep in the mix, acting more like another instrument within a deluge of filtered beats. It could have easily been a leftover from her Music album, William Orbit unable to find a melodic core in a song that probably should have been included as a bonus track.

7. Superstar
Opening with a massive Cheerleader-style drum beat – reminiscent of the extended intro to Solveig’s Hello – this is much better, Madonna sounding playful and energised, singing about how her new boyfriend is pretty amazing. In fact, she likes him so much she’ll let him “have the password to my phone”. Unfortunately, as with most songs on the first half of the album, the chorus is a bit weak, a simple “oh la la, you’re my superstar”. Also, memo to Madonna: massive pop stars knowing about dubstep is probably a bit old hat now, but we get another dubstepesque breakdown nonetheless.

8. I Don’t Give A
Brilliantly odd. Opening with a bang, literally, it goes on to morph into an America Life-style rap (no wait, come back) that features a list of things Madonna has to do (“meet the press … sign the contract”). The industrial beats soon make way for spooky chants and out of nowhere Minaj pops up, finishing her rap with “there’s only one Queen and that’s Madonna, bitch”. If this isn’t being made into a T-shirt as you read this then there’s something wrong with the world of merchandise.

9. I’m a Sinner
Futuristic-sounding, double-tracked beats hail a song that veers from having fun on a night out (“all the boys and the girls wanna be like us tonight”), to a religious revelry (“Hail Mary, Jesus Christ on the cross died for our sins”). Produced by William Orbit, his signature motifs are all over it, from the Ray of Light-style guitar line that emerges from nowhere to the bit later on that sounds like Beautiful Stranger.

10. Love Spent
Back come the guitars, this time working around processed strings, a pretty melody and lyrics about wanting to replace money in a man’s affections. “Hold me like your money … Spend your love on me,” Madonna sings over four-to-the-floor beats and a properly ravey middle eight. There’s an amusing moment when she deadpans: “Frankly, if my name was Benjamin, we wouldn’t be in this mess we’re in.”

11. Masterpiece
Over a simple fingerclick drum beat and a pretty acoustic riff, this ballad – which appeared on the W.E. soundtrack – takes the painting metaphor hinted at in the title and runs with it. “If you were the Mona Lisa, you’d be hanging in the Louvre,” Madonna sings, with the implication being that it’s hard to love something perfect and distant (“the look but please don’t touch me type”). It’s one of the best vocal performances on the album, her voice soft and sweet throughout, lifting effortlessly into the chorus of “I’m right by your side, like a thief in the night, I stand in front of the masterpiece.” A breath of fresh air after heavy bass and ravey synths.

12. Falling Free
Opens with a spooky, slightly unhinged piano section that’s more lonely woman in haunted house than Coldplay stadium filler. Deep strings underpin the whole thing, with just the piano and strange electronic textures – similar to Ray of Light’s Drowned World – for company. As with most of the later songs, you could easily read a lot into the lyrics, specifically thinking about Madonna’s divorce from Guy Ritchie. “We’re both free, free to go,” she sings as the strings sigh and slowly settle. It’s a haunting way to end the main album.

13. Beautiful Killer
The first of four bonus tracks, this draws on a fairly popular Madonna theme: that of being drawn to something bad for you. “Baby I’ll let you shoot me down” and “I can’t really talk with a gun in my mouth” are two lyrical highlights on a song that was rightly left off the main album.

14. I Fucked Up
This, however, definitely should have been on it. Opening with a big, bass-heavy beat and a snapped “I fucked up”, it’s Madonna at her self-lacerating best. “I made a mistake, nobody does it better than myself,” she sings as the beat is joined by strings and sudden bursts of guitar. Suddenly the beat skips and speeds up, creating the album’s grimiest, least polished moment. Fans of Confessions on a Dance Floor’s Sorry will be pleased to hear her sing “je suis desolé” in the least convincing French accent.

15. B-Day Song
Rumours that this MIA collaboration was bumped from the main tracklisting following middlefingergate were not confirmed during the playback, but it’s more than likely it was left off because it’s Motown/Spectorish beat doesn’t really fit with the rest of the album. It’s a jolly romp though, with MIA joining in on the chorus but letting Madonna deliver the line “give me a spanking, start the day off right” by herself.

16. Best Friend
A real highlight. With a massive electro beat that pogos all over the place, this is a brilliant rush of darting synths. Lyrically it’s about a relationship that should never have been, Madonna lamenting the loss of a friendship after things went wrong. There are nods, perhaps, to her previous life as part of the English gentry – “I miss the countryside in which we used to lay” – and it’s one of the few times on the album where the chorus truly soars. It ends with the line “it’s so sad that it had to end” and, generally, this is true of Madonna’s MDNA, an album that’s been trailed by weak singles, but contains brilliantly bonkers moments.

GQ Magazine

Abbey Road Studio Two is lit by Diptyque candles, the Steinway Model D concert grand piano has been pushed aside to make room for a bar and giggly journalists are making notes in pink pencil: it could only be a Madonna album playback. GQ.com has come to the studio of choice for the Beatles and Pink Floyd to hear MDNA, the 12th album from Ms Ciccone. It’s Madge’s return to the dance floor record – after the drama of her period film WE, this is her bolshy, boshy statement of intent. The highlight is the unpromisingly named “I Don’t Give A”, a slice of digital funk produced by Martin Solveig that is made all the more memorable for its anti-Guy Ritchie sentiment (“I tried to be a good girl / I tried to be your wife”).

While the Material Girl simultaneously claims defiance and self reliance (“I’m going to be ok / I don’t care what people say”), two thirds of the way through Nicki Minaj steps up to the mic to provide one of her best verses in months. The theme, bizarrely, is cars with Nicki affirming her “Don Dada” status by spending “Ten grand a tyre”. She then proceeds to rhyme “Volvo” with “Aldo”, produces a sex change on Jay-Z’s famous line from “Diamonds Are Forever” (“I’m a business woman, I’m a business, woman”) and ends with the potential Gaga diss (“There’s only one queen…and that’s Madonna, bitch!”). It’s unhinged, unlikely and not short of surprises – we just can’t wait to tell you about the full album…

Mirror

OK, let’s talk about Madonna and her 12th studio album, MDNA.

Admittedly with all that she’s been up to of late, her directorial debut W.E. and that amazing Superbowl performance, I was a very worried Madonna fan.

Would she be able to deliver the goods on this latest record? Especially with her eagerly awaited reunion with William Orbit – the man who reignited her career at one point with the exceptional album Ray of Light. There was a lot riding on this being a success.

To sum up – she’s nailed it. And in doing so seems to have produced one of her most personal lyrical efforts to date.

Tracks including I F***ed UP and Best Friend (featured on the Deluxe version of MDNA) are clear odes to her failed marriage with Guy Ritchie. Whilst tracks like Gang Bang (!) leave you wondering who exactly the star wants to shoot in the head. The lyrics screech: “Bang, bang, shot you dead. Shot my lover in the head.”

One thing you need to wipe clean from your brain immediately as the album starts is the fact Madonna is 53. She sounds 25. In fact, if this album was released by a Pop Princess then it wouldn’t be out of place.

It feels centred and controlled whilst the likes of Gaga and Britney’s latest efforts feel try-hard and sloppy in comparison.

This is one girl that still knows what she’s doing and she’s in control.

Part of the reason for such a slick record is down to who she’s worked with. As always, Madonna’s chosen wisely with her collaborators for this record.

William Orbit is in the frame on five tracks, French electronic DJ and super producer Martin Solveig provides the most forward thinking six tunes and ye olde faithful Marco “Benny” Benassi does what he does best and turns Madge into the dancefloor electro diva she’s clearly still wanting to be.

Is MDNA her best work for years? In short, no. It doesn’t reach out like Confessions on a Dance Floor – but it easily surpasses American Life and Music.

Is it an album I literally can’t wait to have on my iPod following my one listen at Abbey Road Studios. YES.

Madonna’s still pushing the envelope of her superstardom and MDNA is in no way a let down. It’s just the next chapter in an already enthralling story. And I can’t wait for you all to get involved.
Track-by-track review of MDNA

Album cover for Madonna – MDNA MDNA: Madonna has another hit on her hands

1. Girl Gone Wild
Take her track Celebration, zoop it up and make it bigger and better. It’s a club track that feels young vibrant and fresh for an artist like Madonna. It’s techno-pop-ready-for-radio-heaven. Very Benny Benassi and very much one for the kids – without it feeling like a mum-of-four is singing it. Phew.

2. Gang Bang
Let’s get dirty and keep it mucky throughout. A stripped back filthy electro beat makes you want to get down. It’s different to anything she’s ever done. I especially liked the ending where she sings in a Human Nature stylee: “If you’re gonna act like a bitch, then you’re gonna die like a bitch.” And a shotgun noise kicks off. Boom.

3. I’m Addicted
Euphoric and addictive. This song needs to be played loud and for the satisfaction of a dance floor. It’s heavily Benny Benassi and by the end you want to get up and squeal: “I’m addicted to your looooovvvvve.”

4. Turn Up The Radio
Why this wasn’t the lead single on MDNA I’m not very sure. It’s a stonker of a pop song. Her vocals are finally clear (well, not as worked on) and it gave me ‘the tingle’. It’s ready to go and an instant Madonna pop classic.

5. Give Me All Your Luvin’
The track that divided opinion from the start. Notably, the song sounds a lot better on speakers that can make your skin quiver through bass. But it feels far more forgettable pop compared to much of the album.

6. Some Girls
Finally, an Orbit song. This is probably the most cosmic of his tracks he’s done with M. Her vocal is almost tinny and echoes. Bit rocky towards the end but it’s an exciting introduction to a new wave Orbit.

7. Superstar
This was the one I wasn’t immediately keen on – but the one that’s in my head. It’s lyrically very simple and definitely one that the star could pull a guitar out for to perform on tour. She sings: “Ooh, la la you’re a superstar/ooh la la love the way that you are.” It’s a little rockier than the others and more conventional.

8. I Don’t Give A
This is probably the most interesting track on this album. She’s nearly rapping again, there’s a hip-hop feel. It feels like the Human Nature of Erotica – and clearly sending out messages about her marriage breakdown. She sings: “I tried to be a good girl / I tried to be your wife / I diminished myself / And I swallowed my light / I tried to become all / That you expect of me / And if I was a failure / I don’t give a …”

9. I’m a Sinner
Back to William Orbit and the Ray of Light guitar has been found. This track immediately reminds you why Madonna and Orbit worked so well first time around – there’s even a return to the Erotica dirty whisper voice. It starts fairly slow but builds and builds to an orgasm of techno. Enjoy the ride on this one.

10. Love Spent
There’s a gypsy string twang, a hauntingly high vocal and it’s not instantly Orbit. Later in the song you realise it couldn’t be more like him. It’s about giving so much love that you’re spent and, like the previous song, climaxes like a beauty.

11. Masterpiece
The theme song to W.E. brings the tempo right back down to a chilled vibe. This is the song that makes us realise that despite most of this album making us want to dance, the star is still able to chill out and relax those dancing shoes. It really feels like the come down song that gives you a big hug.

12. Falling Free
Well this one was a surprise. It made me instantly want to hear her singing it with just a guitar and a mic stand. It would be an acoustic dream. Her vocals are crisp and penetrate. It’s obviously a song about letting go – but will she ever truly let go of the career she’s worked so hard for?

Telegraph

Madonna’s new album, MDNA, was unveiled to British critics today with a playback at Abbey Road studio. Neil McCormick was there. Here is his track by track by track reaction. MDNA is released on March 27th.

1. Girl Gone Wild
A lean, sleek, electro stomper kicks proceedings off the way Madonna means to continue – with the machine tooled precision of 21st century techno-pop, balancing the twin requirements of radio friendly hooks and dance floor drive. “Girls they just wanna have some fun,” suggests our fearless leader.
Now where have we heard that idea before? This not particularly original notion is the album’s central manifesto: innocent amusement over introspection.

2. Gang Bang
Despite an unfortunate title that younger fans would be advised not to google, this is not (thankfully) some brutal sex romp. Rather, the title is a misguided attempt to distinguish itself from Sixties pop classic Bang Bang, from which Madonna borrows the central image of murdering a paramour: “Bang bang, shot you dead / Shot my lover in the head”. Sparse and atmospheric, with a stripped back electrobeat and low, drawling vocal, buoyed by bursts of sub-bass and developing into a solid techno groove, its one of the album’s odder and most interesting tracks, only sullied by Madonna’s dedication to leaving no lyrical cliché unturned. She is a fish out of water, a bat out of hell, apparently.

3. I’m Addicted
Arpeggiated synth sequences build into fizzing swells and stabs, bleeping and swooshing all the way. Very effective digital pop that will sound fantastic loud and hard on the dance floor but, like so many songs on Madonna’s 12th studio album, lyrics appear to have been added as an afterthought. Does anyone really need another song about being addicted to love, comparing the rush of hormones with narcotics? The vocal cuts and stutters, so that Madonna repeatedly declares herself to be a dick, dick.

4. Turn Up The Radio
Even in the age of the internet, it is still the radio that holds romance for our 54-year-old pop queen. Lush, shimmery keyboards frame a slow start, with Madonna seeking space from the crowd (or rather, in an effort to use every cliché available, “the maddening crowd”), before a nice, wonky synth launches a solid pop belter. Madonna finds herself “sucked like a moth to the flame” but the slamming dance floor outro should distract from lyrical banality.

5. Give Me All Your Luvin’
Is the spelling meant to distinguish it in search engines from ZZ Tops’ Gimme All Your Lovin’? Madonna’s serial appropriation of perennially overused ideas might almost be passed off as some kind of pop parlour game.

The first single is the lightest, frothiest track on the album, deliberately dinky and cute, built on a burbling eighties synth and glam slam drum pattern. Its prime purpose appears to involve Niki Minaj and MIA represent all next generation female pop stars by swearing allegiance to the Queen with the chant of “L-U-V Madonna!”

6. Some Girls
Let’s give Madonna the benefit of the doubt and assume she didn’t know the Rolling Stones already have a song called Some Girls. Anyway, you’d never find Mick and Keith shaking their stuff to a mid-tempo groove with a deep electro bass line and stabbing synths. Producer William Orbit plays tricks with Madonna’s vocals, from intimate to echoed, tinny to seductive, but the intention is apparently not to portray Madonna as some kind of every woman: “Some girls are not like me / I’d never wanna be like some girls” she rather tartly declares.

7. Superstar
Sweet and summery, with a shimmering ambience built up from a ringing guitar loop and echoing tom tom pattern that might have been constructed from Beatle drum fills. The poppy melody and “ooh la la, you’re a superstar” singalong chorus houses a lyric so clumsy its obtuseness almost sounds deliberate: “You can have the password to my phone / I’ll give you a massage when you get home”. For someone determined to keep up with the kids, Madonna’s retro references for ideal men may leave the youngsters baffled: Brando, Travolta, James Dean, Bruce Lee and Abe Lincoln (cause you fight for what’s right”).

8. I Don’t Give A
There is real energy to this Martin Solveig production. Madonna delivers a raised middle finger to the world in general, and ex-husband Guy Ritchie in particular: “I tried to be a good girl / I tried to be your wife / I diminished myself / And I swallowed my light / I tried to become all / That you expect of me / And if I was a failure / I don’t give a …” (I’ve been trying to think of an obscenity that rhymes with “me”, but maybe I am missing the point). The ending twists into a big, autotune choral coda with the drama of a techno Carmina Burana. An album highlight, though Niki Minaj’s explosive rap rather shows up Madonna’s more static delivery.

9. I’m A Sinner
With Orbit back at the controls, this is reminiscent of the uplifting thrill of Ray of Light. Constructed on a drum loop, it pulses along with a fluid almost Sixties keyboard, building to a big, declarative chugging gospel techno ride, with Madonna exultantly declaring that, like St Augustine, she wants to be saved, but not quite yet. A breakdown into a recitation of Saints (Christopher, Sebastian and Anthony all get a name check) is effective, and it ends with “ooh ooh”s cheekily reminiscent of Sympathy For The Devil. Fun.

10. Love Spent
Gypsy string loop and brief, treated Spaghetti Western banjo flourishes introduce an almost organic feel to a very synthetic, stylised album. A pop song about love and money (topics the Material Girl frequently conflates) it weaves elegant electro patterns and builds to a big, throbbing chorus.

11. Masterpiece
Sweet, gentle love song with a Spanish guitar loop, a light beat and flowing melody, filled out by synthetic strings. The theme song for her critically panned film W.E., she may have been thinking of Prince Edward when she wrote “honestly, it can’t be fun / To always be the chosen one”, but the message applies just as much to Madonna herself. For most of this album she seems determined to demonstrate that a 50-year-old mother of four can still cut it with the kids at the club. Yet, perversely, she sounds most at ease when she calms down a bit and acts her age.

12. Falling Free
The first five tracks of MDNA are all produced by hit techno teams and the results are digitally sparkling, catchy and contemporary. The second half of the album is presided over by William Orbit, and while not as immediately hook laden, there is more sonic depth and invention. But only on the album closer is there a suggestion of a musical life beyond the hit parade. With a cascading, beatless melody and poetic, free form lyrics, Madonna’s pure, dreamy vocal has her declaring herself “free to fail.” It is a song about letting go, by a woman who, most the time, seems to be holding on very tightly indeed. Although out of character with the rest of this youth-focused electro dance pop confection, it suggests that Madonna may actually have musical and emotional places to explore when she eventually tires of setting the pop pace.

Digital Spy

Earlier today Digital Spy was invited to Abbey Road Studios to listen to Madonna’s 12th studio album MDNA.

There were crab salads, multicoloured cocktails and, as if that wasn’t enough, a chunky notepad with the album cover on the front waiting for us on our chair. We presume it was there for us to scribble our notes on, but we didn’t feel comfortable putting our ugly scrawlings over something so clearly amazing.

We’ve posted our thoughts on each of the LP’s 17 tracks below:

1. ‘Girl Gone Wild’ (produced by Madonna, Benny Benassi)
Most of you will have heard this one by now, and truth be told we’re still not sure about it. Our guess was that it was chosen for its appeal to a wide audience and radio stations, but as a Madonna album trailer it’s surprisingly weak. That said, it makes for a brilliant opening track.

2. ‘Gang Bang’ (produced by Madonna, The Demolition Crew)
Ignore the title – this isn’t about a 53-year-old woman singing about having lots of group sex. “Bang bang shot you dead/ Shot my lover in the head,” she chants over a relentless, pulsating electro beat before announcing: “I’m going straight to hell – I’ve got a lot of friends there.” Just when you think things are wrapping up, she interrupts, “If you’re gonna act like a bitch, you’re gonna die like a bitch!” before firing off a gun. It’s completely ridiculous and amazing.

3. ‘I’m Addicted’ (produced by Madonna, Benny Benassi, The Demolition Crew)
We noted that this would have probably been a better single choice than ‘Girl Gone Wild’. “I’m addicted to your love” she admits on the chorus that is a mixture of hard house beats with a club classics melody. It all climaxes in the song’s finale, in which she chants “M D N A” over and over.

4. ‘Turn Up The Radio’ (produced by Madonna and Martin Solveig)
After three hard-faced club bangers, Madge offers up the softer but equally dancey ‘Turn Up The Radio’. “When the world starts to get you down and nothing seems to go your way… turn up the radio,” she professes over a propelling beat that Daft Punk wouldn’t cock a snook at. It might be weak lyrically, but the message is genuinely uplifting.

5. ‘Give Me All Your Luvin” (produced by Madonna, Martin Solveig)
Madonna’s “Superbowl Single” doesn’t seem to have lived up to a lot of people’s expectations, but we’ll happily admit that we’re still enjoying it. It also serves as a welcome break from what is so far a high-wired run of songs.

6. ‘Some Girls’ (produced by Madonna, William Orbit)
“Some girls wanna be on top…some girls got a filthy mouth,” she sing-speaks with a distorted vocal over a squelchy bassline. It’s a confident number about female empowerment in 2012, and probably highlights best how MDNA isn’t simply about hopping on the dance bandwagon, but pushing it into new and exciting realms.

7. ‘Superstar’ (produced by Madonna, Indiigo, Michael Malih)
This is where the record makes a distinct shift lyrically between basic one line choruses to surprisingly intimate details of her life. Here she compares her man to the likes of James Dean, Caesar and Al Capone, promising to “give you a massage when you get home”. It’s less in-yer-face than most of the LP, and where she sounds at her most relaxed.

8. ‘I Don’t Give A’ (produced by Madonna, Martin Solveig)
Madonna opens up about life as a 53-year-old divorced mum in a sing-rap fashion – “got to call the babysitter…got to sign the contract” – but insists that she “don’t even feel the pressure”. The best bit comes at the end when Nicki Minaj announces: “There’s only one Queen and that’s Madonna, bitch,” before a regal orchestra ensues that sounds like it was lifted straight out of a blockbuster movie.

9. ‘I’m A Sinner’ (produced by Madonna, William Orbit)
It took us all of 30 seconds to realise that this sounds like a sequel to Ray Of Light’s ‘Beautiful Stranger’ which, given the producer, we’re sure isn’t a coincidence. “I’m a sinner and I like it that way,” she sings on the psychedelic chorus, before preaching “Jesus Christ hang on the cross, died for our sins it’s such a loss” on the middle eight.

10. ‘Love Spent’ (produced by Madonna, William Orbit)
We’ll be honest, we weren’t particularly taken with this one. There’s a banjo on the intro that re-appears later on, but it’s worth sticking with for a glorious ending of crashing symbols and booming electronics.

11. ‘Masterpiece’ (produced by Madonna, William Orbit)
It’s the first ballad on the album, and it feels like it arrives just at the right moment. The production is more “organic” (there’s drums, guitars and Orbit’s trademark wobbly bits),and it doesn’t try to be anything other than a solid pop song. “I can’t tell you why it hurts so much to be in love with a masterpiece,” she sings on the chorus.

12. ‘Falling Free’ (produced by Madonna, William Orbit)
This one is even more stripped back, relying solely on strings, piano and some synths littered throughout. “Our hearts are intertwined and I’m free, I’m free of mind,” she sings with what is easily her strongest vocal on the record.

13. ‘Beautiful Killer’ (produced by Madonna, Martin Solveig)
We’re surprised this was demoted to deluxe-only, as it is easily one of our favourites. A thumping pop hook and glitchy beats play out as she confesses her penchant for bad boys. “You’re a beautiful killer with a beautiful face,” she admits before rolling out the best line of the song (and possibly the album): “Baby, I can’t talk with a gun in my mouth.”

14. ‘I F**ked Up’ (produced by Madonna, Martin Solveig)
A thumping midtempo number in which Madonna confesses that sometimes (though probably not that often), she isn’t perfect. “I made a mistake/ Nobody does it better than myself,” she admits before the pace picks up dramatically in the middle and tails off at the end.

15. ‘B-Day Song’ (produced by Madonna, Martin Solveig)
It’s essentially the complete opposite of what you’d expect from a Madonna and MIA collaboration. It’s unashamedly fun, has no political agenda (that we can tell anyway) and, in truth, is a bit pointless.

16. ‘Best Friend’ (Madonna, The Demolition Crew)
The album closes with a dubsteppy ballad in which Madge talks about missing her closest pal. “I won’t pretend, I feel like I lost my very best friend,” she says, before singing “It wasn’t always perfect, but it wasn’t always bad” in isolation at the end.

17.’Give Me All Your Luvin” (Party Rock Remix)
They didn’t play this at the showcase, so we can only assume their feelings about it are the same as ours.

MDNA is by no means a perfect Madonna album, but it certainly has the potential after repeated listens to be up somewhere in the top six. There are some glorious highs and, unfortunately, one or two misfires, but it wouldn’t be a Madonna album if she wasn’t taking risks. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this record is that there are no obvious hits on it, but as a body of work it makes for a thrilling and genuinely fascinating listen.

Popjustice

We went to listen to ‘MDNA’ last week and after one listen decided that it was – as we tweeted – fucking amazing.

We listened to it again this afternoon to double check. As it turns out, we were right. Obviously we’ll need to live with the album and like most listeners we’ll form our very very final verdict many months from now, but on two listens ‘MDNA’ is a stunning modern Madonna album. It’s not perfect but its extraordinary high points are great enough to compensate for odd sequencing and occasional misfires.

If you were worried, stop worrying – there is lots here to be excited about.

Here is some track by track ‘action’.

1. GIRL GONE WILD
It is hard to believe that someone smart enough to make this music also made the decision to release ‘Girl Gone Wild’ as a single. As singles leading into albums go, this is Madonna’s all-time worst. But don’t give up – and cross your fingers that other people haven’t given up either – because what comes next is very good indeed. Also, in defence of ‘Girl Gone Wild’ it does seem slightly better when you’ve heard the rest of the album, and the spoken word intro, in which her voice sounds a little bit like another female singer whose name we can’t quite put our fingers on, is fantastic. Mind you, in terms of setting out an album’s stall, ‘Girl Gone Wild’ is a stall piled high with jars of human shit.

MELODY: 4
LYRICS: 2
SOUND: 6
CLUB APPEAL: 6
MADONNAFACTOR: 3

2. GANG BANG
This throbbing electro mood piece is the album’s true opening number whose SFX-laden backing rises subtly throughout the song’s duration, taking in monotone, thudding robotic voices, a line about keeping enemies close, and a chorus of “bang bang shot you dead shot my lover in the head”. “I made a decision I would never look back,” Madonna sings at one point. “So how did I end up with one eyed jack?” The track is strewn with sound effects of gunshots, spent cartridges hitting the floor, wailing sirens, police radios, and cars whizzing past, with a bowel-emptyingly seismic dubstep breakdown in which Madonna drawls: “You have to die for me baby… How could I move on with my life if you didn’t die for me baby? If you didn’t die for me baby?” And then it crashes back in for some more chorus. And then it breaks down for a pulsating, sparse-sounding spoken word middle eight. It all gets quite camp and silly at this point. “My love is dead and I have no regrets,” Madonna screams. “He deserved it. And I’m going straight to hell. And I gotta lot of friends there. And if I see that bitch in hell, I’m gonna shoot him in the head again. Cos I wanna see him die over and over and over and OVER AND OVER NOW DRIVE BITCH, I SAID DRIVE BITCH. And while you’re at it DIE BITCH. That’s right, drive, bitch.” It’s over the top – it’s slightly reminiscent of the hyperreal feel of ‘Natural Born Killers’ – and amazing.

MELODY: 3
LYRICS: 7
SOUND: 9
CLUB APPEAL: 9
MADONNAFACTOR: 8

3. I’M ADDICTED
The pivotal point of this track is part of the clip that fuckwit Perez Hilton had on his site yesterday, the arms-aloft arcade rave breakdown bit where Madonna bellows “I NEED TO HEAR YOUR NAME”, and any worries about the production of Madonna’s vocal on ‘MDNA’ – following weedy-sounding performances on the first two singles – go out of the window with ‘I’m Addicted’. We love the big crashing electrowallops and the “it fits like a glove, I’m addicted to your love, I’m a dic-dic-dic-dic, I-I-I-I-I’m addicted to your love” bits, and the climax of this song is fucking ridiculous. In the song’s final minute or so the mood in the room at the playback this afternoon – full of journalists and media people – visibly altered. It looked a bit like a sigh of relief.

MELODY: 7
LYRICS: 6
SOUND: 9
CLUB APPEAL: 9
MADONNAFACTOR: 10

4. TURN UP THE RADIO
We’ve mentioned a few times – based only on the short clip that appeared in that weird sampler thing that came out last month – that it feels like ‘Turn Up The Radio’ would have made a better lead single for ‘MDNA’. Hearing it now, in the context of the entire album, we regret to inform you that we were right all along. We take no pleasure in having been completely spot on about this. RIGHTNESS IS A CURSE. Basically you know ‘Hung Up’, right? And you know how it had that sort of propulsive energy? And you know how it sounded nowish and classicish at the same time? And you know how it was frenetic and exciting but also elegant and smart? And you know how the lyrics were pretty simple but not offensively stupid? And you know how Madonna’s vocals sounded great? And BLAH BLAH FUCKING BLAH? Well ‘Turn Up The Radio’ isn’t quite as good as that but where ‘Hung Up’ hit 10/10 on all counts ‘Turn Up The Radio’ manages at least an 8/8. Okay so YES it includes the line “when the world starts to get you down and nothing seems to go your way” (yeah alright ‘The Cast Of Glee’) and YES there’s a dodgy “moth to a flame” moment, but bloody hell, this is a cracker. It seems to hurtle from ‘Ray Of Light’-flavoured beginnings to a thumping post-Daft Punk electrobanger main bit without a second thought. There’s a great bit near the start where the music’s rising in the background and Madonna sings “you feel the wind on your face and your skin and it’s here that I begin my…” and the song crashes in just as she sings “…story”. There another bit where she’s singing about making the speakers blow, and there’s the subtle sound of a speaker blowing. ‘Turn Up The Radio’ does exactly what you want it to do when you want it to do it. In the breakdown she sings: “I don’t know how I got to this state, let me out of my cage cos I’m dying – turn up the radio, turn up the radio, don’t ask me where I wanna go, we gotta turn up the radio.” This is an escapist anthem about leaving wherever you’re stuck, getting in a car, whacking some amazing music on the stereo and putting your foot down. In other words, it’s still only when she’s dancing that she feels this free (WARNING: Popjustice does not condone dancing and driving), and it’s still music making the people come together. It captures a brilliantly teenage sensation (“only music can save me from my shit life” but) makes sense of it in a song that doesn’t sound like she’s trying too hard to be down with the kids. It’s funny, some people think that freedom is about changing the way people around you think about life. Real life is sometimes a bit more complicated than that, and sometimes freedom is about being able to leave the cunts behind to get on with their useless lives. And that’s what this song is about.

MELODY: 8
LYRICS: 8
SOUND: 9
CLUB APPEAL: 10
MADONNAFACTOR: 10

5. GIVE ME ALL YOUR LUVIN’
You’ve heard this one. We still don’t know what to make of it. We’re not that keen, but we don’t hate it. ‘Give Me All Your Luvin” is proof that sometimes you can listen to something many, many times and still not have any idea whether it’s any good or not. ‘Apols’.

MELODY: 5
LYRICS: 7
SOUND: 7
CLUB APPEAL: 5
MADONNAFACTOR: 5

6. SOME GIRLS
It starts with some rave sirens and leads into a list of types of ‘girls’ – “some girls wanna be on top”, “some girls got a filthy mouth”, “some girls living for the weekend”, “some girls get their freak on” and so on – before a two-stage chorus hits. Sonically it’s like an updated version of ‘Music’ era electronic sound, hard but warm at the same time with a grinding digital undertone, and the song seems to twist slightly in the middle eight with a flash of Orbity guitar sounds. It’s very fashionable to say that an album is ‘full of singles’, but the best albums always have brilliant tracks that aren’t supposed to be singles and just hold the whole experience together. Nobody’s ever going to say this is the album’s best song, but nobody’s going to take it off their customised iTunes ‘MDNA’ playlists, either. Oh don’t pretend you’re not going to do it. You’ll be taking ‘Girl Gone Wild’ off for a start. Don’t lie. Yes you will.

MELODY: 7
LYRICS: 7
SOUND: 9
CLUB APPEAL: 9
MADONNAFACTOR: 8

7. SUPERSTAR
The ‘device’ in this track involves Madonna comparing her ‘beau’ to various famous people (“you’re my gangster, you’re my Al Capone / You’re my Caesar, stepping into his throne”). It’s all intended to be complimentary although we’re not sure the bit about James Dean “driving fast in your car” is going to pan out that well. Madonna also explains what she is going to do for her partner, two of these things including “give you a massage when you get home” (alright then) and “play you a song on my guitar” (no thanks love). There’s a big, pretty-sounding chorus which includes the flighty hook “ooh la la you’re my superstar” and the lyrically and melodically brilliant “I’m your biggest fan it’s true / Hopelessly attracted to you”. Like a few tracks on ‘MDNA’ it takes a long time to develop into the banger it ends up as, and it’s another song whose pace is derailed by a slowed-down, dubsteppy breakdown: “You’re Bruce Lee with the way that you move, you’re Travolta getting into your groove / You’re James Dean driving fast in your car, you’re the hot track of a super-duper star / You’re my superstar.” The lyrical reference points in this are all quite interesting – if you consider the youth-obsessed reference collaborators of the first two singles (here’s an LMFAO remix! Here’s Nicki Minaj! Here’s a song that sounds like something David Guetta shat out!) and how uncomfortable it all feels, ‘Superstar’ offers a glimpse of something far more comfortable in its own skin. All the reference points (all the above plus “you’re like Brando on the silver screen” etc) will mean very little to your average 17-year-old. We suppose the idea is that they’re icons whose imagery transcends generations blah blah blah but after all the aggressive positioning of the first two singles it’s great to hear Madonna relaxing into this sort of song. The lyrics about being in love are a bit soppy but love makes you go a bit soppy when you’re doing it right, right?

MELODY: 8
LYRICS: 6
SOUND: 9
CLUB APPEAL: 8
MADONNAFACTOR: 9

8. I DON’T GIVE A
This is a mid-tempo electro dub-pop sort of affair. It opens with some rapping reminiscent of ‘American Life’ in which the demands of day-to-day life are listed (“no time for a manicure … got to call the babysitter … I can take a helicopter, I don’t even feel the pressure”). This gives way to a chanting “I’m gonna be okay, I don’t care what the people say, I’m gonna be alright” portion and the statement “if you have a problem, I don’t give a…”. It’s a bit on the posturing side, but then it feels like everything falls to one side to make way for a stark and jarring blasto of emo: “I tried to be a good girl, I tried to be your wife, diminish myself and swallow my light, I tried to become all that you expect of me, and if it was a failure I don’t give a…” And then there’s some “I-don’t-give-a-uh-uh-uh-uh” backing vocal chanting business, and Nicki Minaj’s arrival is heralded by a brief dubstep gloomwobble. There’s a good “I’m not a businesswoman, I’m the business, woman!” line from Nicki, then the track comes back in and Nicki goes “there’s only one Queen and that’s Madonna, bitch”, at which point the whole song gives way for a deranged orchestral choral chanting segment. The song ends on that epic note but it feels, a bit, as if the breathtaking and brilliant segment in which Madonna directly references her experience of marriage is slightly tossed away in a song that, in most other areas, seems a lot less personal.

MELODY: 5 (8 for the seriousface bit)
LYRICS: 5 (8 for the seriousface bit)
SOUND: 8
CLUB APPEAL: 4
MADONNAFACTOR: 5

9. I’M A SINNER
‘I’m A Sinner’ marks the point where ‘MDNA’ kind of splits in two and William Orbit takes over. There are strong ‘Ray Of Light’ and ‘Beautiful Stranger’ references among this song’s psychedelic stomp, with the chorus a simple “I’m a sinner, I’m a sinner, I’m a sinner I like it that way”. The middle eight is great, with the music dropping out while Madonna lists various religious people. It’s like BIBLE ‘VOGUE’. “Hail Mary full of grace, get down on your knees and pray / Jesus Christ hang on the cross, died for our sins it’s such a loss / St Christopher find my way, I’ll be coming home one day / St Sebastian don’t you cry let those poison arrows fly.” The beat kicks back in while Madonna’s still going: “St Anthony [something we didn't catch, we'll just hand in our journalistic badge and gun now then shall we] lost and found, Thomas Aquinas stand your ground.” Then there’s a big payoff line but we couldn’t figure out what she was saying which was a shame. Again there’s no way this is single material, but it’s a vital part of the MDNADNA.

MELODY: 7
LYRICS: 7
SOUND: 9
CLUB APPEAL: 4
MADONNAFACTOR: 7

10. LOVE SPENT
You’ll find this track somewhere between ‘Ray Of Light’, ‘Impressive Instant’ and ‘Hung Up’, with some banjo business chucked in for good (?) measure, but don’t get excited – we’d say this is more ‘deluxe edition bonus track’ than ‘album track’. The best lyric here is “take me into your arms until your last breath … Hold me in your arms until there’s nothing left”. Which stuck us as rather pleasant. The song does build into something quite special by the end.

MELODY: 6
LYRICS: 7
SOUND: 8
CLUB APPEAL: 5
MADONNAFACTOR: 7

11. MASTERPIECE
By this point it’s about time for a breather so this propermadonnaballad pops up at just the right moment. We love this song. It’s the only one on the album that sounds this conventional, but because the album’s gradually been winding down from the mentalness of the opening few tracks, then through the Orbit section, it doesn’t feel like it sticks out too much.

MELODY: 6
LYRICS: 7
SOUND: 8
CLUB APPEAL: 0
MADONNAFACTOR: 7

12. FALLING FREE
This is a really simple ballad with stripped down production: warm synths, some strings and, after a while, some plinking piano. Again, there are direct references to the ‘Ray Of Light’ era, particularly ‘Drowned World / Substitute For Love’. The best bit is a wail of “I’m fallin’ free”. ENDS ON CELLO.

MELODY: 6
LYRICS: 8
SOUND: 8
CLUB APPEAL: 2 (could work with a massive donk stuck on it though)
MADONNAFACTOR: 5

13. BEAUTIFUL KILLER
This is one of the songs we’ll probably need to listen to a lot more before we figure out what we think about it all. The thing is, the Stockholm-syndrome-meets-S&M lyrics (“can’t really talk with a gun in my mouth, maybe that’s what you’ve been dreaming about”) and gun imagery (the song ends on a gunshot) put it too close to “Bang Bang”. Maybe that’s why this ended up as a bonus track, which is a shame because sonically and melodically it’s good enough to be on the main album – it’s a chunky belter with an insistent guitar riff reminiscent of Felix’s ‘Don’t You Want Me’ riff. There are amazing bits where Madonna whispers “beautiful killer” and the song shifts gear brilliantly into a beautiful tuneful middle eight. “What happens now?” Madonna asks. “I need to know how the story goes, are we together? I love you forever.” And then some strings appear. Then it drops out and bangs back in as a big four-to-the-floor thunderer. All that is good. It’s just those lyrics. “Maybe I’ll let you shoot me down,” Madonna sings, “cos you’re a beautiful killer with a beautiful face, a beautiful killer and you won’t leave a trace.” We don’t know if the lyrics are supposed to be exciting and sexy; like ‘Girl Gone Wild’, they just feel mundane. Maybe we just need to be told what they’re about. Maybe that will help it all make sense.

MELODY: 7
LYRICS: 3
SOUND: 8
CLUB APPEAL: 8
MADONNAFACTOR: 7

14. I FUCKED UP
A beat-heavy ballad in which Madonna accepts responsibility for things going tits up (technical Relate terminology, use with caution) relationshipwise. “I fucked up, I made a mistake, nobody does it better than myself,” she sings in the chorus. “I’m sorry, I’m not afraid to say, I wish I could take it back but I can’t.” There’s no reading between lines needed here – lyrics like “I blamed you when things didn’t go my way” and “somehow I’ve destroyed the perfect dream. I thought we were indestructible…” are raw and passionate. The pace picks up with a drum ‘n’ bassy bit for the second verse when talking about the things they could have done (“written our names across the sky”), then in the song’s final moments it slips back into the downbeat song we started off with, like a resigned shrug that it’s all finally over. MEGASADFACE.

MELODY: 6
LYRICS: 8 (they’re a bit naff but it’s good to hear Madonna singing them)
SOUND: 9
CLUB APPEAL: 2
MADONNAFACTOR: 8

15. THE B-DAY SONG
This one works as a curiosity but it’s a bit ropey ‘TBH’. Best off as a bonus track.

MELODY: 5
LYRICS: 2
SOUND: 6
CLUB APPEAL: 3
MADONNAFACTOR: 4

16. BEST FRIEND
This is a great way to finish off ‘MDNA’ – a sparsely produced, stuttering electro ballad with some questionable lines (“I miss the countryside where we used to mate” and “you wrote me poetry, you had a way with words”) but some incredible ones too: “maybe I challenged you a little bit too much”. The chorus is great but the moment of genius comes at the very end of the song. The music stops, and Madonna sings the one thing you always need to tell yourself when you’re still coming to terms with the end of something brilliant. “It wasn’t always perfect,” she sings in complete isolation. “But it wasn’t always bad.”

MELODY: 7
LYRICS: 6
SOUND: 8
CLUB APPEAL: 0
MADONNAFACTOR: 6

17. GIVE ME ALL YOUR LUVIN’ (LMFAO REMIX)
We can only deduce that this has been included to ensure that a pretty great album is bookended by total shit.

WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?
It’s a shame ‘Confessions’ wasn’t a bit longer ago or that ‘Hard Candy’ wasn’t so patchy because we’d really like to be able to say ‘this is Madonna’s best album since Confessions’ and for it to mean something. We suppose it does mean something – that ‘Hard Candy’ was a bit of a blip in an all-together-not-bad run of albums from one of pop’s best people. And yes we might be a bit excited by it all having just heard it a couple of times etc etc etc, but if you’re going to tell us we can’t get excited by a Madonna album you can fuck off.

Our very own review of Madonna’s upcoming album MDNA can be read here.