Maverick Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


All right, the Che Madonna revolutionary look she donned for her American Life LP is rather silly, and the Britney kiss was as embarrassing as Michael Jackson smooching Lisa Marie a decade earlier on MTV. But for a woman who has undergone countless transformations, you can forgive some of her over ambitious failures. Still, some of Madonna's critics, especially social conservatives, have made the critical mistake of calling Madonna a "has-been." Has-been? Hardly.

American Life is a weak album, but it's coming off the strongest one-two punch in Madonna's lengthy career: Ray Of Light and 2000's Music. And while Ray Of Light was arguably Madonna's finest hour, it occasionally sank under new-agey mysticism because of her gung-ho embracement of the Kabbalah. Music represents all of the techno vibe that so works for Madonna while shaking off my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Light's occasional self-important bloating.

The album starts off with the instant-classic title track. Backed up by a fun, cheeky bass line, and an overly feminine intro of "Heyah Mr. DJ," the song can bring a spring in the step of even the straightest Lynyrd Skynyrd-listening alpha male. William Orbit, the mega-producer behind Ray Of Light, is on hand for this album, but the majority of the production work goes to French producer Mirwais.

Music is the loosest album in Madonna's career. The album's freeness enables her to sing a line as hokey as "I like to singy singy singy/ like a bird on a wingy wing wingy" without losing the mood of the dirty, grinding beats set in "Impressive Instant." It's moments like these when you forget the singer is that club-going girl from Detroit in the mid-'80s. And her ability to actually create a great 'whole' album as opposed to a series of great singles puts her miles above other aging divas, such as Cher and Whitney Houston.

Music does run into some ruts. When Madonna tries to go serious, like "I Deserve It" and the lackluster final two tracks, the album slides. It would have been a much greater payoff if Madonna kept the bumpy, fun spirit of some of the best tracks on Music pulsating throughout the entire album. The only exceptions to this are on "Don't Tell Me" and "What it Feels Like For a Girl." Still, there are at least a half-dozen remixes that are superior to "What it Feels Like…" The same can't be said for "Don't Tell Me" -- the clean, stuttering guitar line is the stuff of repeat listens. Even after heavy circulation on adult contemporary radio, the song is still immensely listenable, just ignore the lyrical corn like "take the black off the crow."

Madonna's been through worse publicity than American Life (hello Sex book). And with Cher and Tina Turner still selling out venues when they are in their 50s and 60s, there's no way Madonna is going to be leaving the music world anytime soon, much to the dismay of the Rush Limbaughs and Bill O'Reillys of the world. In fact, it was around 1998 when the music world was ready to write off Madonna as a has-been before she dropped Ray Of Light. Her ability to shock may have waned since the early '90s, but anyone doubting her ability to surprise need only to listen to Music to lay those doubts to rest.

Rating: B

User Rating: C



© 2004 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Maverick Records, and is used for informational purposes only.