Madonna | MDNA

Interscope/Live Nation (2012)  
By DANIEL BROCKMAN  |  April 3, 2012
3.0 3.0 Stars

There was a time in the mid-'90s when it seemed that Madonna was finally acting her age: with the 1994 release of "I'll Remember" and the subsequent greatest-ballads collection Something To Remember, it seemed as if the Material Girl was resigned to a lifetime of mature songcraft and age-appropriate jams that would serve her well into her 50s and beyond. Thankfully, that brief period of misdirection was a poor prognosticator. The subsequent two decades of Madonna have been chock full of hard-dance jams and a perverse desire to piss off her detractors while staying current with what the kids are into. On this, her 13th long-player, her need to shock and her desire to dance find themselves at loggerheads — some of Madonna's most beautiful bliss-croonings butt up against some of the most grotesque works in her canon. Exhibit A: you may expect Madonna to exclaim "I'm a bad girl anyway," as she does in album opener "Girl Gone Wild," but you don't expect her repeated screams of "Die bitch!" over a dubstep bassdrop in the ugly and perverse "Gang Bang." The in-your-face kicks of that song, and of "I Don't Give A," and especially "Beautiful Killer" (relegated to the Deluxe Edition) feel all the more recklessly aggro when juxtaposed with poppy confections like "I'm Addicted," "Turn Up the Radio," and the Bacharach-bounce of "I'm a Sinner." And though those three won't be replacing "Borderline" or "Into the Groove" on karaoke playlists anytime soon, they are undeniably topnotch bubbly popcraft. "Every record sounds the same/You've got to step into my world," she chides amidst the giddily self-referential "Give Me All Your Luvin,' " laying out the case for mixing the profane and the sacred in a desperate bid for cultural relevance. Luckily for fans of music and controversy alike, Madonna's compulsions reap musical dividends as she continues to bang into a dance-tastic G-spot, and the results are part sour, part sweet.
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