Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Sloppy Madonna Dissing

The article linked above which discusses Madonna's forthcoming album "Confessions on a Dance Floor" contains the following sentence:

The set will be the follow-up to 2003's critically maligned album "American Life," which debuted at No. 1 on The Billboard 200, but posted the lowest sales of any Madonna album to-date

I HATE sloppy reporting. Poor sales do not equal 'critically maligned'. I personally think it's a fine record. Not that my opinion matters in such an argument. Critically divisive? That I would grant you. But 3 stars from Rolling Stone, B+ from EOnline, MetaCritic says it received "average/mixed" reviews. I've read this "critically panned" thing in more than one place now. I'm burning up. Just because something doesn't sell doesn't mean that the critics panned it. Ugh.

While it's true that the singleAmerican Life was greeted by a lot of negativity at the time of its release most of the criticisms were complete and utter misreadings of what Maddy Mo was up to on the CD. Reviews like this one (which claims its an unlistenable CD and rates it a zero (!) ) are perfect examples of how misread Madonna often is. The title song is not, if you listen closely, a celebration of Madonna's egocentricity but a discussion about celebrity and, by titular and thematic extension, American egocentrism. As is typical of Madonna she uses herself as the battering ram/joke to get the point across. Many people don't get her jokes and think her long faux-rap litany about her riches is actually a serious congratulatory reflection of what she considers to be important.

The jokes on her critics (as always). It's not a perfect song and her messages may be a little cloudy given that she does spend a lot of time vaguely soul searching in the song. But it should be clear from the way she spits out "do you think i'm satisfied?" after listing her many temporal rewards, that she's not championing her own blond ambition. She's getting at a lack of meaning or a spiritual emptiness that can greet you in a culture of greed and always wanting more, more, more.

Madonna has had to live down Material Girl her entire career. I hope her new record meets a warmer reception.


Anonymous said...

YES! I personally think the album is [whispers it quietly for fear of world ending] better than "Music".

Q Magazine said that, "...more than ever, this is Madonna without a safety net". Yes, one could argue that doing ANOTHER Mirwais album smacked a little of being sonically stagnant, but the ideas, the intent and - crucially - the tunes were all there.

Was it Like A Prayer? No. Was it Ray of Light? No. Was it better and more challenging than 95% of mainstream pop released that year? Oh yes.


Anonymous said...

You, my dear Nathaniel, have been a true and diligent disciple and you shall be amply rewarded.

darkcypherlad said...

Well, first of all, no one should ever go by Rolling Stone's star rating system. It's widely known that they'll give three stars + to just about anything, and rarely give any album a failng "grade." Plus, if you look at the past star ratings they gave to Madonna's previous albums, you'll discover that three stars is a major comedown for her. They even gave 4 stars to "Erotica"!

Secondly, the critical reception of an artwork shouldn't rule your love (or hatred) of it. The author's assertion that American Life was dismissed by critics is more accurate than if he/she had claimed it was embraced by the critical establishment. Also, you have to take into account the fact that her previous album was a huge critical success.Because "American Life" wasn't on par with "Music," its resulting cool critical reception was considerably magnified.

Like all of Madonna's albums, "American Life" lives or dies by its singles. Musically, she pushed the techno experimentation and pseudo-country/western dabbling of "Music" into new boundaries. The album SOUND better than any she produced before. Lyrically, the songs were nothing new; in fact, they were a bit depressing in how redundant their themes were. She pretty much covered the whole high cost of fame/Hollywood is evil themes in her previous works.

Plus, I resented the way she presented "American Life" as an indictment of American politics (and specifically the war in Iraq) when the actual songs had nothing to do with the theme she promised on her album cover and in the music video for the aforementioned single. I never expected her to make a "What's Going On" but if she's going to don a green beret, some dishelved army clothes, and pretend to be controversial when all she's really doing is making a terrible fashion statement, she should refelct that in her music, not in her publicity material. I can understand why some critics were disappointed because she has the talent and the means to push herself further than anyone else on the pop landscape.

And on top of all that, people are just getting sick of her. What happened to the woman who bared her breasts at Cannes? The one who challenged gender/sex/race roles? She became a Kabbalah nut who thinks she's British and "writes" horrible books for children. Someone should stick her back in Detroit and remind her of where she came from and who she was.

End Madonna rant. :)

Anonymous said...

I think I officially hate Cypher!

j/k, but seriously, whoa.

Personally though American Life is one of my favourite Madge albums. And to be perfectly honest, my least favourite of her recent CDs was, er, Ray of Light. While it had some EXCELLENT A+ songs on there there were a few too many weird slooow songs.

But, yes, I had always held the belief that American Life was fairly well received. At least it was in Australia from several of the reviews I read. In fact there's a mag I read called HIT and they have a "What's Hot, What's Not" and American Life was at the top of What's Hot with this line: "It may just be a sequel to Music, but WHAT a sequel!"

...that is all


Anonymous said...

Okay, so I just read that CD review of American Life and that was really strange. He continuously talks about how this is a post 9/11 album and nobody cares about that stuff... but how many CDs released in the last 4 years have been insightful and about 9/11? I can think of Bruce Springsteen, Green Day and probablty a whole bunch of indie and country acts but that's about it. Does the new Coldplay CD stink because it's not about terrorism?

And this guy is clearly not a fan since he apparently hasn't liked anything of hers since the 80s - and his wife hasn't like anything of her's EVER, considering she said Madonna hasn't had a good song in 30 years.

I'm fairly certain Madge hasn't been around since 1973 (which would have been 30 years when this was released).

I think American Life is very catchy. Oh well.

American Life - 8.5/10
Music - 9/10
Ray of Light - 7/10

BTW, did you know that Bjork has a new CD out? It's a soundtrack to her boyfriend's new movie, the CD is called "The Music From Drawing Restraint 9"

here's a sample of the review in HIT.

"Here's the strangest Bjork album yet: and that's saying something...

You get throat singing and general weirdness on 'Pearl', a glockenspiel solo on 'Ambergris March' and creepy ghost-like vocals on 'Bath'... and the twisted Japanese lullaby 'Gratitude' - still the closest thing to a pop song here."

...sounds delightful


Anonymous said...

The new Bjork album is, naturally, great. But definitely NOT a pop album, nor meant to be. Since it's a soundtrack it's mostly instrumental and since it's a soundtrack for a Barney work it's very experimental & avant-garde. She & Barney are a perfectly matched pair, both wildly inventive and unconstrained by the traditional boundaries of their fields. I can't wait to see the new work/film (US premier planned for next spring in San Francisco)

Calum Reed said...

I really liked the American Life album, though she's definitely done better. A couple of the songs are meh but some of them are excellent. Seriously though, where does this guy get off insulting the greatest recording artist ever? She could release anything in the UK and it would sell.