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Published on July 10th, 2019 | by voxx

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Madonna – Madame X

The queen of pop squares up to the universe on her 14th album…

With 2012’s MDNA and 2015’s Rebel Heart, it seemed Madonna was fighting, and often struggling, to stay at the centre of the pop universe. As a super-saturated blast of The Nutcracker crashes into ‘Dark Ballet’, Madame X’s second track, however, it feels like there’s been a loosening of grip and a new air of recklessness. Madame X is Madonna’s fluid new persona – “A professor. A head of state. A housekeeper. An equestrian, ” apparently – and there is a hyper-mobile flex to this record, all global pop (partly inspired by a relocation to Lisbon) and space-disco production (courtesy of Diplo and Mirwais).

The delirious swoon of ‘Crave’, featuring rapper Swae Lee, or the skin-to-skin cha-cha-cha of ‘Medellín’ keep things at the micro level of human desire but more untethered are the moments where the record zooms out to look at the big picture, as on the omnipotent state-of-the-planet address on ‘Dark Ballet’: “they’re so naive, they think we’re not aware of their crimes/We know but we’re just not ready to act.” This is Madonna on top of the world, looking down on creation, God complex at cruising altitude.

It doesn’t always work. The preposterous ‘Killers Who Are Partying’ is messianic in an ‘Earth Song’ style, its mother-of-the-world pomposity (“I’ll be Islam/If Islam is hated” and so on) overstepping the cosmic mark. Yet ‘I Rise’, sampling high-school shooting survivor Emma González, or the rage overload of ‘God Control’, keep pace with a world out of joint. On Rebel Heart, she recorded the uptight, authority-reasserting ‘Bitch, I’m Madonna’; here, she sings “Bitch, I’m Loca”. Madonna and the times, it seems, have fallen into step again.

- By Jake White


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