I have been a Madonna fan since I was 12 years old when her song Borderline reached the Philippines and promptly became a favorite dance song during our school soirees. Throughout her illustrious career though, it is only with her latest album Madame X that she has gone all out to sing about issues that affect our world today – and it does befuddle a long time fan like me, who is used to hearing her sing about sex, partying, having fun, and doing all the other crazy things young people are wont to be doing. So, I admit it was a bit uncomfortable to hear her become serious and sing about songs on gun control, about espousing LGBT rights, which got me thinking, was she trying to save the world, now that she has reached the ripe old age of 61? She did say in one of her interviews to promote the album, that she did what she did in this album because she felt no one was saying anything about these issues – that because of her celebrity status, she felt she had to say something – even if it meant it would be uncomfortable for her fans to hear. I did feel that way. I wouldn’t mind saving the environment or standing up to LGBT rights but to hear it as music is different because I prefer my music to be stress-free and relaxed. It was my sanctuary from the craziness of this world. However, Madonna does have a point. If she doesn’t use her stature to at least make people take notice of these world issues, then all her popularity would just be a waste.
It did take me some time to warm up to Madonna’s Madame X. Interestingly, it was “God Control”, that helped me make that decision to finally enjoy the album. Yes, the song is filled with messages urging gun control in the US, but it is also a fun-filled song reminiscent of the vibrancy of “Deeper and Deeper”, a hit song she had in the early 90s when I was still in university. “God Control”, I feel is an updated version of that classic dance song and the song is presented in a more broad spectrum with Madonna whispering into our ears “Everybody knows the damn truth / Our nation lied, we lost respect / When we wake up, what can we do?” and a choir simultaneously proclaiming “We lost God control” – all this happens as the song then slides into a Disco-fied version where I then start to tap my toes. One suddenly feels he is transported into the dance floor! The genius of Mirwais is written all over this album and I feel “God Control” is the one that stands out of all of them. Of all the songs though in this album, my most favorite is one that is hidden deep inside it. “Come Alive” is not your typical Madonna hit, and I doubt that it will ever be released as a single. However, after so many spins of the album, this is the song that really spoke to me, maybe because of the repetitions of the come alive lyric but also with the interesting beat that was created by Jeff Bhasker and Starra, both lyricists and producers of the song. The song, like “God Control” talks about Madonna’s desire for peace in this world – Yes, another song with a message for the world. I love its unique musical arrangement and it is really refreshing to know that Madonna can still come out with a fresh idea even though this is already her umpteenth album!
Madonna’s efforts in Madame X remind me of another album which was very important during my high school days – Paul Simon’s Graceland. That album introduced me to the beauty of world music – and in a way, Madonna’s foray into different sounds in this album reminds me of that classic album. Madonna though takes the more popular Latin route, something which she has done before, but this time, she uses it in several songs in this album, unabashedly making it the centerpiece of her album. Although “Medellin” may be the carrier single of this album, I feel for “Faz Gostoso” more, mainly because, like “Come Alive”, I have never heard Madonna this way before – and once again I say it – it is so refreshing to hear her in a song that she has never done before. There is a frenetic quality to the song and there is something in Portuguese that adds a certain degree of naughtiness to the song. Madonna sings “Eu não nego ele é safado e ainda por cima é carinhoso / Ele faz tão gostoso / E-ele faz tão gostoso” and you know she’s singing about something hot or naughty! As for her lead single, “Medellin”, it is not one of my favorites of her carrier singles, mainly because I find it a bit slow and non-showy, but it’s redeeming value, especially in the video, is how caliente Maluma is! In the whole video for the song, I want to spank Madonna for being a bad girl, because you can really see how she has the hots for the virile and sexy Maluma. I feel like my grandma is misbehaving in front of me! But that is Madonna. She has always been risqué in all her albums, why would Madame X be any different?
Swae Lee and Quavo are two of the top rappers in the world of hip hop right now and I was quite surprised that Madonna decided to work with them in this album. I admit at first that I was underwhelmed with what they did for Madonna in this album, and then as I listened more and more to the songs they contributed to this album, it dawned in me that it was actually Madonna who got more from them, instead of them, making Madonna sound like she was a hip hop artist, which she is not. In both “Crave” and in “Future”, it is actually Madonna who stamps her sound on the two influential artists and she just borrows what she feels would sound good for her album. Once again, in “Future”, it is nothing that you’ve heard Madonna do before, that’s why I guess many of her long-time fans were squirming when this album and that song was released and performed during the Eurovision awards. Madonna with one of the most creative forces in hip hop performing live is not something we are used to. However, I do love the message of the song, as Madonna raps “You ain't woke / Come here woke and hear the broken / Come give hope, come give life”. The positive message of the song is a far cry from the more destructive images rap songs usually have. In “Crave”, Madonna sings about love and even though her album is filled with political images, I was sure there’d still be one or two love songs in it. This is where “Crave” comes into the picture. In the song, Madonna muses “Cause you're the one I crave / And my cravings get dangerous / The feelings never fade”. With this album, I don’t think I crave for Madonna’s music less. She has made me realize that she can come still come up with something exciting for her fans, whether they be her old fans or her much newer ones.