After some repeat listening, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is not Madonna’s best work. It’s very mixed. It’s as though she’s trying to satisfy everyone, including herself. The “rub up against me and make me cum” tracks seem to be catered to the Rihanna crowd, but feel very unnatural. Though she's often used a sexual aesthetic and is the undisputed Queen of sexual liberation, Madonna has always possessed a degree of class, empowerment, and poetry, which is missing on tracks like Birthday Song and I Don’t Give A, in which Nicki Minaj shines while Madonna…well, doesn’t. Give Me All Your Luvin’ is simply annoying, and wears on the ear. Instead of tapping into Madonna’s beautifully deep vocals, Martin Solveig highlights her annoyingly shrill upper register, and the stupid lyrics don’t help matters. Furthermore, I find song titles like Gang Bang a bit frightening. Isn’t Madonna the POP star who spearheaded female empowerment? There is nothing empowering about this track's title. It’s a failed attempt at trying to sound cute and kitschy whilst trivializing sexual violence. In these songs, it seems like Madonna’s putting on an act. It doesn’t ring true. She's always been an excellent lyricist, but on such tunes, her poetry seems to be lacking.
Fortunately, Madonna’s true colors shine on songs like Superstar, Love Spent, Masterpiece (which is a bit cheesy – “If you were the Mona Lisa, you’d be hanging in the Louvre” - but sometimes that’s what you get when you pour your heart out), Falling Free, and Best Friend. William Orbit, best known for his work on Madonna’s Ray of Light and Music albums, produced all of these tracks with the exception of the last one, which was assembled by the Benassi cousins and The Demolition Crew. These songs have a degree of purity because, on them, Madonna reveals her scars. It’s this sort of honest and dark beauty, wrapped in electro-POP, that connected with fans on the Ray of Light and Confessions on a Dance Floor albums, the latter of which is my favorite Madonna record. When Madonna opens her heart (#punintended), she becomes relatable. Maybe we don’t (YET) have enough money to be millionaire sugar mommas ourselves, but the sentiment of a broken heart is universal, especially when Madonna communicates it. As I said before, connectable, poetic lyricism is one of Madonna’s greatest, and most underrated, gifts.
In regard to production, Orbit rules and Solveig drulez. The Benassi cousins are somewhere in the middle. Their work on Girl Gone Wild is underwhelming. It’s definitely under-produced, which is surprising, considering they’ve done such brilliant work for Kelis (Brave) and Chris Brown (Beautiful People). William Orbit’s production glistens and sounds so fresh, experimental and catchy. It seems as though Solveig was aiming for the same result, but his beats lack any semblance of heart or warmth, and so they sound extremely grating.
Now, let’s get to the visuals, shall we? The Gimme All Your Luvin’ video was juvenile. I don’t care if that was Madonna’s ironic intention, because it comes across as stupid, especially when compared to her multitude of gorgeous, iconic videos. As many others have stated, the Girl Gone Wild video was reminiscent of GaGa’s Alejandro piece, with men dancing in heels. If Madonna is going to copy something, then this is the thing to copy. However, I do wish she was a bit more progressive. Let’s have some BEARS dancing in heels. I want men of all different shapes and sizes. Madonna has battled sexism, but why should she stop there? She’s in the perfect position to redefine beauty standards and battle our society’s notions of age. Sometimes, it seems as though Madonna’s locked away the riot girl within, but there’s still so much left to do, and who better to do it than Madonna, one of the first stars to package politics with POP? While Madonna is in fighting condition, putting on better stage shows than her younger peers, it seems as though a part of her retired eons ago. This is a loss deeply felt on the part of those who benefited from her work.