27
Mar 03

MADONNA — ‘American Life’

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The admirable: Madonna’s thinking big, and she’s working through a sound not playing magpie. It’s a pretty individual sound, too: Madonna’s time-smoothed voice, funkless rhythm’n’blips from Mirwais, and soothing shots of more trad instrumentation if the audience gets fractious (acoustic pluck here, strings on the Bond theme). I like that she’s exploring this particular patch, and so far it’s paid off – most of her recent singles have sounded queasy on first listen and got steadily better.

So the risk-taking’s changed up, from music to concept — ‘American Life’ is a big title, like ‘Music’. This is an Event Record, it says, and I like that too. But Event Records have a tendency to be damp squibs (think about what you wanted Eminem’s ‘White America’ to be, and what it was) and for all its production muscle ‘American Life’ footles around, limps through its chorus and leaves its payoff to the last minute when Madonna does a rap.

She can’t rap, of course, but American life and ‘American Life’ is all about a sense of entitlement, the right to do anything even if you can’t. The rap is a litany of luxuries, funny and forceful, rhyming pilates and hotties and latte and shot because nobody’s there to stop it, and when the list speeds up and ‘You know I’m satisfied’ becomes a howl of ‘Do you think I’m satisfied?’ it sounds like a monster who could swallow the world. My desire is so voracious I’m gonna eat your nation-state.

Not great but worth hearing, in other words.

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