If the title of her new album, “MDNA,” is any indication, Madonna wants her fan base to really know what she’s made of. One spin of the album is enough to know that the answer is apparently glitter, leather and outdated fads that reveal an unsightly fork in the road in the career of one of the world’s most beloved pop stars.
The normally adventurous Madge opts for a slew of producers she has worked with before, including William Orbit of the immaculate “Ray of Light.” His presence on nearly every track is a risky move for a singer who prides herself on reinvention.
Madonna may be trying for some “new sounds” on the album, but the high-octane club beats fit her like a lime green halter top would look on a grandma. The complex album includes the worn-out message of the dance anthem “Turn Up the Radio” and the bizarre synth-laden “Gang Bang,” which gloats about the joys of gun violence via a hodgepodge collection of gurgles, bleeps and dubstep breakdowns.
It’s a bad case of treading well-worn ground while breaking new ground in all the wrong ways. The album offers its share of references to Madonna’s other career highlights — the fact that the forced “I’m a Sinner” features a roll-call of famous saints rehashes memories of the more honest-sounding religious commentary present on just about every track from “Like a Prayer.” But the fast-paced production is overlaid with just enough live instrumentation to keep the album dynamic.
By the album’s end, it becomes resoundingly clear that Madonna has reached a point in her career where competing with Lady Gaga’s outrageous sense of musicality has become more important than making pop
music with heart and soul.