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Madonna

About the least likely person to ever be a virgin. Except Ralph Macchio.

Introduction
Madonna
          Like a Virgin 
True Blue
Who's That Girl?
You Can Dance
Like a Prayer
I'm Breathless
Erotica
Bedtime Stories
Ray of Light
Music
American Life

Well someone out there has made Madonna into the richest woman in pop music, and something tells me it probably isn't one of the five people who bought a ticket to see her make a complete ass out of herself in Next Best Thing. She's now passed the 20-year mark and people still care what she says, what she's playing, what she's wearing, who she's worshipping, and who she's fucking, which is a huge accomplishment in a music world where very few women ever gain that much attention. Has there ever been a female musician given more serious press and furrowed brow than Madonna has? I seriously doubt it. (Number 2 is probably fucking Liz Phair, considering how many fucking times her rectum is publicly fucking tongued in fucking Spin. Oh, and goddamn PJ Harvey. Her too. Goddamn female indie rock movement with their self-aware female indie rock stars. Makes me feel uncomfortable looking at their boobs.) She might be a great role model as a 'strong, independent, self-made woman', what I think is probably her best contribution to the world (besides, you know, inventing the blow job and all) , but I'd probably rather she hadn't turned 'serious artist' a few years back and killed whatever spirit her music had left in it. Now all she wants to do is release record after record of the same tired electronic music circa 1995 as an excuse to complain about her rich, pampered life and make videos. But The Immaculate Collection? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turds, that's a great album!

It can be argued that Madonna sells her image more than she does her music, but I believe that, at least at her best, one feeds the other. And everything feeds Madonna. Could the image of Madonna simulating 'dolloping her pudding' on the MTV Music Awards in 1985 have existed if 'Like A Virgin' weren't a sing-songy, disgustingly catchy tune? Hell no.  Or the video for 'Justify My Love' where she's 'rearranging her patio furniture' in the hotel room if the song hadn't been so darned sexxxxy? (With four x's, if you're keeping score at home), or the video for 'Take A Bow' where she's 'replacing her toner cartridge' in front of the TV set unless….umm….'Take A Bow' sucks. She just wanted to touch herself on camera again, that's all. Anyway, you get the point. Madonna equals sex, and when Madonna doesn't equal sex (like, umm….right now, when Madonna equals ASS SUCK) she's in definite trouble. Only the most idiotic of her supporters gives a Dirty Hairy about her 'artistic growth', like her acting (snicker!) or her more heady attempts at 'meaning' (buuuhhhhh gick! gick! gick! I'm thinking of the 'Like A Prayer' video right now, rather than 'Papa Don't Preach', which is pretty cute), or (snoooorrrrttttttt!!!!! ahhhhhhhh!!!!) her attempt at fusing both of those sides, Evita, which I hate so much I'm not even going to review it. Most people want a) dance music b) sexy videos and c) Madonna to say and/or do and/or date someone provocative, and that's all. A straightjacket? Well, she only fucking saw fit to do it for like 15 years, only just recently deciding that she'd rather people stop looking at her like a dirty slut and start looking at her like a pretentious rich person.

Anyway, Madonna may be unable to tell a good song from a bad one anymore, and her voice has never really been anything but distinctive, but she's still got that thang...even married and aging and with two kids, she's got that Madonna thang. You buying?


Madonna - Sire 1983

In rock music, most times anyway, the music makes the image. A band may dress up like badass longhair, hell-buzzing, crack-injecting, virgin-munching, dirtyass pirate motherfuckers, but if they sound like Orgy, no one's gonna take 'em a damn bit seriously, and their image is going to be of camera-mugging, makeup-caking, soft-shoing poseurs. In pop music, the opposite is true: the image is usually the first thing to be created. Madonna, I'd say, was a bit of an anomaly in all this. Back in the early 1980's, all Madonna wanted to do was dance. She loved that boogie-shoogaloo stuff so much she began to write and perform her own songs even though she could barely afford to eat every day. Her visual image, the 'thrift shop blew up' trinkets-and-rags clothing style she pioneered was how she dressed because of crushing poverty. And her whole sex-kitten thing, well, I'm supposing here she wasn't exactly on the monastery admissions waiting list, y'know?

Anyway, the precise reason why Madonna is such a juicily satisfying dance album is the sheer joy with which Madonna approaches what she's doing here. This is exactly what she'd been slaving for, a bubbly, infectious, light-yet-resilient synth-funk that defies being taken too seriously or too lightly. It's just a pure good time, as imagined by Madonna herself after a few nights at the club where she said 'shit, I can do this stuff', no doubt after hearing Haircut 100 or the Human League or whatever heartless, white Limey bullshit that was being played in dance clubs in 1982. The big hits were 'Lucky Star', introducing us to both Madonna's innovative 'little-girl harlot' voice that was pretty earth shaking in 1983 (when Madonna herself was safely of legal age, unlike today's mini-call girls like Britney 'Pure Southern Virgin Christian' Spears and Christina 'Star Embroidered On My Poop-Chute' Aguilera and, I dunno, Nick Cave? Anyway, dirty little girls who no doubt have single-handedly raised Kleenex stock at least a couple bucks since 1997), and her belly button, which was also a major source of controversy in the Reagan/moron early 1980's, a time when most people still thought Communists were hiding under the bed and sex was something only people on Dallas did. And maybe Dynasty.

Knots Landing, no fucking way. Greatest American Hero, yes. Dukes of Hazzard, sure, but only Uncle Jesse and Flash.

Anyway, I love the bloody synth bassline in the opening single 'Lucky Star' entirely too much, a completely artificial thing, sure, but countering all the miscellaneous guitars and keys and bass-slaps convulsing over the top. And using 'star light, star bright, first star I see tonight' as a hookline? That's a pretty heavy insinuation that this Madonna chick is kinda a tease, y'know? And there's nothin' guys like better than a tease. Except a girl who actually does it, maybe. 'Holiday' is very much in a similar vein, though it actually sounds more like a Chic disco-funk song than mere 'synth-pop'...I wouldn't go here looking for much more than a groove and the thin 'Holiday....celebrate' hookline, but that groove is pretty mighty. Maybe it's no Prince circa 1982, but for a debut album by an unknown Michigan Italian chick, it's great work.

'Borderline' continues the 'little girl' vibe with a music-box opening sequence, but very quickly announces itself as a slightly more mature side of Madonna...here of course talking about the usual 'stop playing with my heart' commitment issues, but yet one that would later develop into her more heady 'message tunes' like 'Papa Don't Preach' and whatnot. I'd say the use of the gospelly background singers sure was pretty prophetic for 1983, long before that gimmick lost all it's fizz round about 1987. I dunno, Madonna's intangible Madonna-thing really gets to me on 'Borderline', she sounds fully in command of everything going on here, pushes her voice to its (modest) envelop, and makes for a funky tune. Funky! What will white people come up with next?

Non-hit filler tunes are where Madonna albums usually fall flat (you'll hear me thump this particular passage more than once during these reviews, believe me), but Madonna survives the worst of the disease. 'Burning Up' is urgent and has another simple, obvious hook that you'd thing someone would've already thought of years ago, and probably would have if it hadn't been for destructive marijuana use. 'Physical Attraction' is the real dance-fetish tune on here, long and packed with great squiggles, but a bit thin on the songwriting part for me. She set out to create a tune to dance to, and that's what she got.  The problems arise when she forgets about dancing as her second priority (her first is, or rather should be, hooks, but apparently they're all used up by the time she gets around to the hardcore 'dance tunes', though) 'I Knew It' is fairly gross New Romanticism of the least funky sort (dig the baroque pseudo-proggy synth flourishes and very Yurrup-Peon rhythm line), and I really can't hear anything interesting in 'Think Of Me', which seems like a hookless rewrite of 'Borderline'. I'm also rather unmoved by 'Everybody', a pale Uncle Jam-era Funkadelic-like squiggle number that mixes Madonna's screwy voice wayyyyyy to high, reminding me why she's never been considered much of a candidate for a 'Best Female Vocal' nomination, and repeats its Chipmunked chorus line so many times I think there's probably no time I'd less like to 'dance and sing' than during this song's outro. Maybe during brain surgery. Or while being chased by a crazed psychotic wielding a sharp, gasoline-powered lawn tool.

Capn's Final Word: Madonna impresses with her easy hooks and accomplished early-80's dance lines, but can't hold the dancin' vibe together as she visits some of the more seedy areas of 80's synth-pop.

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Like A Virgin - Sire 1984

More slick, more professional, more image, less 'real' Madonna, less good-timey dancin', more crassly 80's, less intelligent throwaway, more outside writers, more grown-up sex, less actual sex appeal. Like A Virgin marked Ms. Virgin's entry into the pop-icon sweepstakes with its big-huge-major hits in a year packed with big-huge-major hits (Prince's Purple Rain, Born in the USA, umm...I think Ted Nugent's Penetrator might've sold a couple dozen copies), all highly produced songs with hooks galore and shrinking songwriting input from Madonna herself. 'Like A Virgin' is like a slower, strip-tease version of 'Lucky Star's little-girlie teasing, but less memorably hooky (I mean, if Madonna hadn't been cooing the word 'virgin' all the time in that innocence-lost voice of hers, insinuating that she obviously wasn't one, and assuredly hadn't been one for quite some time, no one would've given a Buddy Ebsen). 'Material Girl' somehow was chosen as 'defining' Madonna's image around this time, which to me is a complete mistake (though these days it quite fits...Madonna is nothing if not a rich old pampered materialist here in 2003.). I think it was a reactionary swipe at her talent and ambition...she was 'out to get rich', and her marriage to Sean Penn soon after didn't help much...she was now just riding Penn's coattails to fortune. And anyway, you can say 'material girl' on Entertainment Tonight, while saying 'seductive, independent sex-kitten' doesn't roll off the tongue quite so easily. 'Dress You Up' is in the same lyrical vein (satin sheets are a big player on this album, I've noticed), this time with no songwriting help at all from Madonna. It's a pretty great dance tune, and probably more influential to money-grubbing 80's yuppies than the entire catalogs of the Beatles, Dylan, and Jagger/Richards combined. Gotta give credit where credit is due.

'Angel' was a pretty weak hit, a position that should've been relegated to the upbeat 'Over And Over', though programmers were probably uncomfortable with the message 'it doesn't matter who you are, it's how you move...' and 'if I don't do it now, I won't get any more' along with the line 'Over and Over' and the taunting 'hurry up! hurry up!'...yikes! Love the song though...really it's about being independent and willing to follow one's own beat. I like the fact that Madonna trusts her voice enough to overdub choruses of herself on some pretty tricky notes...sure, she's still thinner than a pair of K-Mart jeans, but I admire her guts.

I admire her guts more than her attempts at seriousness. 'Love Don't Live Here Anymore' sounds like it was grabbed from a gloppy movie soundtrack, a soppy, pretentious entry better suited to frigging Liza Minelli than the Dance Pop Princess. Endless, too...her first entry into 'artistry' doesn't bode well for the future. Unfortunately, Madonna's talent at proving her critics wrong doesn't much stretch to her actual musical output. With Madonna, if she's bad at filler, she's bad at filler every time. Her serious songs usually suck ass. She's fucking great when she shuts up and dances, though, as she does on the awesome hype-track 'Into The Groove', the absolute peak of her dancefloor manifestos, and probably the best disco-diva tune since Donna Summer's genre-defining singles of the late 70's. The synth bassline doesn't land on one note and rest, it bounces around like Q-Bert, the entire song, and it's huge. Madonna never sang better, either...there's nothing but sheer mastery on the double tracked sections. Wotta song...mechanical, sexy, dark, inspirational...it's everything Madonna should be. Fuck 'Material Girl', call her 'Groove Girl'.

Unfortunately, from here on out, the songs are just awful dreck. 'Shoo Be Doo' says 'shoo bee doo' and makes me want to kill myself and/or turn the record back over to side one again, to give myself another shot of action rather than sit through this plodding, indulgent slop. 'Pretender' is more innocently moronic than anything on Madonna was, and recycles at least a couple of the second-string hooks from that album. 'Stay' sounds like it accidentally picked up a Stomp! rehearsal in the next room, at a completely different tempo, and invests most of itself in a line that goes 'scoot scoot scoot scootally-bebop!', which actually makes more sense than the lyrics themselves. What's with all the scat-style vocal noises on these last three songs? Is it possible to explain a universe where an all-powerful God allows Satan to exist or where 'Into The Groove' coexists with 'Shoo Be Doo?' I'm not even gonna try.

Capn's Final Word: The singles are (mostly) as great as everyone thought, but boy, that filler is a killer.

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True Blue - Sire 1986

Madonna's 'mature' album, one that everyone clamored over each other about when it was first released because she was finally being 'artistic' and writing about 'stuff' other than 'clothes' and 'dancing' and 'penis', and I'll be the first to admit that this does contain some great tunes that incorporate new spins on the old Madonna sound and formula, but it's not like she rewrote 'Harper Valley PTA' or anything. Would we want her to? Fucking hell, no! But 'Papa Don't Preach' is just fine with me...The main point is that Madonna is still trying to make music for teenage girls here - no creeping 'adult' themes, and luckily, no obvious returns to the overserious, stonefaced 'Love Don't Live Here Any More'. If anything, True Blue is more of a 'teen' album than Virgin was, doesn't flirt quite so hard with the stiff-dick stuff, keeps the groove movin'...you know, everything a good Madonna album should be.

'Papa Don't Preach' is the Catholic Church-sponsored ('I'm Gonna Keep My Baby!!'...what, rather than try to return it to Wal Mart? What, am I missing something here? Duh?)  after-school special song of the decade (1980's, in case you just put the bong down. Ooops! Did I say 'bong'? I don't think that word's legal to say any more. Just like you can't put the words 'George W. Bush' and 'overpaid monkey' in the same sentence either.), but its actually convincing, which may say more for Madonna's ability to come across like a pregnant teen in trouble than to her (rapidly improving) vocal abilities. I sure like 'Open Your Heart' better, though, wherein Madonna fronts a band bigger than Band Aid, oversings drums louder than Bonham on a gram of Iowa's Finest Crystal Meth, and drives a manaically catchy hook right into the stratosphere ('I am the lock (moist vagina) and you are the key (Mud Shark)'). 'Live To Tell' invokes similar dramaticised synthpop hits (Don Henley's 'Boys Of Summer' and that one anti-silicon implant song by Berlin, you know the one on the Top Gun soundtrack, 'Take My Breasts Away', come immediately to mind), I guess it shows artistic growth and maturity and all that bullhockey...I'm just happy it never gets too dull despite its plodding tempo. 'La Isla Bonita' is just goofy fun, an attempt at a Caribbean/Latino-flavored track ala a less tongue-in-cheek 'Tide Is High' (and less good, but no one ever claimed Madonna was as good as Blondie...I mean, c'mon! Apples and oranges! Apples and oranges, here!)

Oh, there's the usual drop in quality between the hits and filler, as reliable as a kick in the shorts by this time, but at least the filler tracks and failures still get the full-on Miami Vice production job that the big hits get. They're also better than usual, with only two suckers which is less than in Madonna's touring company of male dancers! But those two songs...arf. All the Maybelline production in the world isn't going to make these Sandra Bernharts into Kristianna Lokens. 'White Heat' is some completely messed-up fusion between old-style James Cagney gangster flick samples and some stupid aerobicized lyrics about 'getting up and standing tall' because 'my love is dangerous'. Frankly, if a girl told me her 'love' was 'dangerous', I would be curled up in the foetal position, not 'standing tall'. 'Love Makes The World Go Round' is some unholy summation of Lionel Ritchie's 'All Night Long' and whatever Phil Collins horn-dominated track you care to puke on my shoes, and is a horrible way to wrap up an otherwise enjoyable record. 'Where's The Party' is a cute attempt to revisit Madonna's freshness, as is the doo-woppy 'True Blue', both songs I have nothing against other than a painful glandular-level allergy to badly rendered synthetic horns 'n' strings. 'Jimmy Jimmy' is similar moronic girl-fun, more Abba and more electro, and more of a sugar rush good time. Which is not necessarily the case for the album as a whole. True Blue isn't as crackly-impressive as the best parts of Like A Virgin, but it beats it on the consistency front all night long.

Capn's Final Word: I don't hear Madonna 'growing up' and becoming 'arty' or anything here, that'll have to wait a few years. She's just getting better at being Madonna.

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Who's That Girl - Sire 1987

Ripoff soundtrack album, if that isn't already redundant as fuck (only soundtrack album I've ever figured was 100% essential: The Harder They Come. What, you figuring I was going to choose The Bodyguard?), made worse because the big Madonna hit here is a poor rewrite of 'La Isla Bonita', complete with the poor mimicky Spanish but lacking any of the fun. 'Causing A Commotion' and 'The Look Of Love' find Madonna not transcending her unfortunate status as a pop star recording music in 1986-7, a couple of years responsible for more wasteful use of magnetic tape than the entire history of the Los Angeles Clippers franchise. These songs, as you may expect, are far better than the yucky-poo songs by Scritti Politti and Club Nouveau and Anal Cunt and the Pat Robertson Man-Boy Love Orchestra and whoever else didn't have the good sense not to put their name next to this Madonna/Sean Penn vanity project. This sinkhole was worse than Under The Cherry Moon, fer chrissakes!

Capn's Final Word: Not worth the five minutes you'll spend listening to it before chucking it out the window into heavy traffic.

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You Can Dance - Sire 1987

Ripoff hits collection under the guise of a nonstop erotic dance cabaret, but I like itlots. And so do you, or else I kill you. I certainly don't mind hearing these songs again, especially in their intended dancefloor context (even the stuff I previously branded as 'filler'...here its just keeping the groove movin') 'Holiday', 'Everybody', 'Physical Attraction', 'Over and Over', 'Into The Groove', and 'Where's The Party'...more beats than Rick Springfield and Tommy Lee combined! More dancin' feet than the line at the men's bathroom during Nickel Beer Night at the ol' ballpark. More fun than your sister and that cute cheerleader friend of hers, almost.

Oh, and the 'new' track, 'Spotlight' is the worst song on here by a long stretch. So don't buy it for that unless you're an obsessive that bids on little balls of Madonna's navel lint on Ebay or are a transvestite or something.

Capn's Final Word: A fine party record that beats out all of Madonnas other party records.

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Like A Prayer - Sire 1989

Like a Prayer took way too fucking long to come out and end up sounding pretty much like a rewrite of True Blue. Maybe it was too many years spent yanking Sean's Pen(n) or the onset of fame or whatever, but Madonna delivers very little other than the barest expectations here, and whatever does work sounds like it benefitted from more than a little outside help ('Express Yourself'). Not even the hits are as good as usual...there's not a single one that moves me as the best work on her first three did, and I'd say only 'Express Yourself' has that Madonna kick. The title track throws all of its eggs in the gospel choir basket (one of those overused gimmicks in 1989, like techno beats in 1997-8 or shitty fucking writing in 2002-3) and falls flat due to a lack of melody. It tries to be serious but ends up striking me as...ugly and pretentious! 'Cherish' seems ever-familiar and lacking substance...where's that little smidgeon of interest in this track, huh? Also, what would seem to be an interesting matchup with Prince on 'Love Song' turns out to be one of the least likable tracks on any Madonna album, ever, a minimalist junkheap of thrown-away synth scribbling and poor attempts at singing, more sickening than sexy.

Madonna seems to have taken all those critical accolades that followed True Blue's 'daring steps into maturity' (bullshit!) to heart....it must've seemed only too easy to record the gloppy, sappy weeper 'Promise to Try', wait a few months, and collect one's Grammy. Maybe Scorsese would've put it into the soundtrack to The Last Temptation of Christ, and she could've gotten an Oscar! A Tony! A Pulitzer! A Swift, Steel-Toed Kick in the Teeth! And that's not even half as awful as 'Oh Father', which has all the emotional resonance of an episode of Sally Jesse Rafael and a whole lot fewer chubby twelve-year-olds in see-through haltertops and rubber super-minis. I suppose Madonna's being 'courageous' again, this time apparently engaging her Dad in a bout of Who Wants To Be Dysfunctional? (Yes, Regis, I'd like to use my Weak Cop Out lifeline, please!) There is a nice slide guitar line in there, though  'Dear Jesse' shows Madonna's been listening to too much Eurhythmics, and 'Spanish Eyes' boringly continues Madonna's obsession with all things Iberian (that have dicks). And, just for old times' sake, there's an old fashioned noise collage at the end ('Act Of Contrition')! That's right! Like on Funkadelic's Maggot Brain and the Stooges' 'LA Blues'!!! And it's just as unimaginitively constructed as the rest of this album! 'I have a reservation! WHADDYA MEAN IT'S NOT IN THE COMPUTER?!?!'

Har

D

Har, madonna.

Capn's Final Word: Taking onesself too seriously? Ambition taking over? Try a dose of Disappointing Sales Figures...it'll cure you right up!

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I'm Breathless - Sire 1991.

Another unfortunate movie tie-in to another unfortunate movie, this time actually starring people with talent (I mean, besides Madonna...she's fucking great in front of the camera. Did you see the way she whined and chattered her dialogue and shamelessly mugged at the camera in Next Best Thing like she was somehow aware of what a shitty movie she was making for herself? That's the sure sign of a new Hepburn, no doubts in mah mind!!) but still sucking so bad I really would like to forget it forever! But Madonna decided to release this shit instead of a proper soundtrack album forcing me to listen to it over and over again in a desperate search for another goonball way of saying 'this fucking record sucks, fucknose! If you fucking buy it, I'd be fully within my rights to kick your face in, send incriminating photos to your boss's email, and feed your dog enough jalapeño Ranch Style Beans to remake The Day After right in your very own backyard. Nah...she coulda called it I'm Brainless or I'm Tuneless or, probably most descriptively, I'm Shameless. I guess the only thing she couldn't have called it was I'm Breastless. She's not. You can see 'em right there on the cover. What? You've never seen Madonna's breasts? I guess I thought about 85% of the male population of North America has actually had sexual intercourse with Madonna at one time or another. I know I have. I was #4532 in line on the October 5th, 1993 gangbang. It was gross, lemme tell ya.

Anyway, this album is nastier than that. Nauseating 40's-era bovine-voiced soundtrack music that sounds like Count Basie's personal version of Eternal Hell. Just simply awful, unlistenable stuff that drew no less than 3 different people into my office today to ask me what the living fuck was I listening to?!? And I only have about 10 people in my office altogether! I guess it's nice to keep people on their toes.

The only saving grace that this album has is the single 'Vogue', one of those gay anthems that makes me glad I'm not gay. It's a pretty good song for a 1991 disco hit custom-made for lip-wristed dancefloor posing and other activities I find I'm about as likely to do as stick red-hot pokers into my eyesockets. Why do gay guys like house music so damned much? Just another mystery of the universe. I guess they don't make fags like Rob Halford anymore....

What? Oh, Brian Boitano, either. Tom Wopat...Charlie Brown. Donald Rumsfeld. All great homos of our age.

Capn's Final Word: Giiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!

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Erotica - Sire 1992

Overlong, samey, and very liable to start my face-a-yawnin' and my eyelids-a-shuttin' before it's all over, but that's just because Madonna's pretty much made an album filled with near-passable filler with nary a great, pumpin' hit song in the bunch. I suppose some of the more effeminate of you out there will applaud the club groove-vibe-critter-thang that runs through Erotica like a Taco Bell Bean Burrito through a schnauser, and I suppose that without the beatitudes here this album would pretty much be a total loss. Now, by 1992 Madonna'd become absolutely totally 100% preoccupied with showing her naked girl privates to as many people as humanly possible (her Sex book...that one accursed Basic Instinct ripoff flick she did with Willem Dafoe) as well as telling everybody about it all the time, so her music had now taken a complete back seat to all this flash 'n dish. Erotica at least feels as if it's of a piece (of ass), a unified (pussy) whole, with a sens(uous)e of purp(le vagina lips)ose. If only they hadn't made it so repetitive and dull...I don't even once feel like wiggling my butt to it. Dancing, or otherwise.

Anyway, I suppose the opening title track is pretty decent, and at least has a memorable hook line ('erotic, erotic, put Easy Cheese all over my Mazda'), but, as with every song here, I wish had more interesting musical parts other than 'hook and beat'. Where's the great *pop!* into the chorus? The cover of some 60's babe's tune (Peggy Lee) 'Fever' sounds like a RuPaul song gone dull. Madonna sounds totally uninterested in what she's doing, and while her voice has yet to begin it's inevitable decline, it sounds neglected. 'Deeper And Deeper' was a hit (so I'm told...I've never heard it), but it's really indistinguishable from all the other ticky-tacky club tracks around it. I suppose fans of early-90's house music will love the album outta this shit, but I'm just bored. I like the hip hop track 'Waiting', but whoever did the samples sho warn't no Terminator X, gee. And Jesus, sitting through fucking Enigma outtakes like 'Where Life Begins' starts me thinking of Where Would Be A Good Place For My Life To End? 

There's a vibe here, sure, but the last time an album got over on vibe alone it was called Dark Side Of The Moon, and this, Mr. Quayle, is no Dark Side Of The Moon. It's not even Gap Band IV. And don't even mention Johnny Cash Sings The Songs That Made Him Famous. Or Ramones. Just don't even say anything. I hate you. Not really. Shh...do you hear the silence?

Capn's Final Word: Madonna embraces dancing and sex and makes both of them sound less preferable than defrosting the refrigerator.

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Bedtime Stories - Sire 1994

Madonna's first hesitant steps into respectability, Bedtime Stories sounds like an album made by someone half-reformed from a nasty and embarrassing history of obsessions and neuroses, which is pretty much what it is. On one hand, the dirty sexual lovin' groove of Erotica is still hangin' on, updated for the mid-90's to include more hip-hop and skanky soul influences, and Madonna still contains the tiniest thread of her 80's exhuberance, giving these tracks just the minimal amount of freshness. On the other hand, while on Erotica there was no doubt what she was talking about when she sang a line like 'Dining out can happen below', but it's harder to tell on Bedtime Stories. 'Happiness lies in the palm of your hand' (a line which reappears like a bazillion times throughout the album, it seems), could possibly be taken in a perverse way if your mind is a rotten and twisted as mine is, anyway, or could be pointing the way to a New, Grown-Up Madonna. 'I'd Rather Be Your Lover' lists all the people Madonna could be for you (sister, brother, mother), which all point up the same sorta maybe sexual/maybe psychoanalytical ambiguity. It's all maybe a bit annoying after awhile, this whole self-help kick, but things never quit being quietly soulful and pleasant until the train flies completely off the track and crashes into the school bus full of preschoolers with 'Sanctuary' and 'Bedtime Stories', both endless torture sessions attempting to persuade the audience into joining whatever air-brained flaky cult Madonna is part of this week. 'Let's Get Unconscious!' she sings in the title track. Really? You go right ahead! I'll even swing the baseball bat, Madonna!

 The rest of these songs are really pretty sweet, thanks to the emphasis on slow-rollin' grooves and Madonna singing in her 80's girlie voice. I mean, if you like Madonna at all, you can't truly go wrong with most of Bedtime Stories. 'Take a Bow' is the nicest little love ballad to come from Madonna since fucking True Blue nearly 10 years prior, 'Secret' is hooky and memorable, plus it inaugurates the use of the acoustic guitar sample in a Madonna song, something that would be overused to disgusting degrees on American Life, but here it's just to serve the sexy groove action. Fuck Erotica…with all these nice, reliable beats goin' down, this is the album to get down 'n' busy to in the Madonna catalog. Just make sure to finish early, before 'Sanctuary' comes along and fumigates the atmosphere away, or your first romantic encounter may be your last for a long time.

Capn's Final Word: Madonna plays her cards right and masks her advancing 'maturity' with grooves as sexy as spandex.

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Ray of Light - Sire 1997

Madonna went and growed up on us, severing that final tie to the exuberant, ambitious girl who wrote all those bubbly songs on Madonna. Some folk blame it on her having a kid, but I say it was another career decision. She lobbied so frigging hard to play Eva Peron in Evita for one reason only: she wants to be taken seriously as a singer and actress, and she got dangerously close to achieving that. (Not from me, though…I'm so anti-Musical I'd rather eat a kilogram of fire ants than sit through some bullshit Rice/Webber production where everyone is singing these godawful, unmelodic, stilted lyrics for two hours. Besides that, I'd always feel like Madonna got to star in the movie 'cos she willed it to happen, not because she was the best choice for the role, and would make me hate her guts even more.) She's all therapied up, does her Jewish Yoga or whatever the fuck it is, and does everything possible to come across as a faintly exotic Earth Mama…anything to get away from her Boy Toy image.

Musically, this means another descent into 'serious art', just as we thought maybe she'd reached some sort of nice balance between self-referential lyrics and decent musical backing on Bedtime Stories, here she dives right into this foggy-headed mysticism full-on and is only infrequently saved by William Orbit's spacey electronic backgrounds. 'Ray Of Light' is a fantastic single that pushes Madonna's voice to the very razor's edge of cracking and sounding like shit (when performing this song in concert she'd always just fall right on over into the canyon and crack her voice worse than Peter Brady on that one episode of Brady Bunch) and has a great use of the entire hard drive full of twiddly synth noises. But, on the flipside, 'Frozen' is all minimalist drum-n-bass echoes that head exactly nowhere while Madonna drops the 'you're frozen when your heart's not open' line on us about 5 or 6 thousand times. Unfortunately, most of the songs on Lay Gary Wright fall into the second category than the first…this is an album built on the idea that you're going to enjoy Madonna squeezing her flimsy voice for everything it's worth over minimalist drumscapes, as if she's Bjork or Lita Ford or something, except without the hooks. What, am I going to like the dreadfully dull 'Candy Perfume Girl' or 'Swim' or 'Sky Fits Heaven' or…*sssshhhuudddeerrrr* the frigging Moonie chant song 'Shanti/Ashtangi' just because it's Madonna doing her little sermons instead of some unknown? Ack. This is where our girl gets waaayyy too full of herself, and forgets that most people buy Madonna albums in hopes that you're going to find a bunch of 'Ray Of Light' adrenaline rushes, not all this slow, heavy somnambulistic crud.

Capn's Final Word:  'Donna gets old.

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Music - Sire 2000

Let's play Madonna's Music Mad Libs!!

 This album is:

abominable, amiss, atrocious, awful, bad news, beastly, blah, bottom out, bummer, careless, cheap, cheesy, crappy, cruddy, crummy, defective, deficient, diddly, dissatisfactory, downer, dreadful, erroneous, fallacious, faulty, garbage, god-awful, gross, grungy, icky, imperfect, inadequate, incorrect, inferior, junky, lousy, not good, off, poor, raunchy, rough, sad, scuzzy, sleazeball, sleazy, slipshod, stinking, substandard, synthetic, the pits, unacceptable, unsatisfactory

 The recycled minimalist musical backing on this record is:

moldy, off, putrid, rancid, rotten, sour, spoiled

 To her career, I sincerely hope Music will end up being:

damaging, dangerous, deleterious, detrimental, hurtful, injurious, ruinous, unhealthy

 Which is pretty damning, because her musical career was already:

ailing, diseased, ill, in pain, unwell

 And Madonna has shown no signs of being:

 apologetic, conscience-stricken, contrite, crestfallen, dejected, depressed, disconsolate, down, downcast, downhearted, guilty, low, regretful, remorseful, sad, upset, woebegone

 about her poor artistic turns. The fact that Madonna used to be refreshing and interesting makes me feel:

 adverse, disagreeable, discouraged, discouraging, displeasing, distressed, gloomy, grim, melancholy, troubled, troubling, unfavorable, unfortunate, unhappy, unpleasant

 I believe Madonna's cavalier treatment of her audience is:

base, corrupt, criminal, delinquent, evil, iniquitous, mean, reprobate, sinful, vicious, vile, villainous, wicked, wrong

 And I no longer enjoy listening to her. Thank you. I'll be here all week. Tip your waitresses.

Capn's Final Word: Bad? It's bad, you know it, chum on!

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American Life - Sire 2003

Madonna's newest release (discharge?) continues her sickening and ever-more obscure infatuation with club electronica, to the benefit of no one and the further denigration of the Divine Mrs. M's reputation in the US. This time, not surprisingly, shows her unsuccessfully trying to get out of the electro-dead end she's driven herself into in the last 6 years or so. As you might expect from a genre that's produced nothing new for over 10 years, American Life sounds pretty much the same as the last - tuneless, paper-thin 808 beats, disgusting vocal effects, and only the very barest of attempts at chording and melody (mostly attempted by sampling 3 bars or so of 'rootsy' acoustic guitar, which is then looped over and over again…it's a distracting and cheap gimmick that she used last time, and uses it here on nearly every song! And you wonder why I think Madonna is completely bereft of talent or new ideas nowadays?) Back in those old days long ago when Madonna didn't look like a worn out port-town Madame after the entire Atlantic fleet stopped by for a visit, her songs had melodies. Which made them memorable, and in certain cases, good. But when all you have is the same old aluminum beats crackling away behind you, and you seem to have no confidence in your singing voice, how else are these tracks supposed to sound? Little wonder it seemed like a good idea to do away with attempting to hit notes at all…sometimes ('I'm So Stupid', others), she just sorta stabs all over the scale, sadly attempting to hit any notes that might stick at all, and others…she raps.  God's wounds…

Now, I've heard some sad rapping in my days. Dee Dee Ramone, Lou Reed, Thurston Moore…all punker-fellahs who I'm sure had tongue firmly implanted in cheek as they stepped up to the mic (in the mid-80's, I might add, not 20 years later) and made silly pale white hipsters out of themselves. I think that probably being a convincing rapper is somewhere close in difficulty to learning how to play a musical instrument well. Anyone can talk, but rapping is an art that, like playing the drumset or coordinating ten fingers on a piano keyboard, that not so many people can do. Singing, sure…but rapping is another bowl of oatmeal altogether. Madonna not only tries to rap, she puts on the most (I hope, unintentionally) race-mocking voice she can muster, making it sound like she isn't actually a billionaire 40-something with two kids and a put-on speaking voice that makes it sound like she was born Queen Elizabeth's assbaby. If I were less white than what I am, I'd be fucking pissed…this is audial blackface, that's all. Adding a kick in the balls to the shot in the gut, she's spouting lines as infamous as - now lemme quote the whole disgusting passage:

got a lawyer and a manager
An agent and a chef
Three nannies, an assistant
And a driver and a jet
A trainer and a butler
And a bodyguard or five
A gardener and a stylist
Do you think I'm satisfied?

Fuck getting the blacks involved, I'll pull the fucking trigger myself! She's guilty of Crimes Against Humanity, not to mention wholesale genocide of Good Taste. Next time I hear Madonna start up with this wigger bullshit, I'll be goddamned if I don't grab myself a firearm of my choice and turn the Material Girl back into Breathless Mahoney…and I mean breathless.

The whole goddamn album is packed with disgusting, self-pitying lines like those. Sometimes they're less audible than others, but they're all there. The definitive discussion on this topic was penned by Mark Prindle here. so I won't go into it in depth. I'm a little less concerned about how stars are 'supposed' to act now after September 11th (I think we ought to be a lot less concerned about how stars act and quite a bit more fucking concerned about the monkeys we have in charge at the Bush White House), but I certainly agree that Madonna has absolutely no clue what life is like (American or otherwise) for any one that has less than 7 figures in the bank and 'an agent, a chef, three nannies…blah fucking blah', and, in the end, I think her level of compassion and understanding for anyone who isn't Madonna is pretty fucking small, which explains why each and every one of these songs refers to herself and herself only. She's not being 'confessional', she's being narcissistic to the worst extreme. She's the God of her own little world, and apparently she thinks we're interested in the goings-on there. Well, since I'm not a subscriber to the National Enquirer, and don't get wet panties at the sight of the E! channel logo, I guess I don't give a holy hand grenade about Madonna's life or  'problems', I've got plenty of my own to worry about, thank you, and none of them include having to worry that I really don't want all this money I don't have.  

Again, I really can't say it any more succinctly than Mark Prindle, and I really think you should go to the link above for a complete and well-constructed argument against everything this album represents. I honestly do not care enough to write that many words, and would rather do what most of the listening audiences in the United States have done. Never. listen. to. the. album. again. Lord knows I'm glad I didn't pay any money for this armpit filled with shit.

Madonna's gone. Her last train left the minute she decided that pop was too good for her. She's now a self-obsessed, disgusting old bat that we've made impossibly rich, rich enough that nobody in her family will need to worry about losing a job and being unable to pay rent and feed their children again. And Madonna wants to spend 50 minutes telling us how unhappy she is about the whole deal.

Capn's Final Word: Fuck you.

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Matt     Your Rating: B
Any Short Comments?: I found the first review quite amusing.  As  music student at a professional level, performer, composer, and visual artist I find American Life quite fascinating.  If you actually listen to it rather than stick it in your stereo while you're chatting to your friends it's amazing. i expected more from the queen of pop as well. Compared to some other albums, this one sucks!  Listen to it on its own, gets me through some pretty tough times.  Maybe we should listen, she's pretty old, but still kickin, I hope my wife's like that when she's 45!

Michael Moran     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: I loved your rant. Im from the UK and i think this whole 'British' thing she is doing is sad. She had turned her back on the country that made her a superstar!!!


GJ     Your Rating: F
Any Short Comments?: She is just one of the roaches of the Reagan-Thatcher 80's, along with Stallone, Tyson, Schwarzenegger... A person with some integrity would name album like this "American Dream", not "American Life".

 


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