Maverick Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


After setting musical trends for nearly 20 years, Madonna finds herself in a unique position this time around - she's the one behind the eight-ball.

Her latest album, Music, all but abandons the trip-pop style of music that marked her last release Ray Of Light for a dive into sparse techno beats and annoying use of devices like the vocoder. She sounds as out of place as she looks in her K-mart western wear she sports on the cover.

Working again with producer William Orbit (as well as French wunderkind Mirwais this time around), Madonna finds herself chasing the tails of artists like Cher who have captured the essence of popular music today through dance-oriented top 40. She also seems like she's trying to outgun the latest "Baby-One-More-Genie-In-A-Larger-Than-Life-Bottle" by trying to become hip. What Madonna forgot in the process is that she doesn't my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 need to prove herself after all these years... nor does she have to try and sound hip.

The title track is symbolic of the trouble this album is in from th get-go. This variation on a single G-chord, with nothing more than an electronic beat and light synthesizer work backing up Madonna's vocals, makes it sound like she was given a synthesizer/drum machine for Christmas, and she used this song to learn how to program the basics of the machine.

Music shows off a Madonna who is confused as to which direction she should go with her music. "Runaway Lover" tries to move her back to the direction of Ray Of Light, but the lyric "You're set adrift with no direction / Just like a ship that's lost at sea"... well, that seems to sum up Madonna's dilemma.

The vocoder is overused just by its sheer presence on Music - cripes, Madonna has one of the best voices in pop music, so why ruin it with a computer? "Impressive Instant" and "Nobody's Perfect" show just how annoying this device can be. Even songs which are being targeted by outsiders as singles, such as "What It Feels Like For A Girl," just don't have enough substance to allow them to stand on their own.

"Paradise (Not For Me)"... you know, there was a time when record companies saved the extended remixes for the 12-inch singles... oh, wait, this is the track. This track can be summed up in one simple word: boring.

Yet Music is not without hope. "I Deserve It" may be lacking in instrumentation, but it is the first sign that not everything is going south. A powerful vocal performance and introspective lyrics save this one. Likewise, "Amazing" is the song which mirrors "Beautiful Stranger" from the Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me soundtrack, and is reminiscent of the direction many thought Madonna would take on this album.

So what went wrong with Music? I personally don't think Mirwais helped; if anything, his presence clouds the direction of the album, and sets Madonna back. Had she worked solely with Orbit, maybe he could have brought out more in the music.

Music is an album that strikes a bad chord with me, and suggests that Madonna has lost sight of the musical ideals she rediscovered on Ray Of Light. Did I expect or want this to be a carbon-copy follow-up? No... besides, that isn't Madonna's style. But let's all hope this is a brief flirtation in the Material Girl's world.

Rating: D+

User Rating: C



© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Maverick Records, and is used for informational purposes only.