Maverick Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


A new Madonna for the new millennium…what could be better? Donning the image of a cowgirl on the new album, the simply titled Music, it is clear that Madonna was on top of the world in 2000, and why wouldn’t she be?

She just gave birth to her second child (son Rocco) and got hitched to British film director Guy Ritchie. Madonna had finally found love again, something that even she didn’t think would be possible. Her newfound enthusiasm for love, life and music was duly noted by her fans and critics alike, as Music received some of the best reviews of her seventeen-year career.

A loose, minimalist approach was brought to the studio this time by producers William Orbit and Madonna’s latest find, Frenchman Mirwais Ahmadzai. Madonna even started taking guitar lessons to prepare herself for the whirlwind year ahead, which would include her first world tour in eight years, Drowned World. Acoustic guitar is made particular use of on this eighth album by Madonna, who now had words like “legend” and “icon” permanently affixed next to her name. Blended with an entrancing form of electronica (which Madonna had initially unveiled on her my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Ray Of Light masterpiece), Music was decidedly more upbeat and is an intriguing listen from beginning to end.

Most of the hardest-hitting dance tracks come early on, from the sure-fire number one hit “Music,” to the fan favorite “Impressive Instant,” to the unsettlingly manic “Runaway Lover.” William Orbit, who had been at the helm for Ray Of Light, is recruited more sparingly for this project and his two contributions (“Runaway Lover” and “Amazing”) are also the album’s weakest tracks. Of course, predictably, Madonna would then ditch Orbit and make Mirwais her sole producer for her misguided 2003 follow-up, American Life. The most shocking thing about that album was the fact that it had acoustic guitar as the basis for every single song. Dubbed her “folktronica experiment,” American Life was not received well and ended up as Madonna’s worst selling album ever.

On Music, however, the acoustic guitar was a nice change of pace for Madonna. It helped to make songs like “I Deserve It” and “Gone” so personal and original. If nothing else, it helped to make sense of the cowboy-themed artwork that the album package contained so much of. On the other hand, many of Mirwais’ transitions can sometimes be so jarring that it often seems as if his timing is off. Granted, Madonna may like this roughshod, uneven quality, but to other trained ears, it just comes off as sloppy craftsmanship. I also wonder how much of Madonna’s last three albums were recorded using Pro-Tools. While it may be the latest technological advancement in recording techniques, it does often result in the music sounding cheap and plastic.

Somehow, Madonna managed to make the most of Mirwais’ shortcomings as a producer and Music turned out better than you would expect. She got one more #1 single out of the deal, got to work with her songwriting brother-in-law Joe Henry for “Don’t Tell Me” and even recruited Guy to direct the ballsy video clip for a remixed version of “What It Feels Like For A Girl.” Everyone who worked on Music came out a winner and anyone who heard it seemed satisfied. As a huge Madonna fan, I even had to pinch myself when seeing just how popular Madonna had suddenly become again. Unfortunately, even Madonna had to have known that after the stunning and unexpected success of Music, the only direction for her from that point forward would be down.

Rating: A-

User Rating: C



© 2008 Michael R. Smith 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.