Coming 36 years after her self-titled debut, Madonna’s Madame X might just be one of the most exciting, baffling and bold albums of her career. Influenced by her life in Lisbon, London, New York and LA, Madame X is dizzying in its range of influences. There’s Latin pop, house, disco, reggaeton, trap, even classical snatches of Tchaikovsky. Many moments impress, mostly because of how much they surprise: Madonna, below, revels, as always, in being unpredictable.
Of course, she’s always been light years ahead of her time. Lyrically, she’s at her most antagonistic in years: “People tell me to shut my mouth, that I might get burnt,” she sings on the genre-crushing Dark Ballet — assuring us she’s not about to stop her trailblazing and scoffing in the face of critics. Taking on the persona of Madame X — based on a controversial French socialite — gives Madonna even more freedom as she often explores the othering of female selves, whether it be as mother, muse or mistress.
Madame X dazzles, such as on the disco wonder of God Control and the infectious emotive pop of Crave; her collaborations impress too. There are some missteps, mostly when she tries to empathise with multiple oppressed identities, such as on Killers Who Are Partying. Still, this is one of Madonna’s most original releases since Confessions on a Dance Floor.