Bold experimentation, controversial political comment and downright epic pop.
That’s why Madonna’s highly anticipated new album marks yet another phase of her groundbreaking chart career.
For the creator of some of the biggest pop choruses in history to throw caution to the wind and create some of her most daring music ever, at the age of 60, is a welcome reminder of why Madonna has remained at the cutting edge of music for four decades.
It’s further proof that none of her young rivals are coming anywhere close to making pop music this exciting and boundary-pushing.
Here’s my track by track rundown of what you can expect from Madame X, a global trip of an album, out next Friday.
MEDELLIN: From track one, it’s clear Madonna’s new home on the Iberian peninsula has provided the inspiration for the Spanish sound that runs through the album. The chemistry with Colombian rapper Maluma is sizzling. Slow down papi, indeed.
DARK BALLET: One of Madonna’s most experimental and thrilling tracks, this is the album’s mission statement as she sings: “I can dress like a boy, I can dress like a girl. Cos your world’s obsessed with fame, cos your world’s in so much pain, cos your world’s in flames.”
The intro is reminiscent of the title-track of American Life, which makes sense as Madame X is her first major collaboration on a studio album with French producer Mirwais since their divisive 2003 record.
But beyond the intro of the Joan Of Arc-inspired song, things really get creative, as a sparse piano is introduced and the track slowly reveals itself to be an exhilarating multi-genre experience. Imagine Madonna making a 2019 version of Bohemian Rhapsody.
Between edgy beats and random sounds, we’re treated to the kind of heavy breathing, blowing and airy gasps not heard since Erotica, although rather than sounding orgasmic, here we’re entering a desolate, altogether more disturbing territory.
Key lyric: “People tell me to shut your mouth – keep your beautiful lies because I’m not concerned.”
GOD CONTROL: A strong one-two punch of edgy Madonna tracks. Long rumoured, Madonna takes on the issue of gun control in the US with this heady six-minute plus track where powerful lyrics and gun shots run under a swirly electric beat that becomes euphoric. There’s a Vogue-style rap for good measure too.
Key lyric: “People think that I’m insane, insane people think I’m mad.”
FUTURE: Performed at Eurovision with the rapper Quavo, the reggae-infused track is a message of hope following the bleak God Control. It’s a Sunday afternoon in the park vibe, very of the moment.
BATUKA: This features Portuguese instruments and Madonna recorded it with locals.
The powerful chanting chorus became a family affair with her daughters contributing some vocals. And I’m told son David Banda is even credited as one of the writers.
The song feels like the beginning of a revolution. Queen Madonna is rallying her troops, ready for battle. It’s empowering and – helpfully – feels like you can actually dance to it.
KILLERS WHO ARE PARTYING: Here Madonna invokes many minority groups – full list: gay, African, poor, children, Islamic, Israeli, Native American – and a woman, in one of the more controversial moments on the album.
Key lyric: “I’ll be a woman if she’s raped and her heart is breaking.”
CRAVE: Already released, this sweet grower of a song sees Madonna layer her vocals to great effect as she sings of the risk of her cravings, presumably romantic or sexual, “getting dangerous”. The closest we get to a Madonna love song on the album.
CRAZY: My highlight track, this is a soaring, stripped-back pop masterpiece. The chorus is musically joyous but the lyrics are full of the pain of being let down by a lover or family member. It’s the “last time I wake up for you”, she insists. Her Eighties prowess is still in full effect when she wishes to access it.
Key lyric: “If you think I’ve been foolish then I’ll only let you fool me once, so baby shame on you.”
COME ALIVE: Another moment of spectacular pop, smack bang in the middle of the album. The ethereal song has no traditional chorus, but great use of Auto-Tune and a fabulous choir.
EXTREME OCCIDENT: Middle Eastern beats power another experimental moment where Madonna examines her place in the world and decides “life is a circle”. She remains defiant, with the ongoing theme being her unwillingness to bend to the way society tries to mould her: “I don’t want to blend in, why do you want me to?”
This has been an ongoing thread throughout Madonna’s career. When will her detractors get the message?
Key lyric: “I guess I’m lost, I paid a handsome cost.”
FAZ GOSTOSO: Most out and out fun moment on the album – a Latin celebration of how to move your body and party. The street party vibe near the end of the track is total euphoria.
BITCH I’M LOCO: Maluma returns for the naughtiest track on the album, where Madonna sexes it up once more.
The highlight is the two of them speaking with each other flirtatiously towards the end. When he asks her, “Where do you want me to put this?” she replies: “Oh you can put it inside.”
Ooh la la!
I DON’T SEARCH I FIND: Harking back to her Ray Of Light and Confessions era, Madonna pushes her vocals over a stomping club beat.
She appears to pay tribute to her own career with various self-referential moments, including the famous clicks from Vogue and an Erotica-esque spoken-word section.
LOOKING FOR MERCY: My second favourite moment on the album, this is Madonna at her most vulnerable as she appears to open up about her personal life in more detail, singing, “I’m looking for love”.
Key lyric: “Somebody teach me to love, somebody help me to rise above.”
I RISE: The perfect sunset to a very vibrant album. Powerful, haunting and lyrically one of the most consistently strong on Madame X.
After spending the album telling everyone not to criticise her, or tell her what to do, it’s smart to end the record by saying: “I rise up above it all.” So whatever you say has little consequence anyway.
Madonna will still continue to be Madonna.
And judging by Madame X . . . thank God for that.