Madonna, Music

Barry Walters

By Barry Walters

on 02.12.13 in Reviews


Diving deeper into electronics and self-exploration

At the early height of her popularity, Madonna polarized listeners like few pop phenomena. But 1998′s Ray of Light gave her broad respect, and its synth-driven introspection proved more popular internationally than any of her studio albums since 1986′s True Blue. That approval empowered the singer to dive even deeper into electronics and self-exploration on 2000′s Music. Through Maverick Records, she had received a demo by Mirwais, former guitarist of French New Wave band Taxi Girl, who became her largely unknown primary collaborator here. His Daft Punk-y quirks blend seamlessly with her early-’80s disco-funk for Music‘s title track, one of her most joyous singles ever. Elsewhere she embraces acoustic guitars, both straightforward (“I Deserve It”) and glitchy (the nearly country-ish hit “Don’t Tell Me,” written by her singer-songwriter brother-in-law Joe Henry). The risks she takes on wayward album cuts like “Paradise (Not For Me)” are balanced by concise, well-written ballads like “What It Feels Like For a Girl,” one of her gentlest, yet most-barbed feminist statements. These different directions didn’t collectively match Ray of Light‘s unity, but they add a worthy plateau to that album’s peak. Nothing suggested that another backlash loomed right around the corner.