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Madonna | Madame X

Madge returns to action with one of the flat-out loopiest albums of her career.

Ay yi yi. Or to put it another way: It’s a weird kind of energy. Or to put it yet another way: Bitch, she’s loca. That’s not me talking. That’s Madame X herself. She’s got a helluva point: Madonna’s 14th studio album and first full-length in four years isn’t just her latest stylistic departure or artistic reinvention: It’s one of the flat-out loopiest releases of her career. And not just because of the eyepatch she’s been sporting lately. The weirdness goes far deeper than that. And comes from a far more exotic place. Much of the disc was birthed, written and recorded in Lisbon, where Madonna relocated in 2017 so her son could pursue his soccer-star dreams. Turned out his mom was the one who ended up chasing goals, creating a disc inspired by the cultural melting pot in the Portuguese capital. Of course, Madonna being Madonna, she takes everything one step beyond the norm. So if you’re expecting upbeat, sunny Latin-pop reminiscent of La Isla Bonita, forget it. The 13-track Madame X (or the 15-track Deluxe Edition) is a moody, thoughtful and decidedly intimate affair. Grooves tend to be slow-burning and sultry. The tastefully minimalist arrangements balance electronic beats and basslines with acoustic and traditional instruments. Lyrics toggle between English, Spanish and Portuguese. And there are all manner of eccentric little touches and surprises peppered throughout the cuts. Like, for instance, the Vocorder-treated portions of The Nutcracker that suddenly intrude into Dark Ballet. The guest spots by MigosQuavo, Diplo, Colombian singer Maluma and Rae Sremmerd’s Swae Lee. The low-key cha-cha weirdness of leadoff single Medellin. The minor-key dissonance and Asian tabla drums of Extreme Occident. The trip-hop undertones of Crazy. And the reggaeton grind of Bitch I’m Loca. If you’re starting to notice a theme in those last few titles, you’re not alone — Madonna seems very preoccupied with her mental health on this album. Sometimes she brags about being crazy. Sometimes she accuses someone of trying to drive her crazy. And sometimes she complains that people think she’s crazy. Granted, it doesn’t exactly help her case when she writes lyrics like: “People think that I’m insane / The only gun is in my brain / Each new birth, it gives me hope / That’s why I don’t smoke that dope.” But I guess we should thank our lucky stars for that; one can only imagine how nutso Madame X would have turned out if she were high.

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