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Wednesday , November 13 2019

‘Madame’ bizarre, intriguing album

Madonna performing during the Euro-vision.

Blige to get Lifetime Achievement Award at BET

These days Madonna is wearing an eyepatch for dubious reasons. But it’s her ears that seem to have failed her.

The shape-shifting Queen of Pop has missed badly with “Madame X”, a needy, trying-too-hard mess of an album that sounds like Madonna threw up on Madonna. Even she admits: “It’s a weird kind of energy.”

She used to thrill with endless new looks and an edge to her pop, but that was decades ago. Now she’s like that daffy aunt who shows up at the holiday party inappropriately dressed, slightly high and offering to buy beer for the teenagers.

The 13-track “Madame X”, Madge’s first LP since the underappreciated 2015’s “Rebel Heart”, sees her predictably collaborate with the hot young things of pop – Quavo, Swae Lee, Maluma, Anitta – with results that are fine, but boring. It seems more like a checklist than the spark of partnership.

In “Madame X”, she sings – too often computer-altered – in Portuguese, Spanish and English, covering all bases. There’s reggaeton, Latin pop, trap, disco, African drumming, dancehall and gospel choirs. There’s a restless churning even in the same song and – with Pablo Picasso and Jean-Paul Sartre referenced – a whiff of pseudo-intellectualism.

Why “Madame X”? She has told us: “Madame X is a dancer. A professor. A head of state. A housekeeper. An equestrian. A prisoner. A student. A mother. A child. A teacher. A singer. A spy in the house of love. I’m Madame X.”

In other words, everything and nothing. Just want me, she seems to ask. Perhaps she’s too exhausted to even construct a new coherent persona. She leaves it up to us. And leaves behind a sonic jigsaw puzzle that even recycles from her past.

Even her hammy attempt to push the boundaries in “Dark Ballet” – a return to her Joan of Arc obsession – starts promising enough but drifts into a computer-altered pile of jumbled, pointless slogans that eventually dissolves into Tchaikovsky.

Madonna has plenty to say but none of it is very coherent.

Madonna here is sticking with the same gimmick that made her a mega-star: borrow cool stuff from others – voguing, Marlene Dietrich, Latin music, EDM – and adopt it as her own. But these aren’t good days for Madonna. We are hungry for authenticity and she’s hiding behind a bejeweled eye patch.

Gun control, poverty and the marginalised, “Madame X” sees the Queen of Pop wanting to “fight back” in what she sees as a frightening modern world.

Horrified

In an interview with Reuters, Madonna also said she was horrified by moves to restrict women’s rights, namely in her native United States.

On her 14th studio album, Madonna addresses US gun control laws and uses a snippet of a speech by school shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez in the rousing single “I Rise”, a song she says aims to give a voice to marginalised people.

“It’s pretty frightening, yes, it’s pretty scary … There is stuff going on everywhere in the world,” she said when asked how she felt about the state of the world.

“When you think about the amount of people who have died, been killed, have been wounded, whose lives have been changed irrevocably because of the lack of gun control in America, it’s such a huge, huge problem.

“I care deeply about it so I couldn’t not write about it,” she said.

She also said she took issue with some US states restricting abortion rights.

“These are crazy times because we fought really hard for a lot of these freedoms and now it seems like they are all systematically being taken away …It doesn’t make me feel hopeless. It just makes me want to fight back.”

Known for pushing boundaries and sometimes provocative imagery, her work has influenced scores of artists.

Also:

LOS ANGELES: Mary J. Blige will soon add a BET lifetime achievement award to her crowded shelf of recognitions.

Blige will receive the honor at the 19th annual BET Awards, airing live on the cable network June 23 at 8 pm ET from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.

The singer has nine Grammy Awards, eight multi-platinum albums, two Academy Award nominations, two Golden Globe nominations and a SAG nomination. For her work in “Mudbound” she made history as the first person to earn an Oscar nomination in the acting and music categories in the same year.

Blige looked back on her estimable career in an interview with Variety last year. She named her emotional 1994 album “My Life” as the most significant milestone of her recording career, because “those songs were written from a place where I was crying out for help. I was writing songs to heal myself. And that’s where all this started: 4 million fans, that I didn’t know I had, bought the album. I didn’t know so many women were suffering like I was suffering.” (Agencies)

By Mark Kennedy

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