I was so sure I could hold out and not listen to the leak of Madonna’s new album, MDNA. And I almost made it. Sure, I cheated some and listened to the minute long previews that Madonna’s camp released. The whole thing felt very “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” on Madonna’s part, but I have to admit, none of the leaks did much to help my already frayed nerves when it came to this project. Madonna had so much to prove to me this time around after unleashing the Stale Candy on us in 2008 which had the shortest shelf life of any of Madonna’s studio albums for me. In hindsight, it’s not that Hard Candy is bad, it’s just that it is somehow less than the sum of its parts. Some great songs are on there, but in the end, it had a really bad aftertaste. The MDNA samples seemed to be autotuned to the hilt and, worst of all, not very memorable.
I have two friends that were on opposing sides in my attempts to remain MDNA pure until March 26th. On one side of the leak argument was my friend Steve. He had been giving me a lot of grief about the leak and how I was going to eventually cave and listen to it. Last night, he pointed me in the direction of a link to the whole album in high-quality. I wasn’t going to do it – really I wasn’t. I forwarded the link to Jeff (my partner-in-crime in all things Madonna) who is all over the leaks. While I wanted to remain virginal, he had no such desire and I was happy to be able to corrupt him, MDNA style. As it turns out, he e-mailed me back shortly after I sent it saying that he didn’t know how to extract the songs from the RAR file. I guess Macs don’t know what to do with this type of file without downloading an auxiliary program. I did a little Googling and I even pointed him in the direction of the program he needed to extract the songs. Still, I was tempted but I resisted.
On the other side of the leak argument was my friend Matt, who had been good-naturedly discouraging me from listening to the samples, arguing that any idea they give you about what the song sounds like is cancelled out by the fact that they are usually of low quality and outside of the context of the full album. So I kind of figured that he’d be proud of my resistance to the full album link, so I e-mailed him about my success. When I told him that the link was to the whole album, his reply was not what I expected. It basically amounted to “what are you waiting for?” Matt’s turn as Gwen Stefani really turned out to be just the little extra push that I needed, the straw that broke the camel’s back, so-to-speak. I downloaded the RAR unpacking utility, extracted the song files and listened.
So I guess I could say that I can blame Steve and Matt for my eventual and – let’s be honest- inevitable cave.
The thing is though, I’m SO GLAD that I listened to it, so I actually have them to thank rather than to blame. I am breathing a huge sigh of relief. Granted, it’s only my first listen, but it’s so fucking much better than Hard Candy, it’s like someone else recorded that album. Madonna has brought her A-game to this even though the samples really didn’t indicate that (i.e. Matt was right.) This album is, at least on first pass, so much more classically Madonna than Hard Candy. It doesn’t hurt that it is kind of a sonic cousin to Confessions on a Dance Floor, an album that I truly love. There are shades of Erotica (“Gang Bang”) as well as Ray of Light (“I’m A Sinner”), the latter mostly thanks to the presence of William Orbit. One review called it her “most personal album ever” to which I would say “have you even listened to Like a Prayer?” Even a throwaway song like “B-Day Song” which I was expecting to hate, isn’t offensive. Being slight is its only crime.
The standout track didn’t even make the album proper, which is a travesty. “Beautiful Killer” is the song that screams “classic Madonna” the most.
So we’ll see how it goes. But I have a feeling that I’m going to be playing the shit out of this album this summer. Bring on the tour. These songs will be MASSIVE live.
Thanks to my enablers. I owe you one.