Madonna has been getting a lot of attention lately. Her Super Bowl halftime show conjured up controversy, though mostly about M.I.A’s scandalous antics. But it’s undeniable that the paparazzi are back in full force patrolling Madonna’s every move. While her new album, MDNA, sees her reemerge onto the popular-music scene, with collaborations from more contemporary figures such as Nicki Minaj and M.I.A., it doesn’t justify all the scrutiny. It’s a lackluster musical effort, coming off more like a dumb publicity stunt than anything with character.



The beats underlying Madonna’s voice are sparse and uninteresting productions. They seem to combine hangovers from the ’80s and ’90s with bass tactics more characteristic of popular music today. “Turn Up the Radio” is a pop song that begins with an evenly spaced synthesizer reminiscent of techno hits from the ’80s and eventually transitions into the chorus, “Turn up the radio,” with a wash of bass much like you would hear from a dubstep song today.

It’s not the combination of musical genres that makes it bad — obviously, great musicians do this all the time with success. Likewise, picking and choosing from the past can be a source of innovation for the future. But it would be laughable to suggest this album breeds invention. It seems as if the tinny-sounding beats were made in two minutes from contemporary producers who listened to some of Madonna’s old hits and mixed them with a bit of what we’re used to listening to today.

“Gang Bang,” the album’s second song, is a miserable effort that truly epitomizes the lack of musicality in this work. Madonna is trying to sound like a badass over a pumping beat resembling the soundtrack of a Nintendo Game Boy game. For a song to prompt video game nostalgia rather than appreciation for the actual production is certainly bad news, and unfortunately, Madonna does little in the rest of the album to grab our attention.

Her voice is an instrument of annoyance throughout the album, airily floating around the corny beats. It fails to exhibit any significant contrasts, and she sounds like she’s singing a bad lullaby instead of a pop song most of the time. The offensive simplicity of the background music demands Madonna to infuse some energy, but she doesn’t. Her voice seems detached and childish. Are we watching the intermediate rounds of “American Idol,” or listening to one of the biggest pop artists of all time? Where’s the energy? Not in MDNA.

The lone highlights of the album come not from anything Madonna offers, but rather from Nicki Minaj — whose characteristic pizzazz generates some welcomed energy in “Give Me All Your Luvin’ ”— but the positive experience is over too soon, and we are left with the bare, bare bones of Madonna and silly techno beats.

Considering Madonna’s larger-than-life celebrity status, it would’ve been nice to justify it with an engaging album. Instead, we’re left scratching our heads, asking depressing questions such as “why is this person so famous?” and “why does our society put her on a pedestal?” Sadly, MDNA gives us no answers.

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