A new, imported from the U.K. version of Madonna appears on American Life. Madge seems to enjoy taking the across-the-Atlantic view of her home country, suddenly developing an opinionated, although slightly contradictory, view on our obsessions with fame, wealth and even pop music. However, the phase of Madonna’s life captured on her new album is not just the “Take that Hollywood!” ranting of the single (“American Life”) and first couple tracks but rather her newfound lust for life triggered by the love of her life, husband Guy Ritchie.

Assisted by producer Mirwais, who first worked with her on her 2000 release Music, Madonna turns the techno-infused dance-pop album into a love letter. Once again writing all of her tracks, Madonna’s heartfelt lyrics create a cohesive feeling and persona behind the very personal music. Her voice has also never sounded better, save for the high-pitched, girlish sounding vocals of “Mother and Father,” the album’s worst track. However, despite the rare find of an introspective, honest pop creation, the lyrics commonly sound ordinary and the acoustic guitars-phased-into-a-techno-backbeat structure becomes predictable.

With the exclamation “Fuck it!” Madonna dips into the rap world on “American Life,” feeling free to mold a genre commonly all about bling-bling into a tirade against all that materialism has to offer.

American Life starts to hit its stride on “Love Profusion,” when the love letter opens on this fourth track. “Profusion” reveals itself to just be another silly love song as Madonna professes, “And the world can look so sad / Only you make me feel good,” but the happiness Madonna seems to have found with finding someone is finally felt. The feeling builds through “Nobody Knows Me” and hits its peak with the beautiful “Nothing Fails.” The acoustic guitar once again makes its early appearance on “Nothing”, but its play is finally varied, and the string accompaniment hints at an emotional explosion to come. A subtle drumbeat underlies the seemingly awkward but immediately riveting cry: “I’m not religious / But I feel such love / Makes me want to pray / Pray you’ll always be here.” When the London Community Gospel Choir chimes in, you have to wonder whether Mirwais has done too much.

Madonna and Mirwais have crafted a thoroughly respectable and admirable album on which Madge spills her heart out for millions to hear. Sadly, cliched lyrics and obvious electronic music choices often drown out the raw emotion. Whether Madonna cares what we think is another matter, as her words are written with only one person in mind.

Rating: 2 stars.

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