Madonna “Madame X” – Review

Madame X is a dog’s dinner, but delicious!

Annoyingly, Madonna somehow managed to become a joke, at least within my circle of friends. That is not because of her age as many would assume, but her rather desperate efforts to follow the trends and appear “on top of the music world”.

The last few albums from Madge could be described as good pop, but nothing groundbreaking. As mentioned before, Madonna started following the trends (often poorly) instead of setting them. That is not the case with Madame X, her best album in over a decade. To be honest, I felt Madonna would start making deeper material as soon as I heard she relocated to Portugal. She’s a very influence-sensitive artist, with effective ability of absorbing the unknown into the zeitgeist. The album includes elements of Latino, African instruments, acoustic sounds, bits of disco, singing in Portuguese and intentional over use of vocoder (often annoying).

Medellin is a great lead single and album opener. I’m a fan of the composition, the combination of dreamy verses with catchy Latino Pop hooks. Bohemian Rhapsody-structured Dark Ballet is a real mess. What starts as a piano ballad later turns into a Daft Punky, vocodery, psychedelic goodnight story. Lyrically starts strong, ends a bit cringeworthy (“Can’t you see outside of your Supreme hoodie?”)

God Control isn’t much different in terms of structure. Gun control-related lyrics sang monotonously with a choir(the monks from Met Gala and Eurovision?”) in the background later transform into a strange Daft Punk extravaganza. Then we have Future, in my personal opinion the worst track on the album but it might be the matter of me highly disliking both Quavo and reggae music. Batuka offers crazy percussion and ends beautifully with a violin outro.

Killers who are partying is yet another story. From my observation, fans love this kind of Madonna – a humanitarian indie acoustic witch. Most critics do hate it though. I will be gay if the gay are burnt, I will be Africa if Africa is shot down – Madge lists everyone she feels sorry for with a very interesting instrumentation. I don’t care, I love it! Crave would be great without Swae Lee and his moaning. The song itself is an interesting combination of acoustic guitar and a beat. Crazy isn’t very interesting lyrically but it’s a good introduction to Come Alive. Acoustic percussion, melted strings in the background and subtle vocals make a good combination yet again.

If you’re blessed with a deluxe edition, you can listen to Extreme Occident which includes a lovely melody with vulnerable vocals and oriental instruments. Faz Gostoso is a true bop with one of the catchiest hooks on the album. Rapper Anitta is featured on this godly bop and together with Madonna created one of the best up tempo songs in Madonna’s discography.

Bitch I’m Loca is a second collaboration with Maluma. Must be a pleasant listen for fans of this type of music, however its location on the track list confuses me as the song doesn’t hold as strong artistic value as the ones behind and after it. I don’t search I find could easily be played in Studio 54. With an addictive beat, disco era-inspired dance track reminds me a bit of I Feel Love by Donna Summer and something you could hear in London’s Vauxhall at 6 am, high on MDMA, drinking Stella in a smoking area. And this kind of Madonna I want to listen to.

A few words about Eurovision 2019

We all know what Eurovision is like – sparkly, camp, colourful, over the top competition in which (mostly) European countries compete with each other to win a trophy that gives the winner nothing but fame (by which I understand being remembered in competition’s history).

The extravagant contest is responsible for introducing some really good recording artists to the general public (us!), whether it’s the A class ABBA in the 1970s or artists-phenomenons such as Conchita Wurst, Salvador Sobral or Netta.

I’m not here to tell the history of the contest or any funny anecdotes(15 things you didn’t know about Eurovision Song Contest!) but to mention few things that caught my attention while watching this year’s circuses (with bread).

Netta from Israel won the contest last year. Her success, surrounded with an aura of controversy, resulted in a dozens of news publications around the world. She was accused of cultural appropriation, banal composition and lyrics and (that’s actually ridiculous in this day and age) her weight. The artist herself stated her song “Toy” was inspired by #MeToo movement. I personally enjoyed it to the fullest and felt incredibly happy when she won. Toy is definitely one of the best songs in Eurovision history, in my opinion.

Israel’s conflict with Palestine is one of the reasons why a lot of (important) people decided to boycott this year’s Eurovision.

Hatari, who represented Iceland this year, held a Palestinian flag in front of the cameras. They got booed by the people in the arena.

Surprise, surprise! It didn’t stop Israel from creating an amazing show, filled with self promotion, guest performances and… scandals, of course!

This year’s contestants couldn’t get close to last year’s artists in terms of performance and compositions, but the competition was still very interesting and some songs are, without a doubt, worth listening to on streaming platforms.

Young gentleman Mahmood was definitely my favourite performance of the night. Introduced by Graham Norton as an internet sensation, with over 83 million views of his video, the young artist didn’t disappoint. He delivered a magnetic performance of a great, modern, smartly produced song called “Soldi”. He brought sexy back just like Justin Timberlake did in 2006. Australian entry sounded like Kate Bush impersonation and looked like college student’s experiments with green screen, but still managed to sound weirdly interesting.

UK’s Michael Rice came last, which is harsh, but I think anyone who wins a singing competition (Rice won a show called All Together Now) and spends the money on opening a waffle and crepe place in his home town deserves the worst in the music industry after that. And, of course, there is Brexit.

Spanish guy was really cute and staging was amazing. He came last, together with Michael Rice, but definitely deserved better.

And of course – there’s Iceland. Holding a Palestinian flag wasn’t the only thing they did that caused controversy that night. There was also their Rammstein inspired, BDSM performance. Thank God no one ended up being penetrated by a dildo. On a serious note, I do think it takes massive balls to do what they did…. (Palestinian flag in Israel, not the performance).

Oh, and there was Madonna. Pop music’s legendary superstar appeared as a special guest to promote her new album Madame X. Wearing her signature (for this era) eyepatch and accompanied by Quavo she performed, in my opinion, the worst single in her career so far, with ridiculous staging and disappointing vocals during “Like a prayer”.

Perhaps, we should just stick to Duncan Laurence from Netherlands who won this year. I’ve listened to his song at least five times while writing this and I still don’t remember any of it. It sounds a bit like Heal by Tom Odell.

For now – good morning Europe and good night Australia!

Lizzo: “Cuz I love you”

This Detroit-born flute-handling singer-songwriter and her major label debut “Cuz I love you” cuzed a little stir in the music industry due to the loud, body positive image and often genreless (technically confusing?) tunes. Her newest album is full of musical influences, energetic beats and obviously confident phrases – sung, rapped, yelled…

The record opens with a title track. Cuz I love you, according to Lizzo herself is a big, brassy, orchestral moment. Indeed, it does sound like some show-opening, Beyoncé-inspired, monumental high school drama audition. Soulful, powerful vocals appear now and again, in between of rappy verses. As the record ends with its powerful and dramatic title verse, another song starts. Like a girl is a pleasant, entertaining and sweetly naive anthem, with lyrics referencing Serena Williams and personal independence. That could have been one of the modern feminist anthems. Well, I think Kesha did it better a couple years ago on her “Rainbow” album.

Juice, the lead single off the album, which to me sounds Motown inspired(in a very lovely way!) is the quintessence of Lizzo’s style(both musically and lyrically) and the best song on the record. “Mirror, mirror on the wall, don’t say it cuz I know I’m cute!” – even the first few seconds of this bop prove the banger-ability this girl has and the reason why she finally got signed to Atlantic Records. Such a shame that the next track, Soulmate, is a totally predictable, tired to death bore full of industry tricks. Jerome shows the amazing vocal ability of the singer, and despite sounding a bit like Rihanna’s Love on the brain and using the “open letter to the guy who hurt me” formula is still one of my favourites. Cry Baby and Tempo are also worth listening. The first one has a great instrumental and first class, heartfelt, vintage vocal performance. The second one, with a instrumentally confused intro, is a duet with Missy Elliot and a proper ping pong, mind fuck piece. Exactly how I feel is a squeaky collab with Gucci Mane, Better in color shows off her true ones, with a production again being a mix of vocal-showing retro and “these today’s rappers” style. After brilliantly written Heaven Help Me, the album ends with a stripped down Lingerie.

Lizzo is definitely a desperately needed figure in today’s music, and a great inspiration for artists who don’t want to be locked inside a one genre drawer, despite the suggestions of the record label. Hopefully, for Lizzo it’s a beginning of something big. Is the album worth listening? Yes. Is it going to be iconic one day? No.

My most listened to albums of 2018

2018 didn’t do it for me with album premieres. Sweetener by Grande was too experimental, Liberation by Aguilera lacked direction and annoyed me with fillers… I spent the beginning of the year listening to Lorde’s Melodrama from the year before over and over again, which felt like trying to squeeze out the last bits of ketchup from an empty bottle – desperate. I like having my big album of the moment and talk about it to all my friends, like, exaggerating its artistic excellence. Most of my favourite artists did not release any new music this year, which led me on a journey of nostalgia and rediscovering. Yet again, I found comfort in things that sound familiar.

Random Access Memories by Daft Punk

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It feels like this album came out such a long time ago. Back in the day, I couldn’t care less about Daft Punk and their Grammy award-winning record, that is nothing but an amazing mixture of robotic electro sounds(lots of vocoder) with an iconic style of disco and funk. Back then, I only knew Get Lucky, which I fairly liked, but couldn’t see brilliant production, smart references, and craft behind it. Nile Rodgers, king of disco(le freak, c’est chic!), Pharrell, Giorgio Moroder, all of these legendary people without whom music wouldn’t be what it is today, participated in this project. The instrumentation on this record is everything you could dream of, synths, strings, juicy bass lines… Giorgio by Moroder, which includes a monologue by Giorgio Moroder himself is a tribute not only to the musician, but also many different music genres. 9-minute long masterpiece is a perfect track to listen to if you’re curious what to expect from this Grammy-winning piece of proper music. My other favourites include  The Game of Love, Within, Instant Crush, Doin’ it Right. 

Baby One More Time by Britney Spears

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I’ve been a massive Britney fan since, funny enough, her mental breakdown in 2007. I was 11 years old at the time and she was being talked about on every TV show and gossip website at the time. This year one of my dreams finally came true, as I managed to see her performing in Glasgow during her European tour. Despite the infamous playback (over)use and quite a modest production of the tour I still had an absolute blast watching Britney’s show. As Princess of Pop announces her new Vegas residency, her debut album filled with bangers turns 20. Everyone knows Baby One More Time, Crazy or Born to make you happy. I personally adore this album for its old-school production(times before EDM took over pop music production) and Britney’s vocal. This collection of songs includes the most of her natural vocals and effort you can get from any of her records.

No Shame by Lily Allen

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Lily Allen has been in the center of tabloid attention in the UK for over a decade now. She started her music career with a reggae and ska inspired pop album Alright, Still in 2006. Her most successful work to date is a brutally honest, lyrically savage album It’s not me, it’s you from 2009, including anthems like The Fear, Not Fair or Fuck You. It doesn’t matter if she sings about stereotypes, her boyfriend being shit in bed or dad who wasn’t there when she needed him, her delicate voice always does it for us! Personally, I could listen to her singing out Netflix’s terms of service and still pay money for it. No Shame is her newest record, that despite not slaying the charts includes some proper Lily Allen style bangers. My personal favourites are the album-opening Come On Then (Yeah, I’m a bad mother, I’m a bad wife, you saw it on the socials, you read it online…”), vulnerable Lost my mind, marriage inspired and Mark Ronson produced ballad Family Man and Apples, sampling the melody from a brilliant song “K” by the band called Cigarettes After Sex.

PS. Don’t forget to check out Lily’s new no.1 bestselling book “My Thoughts Exactly”. One of the best reads of the year for sure.

Bloom by Troye Sivan

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Troye is on fire right now. All the gays went crazy after he released the title track from this album, which unapologetically, is about bottoming. I personally think it’s one of the best artistically-directed clips of the last few years. With amazing fashion, Troye invites us to his garden, filled with true pop anthems. Taylor Swift invited him to perform on stage with her during Reputation Stadium Tour, where they performed his song My My My. Have we all gone Troye-crazy? I hope so! My favourite tracks are the title one, together with Seventeen and Postcard.

Back to Black by Amy Winehouse

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Back to Black is the best heartbreak record ever made. Period.

When you combine one of the most charismatic voices of our generation and jazz inspired melodies with smart songwriting and production from Mark Ronson himself, it’s hard not to get a brilliant thing out of it. The iconic album was inspired by Amy’s first break-up with husband Blake Filder-Civil. Til this day, there are books and documentaries being released almost every year, just to get a little bit from that gold mine that Back to Black has become over the years. As Amy would say herself: what kind of fuckery is this?

For you I was the flame
Love is a losing game
Five story fire as you came
Love is losing game
One I wished, I never played
Oh, what a mess we made
And now the final frame
Love is a losing game
Played out by the band
Love is a losing hand
More than I could stand
Love is a losing hand