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.

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.

The Glasgow School of Art fashion show

The Glasgow School of Art is without a doubt one of the most renowned and respected university-level institutions for future creatives in the country. It seems to be impossible to even read an article or watch a video about the city that wouldn’t include some information about the school. The students usually describe the place as a free, creative space, that despite being hard to get into, motivates the students to express their ideas and provides them with all the required skills. In 2017 documentary created by i-D Magazine, one of the Fashion and Textile students said:“I think it did have a reputation of, maybe perhaps, a rough area, but I feel like creativity has always lived in Glasgow”.

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Recently I was provided with a chance to attend their annual fashion show. As a person deeply interested in fashion, not only from the perspective of business and media but also from its often forgotten niche and artistic side, I felt excited to finally see the real outcome of students’ work. I arrived at the venue quite early, had a quick look at the posters and leaflets laying everywhere around me, then had a nice quick chat with two students in the gender-neutral toilets.“My friend worked so hard for this”, one of them told me.

The show, which seemed like it was almost sold-out, started with a quick presentation of the second year students and the theme of White Shirt/Black Silhouette. In total, twelve students presented their work which for me concentrated on deconstruction and playing with shapes. It’s a very popular approach to fashion design in art schools. After a short presentation of second-year students, over thirty designers of third-year Fashion and Textiles presented three outfits each. The work of each of them was categorized as either Embroidery, Fashion, Print, Knit or Weave. It wasn’t hard to notice the source of inspiration in some of the work presented that day. Print students impressed me the most, with some of the designs including a true WOW-factor. Colorful and vibrant outfits, simple in their form, like a set of total-printed shorts and a shirt put together with a pair of plain white trainers reminded me of designers like Jeremy Scott from the brand Moschino or current things we can see at Prada.

After the show, I caught up with one of the students – Kelly Sloan, whose work concentrated on Embroidery at its very best. After Kelly told me she came to Glasgow School of Art straight from college, I finally realised the phenomenon of the famous school. A goal-focused, hard-working environment of people who are being taught how to embrace their creative visions by staying true to themselves.“For me, I definitely think it’s colour and texture that inspires me the most”Kelly told me after the show.“Whether it being on a building or within a random object, I always seem to be drawn to these elements. These elements also help me develop my further as I begin to look closely and focus in of these different qualities”.

As I have mentioned before, different influences and designers of inspiration could be noticed within designers work. It’s important to know your path and direction at the beginning of any creative career. I asked Kelly to tell me a bit about artists and designers that inspired her designs.“I am inspired by different designers for each project I’m presented with. But if we’re talking fashion show, then avant-garde was a huge inspiration as my goal was to showcase large and intense fashion pieces. Viktor & Rolf were also a prominent inspiration for my fashion show garments as I’m a huge fan of the scale and silhouette of their collections.”

In the i-D Magazine documentary about Glasgow which I mentioned above, we can hear about the hard-working environment and amount of work students of the school need to put in to finish all the required tasks. I decided to ask Kelly about this as well.“[The Glasgow School of Art is] Extremely hard working!”she told me without hesitation.“As I went straight into third year at GSA with a direct entry from college, I wasn’t aware of the workload at The School of Art and the thing that’s struck me the most was the work ethic. Most days you’re in from 10 AM until 10 PM and that’s just the complete norm for everyone to be working those hours in order to get stuff done.”

There is no doubt that for many people, fashion is still seen as wearing crazy outfits on a catwalk and selling underdesigned garments for way too much money. I finished my conversation with Kelly by asking her:What would you like the readers to know about creating a collection and putting on a fashion show? Just so they can understand your position better…”.After a short while, Kelly replied:“Fashion industry is so huge that I think it can be difficult for designers to get their name out there and be known [by a larger audience]. I think my biggest goal is for my work to be noticed and recognized for its style, really just to be successful with selling my creations to a large crowd and be able to make a living from something I love to do so much.”

Follow Kelly Sloan on Instagram – @sloankel and her portfolio account @ksloantextiles