The thing is, see, we’re biased. There is really nothing that Madonna has recorded that has not been worth storing in the “best songs” compartment of our brains. I say “our” – I mean those of us who are twentysomething and who have grown up with her music. I remember how fresh Material Girl, Papa Don’t Preach and Vogue all sounded, to name but three, when I was at school. Mad Madge was strutting her stuff on Top Of The Pops before I was even in secondary school. She is something of a family member.
As one has gotten older (this of course never happens to her), one has realised that her music is not only constantly fresh of sound but her sound seems to get reinvented from one album to the next to suit whichever new ideas have this time taken her fancy. She plays synth and has one of the most distinctive voices in pop, so the majority of her music revolves around synth and vocals, but occasionally guitars will appear (La Isla Bonita), where such an instrument is required. Her last album, Ray Of Light (produced by William Orbit), was testimony to the powers of a great voice and some cutting-edge synth production.
Wondering how she could follow up that seminal summer collection of anthems, I noted with some interest the huge posters for Music as they sprang up around Europe. She was dressed for country and western. Could it be that she would go the tortuous way of Shania Twain?
I needn’t have worried. She obviously liked the image of cowgirl but the music on, erm, Music is not even remotely country and western.
With Rupert Everett on backing vocalist duties, Orbit produces American Pie to satisfactory effect – despite the overall result begging the question WHY? – but it is Mirwais Ahmadzal and Madge’s Impressive Instant (exactly that – pure pop genius) that steals the show. Mark “Spike” Stent, Guy Sigsworth, Orbit, Maddie and Ahmadzal are all credited with production duties and the overall effect could easily have been a case of too many cooks spoiling broth but it all works beautifully.
There are some great effects, even if Orbit’s tracks sound rather too similar to some of Ray Of Light for comfort and one or two tracks use Cher-esque vocoder effects a little too much, but this is minor criticism of an album that proves just when you think she’ll retire to rear children, star in movies or get old (shock horror), she comes right back with something else that proves she’s still the best out there. Long may she continue so doing.