Everything that is off about Madame X, the latest effort by Madonna to remain relevant, can be summed up by the song Come Alive: despite the title, her vocals are a flat and lifeless kind of monotone, killed by autotune. The song is about wanting to stand out, but the beats are the typical anonymous, numbing, throbbing sounds of any generic dance beat. No matter what the song title suggests, this song remains in the same key throughout, the verses and the choruses all blend into a same deadpan chant-like babbling that stays flat-lined from beginning to the end; it’s only at the end when some background vocalists valiantly do some short “Come alive! Come alive!” chanting to wake me up just in the time for the next song. This song is about asserting your right to be who you are… while telling people with opposing views to shut the eff up.
When I realize all the songs here are like this, yikes. Sure. some songs has some Euro-African drums, others have some exotic-sounding chants and whatever here and there, but the songs themselves have barely any hook and melody. Perhaps at her age, our dear Madonna doesn’t want to bother with remembering long lyrics or complicated melodies, but come on, she’s not that old. There are quite a number of guest vocalists here, and it can be argued that these are the ones that hold those songs up while Madonna just exists in those songs doing her flat white old woman’s rap-chant thing alongside these guest vocalists.
Okay, so the music is on the dull, forgettable side. How about the things she is saying here? After all, Madonna used to be on the cutting edge side of counterculture… perhaps fifty years ago. Again, there is one song here that encapsulates all that is wrong about Madonna these days: Extreme Occident. She talks about how she once went “far right” and now she has gone “far left” – ooh, deep – but deep inside she is still lost, et cetera. Now, back in those days when Madonna was breaking sexual and racial taboos, it felt authentic because she was walking her talk. She embodies the ideals she was selling.
Today, Madame X came to be when she moved to Portugal so that her son could enrolled in a top soccer school, and yet, she is claiming that she is speaking for the common person. How can she claim to be this when she isn’t even trying to live and experience what a common person does on a daily basis? She shrieks about how guns should be abolished forever in I Rise… is this lady telling me that her bodyguards aren’t armed and she doesn’t lived in a gated community protected by armed security people?
Look at the album cover art. Who does she think is silencing her? She’s still putting out albums, right? No one threw milkshakes filled with quick-drying cement at her or de-platformed her on social media, so what is she going on and on about?
The Madonna today is made of full blown Hollywood activism: out of touch, out of sync, but arrogantly believing that they speak for the great unwashed due to some misplaced superiority complex. Everything here feels disingenuous and contrived – the “activism” and “wokeness” of some wealthy white woman who spends an hour on stage, surrounding by armed security, shrieking about how she wants to blow up the White House because there should never be any guns or borders… before going home to some gated community, where the only poor minority folks she claims to embrace with open arms are the hired help. Bitch, please.
There are many things Madonna could be singing to remain the intelligent agent provocateur – she could be breaking stereotypes associated with older woman, for example. Instead, she goes for broke and exposes herself as another ersatz “activist” who pays lip service to champagne socialism and social equality without even a shred of sincerity. Is this the hill an artist should want to die on?