Madonna's new album 'MDNA': A reviewers first listen..
1. 'Girl Gone Wild' (produced by Madonna, Benny Benassi)
Most of you will have heard this one by now, and truth be told we're still not sure about it. Our guess was that it was chosen for its appeal to a wide audience and radio stations, but as a Madonna album trailer it's surprisingly weak. That said, it makes for a brilliant opening track.
2. 'Gang Bang' (produced by Madonna, The Demolition Crew)
Ignore the title - this isn't about a 53-year-old woman singing about having lots of group sex. "Bang bang shot you dead/ Shot my lover in the head," she chants over a relentless, pulsating electro beat before announcing: "I'm going straight to hell - I've got a lot of friends there." Just when you think things are wrapping up, she interrupts, "If you're gonna act like a bitch, you're gonna die like a bitch!" before firing off a gun. It's completely ridiculous and amazing.
3. 'I'm Addicted' (produced by Madonna, Benny Benassi, The Demolition Crew)
We noted that this would have probably been a better single choice than 'Girl Gone Wild'. "I'm addicted to your love" she admits on the chorus that is a mixture of hard house beats with a club classics melody. It all climaxes in the song's finale, in which she chants "M D N A" over and over.
4. 'Turn Up The Radio' (produced by Madonna and Martin Solveig)
After three hard-faced club bangers, Madge offers up the softer but equally dancey 'Turn Up The Radio'. "When the world starts to get you down and nothing seems to go your way... turn up the radio," she professes over a propelling beat that Daft Punk wouldn't cock a snook at. It might be weak lyrically, but the message is genuinely uplifting.
5. 'Give Me All Your Luvin'' (produced by Madonna, Martin Solveig)
Madonna's "Superbowl Single" doesn't seem to have lived up to a lot of people's expectations, but we'll happily admit that we're still enjoying it. It also serves as a welcome break from what is so far a high-wired run of songs.
6. 'Some Girls' (produced by Madonna, William Orbit)
"Some girls wanna be on top...some girls got a filthy mouth," she sing-speaks with a distorted vocal over a squelchy bassline. It's a confident number about female empowerment in 2012, and probably highlights best how MDNA isn't simply about hopping on the dance bandwagon, but pushing it into new and exciting realms.
7. 'Superstar' (produced by Madonna, Indiigo, Michael Malih)
This is where the record makes a distinct shift lyrically between basic one line choruses to surprisingly intimate details of her life. Here she compares her man to the likes of James Dean, Caesar and Al Capone, promising to "give you a massage when you get home". It's less in-yer-face than most of the LP, and where she sounds at her most relaxed.
8. 'I Don't Give A' (produced by Madonna, Martin Solveig)
Madonna opens up about life as a 53-year-old divorced mum in a sing-rap fashion - "got to call the babysitter...got to sign the contract" - but insists that she "don't even feel the pressure". The best bit comes at the end when Nicki Minaj announces: "There's only one Queen and that's Madonna, bitch," before a regal orchestra ensues that sounds like it was lifted straight out of a blockbuster movie.
9. 'I'm A Sinner' (produced by Madonna, William Orbit)
It took us all of 30 seconds to realise that this sounds like a sequel to Ray Of Light's 'Beautiful Stranger' which, given the producer, we're sure isn't a coincidence. "I'm a sinner and I like it that way," she sings on the psychedelic chorus, before preaching "Jesus Christ hang on the cross, died for our sins it's such a loss" on the middle eight.
10. 'Love Spent' (produced by Madonna, William Orbit)
We'll be honest, we weren't particularly taken with this one. There's a banjo on the intro that re-appears later on, but it's worth sticking with for a glorious ending of crashing symbols and booming electronics.
11. 'Masterpiece' (produced by Madonna, William Orbit)
It's the first ballad on the album, and it feels like it arrives just at the right moment. The production is more "organic" (there's drums, guitars and Orbit's trademark wobbly bits),and it doesn't try to be anything other than a solid pop song. "I can't tell you why it hurts so much to be in love with a masterpiece," she sings on the chorus.
12. 'Falling Free' (produced by Madonna, William Orbit)
This one is even more stripped back, relying solely on strings, piano and some synths littered throughout. "Our hearts are intertwined and I'm free, I'm free of mind," she sings with what is easily her strongest vocal on the record.
13. 'Beautiful Killer' (produced by Madonna, Martin Solveig)
We're surprised this was demoted to deluxe-only, as it is easily one of our favourites. A thumping pop hook and glitchy beats play out as she confesses her penchant for bad boys. "You're a beautiful killer with a beautiful face," she admits before rolling out the best line of the song (and possibly the album): "Baby, I can't talk with a gun in my mouth."
14. 'I F**ked Up' (produced by Madonna, Martin Solveig)
A thumping midtempo number in which Madonna confesses that sometimes (though probably not that often), she isn't perfect. "I made a mistake/ Nobody does it better than myself," she admits before the pace picks up dramatically in the middle and tails off at the end.
15. 'B-Day Song' (produced by Madonna, Martin Solveig)
It's essentially the complete opposite of what you'd expect from a Madonna and MIA collaboration. It's unashamedly fun, has no political agenda (that we can tell anyway) and, in truth, is a bit pointless.
16. 'Best Friend' (Madonna, The Demolition Crew)
The album closes with a dubsteppy ballad in which Madge talks about missing her closest pal. "I won't pretend, I feel like I lost my very best friend," she says, before singing "It wasn't always perfect, but it wasn't always bad" in isolation at the end.
17.'Give Me All Your Luvin'' (Party Rock Remix)
They didn't play this at the showcase, so we can only assume their feelings about it are the same as ours.
MDNA is by no means a perfect Madonna album, but it certainly has the potential after repeated listens to be up somewhere in the top six. There are some glorious highs and, unfortunately, one or two misfires, but it wouldn't be a Madonna album if she wasn't taking risks. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this record is that there are no obvious hits on it, but as a body of work it makes for a thrilling and genuinely fascinating listen.