Madonna's new album, if you somehow have been trapped in a Hunger Games line/theater for the past several months, is called MDNA. And there are some surprising things about it.
Perhaps the most important is that Madge's voice is sounding really good here. Obviously, that's faint praise on a studio album, where there clearly is some electronic manipulation happening, but despite what processing was done, the end result is very listenable.
The tracks are very much dance material, save her ballad "Fallin Free" which is reminiscent of her previous pensive material.
I guess what I found at this point in Madonna's career is that where she was the person driving in a new direction and pushing the envelopes, the standards, the boundaries, now it's very clear that she is just hopping on the trends that other performers have been utilizing lately.
I know Madonna fans will be quick to point out that the bulk of those performers are doing, more or less, a Madonna impersonation in their work, just recycling what the queen of pop was doing back in the mid 1980s. But in a way, that's my point. Madonna keeps moving on to what's next, rather than continuing to do the stuff that people have already heard.
It's not a true criticism of the album; I actually think it's very good. But it marks a different milestone in the career of a pop music innovator. Perhaps the point is Ms. M is doing this album to prove that she not only can still do what those other performers were doing, but she can still do it as well or better than all of them.
In that sense, perhaps MDNA is the most defiant statement that she's ever made.