Monday, May 05, 2003

American Life
Madonna
Maverick Records

When I first heard a sampling of Maddie’s first single off her 10th studio album American Life, it didn’t have any impact on me at all. It wasn’t the same as Ray of Light’s Frozen nor the title track of Music. And given that I wasn’t too hot about her first collaboration with French musicwiz Mirwais (though Music did have some interesting tracks like Don’t Tell Me), I was all too hesitant to pick up the next product of their team-up. But being the avid supporter of the Material Girl, I succumbed and picked up a copy of her most rebellious work yet.

This rebelliousness is first evident on the jacket design. None of the glitzy-glamour we’re used to seeing from Madonna, but instead we’re faced with bold blotches of black and red reminiscent of those Che Guevarra t-shirts. This treatment should give you an idea of what to expect from American Life, a Madonna reinvention that may not sit well for a lot of her followers.

I’ll admit that American Life needs some getting used to. Some of the lyrics do get lame and the electronica can irritate. She even raps in a couple of songs and you’d rather that she not do so. But after a couple of sit-throughs, I’ll confidently say that Madonna’s latest work is more accomplished and artistically mature than anything she’s ever done. It’s an intimate piece reflecting the thoughts and feelings of a woman who’s reached the pinnacle of success and yet struggling to find that one thing money can’t buy.

The album starts of on rebel-mode to establish Madonna’s disillusionment with the great American dream (American Life, Hollywood). She then turns inward and explores her spiritual side. She talks about finding true love and self-worth despite her success (Nothing Fails, X-Static Process). Towards the end there’s some form of resolution, a definite purpose, where Madonna proclaims her adherence to hard work and perseverance to succeed (Easy Ride). That’s how, in her view, the American dream can be realized. The James Bond theme Die Another Day is in there, too, though it stands out like a sore thumb, being all jumpy and 'cinematic.'

If Ray of Light is her entry, and Music is her walk-down-the-hall, American Life is her bedroom, the most intimate and personal part of the home. And as a fan, I’m glad that I decided to step in.

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