We’re almost there folks…
10. MADONNA “MDNA”
How do you solve a problem like MDNA? The record was, in theory, to be Madonna’s enormous return to the pop world and, if history had actually served us correctly, it was also to be a post-divorce revelation, much as 1989’s “Like A Prayer” – a definitive album which came after a tumultuous marriage to the Paparazzo’s worst nightmare; Sean Penn. In light of Lady Gaga and the whole Born This Way fiasco, it really felt like a lot was riding on this new material. The problem, though, seems to be the insane time constraints behind the LP’s creation. Working with the likes of Martin Solveig on a large percentage of the record was enough of a nail in the coffin to assure a percentage of the record sounded dated, and did so very quickly. Aside from the monstrously fierce “I Don’t Give A” (a song in which Madonna snatches the dusty, carcinogenic weaves of all of her haters and wipes her arse clean with them), which is perhaps the only single-worthy moment of Solveig’s productions on here, a lot of Martin’s productions fell apart in the short months after the album was released. Abreast from the hysterical “B’day Song” which I wholeheartedly love, adore and worship even though I should definitely know better, songs like “Beautiful Killer” and “I Fucked Up”, complete with lyrics so naff you’ll find yourself developing tinnitus, really keep MDNA from being a truly great album from beginning to end.
And herein lies the problem with this record. MDNA was very obviously created in order to drum up promotion for the real money-maker; the MDNA World Tour – and it shows. As I’ve said, a number of the songs sound rushed and – at times – a little stale and unfinished, but then there are also absolute beacons of hope, glimpses into the creative and story-telling Madonna of old, which make up for the weaker shortcomings. This is where the work with William Orbit and Benny Bennasi comes in, the only two producers on this record with an actual formulated idea of what Madonna should be recording this far into her career. If we had stuck to a simple tracklist of Girl Gone Wild, Gang Bang, I’m Addicted (which should have been the first or second single), Some Girls, I Don’t Give A, I’m A Sinner, Love Spent (another wasted opportunity for a killer single), Masterpiece, Falling Free and Best Friend, MDNA would play out as a Top 5 album – like all of her other records. MDNA is mostly great but is it free of flaw? Hardly.
But then there’s songs like “Gang Bang”; an exciting foray into the early 2000’s world of German Hard Trance (which a total of Nobody is currently implementing into their sound in 2012) that borrows instinctively from Neils Van Gough’s “Pulverturm”, is one of the most innovative and forward-thinking moments of her career – this jarred and abrasive club romp that ends with the albums best climax, whilst the fully-loaded 2-chorus extravaganza of “Love Spent” may very well be the most honest and heartbreaking of all the songs from this era. “I want you to take me like you took your money;” Madonna tellingly coos before adding “Take me in your arms until your last breath. I want you to hold me like you hold your money. Hold on to me till’ there’s nothing left.” It’s a lyric that speaks volumes on the topic of her divorce from The Guy Itchy, and although Love Spent doesn’t do a very good job of painting him in the most considerate of light, the lyrics (which, admittedly, are at times a little naff themselves) for “Best Friend” do soften the blow. The chaotic “Some Girls” is distorted bliss; thick lashings of bass over a heavily vocodered Madonna who proclaims that some girls are not like her, “I never wanna be like Some Girls.” It’s Madonna paying homage to Miss Kittin once again; the beats slayed across this anthemic club-stomper are like an exciting journey into the underground world of electronic dance circa-2004.
Big ballad “Falling Free” is exactly the kind of thing I’d like to hear more from Madonna on the next album. You know, a couple more ballads and a bit more thought and consideration when it comes to pre-planning (like, eg, keeping the fans you already have rather than always trying to generate new ones) wouldn’t hurt at all. As for the Bennasi stuff, the highlights there are “I’m Addicted” – a song that sees Benny channel production in a way I haven’t heard him do since “Satisfaction” – and second single “Girl Gone Wild”, which would have been an International global mega-hit had somebody else been singing it. A flawless single, but at the same time a kick in the face for long-term fans like myself who were hoping for more. But where do we slot the infectious “Give Me All Your Luvin”? Very, very cute, enjoyable, and to be honest an actually quite amazingly fun pop song that came complete with an incredible video – but first single? Really?!! Let’s not beat around the bush here, it’s almost as if MDNA was doomed from the second they decided to release the song that’d been available online for months prior as the first single. And no, I will not be talking in length about “Superstar” but I will say it is quite literally the very single worst thing Madonna has ever been involved with, and that includes when she was fucking Dennis Rodman.
So, after all of that, how do you solve a problem like MDNA? You open a new playlist, make an abridged, 10 track version of the album on iTunes and call it a day; that’s how.
09. CRYSTAL CASTLES “III”
For their third commercially released full-length album, Crystal Castles have taken their sound to another level. The dark, twisted and often demonic sounds of Castles remains throughout “III”, however with this album the duo seem to be a lot more aware of commerciality, and how to combine a strong, sleek pop-sheen with these twisted computer game sounds. Fever pitch screams from Alice dominate the record (album opener “Plague” is like listening to a rabid Techno Enya), but it’s subtle vocals like the one she belts out for songs like “Kerosene” and “Sad Eyes”, the latter which is an exhilarating trip into Italo-electro-pop (a genre the band have never really experimented with, at least not at the level of this track) that not only plays as the duos best and most commercially viable moment to date, but also sounds like Sally Shapiro on a lot of ecstasy. Very strong contender for Song of the Year. There’s also really huge, near-instrumental cuts like the pulsating “Wrath of God”, complete with an eerie breakdown that’ll make your soul feel like it’s walking through a cemetery at 3AM. It’s this beautiful, graceful and almost whimsical air about these songs that, combined with harsh bleeps-and-blops, really send shivers up the spine and solidify why this blend of spooky dance-pop resonates with my listening tastes so well.
Make no mistake; Crystal Castles are at the very top of their game with III, a record with twelve perfect, near-psychotic tracks and a level of assurance we’ve yet to have heard from them.
08. IAMAMIWHOAMI “Kin”
Sweden’s alluring iamamiwhoami began with a bizarre stream of YouTube videos that were backdropped with frighteningly incredible electronic synths and pop melodies. As months went by we were slowly introduced to the mysterious Jonna Lee, albeit still to this day very mysteriously. The group are incredibly in tune with the audio-visual aspect of their art; every single released on iTunes to date has an accompanying video clip and the release of their (long awaited) debut album was no different.
Clocking in at a perfect nine tracks in total, each song on the record has its own video component and, unlike most record’s that suffer from anywhere between 3 and 6 tracks too long, KIN manages to present an actually flawless record. There isn’t a dud in sight, not a bad egg anywhere – iamamiwhoami have exceeded expectations since their first release and this record does not interrupt that flow in the slightest. Whilst it’s easy (and, perhaps moreso, lazy) to compare iamami’s sound to the likes of Bjork, Portishead and even the Swedish connection of The Knife (when, to be honest, things like “Idle Talk” are more Human League gone Swedish Acid Tab than Bjork), there’s something undeniably authentic and original about what is on offer throughout KIN. The sound of Lee’s voice with these very hypnotic synths and basslines is bliss to sit through, and subtle album opener “Sever” does so magically before merging itself into the slightly crazy and 100% amazing “Drops”, a chaotic moment in frantic beats and haunting harmonies; there’s a lot going on but not too much for you to be unable to keep up. Another highlight is “Rascal”, a slower-paced moment that harks slightly on the Kate Bush side of things (yes yes, more lazy comparatives), should she ever find herself making electronica on Ableton Live, anyway. It is however the final two moments on KIN that are most certainly iamamiwhoami’s finest. “Kill” is a six and a half minute excursion into exactly the kind of goosebump-inducing sounds she can generate – a song that builds upon itself into some seriously massive moments. The lyrics (if you can understand them – they’re all in English but sometimes you’d be pressed to realise it) are monstrously good too, but listen to Kill’s final two minutes and try to stop the waves of musical euphoria take over your senses. The most commercially viable song on KIN (which does not necessarily mean it is free of bizarreness) is the still bonkers “Goods”, complete with one of those choruses you hear once and will never forget.
On a production level as well this is their most extravagant adventure by far and, fittingly, serves as the record’s closer. If you’ve never heard of iamamiwhoami and are a little disillusioned with pop music at the moment then you’ll find KIN to be an absolute revelation. It does everything that pop isn’t doing right now and whilst I love all kinds of pop here (when it’s done well), KIN is definitely an album your high-brow ‘real music’ listener (whatever the fuck that is) can enjoy alongside your local pop freak.
07. VAN SHE “Idea of Happiness”
Over the years, Van She have been a major staple within not only the pages of this blog but also the magazines and papers I write for locally. Their incredible releases, from the promising self-titled EP in 2005 to the debut long player, 2008′s “V”, an album that has stood the test of time and remains one of the greater Aussie pop releases in years, to their pulsating live shows that leave no prisoners – It’s been four years since we’ve had real new material from the boys and a lot has changed since then. What’s perhaps the most exciting thing about this huge gap between record’s is the obvious growth and evolution of Van She as producers, song-writers, musicians and, more importantly, as Men.
The record is 11 tracks long – 8 vocal tracks and 3 instrumentals – marking it within the ranges of being the perfect length for a great LP. Essentially you’ve got a killer 8-track record with three really exciting dubs in between, something that was momentarily toyed with on 2008′s “Temps Mort” but has absolutely been mastered on Happiness. “Radio Waves I” and “Radio Waves II” are bass-heavy excursions into a proper musical trip, the pinnacle being the sudden key-change in the latter’s half-way mark. “Coconuts”, the record’s final Instrumental cut, sounds exactly like what a coconut would sound like if it had access to a recording studio/organs (HAR HAR) – the three of these tracks cement Van She’s importance within Australia’s music industry as producers – already aceing it last year with Sneaky Sound System’s “From Here To Anywhere” (my Album of the Year for 2011), there is a level of thickness within this record’s sound that can only be attributed to a real understanding of each song on the album.
The lead single “Idea of Happiness” re-sparked many music listeners interest in the band and translates incredibly well live. The middle 8 is killer but is it killer enough to have been chosen over “Jamaica” to be the first single? Perhaps not. It bridges the gap between their old sound and their new groundings quite nicely, but Jamaica does it so effortlessly, with its soaring chorus and Nick howling about Jamaica, it’s difficult to understand what went on with the single-choice decision-making. Look out for the massive Xylophone moment that runs basically through the entire song and comes complete with one of the very best final 40 seconds in pop this year. “Sarah” is by far-and-away the greatest thing Van She have ever put their name to (and is also the next single), this already Iconic step in Australian music is the band’s big Fleetwood Mac moment. A delicate opener that bursts into the most beautiful pop-rainbow the band have ever assembled. What is it about these boys and songs named after Girls? Maybe album Number 3 can be a record full of Iconic songs written about different girls and their names? But it’s the dark, alley-way nature of second best moment here “We Move On” that really captivates. A proper beast of a production that toys fleetingly with dubstep (blink-and-you’ll-miss-it fleeting, just how I like it, thank you), and the lyrics are major, some of the most advanced and personal in their repertoire.
This record is perfect in length and in its tone, with what it’s trying to do; everything. The boys have nailed it with this monumental 11 track religious experience.
06. WHIGFIELD “W”
After twenty-five singles and four stunning studio albums, Queen of the Clubs Whigfield is back with her fifth long playing record, and the return is indeed cause for celebration as it is her very first in over 10 years. The Danish beauty is back with her exciting blend of dance floor-ready club hits and insanely catchy pop hooks. Current single “4ever” places itself into Classic Whigfield Territory witihin its first minute, and last years “C’est Cool” sits comfortably here with these upfront club cuts.
Giving sad flop Alexandra Stan a run for her money, Whigfield delivers more life and gusto into these songs than any of the random dancepop divas flooding our charts for five minutes at a time; stuff like “Devil Called Love” and “Just Because You’re Beautiful” is the kind of material most of these faceless dance ladies would dream of, whilst corker “As I Go” not only shows the Black Eyed Peas how it’s actually done, it also has ‘Summer Hit’ written all over it. “Jeg Kommer Hjem” is one of the highlights, fusing Whigfield’s Danish tongue with twisted levels of dubstep, taking the sound and distorting it far enough for it to add a truly original element to the track. But it all lies with flaw-free album opener “Stay In My Head”, a track which takes the coveted title as W’s hallmark moment. From the song’s structure to those mind-lodging “Stay-e-yay-e-yay-e-yay-e-yaaayayayay!”s at the end of the track, it’s exhilarating to hear Whigger’s smash up the dance floor like she does on this bonza-beast of a song.
What’s clever about this album and its release is that Whiggers has unleashed it upon the world at exactly the right time; the 1990’s influence in music is stronger than ever at the moment. What Whigfield has done with “W” should be commended; she’s taken everything about the way she constructed her songs through the 90’s and fused it together with modern beats to create a truly brilliant album for the 21st Century.
It’s that time of year once more; The Queen has turned 54 and as is tradition on Adem with an E, I’m going to celebrate with a day of Madonna tours on DVD, lots of records and cassettes, a cake and – naturally – the obligatory Madonna/YouTube birthday blog-post.
I’ve spoken many times about the affect Madonna has had on me and my life over the years so I’ll spare you the dramatics again; just sit back, enjoy these classic (and sometimes rare) Madonna videos and celebrate The Queen and High Priestess of Pop’s triumphant 54th Birthday.
Happy Birthday my Darling; I love you.
Hilarious Bonus scenes from IGTTYAS.
Even MORE bonus scenes from IGTTYAS.
The incredible documentary shot for the Sticky & Sweet Tour, some incredible (my sugar is) raw footage.
“The whole thing needs to be a jump-rope extravaganza!”
An incredible interview from 1991′s Omnibus. Very candid.
This legendary interview comes complete with Madonna giving host Arsenio crap in relation to his speculated relationship (and break-up) with Paula Abdul. Amazing television.
Frank interview around the Truth or Dare/In Bed With Madonna era where Madonna answers the host articulately and concisely. A great watch.
Here is one of the traditional Birthday Post videos; Madonna’s invention of wearing a pink wig and lip syncing for her life to “Like A Virgin.”
“Open. The Door. NOW.” Madonna at her best.
Queen Madonna talks about Moist Thrushmore – also known to some as Janet Jackson – and being “mystified” by the shade she has thrown at her. “I’ve never even met the girl.”
From the premiere of ‘Truth or Dare’ with Madonna, Niki and Donna. Flawless and rare television.
Performing the greatest song of her career at The Virgin Tour, “Gambler.” As a child I used to be able to re-enact this routine at the drop of a hat and it may very well be the reason I have spent half of my life on my knees.
Madonna squirts some smoke from her punani during the Drowned World Tour.
“But at least I’m not boring. And I’ve never been arrested.” The awkward moment Madonna starts talking about sex with a child sitting on her lap.
Madonna and Sean Penn have just gotten married you guys! HI CHER!!
MADONNA IS PREGNANT TO HER PERSONAL TRAINER CARLOS LEON!! WHAT WILL THEY HAVE!!!
“That” infamous Letterman appearance.
Madonna visits David Letterman again – this time for Valentine’s Day.
Performing pop-classic “Girl Gone Wild” at the MDNA Tour and being generally flawless in everything she does.
Killing at the 46th Super Bowl half-time show.
“I’m here because I wanted to talk to you about us.”
Madonna has a KiKi with some drag queens.
Kurt Loder interviewing Madonna for MTV on the set of “Take A Bow.”
Madonna performing “Take A Bow” with Babyface.
Like A Prayer live, Blond Ambition Tour (Pony-tail Edition)
Happy Birthday Madonna.
For the first time in an incredibly long time, it has been an absolute event to be a Madonna fan this past week. The return of The Queen is one I have been waiting some time for – her first album since 2008′s “Hard Candy” is the March released “MDNA”, which is set to sizzle with pounding beats much like 2005′s stunning “Confessions On A Dance Floor” did, except there’s going to be a whopping 15 – 17 tracks on this record and multiple producers. Martin Solveig, who is behind the lead single “Give Me All Your Luvin’” takes a bulk of producing duties, as do Benny Benassi and his brother, and the return of William Orbit and Madonna as a duo on six tracks (including one called “Gang Bang”) is nothing short of incredible. This album is going to deliver some mindless, cheeky pop fun for the dance floor but it’s also going to deliver the depth on other tracks that so many were hoping to get from The Queen as a lead single.
There is fine line when it comes to Madonna and she’s damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t. In this case, the release of “Give Me All Your Luvin’” as the lead single is incredibly ideal, particularly when you take that Iconic and Mind-Blowing MadonnaBowl Half-time performance show from yesterday. Madonna’s detractors are constantly saying she’s either being too preachy, or she’s being too mindless, she dresses like a 19 year old whore, or that she looks too much like a mum. When are people going to stop expecting so much from a 53 year old woman who doesn’t actually really owe us anything?
As for the single, I am very much on-board and am hoping it becomes almost as big as (if not bigger than) “Hung Up.” It certainly has the potential to sell well after that performance and the fact that Madonna seems to be having a blast being Madonna again is going to help considerably. The chorus is infectiously good, and the song itself sounds more like Madonna and Solveig were channeling a twisted Dandy Warhols homage, spliced with a wink at Daphne & Celeste and a dubstep breakdown rather than those who have said it’s a Katy Perry b-side, Nicola Roberts rip-off or an Avril Lavigne cover. Crack is whack you guys.
And the inclusion of Nicki Minaj and M.I.A.? I am LIVING for their parts on this song now. The more I listen to it the more I’m picking up within it to love – just how much more polished on a production level (minor details like the way her voice echoes at the end of the chorus, whereas in the demo it just cuts out abruptly – these are the details I pick up on) it is as a whole. Minaj’s rap about Conan, clonin’ and barbarians is a thrill, and M.I.A.’s dancing during the Marilyn scene of the video is HOT. M.I.A. has never looked better; and by that I mean she has never looked more like a pop star. Her bit in the track is perfect too, exactly the kind of jam I expected from M.I.A. over that breakdown.
The video itself is a work of art; Madonna with her 1995 face, the symbolism, the Marilyn sequence, the modern throwbacks to moments of her careers past, even down to the stunning homage to RuPaul’s Drag Race star Sharon Needles with the top she wears; it was all just a good hunka eye candy. EXCITING eye candy. Madonna hasn’t made a video that good since “Hung Up” – she is selling that garment huntees!
Watching the SuperBowl performance live was nerve-wracking. I got tweets constantly and texts during the performance asking if I was alright (I wasn’t), people were proclaiming me dead on Twitter (I seriously thought I was going to need the Ambulance at one point), Mum was calling to see if I’d had a nervous breakdown (sort of); everyone just knew how explosive this was going to be for me. And as I sat there, an inch away from the massive plasma in the lounge room on Monday morning, I watched the event happen as it happened, with the whole world. Madonna was back. It was an overwhelming experience to say the least.
That LMFAO moment was exceedingly good; I now Stan for LMFAO. Everything makes sense now; LMFAO were brought into this world so that Madonna would do The Melbourne Shuffle on the SuperBowl. Now, when I was younger (I’m 28 now) I was into the rave scene quite heavily and the Melbourne Shuffle was apart of my weekend routine. As I said I’m 28 now and although I can still do it, I lose my breath after about 28 seconds and am reaching for all forms of ventolin and oxygen masks that are near-by. Madonna is 53 and she can do the shuffle without reaching for a gas-mask? YEAH BYE. Anybody that says she can’t dance has obviously never tried doing the Melbourne Shuffle and bitches, that thing is an artform that requires skill and precision. Although LMFAO’s is a bastardised version of what we know as the Melbourne Shuffle, that is where the shuffle came from and coming from those roots, it was uplifting to see Madonna pulling those moves in front of the entire universe.
When my Mother returned we watched the performance together and she had a crying meltdown as well. She said it reminded her of when we sat up waiting for the world premiere of Madonna’s ‘Like A Prayer’ Pepsi Commercial as a child together, sitting in the room partaking in this huge event. And there we were, once more, sharing this huge, global event together again with one of our biggest shared passions; Madonna. Yesterday was one of the most invigorating days of my life because of this particular experience, but in general due to the magnitude of how important this past week has been as a Madonna fan. If Madonna tours Australia this year – and it looks as though she might be – Mum is coming and vetoing on her usual concert-policy of “seating only.” Mum wants the best seat in the house alongside me and if that means we’re standing then she’s going to stand for The Queen.
“Give Me All Your Luvin’” feat. Nicki Minaj & M.I.A. (Single) = 9/10.
“Give Me All Your Luvin’” feat. Nicki Minaj & M.I.A. (Video) = 10/10.
Superbowl Performance = 10/10, even with the near-fall she still made you forget all about it within seconds.
The MDNA Deluxe Edition album cover = 10/10.
The MDNA Standard Edition album cover = 1,000,000/10. (SEE IT HERE)
The GMAYL single cover = 8/10.
Thank you, you may now leave the courtroom.