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Madonna has been making music for almost 40 years now and judging her newer works has always been a difficult task. How can her new music live up to some of her classics that have ingrained themselves in the minds of people from all across the musical spectrum. And though Madonna is often thought of as a singles artist (and she has enough classic tracks to live up to that title), she is one of the few pop artists that have equal albums clout with Like a Prayer, Ray of Light and Confessions on a Dancefloor being classics from the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s.

Madonna’s 2010’s output has been mixed to say the least, 2012’s MDNA being by far the worst album of her career and Rebel Heart redeeming her to certain extent, but it was still a mixed bag of tracks that felt more like a singles collection than a cohesive piece of work with a singular vision. With Madame X Madonna manages a to create a cohesive piece of work with a mixture of musical styles from across the globe – a lot of it works, which makes Madame X Madonna’s best album of the decade but one that lacks a truly standout track.

Madame X opens with the sultry latin infused Medellin featuring Columbian singer Maluma, it gives off a La Isla Bonita vibe but without the catchy chorus – it’s chilled and Madonna vocal delivery is relaxed, though the vocal processing of her voice is a little off putting. Madonna experiments a lot with vocal processing on the album most noticeably on Dark Ballet and God Control. For the former a vocoder kicks in as the piano ballad contorts itself into a Tchaikovsky breakdown, it renders the lyrics indistinguishable and didn’t quite fit the song for my general liking. On God Control it works much better, a piano ballad that morphs into a string laden 70’s disco track about gun violence – it veers very close to being utterly terrible but it for some reason it just works, and is one of the best tracks on the album.

The middle section of the album flows nicely from the call and response track Butuka to the lush guitar licks of Crave. The Portuguese inspired Crazy with it’s accordion heavy chorus is as catchy as the album gets and creates a good rhythm as you head into the back half of the album. A couple of the songs are forgettable but listenable, Extreme Occident is one of them but it does have a nice middle eastern instrumentation in towards the end. This is followed by one of Madame X’s stand out tracks Faz Gostoso, a Brazilian party anthem complete with a Carnival inspired break. The albums only true misstep Bitch I’m Loca, another duet with Maluma is a pointless and tacky song that feels out of place, with an album so politically charged and musically diverse this track comes across as Madonna desperate to put the word “bitch” into another one her songs and it add little to album other than an inflated run time.

The album closes well with 3 of the best songs on the album, I Don’t Search I Find a Vogue-like 90’s dance track complete with finger clicks and spoken word, Looking for Mercy a soaring ballad that showcases Madonna’s voice and finishing with the rousing anthem I Rise.

Madame X is a good album, but one that works best as an artistic whole rather than individual songs. Though Crave, Crazy and Faz Gostoso had the best singles potential, they certainly don’t have the impact of Rebel Hearts Living For Love or Ghosttown which could be why the album fizzled rather than popped. It’s well worth a listen for Madonna fans.

Rating: 4 out of 5.