Madonna's MDNA is many things. It's a breakup album trapped in a cage of dance beats (Flavorwire). It's one big, hurting club anthem (Spin). Some of it is quite good. Some of it is quite embarrassing. And much of it sounds the same. It's as if Madonna's a sitcom character, forever suspended in the same headspace and age as Confessions on a Dance Floor and Hard Candy and "Into the Groove" somehow, the only difference being the particular sounds. Because MDNA isn't entirely removed from what gets radio airplay, particularly not when people like Benny Benassi get involved. You suspect Madonna's been listening to a lot of pop music, enough that when she sings "every record sounds the same"--even though "Give Me All Your Luvin" sounds like some of those samey records--you'd think she means it.
You'd think wrong. According to William Orbit in this MTV interview, all those records that sound the same--"all the current artists," he said--were verboten, replaced in the inspiration process by French films and faraway, irrelevant music, whatever that might be. (Insert your own damn punchline.) But if Orbit and Madonna refused to pollute their creative vision with dance-pop soundalikes, yet somehow ended up with dance-pop soundalikes anyway, something's up. Either there's something in the air these days, something pulsing and tired, that's making everyone make the same pop-house songs, or some contemporary music sneaked into Madonna and Orbit's brains somehow, through loudspeakers or car stereos or YouTube videos. And indeed, that happened:
I did remember, one day, there was a moment when we were waiting for Pro Tools to reboot, or something like that, and we were just looking at links on YouTube. And I was showing her Kreayshawn, and I've been working with her, and I really like her. And she's obviously got this track out called 'Hoes on My Di--' [with the line] " 'cause I look like Madonna.' And, I played it for Madonna ... then she was saying afterwards 'Hoes on my di--, 'cause I am Madonna.' That was about the only time we looked at any serious contemporary pop music.
Putting aside the fact that "Hoes on My Dick" is by Lil B, putting aside that William Orbit's been working with Kreayshawn(?!?!?!?!?!) and putting aside the common sense that there's no way this was the only "serious contemporary pop music" Madonna and her producers considered during the MDNA recording sessions because come on, this makes MDNA make so much more sense! Catchphrases everywhere (the "M! D! N! A!" chant, the "L! U! V! Madonna" thing, etc.), roping in hot-enough producers and collaborators, carefully curating pop-culture stuff--and sure, she's cobbling together the likes of gangster films, Joe Francis and the Act of Contrition and not of Ellen DeGeneres and Justin Bieber, but still. We're going to call this necessary to understanding MDNA: it is the first post-Kreayshawn Madonna album. Any sort of music can such be a revelation.
Really, we should have seen this coming, though, because this thing exists. There has never been a more appropriate thing to link.