I think I agree with the general consensus that this record isn’t quite up to the standards of her debut, even if the two most famous songs here are two of her most famous songs of the ’80s.
“Material Girl” is the most ’80s thing and I can’t decide whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. On the one hand, it’s sort of endearingly faux new wave. On the other, it is soooooooo ’80s to be almost painful, at times. They really leaned into trying to sound like the moment and I’m not sure the song would be so fondly remembered if it hadn’t been such a big hit. And are the lyrics really that clever? I guess, at least by the standards of dance pop. But I’m not sure I’m on board.
I am on board with “Like a Virgin”, a song I once detested (greatly preferring “Like a Surgeon” of course) but, over time, I have come to be utterly worn down. It has “good bones” as they say. Moreover, it sounds significantly less ’80s than “Material Girl” – which, I guess, suggests how unbelievably ’80s that first track sounds.
The rest of the material is noticeably weaker than the two biggest hits, though a couple of tracks shine through, particularly “Dress You Up” which I swear I’ve heard a bunch of times, though I have no idea why. (Is it in an ad?)
But it’s not just that the songwriting isn’t the most consistent, it’s that the record isn’t as diverse as the debut, at least as far as my memory is concerned. Maybe I just know what to expect now, and I don’t notice the (relative) variety. Either way, it feels less fresh than the debut did.
Also, I feel like Rodgers leans into contemporary sounds whenever he can, making most of the record sound very much like 1984, which is something I don’t enjoy. I suspect it would sound a lot better if the synthesizers were toned down just a titch.
Still, as ’80s dance pop goes, I think I’d probably rather listen to this than a lot of other stuff.