For one of the few times in my life, I can actually say I’ve heard the previous Madonna record before listening to this one, so it gives me context that I normally wouldn’t have. (Normally my context would be “I remember the hit singles.” And I do! But I’ve actually listened to Ray of Light.)
I can’t say I thought much of “Music” in 2000. I think I might have actually disliked it. “Don’t Tell Me”, on the other hand, seems to have made a moderately positive impression as I didn’t remember it until I heard it and then I was like “Oh this song!” and it wasn’t that negative. But then there’s her cover of “American Pie”. Well, let’s leave that for the moment.
At times this record feels just as dancy as Ray of Light but perhaps a little more clubby. Or a different kind of club, actually – that feels more appropriate. There’s definitely a different vibe even though in many ways the music seemingly made using similar processes.
One thing is that there is a hell of a lot more auto-tune and, having never been a fan, I can’t say I like that. I think you can criticize Ray of Light for being a bit of its time – even though it was a left turn for Madonna, which is cool – but I think you can absolutely lay into this one for being of its time.
I do want to highlight “What It Feels Like for a Girl”, which was apparently a single but which I totally missed. (It went to #2 here but I was in a small town in Quebec with no access to radio and only French-language music video channels, so…) Occasionally Madonna pens lyrics that are really, really good and this is one of those songs. Certainly there are some other autobiographical songs on here (as there are on Ray of Light) but rarely have I heard a pop song convey so well the struggle of not being male.
But let’s get to the weird folktronica stuff. As you know, this record contains Madonna’s infamous cover of “American Pie”, which supposedly wasn’t released as a single but which I remember the video for. But are a bunch of other songs on here where’s she’s playing acoustic guitar above an electronic backdrop. I guess it’s cool she’s trying out a new genre but I really don’t see how it fits with the rest of the record. It feels totally out of place to me.
As for the cover: I grew up with that song, even though I don’t actually like it. I used to hate the cover because I grew up with that song. I don’t hate it any more but it’s a curious choice, especially for this record.
I don’t really know what to make of it. It’s a little more diverse than Ray of Light but that also makes it more scattershot.