It’s no secret that Madonna’s later albums haven’t been that notable, especially if you’re talking about American Life. But in 2005 the queen of pop decided to get back to her dance music roots. The album still isn’t perfect, but with songs that are fun, energetic, and make you want to dance it’s the best record of her later career so far. Taking influence from dance music of the 70’s and 80’s Madonna was able to pay tribute to the music she loved and the music that began her career.
I still say this is the album that made people take notice of Madonna again. So many people had written her off in the early 2000’s when her albums were lackluster, but with this record she proved she still had it. The opening track “Hung Up” is one of the best songs from the album. It takes the music from 70’s disco group Abba and turns it into something you can’t stop dancing to. It’s just fun and catchy; it’ll easily get stuck in your head. This track beats out the singles she released from her last album. “Get Together” is another great song that takes the disco sound from the 70’s and turns it into something catchy. There’s nothing else to this track aside from it’s fun and energetic, which is the best thing to expect from a Madonna song.
Songs like “Sorry” and “Let It Will Be” show that Madonna went back to her old school roots for this record. Rather than experimenting with new elements or doing something political, she made the album all about dancing and even included her standard bitchier than thou attitude on certain tracks. It comes through the most on “Sorry,” which is the perfect song for anyone who has just gone through a break up. It’s definitely a “I-don’t-need-your-shit” type of song. While just about all of the songs are pretty good only one falls flat. “I Love New York” is not her finest songwriting moment. The lyrics are corny and painful with statements declaring “I don’t like cities, but I like New York/other places make me feel like a dork.” Not only do we not need another song about how great New York is, but it’s a filler. The album would’ve fine if it this track was released as a b-side or just shelved completely.
The flow of the record is really interesting. Since it is dance focused all the songs flow continuously without a pause, similar to a DJ set. Listeners may notice that the songs get darker and less care free after a while. One of them is “How High,” which has a cold feel thanks to the music and the robotic vocals featured throughout. What’s interesting about the track is it references and questions her past wild behavior as she wonders whether or not it was all worth it. For someone who seems to have no regrets, to see her questioning her past actions humanizes the diva. Another song that takes the personal route is the closer “Like it or Not.” The beginning sounds a lot like her previous single “Frozen,” with the somber string music, but when the darker tones come in it reminds me a lot of “Personal Jesus” by Depeche Mode. The lyrics are pretty much a message to her haters saying that whether you love her or hate her she’s never going to stop being who she is.
Another thing that’s interesting about the album is how she references herself throughout. When you first hear it, you may think it’s a coincidence until you learn it was intentional. For instance, there’s a song here titled “Forbidden Love,” which is a title of a song from her 1994 album Bedtime Stories. There may be a small reference to her past track “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” on “Hung Up.” There’s one part where she sings “Don’t cry for me.” Every time I hear this it always makes me think of Evita. “How High” references two of the tracks from Music: “I Deserve It” and “Nobody’s Perfect.” Having this element thrown in the mix makes this one of her most thought provoking albums of her later career.
Overall, the album gets 8/10. This album is classic Madonna. It’s fun, energetic, and danceable, everything that made her popular in the first place. Not every song is perfect, but there are lots of catchy ones that will get stuck in your head. Taking influence from 70’s and 80’s club music, along with looking back on her career and making references to herself, shows that Madonna wanted to get back to her roots and have some fun while giving the political issues and experimental music a rest.