“Madame X is a secret agent, travelling around the world, changing identities, fighting for freedom, bringing light to dark places.
She is a cha cha instructor, a professor, a head of state, a housekeeper, an equestrian, a prisoner, a student, a teacher, a nun, a cabaret singer, a saint, a prostitute. “ (album booklet)
“Madame X” has been out since June 14th, and I wanted to wait and listen to it a few times before writing about it as I couldn’t decide whether or not I liked this album.
Some days I was loving it, some others I wasn’t so sure. I think that you have to be in a certain kind of mood to fully enjoy this record. This is not the album you’ll put on casually when your friends are coming over or when you’re cleaning the house.
It’s probably Madonna’s most personal album she’s ever made. She has become more and more political throughout the years and she speaks her truth: gun control, women’s right, religion, oppressed minorities… Madame X speaks on behalf of us all.
“I’ll be Islam, if Islam is hated
I’ll be Israel, if they’re incarcerated
I’ll be Native Indian, if the Indian has been taken
And I’ll be a woman, if she’s raped and her heart is breaking”
(Killers Who Are Partying)
It’s not an easy album to listen to as it’s very intense, lyrically speaking, and it is confusing in so many ways. If I had to sum it up, I would say that most of the songs are like Russian nesting dolls. There are several songs within one and you never know where it’s going to take you.
“Dark Ballet” and “God Control” are the best examples. The first one starts with a piano and vocals, then out of the blue, it goes straight to the Nutcracker Suite with a robotic voice talking about politics:
“They are so naive
They think we are not aware of their crimes
We know, but we are just not ready to act “
“God Control” starts the same way, then a disco beat takes over, building up the intensity of the song with strings and a choir.
“People think that I’m insane
The only gun is in my brain
Each new birth, it gives me hope
That’s why I don’t smoke that dope […] We need to wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up”
The world of Madame X
“The world of Madame X” is a 22 minutes documentary released by Amazon on June 29th. Madonna tells us the story of the record and I feel like I finally understood the things that didn’t make sense when I heard it for the first time.
The first thing we learn is that Madame X was Madonna’s nickname when she was studying at the Martha Graham school of dance, as Martha thought she was a mysterious young woman. She decided it was a perfect name for her new album.
Madonna found her happy place in Lisbon, where she met Dino D’Santiago, a Portuguese singer of Cape Verdean descent, who took her to living room music sessions. She met all these incredible latin musicians there who play “the music of the soul” and that’s why we can hear some Fado influences (“Killer who are partying”), Cape Verdean rhythms (“Batuka”) and some Portuguese lyrics (“Crazy”) in the album .
Inspired by these sessions, Madonna did some recordings and sent them to producer Mirwais, who worked with her previously on the albums “Music”, “American Life” and “Confessions on the Dancefloor”, hoping he would be as inspired as her. And Mirwais worked his magic. His special sound is very obvious on tracks like “Crave” or “Extreme Occident”.
Madonna also tells us that even if she loves voices that don’t sound human and music that sounds robotic, there always has to be some humanity in everything she’s doing.
This is why the album is so experimental: Madonna combined her musical experiences in Lisbon with the trendy sound of Mirwais, while keeping her soul by writing about her values and what she believes in: freedom, peace and tolerance. I strongly recommend to watch “The World of Madame X“, it’s so interesting.
“I Rise” is opening with a segment of Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor Emma Gonzales’ speech and it is the perfect song to end this intense album. It’s about hope and courage, and Madonna gives a voice to minorities who are suffering and don’t have the opportunity to speak their mind.
“Just hold on to the little bit of magic in it “
I’m glad I took some time before writing about “Madame X”. I finally bought the album. Even if I probably won’t listen to it as much as I listen to my favourite album “Ray Of Light”, at least now I know for sure that “Madame X” is iconic in its own bizarre way.