Monday, August 24th, 2009

Madonna – Celebration

But most of all, you’ve let yourself down…


Alfred Soto: Strobed synths, post-Moroder throb, feisty old lady spoken-word segment — this not unpleasant rummage through Madonna’s trunkful of tricks since 2000 at least sounds like Madonna.

Michaelangelo Matos: “Haven’t I see you somewhere before?” Madonna asks. “You look familiar.” Good question. What it reminded me of, almost immediately, was Jonathan Van Meter’s cover story (with Madonna on the cover) in New York last year, “The New New Face,” about the injection surgeries that fill out facial features, making them look younger, rather than stretching them back and turning them into mummy masks: “I cannot say that she looked exactly like her old self — but so close! A fantastic approximation! An uncanny resemblance! She looks like a very impressive artist’s rendering of her.” That’s this record, too.

Colin Cooper: Madonna went to New York in a taxi with a dream and An Amount of Money that I cannot remember (though it was very small). And here we are, An Amount of Years later, still paying through the nose for her to lip-synch through her live show and turn out music that is now Mostly Dross, excluding of course “Ray of Light” and some other stuff from That Album she did with William Orbit. This review is a lazy and poorly-researched pastiche of everything I’ve ever read about Madonna, in the same way that Madonna is an insufferable and unimaginative pastiche of her own ever-more-historical former glories and of pop music in general. Eugh.

Anthony Easton: She has managed to be new for more than 2 decades, she has managed to be interesting for the entirety of my life. She has created masterpieces, she has worked around that weird voice, and her work is so omnipresent that she is more household god than eternal saint — a still living guardian angel for fags everywhere, a vampiric energy vacuum that restored interest by returning back to dance. She is the diva that Whitney or Mariah could never be, and the only one still standing — but this is tired, and not self-consciously tired, and sad, but sad due to a lack of energy rather then an aesthetic choice.

Edward Okulicz: While Madonna finds it hard to write an outright bad melody, this isn’t a particularly good one either, and falls into the trap of being not a throwback but already dated. She’s always at her best when her dancefloor fun is demanding (“Burning Up”, “Express Yourself”), thoughtful (“Deeper and Deeper”) or so wildly kinetic you can’t help but surrender (“Vogue”, “Hung Up”, “Into The Groove”) – this, by comparison, is just kind of there.

Martin Kavka: I’m relieved to hear a new Madonna track that isn’t utter crap. But after Madonna’s recycled all the sexpots of twentieth-century American culture, it’s a bit shocking to hear her recycling herself (in this case, the lyrics of “Holiday” and a club mix from one of her late-90s singles). Madonna spent her whole career bringing her audience to self-consciousness about its desires and why it could and should make various sexual, religious, and domestic choices. She has nowhere to take us now. But perhaps that’s why she wants to party with us…

Alex Macpherson: Maybe Madonna should be encouraged to half-ass it a bit more. This empty-headed, purely functional piece of anonymous Paul Oakenfold dancefloor fluff is inessential, inconsequential and deserves no more of your attention than was put into making it (roughly five minutes’ worth, at a guess). But it’s easily enjoyable and a good deal more effective than anything on the laboured Hard Candy; even her voice is less didactically rigid than usual.

Martin Skidmore: It’s one of her least original works ever, in melody, lyrics and theme, but Oakenfold really shines, making this hugely danceable and enjoyable, full of warmth and happiness.

Anthony Miccio: All that makes this more (or slightly less) than a Paul Oakenfold remix of “Holiday” is the haggard “yeahhh” from “4 Minutes” tacked onto the chorus. Is she Cher yet?

Chuck Eddy: She quotes her old self and Marvin Gaye, and there’s something 1990 pop-house about the beat, and her vocals get wrongly nasal sometimes and speed up wrongly fast other times, and she goes through motions, though not in an horrible way. But it still bugs me that 26 years ago she did a song about celebrating that was 100 times better.

Matt Cibula: I was going to say “This is the saddest thing I have ever heard in my life” but then I remembered her rapping a few years ago and brightened up. Still pretty bad though, like a desperate-but-not-serious attempt to wed “Holiday” with “Justify My Love.”

Kat Stevens: EWWWWWW Madge there is nothing wrong with assertively expressing your sexuality but “I guess I just don’t recognise you with your clothes on” makes me instinctively put my hand over the top of my drink for fear you’re going to drop some GHB in it.

Tom Ewing: The backing track is so woefully colourless that it sounds like some no-hoper producer found a rejected Madonna vocal on eBay. Madonna herself isn’t awful or embarrassing, and she’s dropped that infernal habit of reading lyrics out like a bedtime story, but it’s hard to think of any of her 70+ singles that are more throwaway or boring.

Alex Ostroff: I’ll take Madonna on an awkwardly didactic soapbox (a la American Life) over one with nothing to say and no interesting way to do so. How long ’til we get another weird country cross-over?

11 Responses to “Madonna – Celebration”

  1. I quite like Celebration – like the Confessions material (though obviously not as good), the sound/production style isn’t literally like what she’s done before, but I just find it comfortable. Fits like a glove.

    If I may indulge in a little self-promotion, I’m reviewing every Madonna single/video in anticipation of her upcoming greatest hits – here’s a somewhat dissenting/possibly enthusiastic opinion on Celebration.

  2. Richaod

    I read that link a bit, decent insights, but quick questions, what do you think are Madonna’s weakest moments?


  3. As Alex said above, it’s twofold – there’s the weird, failed experiment bad (most of American Life and Erotica’s album tracks being obvious targets) and the bland, cruise-control bad (the Who’s That Girl soundtrack, Hard Candy).

    Admittedly part of why I like Celebration is simply that it’s not Hard Candy – sure, the production style is 10 years old, but there’s at least some life and empathy to it. That’s something all Madonna’s worst efforts lack.

  4. Aww, I love Erotica. And American Life‘s album tracks are probably stronger than the singles on average (“Easy Ride” is one of her best self-indulgent slowies).

  5. hah, that’s my dodgy phrasing – I meant Erotica’s album tracks (especially Thief of Hearts and Fever – Shep Pettibone’s production is brilliant on the singles, but for the overall album a little suffocating)… and most of American Life. Easy Ride’s definitely a personal highlight.

  6. Erotica is easily my favourite Madonna album qua album, and also has some of her most interesting album tracks – “In This Life” and “Secret Garden” especially are a kind of revelatory way to close any album. I love the way the stark, uniform production throughout conveys and reinforces both coldness and longing. Though I’d be fine with “Why’s It So Hard?” dropping out of existence tbh.

    It’s easy to pinpoint what latter-day Madonna’s weaknesses are but none of them really hold up over her whole career, given that so much of it is built on turning what should be weaknesses into strengths through sheer chutzpah.

    At this point I actually can’t imagine what she could do to become a great, compelling performer again.

  7. Erotica is her best album.

  8. Lex, I think she should become a nun. But on the evening before she enters the convent, she should do a one-night performance at Carnegie Hall patterned after Marlene Dietrich’s _I Wish You Love_ special, closing with “I Deserve It.”

  9. The weird thing is that I was ready to dismiss her after American Life, and she gave us Hard Candy. So i am nervous about dismissing her here. But I still think Martin K’s idea is brilliant, though I would change I Deserve it to Hildegard Knef’s From Here On It Got Rough

  10. anthony: That’s odd – to state the obvious, most fans (myself included) would consider Hard Candy to be the decline after Confessions… and Celebration a nice surprise for not going further down that route.

    I may have to second Martin K’s idea too…

  11. I really love American Life–the album and the song–and thought Confessions on a Dance Floor was a pile of stinky poop (Sorry excepted.) Hard Candy was sort of okay, though I barely listened to it because I got it on the same day as a lot of other, better albums that I listened to all last year.
    Celebration is okay, though I think mainly because I think of it as a Rescue Me-ish add-on and not the sound of a whole album concept (which would be dreadful.)