Friday, April 26th, 2019

Madonna + Maluma – Medellín

More like Madame V, right?

Ian Mathers: Depending on where your personal digital vocal manipulation uncanny valley is Madonna sounds fine, but it’s hard not to feel like she’s pretty surplus to requirements here. Maluma sounds great though, wouldn’t be at all surprised if he gets a boost out of this.

Alfred Soto: Sturdy, dense, and weird, Rebel Heart was Madonna’s best since 2005, but pop radio abandoned her and — at last — a new generation had no interest in her confessions and prayers. Dependent on programmed cha-cha-cha and Maluma’s slithery patter, “Medellín” will change little, I suspect. Credit to her, though, for going Latin electro pop instead of, I don’t know, Travis Scott synth mumble. No one else can write twaddle like “We built a cartel just for love.” No one else would have nipped and tucked her vocal so opulently.

Thomas Inskeep: I like that this is nowhere near what I expected Madonna to return with: for starters, it’s kind of subtle. I feared a Zedd-style “banger,” and this is nearly the opposite; you sway to this more than anything. She hands vast swaths of the record ever to Maluma, who sounds almost obscenely sexy on his verses, again helped by the slow-and-low tempo (Madonna and her old pal Mirwaïs produced this, quite nicely). You know what “Medellín” is? Dreamy.

Camille Nibungco: In the year 2019 the only way to stay relevant in the pop music industry is to throw in a A-list Latin/reggaeton artist so the “Come to Brazil!” Youtube superfans will continue to fund your music career.

Katherine St Asaph: I dreaded more faux-Latin bullshit like “La Isla Bonita,” but besides the chorus, this isn’t that. What it is instead is weird. Madonna’s voice is past overprocessed and well into 2010s Petula Clark unworldliness. The cartel line is getting all the press, but it’s also predictable; how about the ouroboros of a rhyme “sipping my pain just like champagne,” delivered in all sotto-voice seriousness, or perhaps the unintentional hilarity of this exchange “I feel so naked and alive–” “show me!”? It’s all very strange, but not very exciting, a Madonna single with no hooks and no zest.

Pedro João Santos: It’s charming how little “Medellín” has to do with the notion of a life-affirming, boisterous comeback, and would rather stay in a more transitional state. Lyrically, the statement is the non-statement, which at times amounts to a disjointed, uneven embarrassment — the less written about “we built a cartel just for love” the better. The epiphanic narrative Madonna guides us through is lovely, only for her infectious rejuvenation to be compounded by Maluma (who’s saved by how delicious his timbre sounds) and his inexplainable, carnal mess of commands including horseback riding (which could never scale the controversy of Madonna’s whim to bring horses into a Lisbon palacete — “I’m sorry, my Queen,” her agent reportedly begged after getting the memo). The interaction gets going during the chorus and goes into overdrive with the glorious post-chorus. This is also where Mirwaïs and Madge (who sounds a touch too fragile with all the vocal processing) get smart: taking a reggaeton track and modulating it between the status quo effusion of dembow and — the weird, best part — a groggy, luminescent, tentatively tactile parcel of sound, a microscopic mood for — or that brings it to — euphoria.

Edward Okulicz: I’m rather partial to Madonna at her most machine-processed (say, “Die Another Day” or “Impressive Instant”) and it’s easy to imagine falling into “Medellín” and its soft but deep and inviting groove. But this is a five minute song that’s carrying a lot of flab — all that heavy-breathing-counting, and the verses drag with uninspired melodies and some annoying interjections from Maluma. Of course, when Maluma gets a few seconds to himself, the song lifts, and it’s got a serviceable chorus. But inoffensive and unmemorable isn’t a criticism for most artists, because most artists aren’t Madonna. Is Madonna even Madonna now?

Will Adams: From a distance, it would seem the most misguided aspect of “Medellín” is that it’s a five-minute long lead single released in a pop era where sub-3:00 songs are rapidly becoming the norm. But there’s much more to unpack, whether it’s Madonna’s voice, processed into Jell-O, clunkers like “sipping my pain just like champagne,” Maluma sounding like he’s trying to wrestle the song away from her, or the leaden step-count hook. But perhaps the worst part is that there’s no end to all these bad choices, no stakes, and ultimately nothing to care about.

Reader average: [5] (4 votes)

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