Now that I’ve listened to Madonna’s latest work in its entirety, I will say the best word I can think of to describe my initial reaction is confounded. Upon first listen, the bulk of Madame X strikes me as material left over from Rebel Heart, but the outtakes from those sessions were actually more exciting than most of what Madonna serves up here. Throughout the album’s duration, I sometimes found myself dazzled, yet other times I was fully disheartened. The only things here that come close to being creatively interesting are: “Dark Ballet” (with its quasi-classical break), the choir laden and danceable “God Control” and the self-referential “Extreme Occident.” Unfortunately, the annoyingly repetitious “Crazy” sounds like a bad Taylor Swift song that you hope you never have to listen to again.
The closest things you’ll find resembling “classic” Madonna here are: the danceable “I Don’t Search I Find,” the downbeat balladry of “Looking for Mercy” and the declaration of perseverance testament “I Rise.” These particular highlights sound as if the best parts of Madonna’s talent were determined to escape Jeff Bhasker, Jason Evigan and Mirwais’ heavy-handed production stratagems. [Read full review here]