The Queen of Pop returns with audacious ‘Madame X’ but is it the Madonna album fans really want?

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]

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Bananarama Returns with First Album in a Decade

“Been a long time, been a, been a long time…”

In Stereo is a musical triumph, brimming with catchy melodies, hypnotic hooks, luscious harmonies and dance music with pulsating beats that actually make you want to get up and dance. The sultry sexiness of lead single “Dance Music,” along with its infectiously irresistible follow up “Stuff Like That” were both excellent teasers of what In Stereo promised all of us eagerly awaiting new material from Bananarama. Luckily, that promise is more than fulfilled here, making the agonizing decade of anticipation well worth the wait.

While there are plenty of club bangers to satisfy your feet, In Stereo also includes some delicious ear candy; like the Blondie-esque “Looking for Someone,” the beautifully moving “On Your Own” and the breezy “Got to Get Away,” the latter of which sounds like classic pre-Stock/Aitken/Waterman Bananarama with a deftly modernized zest.

Perhaps the best thing about In Stereo is that it doesn’t overreach by trying to be anything trendy or cutting edge (if such a thing still exists nowadays), it’s simply Bananarama doing what Bananarama does best; crafting infectious earworms combined with an effervescent spirit of fun. Thankfully, Keren and Sara are still savvy enough to give us fans exactly what we want. Are you paying attention Kylie Minogue and Madonna? [Read full review here]

Madonna: “Medellín”

Madonna has just dropped the leadoff single from her forthcoming album, Madame X, her first since 2015’s Rebel Heart. Unfortunately, “Medellín” is not the Queen of Pop’s return to form her diehard fan base has been awaiting. Instead, our first taste of Madonna’s fourteenth studio is a laidback English-Spanish collaboration featuring Colombian singer Maluma.

The Latin pop of “Medellín” is slyly seductive, but sadly comes off sounding like a reductive attempt at trying to recapture Madonna’s previous Spanish-tinged pop hits “La Isla Bonita” and “Who’s That Girl.” Once again, the former leader of musical trends sounds like she’s unsuccessfully chasing relevancy instead of doing what she does best, which is exciting us with her legendary brand of dance-pop classics.

Judging from the Latin-tinged reggaeton of “Medellín,” along with Madge’s solid, but lackluster previous two efforts MDNA and Rebel Heart, I’m left wondering if Madonna is simply unwilling or incapable of producing material as strong as the output of her glory days.

Madame X seems to be an enticing concept for a new Madonna album, but the first offering leaves much to be desired. Ultimately, the excessively auto-tuned “Medellín” isn’t bad, just very disappointing. “Sipping my pain just like champagne…” Could this be “the day the music died” Madonna herself warned us about in her 2000 remake of Don McLean’s “American Pie”?

Kylie Minogue Gets Her Country On with ‘Golden’

Did you think Dolly Parton would be the last artist to attempt country disco? Well, think again. Dance-pop diva from down under, Kylie Minogue, returns with her first full-length of all new material since 2014’s R&B leaning Kiss Me Once.

The Aussie chanteuse channels her inner “Cotton-Eyed Joe” on her fourteenth studio album, Golden, but it unfortunately ends up sounding like nothing more than a reductive attempt to create her own version of Lady Gaga’s Joanne. While undeniably endearing and tenacious, Kylie Minogue has always followed trends rather than create them, which has ultimately pigeon-holed the artist as a second-rate Madonna.

On Golden, Minogue dives headfirst into new musical terrain inspired by her recent visit to Nashville. A large part of Golden was recorded during Minogue’s Nashville romp last year and it’s the first time since her endearing 1997 release, Impossible Princess, that the popstress has co-written every one of the album’s tracks. Awkwardly, her stay in Music City seems to have derailed Minogue’s ambitions, resulting in what can only be tactfully described as a major musical misstep. Perhaps Kylie lost focus while imbibing in too much line dancing and honky tonkin’? [Read Full Review Here]

A Look Back at Madonna’s Rebel Heart Tour

In celebration of Madonna’s 59th birthday, as well as her provocative Rebel Heart Tour coming to DVD, Blu-ray, CD and digital download in September, I’m reflecting on her fabulous Nashville concert stop back in January 2016. The two-hour-plus show was the first Music City performance of the superstar’s career, which now spans more than three decades. This egregious fact didn’t go unnoticed by the singer as she jokingly professed to be a “Nashville virgin” when she took the stage.

The pop diva’s show was divided into four themes: Samurai, Asian, Latin and Party Celebration. Each segment was individually characterized by distinguishing wardrobe changes, choreography, and song selection. The show’s setlist heavily incorporated material from the singer’s most recent album Rebel Heart, but also contained many fan favorites, some of which she hasn’t performed in years, namely “Dress You Up,” “True Blue,” Deeper and Deeper,” “Who’s That Girl” and an electrified version of her early hit “Burning Up.”

This show marked my fifth Madonna concert overall, since first seeing her live on the acclaimed Who’s That Girl World Tour way back in 1987. I also attended her Drowned World, Re-invention and MDNA World Tours, and each show was an inimitable and exhilarating vision. As every true-blue fan knows, no one else puts on a show quite like Madonna. All five times I was lucky enough to witness Madonna perform live on stage was analogous to sneaking into a master class of the performing arts. [Read Full Review]

40 Years of Love: Donna Summer and the Derivation of Electronica

It’s been 40 years since the world first heard the future of music when “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer shocked us into a new sonic awakening. The electronic masterpiece – composed by Summer along with Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte – was the foundation for what was to become known as electronic dance music. Whether you loved or loathed disco, “I Feel Love” commanded everyone’s attention and became a dance floor anthem during the summer of 1977. At the time, no one had previously heard anything like it. It’s hypnotic melody, combined with an irresistible synthesized bassline and pulsating dance beat was musical nirvana. Summer’s sensual vocal delivery was the icing on top of the cake as she perfectly conveyed the euphoric essence of the song’s timeless and universal message of love. The first lady of love had struck gold (and platinum) again and delivered another game-changing record every bit as earth-shattering as her breakthrough hit, “Love to Love You Baby.” [Read Full Review]

Queen of Pop Plays Music City

Madge live

(Rebel Heart Tour: Bridgestone Arena Nashville 2016)

Pop music icon Madonna played Nashville last night at Bridgestone Arena during a stop on her global Rebel Heart Tour. The two-hour-plus show was the first Music City performance of the superstar’s career, which now spans more than three decades. This egregious fact didn’t go unnoticed by the singer as she jokingly professed to be a “Nashville virgin” when she took the stage.

The concert opened with “Iconic” (featuring a rapping Mike Tyson), as images of the pop music innovator splashed across a colossal video screen as she was eventually lowered from the ceiling in a metal cage. The all but sold-out crowd roared as Madonna emerged from the cage and was delimited by ten male dancers dressed as medieval executioners adorned in gold and black and armed with large metal pikes.

The pop diva’s show was divided into four themes: Samurai, Asian, Latin and Party Celebration. Each segment was individually characterized by distinguishing wardrobe changes, choreography, and song selection. The show’s setlist heavily incorporated material from the singer’s most recent album Rebel Heart, but also contained many fan favorites, some of which she hasn’t performed in years, namely “Dress You Up,” “True Blue,” Deeper and Deeper,” “Who’s That Girl” and an electrified version of her early hit “Burning Up.”

The musical spectacle’s wow moments included Madonna body surfing atop a nun while swinging from a crucifix-shaped stripper pole during the racy “Holy Water,” which segued midway into an updated version of “Vogue.” Also noteworthy was a death-defying routine choreographed to “Illuminati,” which featured several dancers swaying back and forth over the audience while atop twenty foot poles.

But the evening’s most unique moment arrived halfway through the set when Madonna unexpectedly broke into an acapella version of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” The impromptu cover was interrupted as the singer explained in a faux southern accent “Okay let’s start this again ‘cuz I fucked it up and I’m not gonna embarrass myself in front of Johnny Cash right now. You have to understand I did not rehearse this, it just came into my head, underneath the stage a couple of minutes ago. Let’s start again okay? So, I’m playing my pussy (the opening notes of the song were synchronized with Madonna’s vaginal hand movements), that’s what I’m doing,” the singer humorously clarified.

Throughout the night, Madonna seemed surprisingly unguarded and radiated a vivacious spirit and playfulness which was devoured by the enamored audience. We were treated to an engaging mix of high-energy dance numbers such as “Music,” as well as a few stripped-down acoustic numbers including “La Vie en rose.”

Ultimately, the ambitious production concluded with an energetic encore of the singer’s first hit single “Holiday,” which had the late night crowd up on our feet as we clapped, danced, and sang along with the Material Girl, until she eventually disappeared after being hoisted up into the air. At age 57, Madonna convincingly demonstrated she is still a force with which to be reckoned when it comes to the art of live performance. The reigning Queen of Pop delivered an incomparable show, the likes of which Nashville will doubtfully ever see again.