It’s been 20 years since Madonna released her ‘Music’ album. Decked as a cowgirl on the album cover, ‘Music’ is an eclectic group of tracks that gave us electro-clash, funky r&b, trippy dub and a cover of Don McLean’s ‘American Pie’ bolted on to the end.
Coming two years after her critically acclaimed ‘Ray of Light’ album, Madonna launched the ‘Music’ era with the title track of the album. A tribute to music bringing everyone together, the track itself mixes funk, R&B and electro to make an irresistible dancefloor classic. It sounded fresh, yet familiar at the same time. Madonna even got outrageous comedian Sacha Baron Cohen to bring his controversial Ali G character as her limo driver in the video. Let’s remind ourselves of the video below:
The track shot straight to the top of the Official UK Singles Chart giving her an amazing 10th No.1 (she remains the female artist with the most UK Number 1 singles today with 13). Madonna co-wrote the track with French record producer and songwriter Mirwais who also worked on several other tracks on the album. It was the start of a winning partnership and she has gone on to work with Mirwais on further studio albums ‘American Life’, ‘Confessions on a Dancefloor’ and her latest masterpiece ‘Madame X’. His unique vocal-chopping and effects played strongly into created the electroclash sound of the album. Perhaps this is most apparent on track two of the Music album, Impressive Instant. This track is definitely a highlight for me and contains the hooky lyric ‘I like to singy, singy, singy. Like a bird on a wingy, wingy, wingy.’ Not many artists could get away with that but Madonna and Mirwais pull that off with aplomb.
The album followed the title track to Number 1 on the UK charts at the end of September 2000, spending two weeks at the summit and staying in the Top 100 for a whole year (in total it’s had 73 non-consecutive weeks in the Top 100). A second official single was released in the form of the more mellow ‘Don’t Tell Me’, in December 2000.
An album standout (and Top 10 Madonna for me!) again written by Madonna and Mirwais and based on a song that Madge’s brother-in-law Joe Henry had written called ‘Stop’. Madonna and Mirwais completely changed the sound of the track but kept its defiant message. The video sees Madonna going full cowgirl as she walks a (treadmill) road before pulling out some cowgirl kicks and being joined by dancers to give us some country moves.
The third and final official single from the ‘Music’ album, ‘What It Feels Like For A Girl’, is still particularly relevant today as Madonna makes a political statement about the treatment of women vs men. Released in the Spring of 2001, it gave Madonna another Top 10 UK single when it peaked at Number 7. The video was directed by her then husband Guy Ritchie and uses a remix version of the track as Madonna crashes cars, steals money and generally acts like a bad ass.
How is the rest of the album? I’ve already mentioned my love for ‘Impressive Instant’ and that’s followed by the William Orbit produced ‘Runaway Lover’ which continues the almost otherworldly feel. It’s a great pair of upbeat electro dance tracks that following ‘Music’, set the album off to a great start. Track 4, ‘I Deserve It’, slows things right down with a simple acoustic guitar leading into gentle beats, all with Madonna in storyteller mode. This is followed by a track that would’ve fit perfectly on the ‘Ray of Light’ album, ‘Amazing’, another collaboration with William Orbit.
Another album highlight for me is ‘Nobody’s Perfect’. Starting with Madonna whispering in what sounds like a float tank, it soon gives way to heavily distorted and vocoded vocals coupled with a guitar and a hypnotic, persistent beat it’s a beautiful mid-tempo number.
Perhaps one of the albums mis-steps for me is ‘Paradise (Not for Me)’, which is a bit too trippy and out there as Madonna uses spoken word counterbalanced with robotic vocal effects. She even sings one of the verses in French. Then there’s ‘Gone’, which is much more stripped back affair using acoustic guitar and Madonna’s vocal to maximum effect. It’s a laidback mid tempo number that was produced by William Orbit, Madonna and Mike Stent who worked on ‘Bedtime Stories’ as well as with artists such as Massive Attack and Björk to name just a few.
At the end of the album is Madonna’s take on Don McLean’s classic ‘American Pie’ which is considered a bonus track for fans. It was released prior to the album in March 2000 and also appears on the soundtrack to ‘The Next Best Thing’, a film starring Madonna alongside Rupert Everett. The song was Madonna’s ninth UK Number 1 hit and was produced by William Orbit. It’s not my favourite of her singles but vocally she sounds strong.
What are your memories of Music? Tell us @entfocusmusic