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She moves to the dance floor
Madonna shakes, shines in latest album
(CNN) -- With a slinky groove and a definitive shimmy, Madonna plows through another batch of musical styles more thoroughly than Cher goes through sequined gowns between sets.
We've come to expect no less from the maternal girl, whose latest release, "Music," comes on the heels of the birth of her second child.
"Music" runs the gamut of styles and emotions, from party-time electronic-boogie (we used to call this disco) to emotionally honest ambient pop. She accomplishes this with sonic aplomb.
On the uptempo side of things, Madonna kicks it up a notch with the title track, "Impressive Instant," and "Runaway Lover," while "Don't Tell Me" and "What It Feels Like For A Girl," slow things down a bit. Along with co-writers William Orbit, Mirwais Ahmadzai, Guy Sigsworth, Mark "Spike" Stent, Damian le Gassick and Joe Henry, the former Boy Toy, Material Girl and Spiritual Chanteuse hits a new level in a career studded with tremendous highs.
Ahmadzai, the primary collaborator on "Music," is a French performer/producer who clearly knows how to get dance floors hopping, even if it calls for utilizing an aural cliche. In addition to his music writing talents, Ahmadzai altered Madonna's voice to create an interesting vocal palette. At times it's an effective tool -- the chorus to "Impressive Instant," for example -- but it also becomes quickly tiresome during the song "Nobody's Perfect." That's a shame, because the song's lyrics are especially poignant and revealing.
Yet that's just one example of where Ahmadzai's production becomes too clever. The stutter guitar intro on "Don't Tell Me" nearly ruins the song; it may have been prudent for Ahmadzai to remember that listeners and fans are purchasing the album for the name on the cover -- not in the credit list. Orbit, for all his sonic manipulation, seems to understand just that during "Runaway Lover," where the song serves the vocals and not the other way around.
The album has its sweet moments, such as "I Deserve It." With its subtle drum loops, clean vocal tracks and pop-like guitar lines, this song is an instant classic that nearly overshadows the rest of the album.
Equally stunning is "Gone," a near-gospel testimonial set against an acoustic guitar. The lyrics to the song may prove to be the most over-analyzed in the songwriter's long career. "Letting go/is not my thing/walk away/won't let it happen again/I'm not/ I'm not very smart/why should I be sad/for what I never had."
Yet by closing with such a number, Madonna leaves the door open for new directions. Who knows where she'll go next?
Madonna bids to win domain name game
Maverick/Warner Bros. Records
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