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Digital Subscriptions > Classic Pop > July 2019 > NEW RELEASES


© Steven Klein






The first signs weren’t entirely encouraging. Madonna’s 14th album was introduced by Medellín, a song seemingly so slight it was less notable for its musical repositioning than for its video’s toe job, given to collaborator and Colombian reggaetón star Maluma. Soon afterwards, her Eurovision Song Contest performance proved so off-key her vocals were replaced overnight before its official YouTube appearance.

But Madonna’s prepared for flak: Medellín’s video finds her whispering, “Madame X loves to dance because you can’t hit a moving target”, and the song ultimately creeps beneath the skin. Furthermore, as aspirational closer I Rise melodramatically reminds us, she’s “died a thousand times/ Managed to survive”.

Madame X, fortunately, is punctuated by enough indelible moments that she’ll continue to endure. Strings float over I Don’t Search, I Find’s descending bassline until a phat house groove resurrects her Justify My Love murmur, and Dark Ballet leaps from delicate piano arpeggios to a Switched On Bach take on Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Dance Of The Mirlitons – bizarrely reminiscent of Frank Muir’s Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut(case) ads – before climaxing with breathing so heavy it’s almost wheezing from the exertion.

Equally eccentric is God Control, its nasal, Auto-Tuned vocal interrupted by the Tiffin Children’s Chorus, before strings, a spoken interlude and gunshots deliver disco-worthy daft lyrics like “Each new birth, it gives some hope/ That’s why I don’t smoke that dope”. The track’s still only halfway through, and its insanity is matched by Batuka, on which the chain gang chants of Portugal’s Batukadeiras Orchestra are paired with explosive drums and subterranean bass.

When she parts from producer Mirwais, however, things are less successful. On the anonymous, Diplo-produced Future, Quavo’s intermission is no healthier for the song than a cigarette break. Killers Who Are Partying’s slow handclaps demand less cringeinducing lyrics than “I’ll be Islam if Islam is hated/ I’ll be Israel if they’re incarcerated”. Crave, too, is musically prosaic, while Crazy’s distinguished only by its use of accordion and Bitch I’m Loca by a puerile exchange between Maluma (“Where do you want me to put this?”) and Madonna (“You can put it inside”).

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About Classic Pop

This month, we have the definitive interview with the returning Shakespears Sister – back after a split that lasted more than 25 years. We also meet Lloyd Cole to talk about his stunning electronic-flavoured new album Guesswork and catch up with the iconic Betty Boo who looks back on her career as a UK hip-hop trailblazer. Our Classic Album this issue is Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ambitious debut Welcome To The Pleasuredome and we take a deep dive into the studio work of Belinda Carlisle for our Album by Album feature. We talk to Steve Barron, the director who shaped the 80s pop video landscape, and also hear from China Crisis’ Gary Daly as he unveils his first-ever solo album. Read our verdict on Madonna’s Madame X alongside new live LPs from Soft Cell and New Order plus much more in our new albums pages. Our packed reissues and compilation section features Kylie Minogue, Janet Jackson, Joy Division, Shakespears Sister and more. On the live reviews front, we check out shows including Take That, Howard Jones, Marc Almond and the Manic Street Preachers. Enjoy the issue!