‘Madame X’ album review: Madonna’s collaboration with reggaeton star Maluma is a mixed-up mess

The Queen of Pop's latest effort is laughably bad

Chris Gillett |

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The Queen of Pop Madonna has become one of the biggest stars in the world with her innovative and ever-changing styles throughout the last few decades. Now the singer is back with her 14th album – Madame X, a record that no-one could have predicted, producing cut after cut of Latin trap.

And Madge doesn’t take any half-measures here, with autotune-heavy opener Medellín being a collaboration with Columbian reggaeton star Maluma, where they deliver whole verses in Spanish – a bold move by anyone for a lead single.

Dark Ballet starts promisingly with forlorn, dark piano chords, but it dwindles into a cacophonous mess, as the electro beat is mixed way too high, seguing into Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Theme for the outro. It’s laughably bad.

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There’s a wealth of political overtones too, most notably in God Control which is clearly about gun laws in the US, bizarrely shifting to a swirling, super-funky disco jam. But the politics are often outweighed by the language-switching, intensely repetitive instrumentals, and indiscreet trap beats. Songs like Future and Crave are the most passable thanks to their reggae-like skank, even if her interesting sounds remain stuck in one dimension.

Madonna only really breaks ranks in I Don’t Search I Find, a definitively ’90s house song that could easily soundtrack a fashion walk, before closer I Rise offers the most rewarding listen. Here, her voice sounds less manipulated, and more natural, as the lines, “I can’t take that now/Died a thousand times/Managed to survive/I can’t break down now” are elevated by the roaring drums, but put simply, none of these songs really stand up against her greatest hits.