I haven't been this compelled to listen to a new Madonna album all the way through over and over and over again in YEARS. Repeated listens are so rewarding because these songs have actual substance and depth to them that most of her material hasn't had since 2005. And the production on this album is some of the best of any Madonna album EVER, in my opinion.
So, without further ado...
01. Medellín (5/5) - The beginning. Madame X's mission statement. "Let's take a trip," indeed! This song is pure magic and I haven't tired of it in spite of listening to it countless times by this point. Maluma's contribution is essential, in my opinion. He actually elevates the song - a fact that some fans inexplicably can't seem to understand or appreciate. And GOD BLESS MIRWAIS.
02. Dark Ballet (5/5) - Completely unlike anything Madonna has ever done before. I absolutely love when she goes into full-on bonkers mode and really lets her innate creativity and avant-garde tendencies let loose.
03. God Control (5/5) - A MASTERPIECE. I can't say enough about this song. It's definitely the biggest surprise on the album in terms of sheer balls-to-the-wall madness. Protest at the disco! Bloodbath on the dance floor!
04. Future (3.5/5) - I appreciate this song much more in the context of the entire album. It definitely feels essential to the experience. I just don't absolutely love it as a song on its own terms. I love various elements of it (the effect on her vocals, THOSE HORNS ), but this one is just a solid "like" for me.
05. Batuka (4/5) - This song definitely takes several listens to fully appreciate. Initially I thought it was too long without much variation throughout, but WOAH does this song ever shape-shift. By far one of the best moments on the whole album is how this song just disintegrates into chaos followed by those haunting, distorted strings at the very end.
06. Killers Who Are Partying (4/5) - I'd be lying to myself if I said that I still don't have problems with some of the lyrics, because I do, but the rest of this song is just so perfect that I have to forgive them to a degree. This is basically exactly what I was hoping for when we were under the impression we were getting a Mirwais-led, fado-inspired album. The melody just lodges inside your brain and gets under your skin and the whole effect is gorgeously melancholy. And she HUMS! It’s been AGES!
07. Crave (5/5) - That this song wasn't a complete smash hit will always be one of the greatest Madonna mysteries to me. The sad fact is that had she been 30 years younger it would have been. It's just a perfect pop song. And Swae's contribution here is probably the most successful of all the features on the album because he's not there just to be there. His voice works on the song almost as an additional instrument. He adds texture.
08. Crazy (4/5) - Another absolutely strong pop song. I love the opening accordion and her vocals here are arguably the best on the whole album. She's full-on belting "My God, look at me now!" and it practically brings a tear to my eye.
09. Come Alive (5/5) - The hands-down best song on the whole album for me. Nobody does euphoric pop quite like Madonna. "They say be all I can be, and all I want is peace peace peace peace peace peace." FUCKING TRANSCENDENT. I simply DO NOT understand fans who don't like this song.
10. Faz Gostoso (5/5) - WHAT A SURPRISE, Y'ALL. I never in a million years when the tracklist was announced would have thought that his would be in my top 5 favorite songs on the album. I'm so lukewarm on Blaya's original, but Madonna and Anitta improved this song in just about every way possible. There's an almost sinister undertone to the song that juxtaposes BEAUTIFULLY with the joyous lyrics and performance. And that carnaval-esque breakdown is simply breathtaking.
11. Bitch I'm Loca (3/5) - I can appreciate this song on the album as sort of a palate-cleansing interlude before the climactic finish. I'm relieved that it's nowhere near as cringe-inducing as I imagined it would be. I don't find myself scrambling for the skip button when I get to it. The fact that Madonna and Maluma have genuine chemistry is what makes this song work.
12. I Don't Search I Find (5/5) - It's more of a mood piece than an actual song, but I LOVE IT. Madame X is such a fucking LADY. And, let's be real, how the hell did Shep Pettibone not produce this? It's uncanny!
13. I Rise (5/5) - I'm glad I didn't overplay this song when it was first released because it hit me pretty hard now as the album closer. I love how it builds and builds and then her voice warps into this apocalyptic robot chant. It's devastating.
I must say that the standard edition is my go-to. I love the way the album flows here and it goes by so quickly! "Extreme Occident" and "Looking for Mercy," at least in terms of where they're placed in the deluxe edition's track order, just grind the momentum of the album down to a near halt. That being said...
14. Extreme Occident (3/5) - I feel like there are some good ideas here and it's baffling, I know, to have this rated so low. This is a song that I SHOULD love on paper, but it just falls kind of flat for me next to everything that surrounds it.
15. Looking for Mercy (3/5) - Grandiose, majestic, dramatic - again a song that I SHOULD be head over heels in love with. I don't know why I can't connect with it. And I definitely think it's a song on the album that needed to be edited somewhat. The song reaches a point where I feel it should naturally end and be pretty great, but NOPE. We still have an entire minute left of "Looking for looking for looking for mercy." By the end I'm just exhausted.
16. Funana (2/5) - NOPE. Bad. Not the worst ever, but pretty bad. Musically I think it's sweet, but those lyrics and her vocals just destroy it for me.
17. Back That Up To The Beat (4/5) - SO MUCH BETTER than the demo and I don't care if it's sacrilegious to say so! That flute sample is ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING. I don't know that I would want it anywhere on the album proper, but I love it as an epilogue.
18. Ciao Bella (5/5) - Now THIS is a song that I wish had made the album proper. It's so gorgeous. A touch of GRACE. Her vocals in the spoken word parts are almost unrecognizable. Madame X is an enigma. Lately I have the entire standard edition plus "Back That Up" and "Ciao Bella" at the end as a postscript and I just love the idea of "Ciao Bella" sort of closing out the entire Madame X experience.
Final Album Score: 90%
UNQUESTIONABLY her best album since Confessions on a Dance Floor. End of discussion. I look forward to seeing how time and experience effect my opinion of this album, but I honestly can't get enough of it right now. I imagine it will settle comfortably somewhere in the middle of my ranking of all of her albums.