Madonna: Ray of Light Album Review

Madonna: Ray of Light Album

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Score: 85/100

Top 3 Tracks: Ray of Light, Frozen, Mer Girl

Drowned World/Substitute for Love: 8/10

The track sets the tone and mood for Madonna’s seventh studio album. It basically catches us up with who Madonna is now after a four-year hiatus. She’s found Kabbalah

and is now a new mother. Madonna sings that she has traded fame for motherhood. She is no longer the material girl we used to know. She’s changed her mind and has found real love in motherhood — fame was the substitute for love. Interestingly, Madonna sounds mildly morose and mournful throughout the song, as if she’s unprepared and uncertain about the direction her new life is going. It’s a great opening track, though I don’t feel that it is single material.

Swim: 8/10

The uncertainty and melancholic vibes continue in “Swim,” a song that with Madonna’s soothing voice doesn’t feel so dark, but has some macabre lyrics. “Children killing children/while the students rape the teachers.” It’s about all of the hate and bad things in the world and being overwhelmed by it. However, Madonna has found a way to release herself from all of that and wash it away, so that it doesn’t get her down. Which segues fantastically into:

Ray of Light: 10/10

The title track of the album and probably the most upbeat and danceable track. The electronica track starts off simple enough with a beautiful guitar riff, but soon descends (or ascends) into a cacophonic ecstacsy. As Madonna described, “it’s like being on drugs without the drugs.” And that vocal range

It shows that Madonna has not only reinvented herself, but has gotten even better than she was. I wish the album had more Ray of Lights on it.

Candy Perfume Girl: 7/10

I still don’t really know what to do with this song. It feels out of place with its more rock-esque vibe compared to the last three tracks. Lyrically, it also takes a 360 degree turn by not really talking about anything so deep. It feels like they just put a couple of words together that sound cute and could possibly be a new perfume fragrance line.

Skin: 7/10

The album gets back into the ethereal ambience mood with “Skin,” a better version of “Candy Perfume Girl” in my opinion. It’s about love, sex, the importance of physical relationships and wanting to be better and not make the same embarassing mistakes again. I like the Middle Eastern flair that is dominant here and influences the album as a whole, and I particularly like “Put your hand on my skin” refrain. Overall though, to me, it’s not memorable enough.

Nothing Really Matters: 8/10

About self-reflection and maturity, this track deals with a lot of the same themes as “Drowned World/Substitute for Love” but in a more straight-forward pop and radio-friendly setting. It’s a great sparse dance track that has a great cacophonic piano in the bridge that I really like. Lyrically, it can be to a lover or to a new baby or even have a religious bent, so it’s a universal song that works on a lot of levels.

Dat video tho

Sky Fits Heaven: 9/10

A great dance-club feel. The best part of the song is that great chorus and that beautiful piano within it. I don’t enjoy the verses as much, but the lyrics are great. It’s about following your own path, taking others advice, but also listening to your heart and do what you believe you should do.

Shanti/Ashtangi: 7/10

Probably only the most devoted Madonna fans appreciate this song and I’m not one of them. I’m one of the ones that skips this song, mostly because I don’t understand it. I appreciate the risk of creating a pop song entirely out of a Kabbalah prayer and again, I love the Middle-Eastern influences in it. But I skip it just to get to:

Frozen: 10/10

There’s Frozen . . . and then there’s everything else. If she released the album with just this song over and over again, I wouldn’t care. I love it that much. The whole thing is a listening experience that is incomparable on the album. “Ray of Light” and “Mer Girl” come close, but “Frozen” takes the cake. It combines everything that is good about the album’s production and puts it into one near perfect song. My only nitpick with it is that the lyrics are a little silly at times “Love is a bird/she needs to fly.” Yeesh. But the rest of the song more than makes up for it. Plus, like “Nothing Really Matters” the subject material — being open, vulnerable, humble and moveable — is universal and relatable. It can be about any relationship — romantic, familial or even religious.

The Power of Goodbye: 9/10

The rest of the album from here on out abandons the fun ecstasy of “Ray of Light” to focus more on dealing with death, loss and the inevitable decay of life that was touched on in tracks 1 and 2. “The Power of Goodbye” is the sister to “Frozen,” both lyrically and sonically. Now that she’s noticed that her partner isn’t able to open his heart and that he is frozen, Madonna feels the need to move forward from the relationship and “yearns to say good-bye.” I like the guitar and I feel it would be a beautiful song acoustically, but I prefer “Take  a Bow” more since I think it’s catchier and more iconic.

To Have and Not to Hold: 7/10

About the emotional damage from a breakup or really a loss of anything, “To Have” feels scary and threatning. I like the “ba da ba’s,” but I knock it down a few points because it sounds too similar to “Frozen” and “The Power of Goodbye,” both of which are better and catchier than this one.

Little Star: 7/10

It’s cheesy, yes, but I tend to forgive singers who write songs addressed to their new offspring because they’re kids. It’s a cute little lullaby and is a step above average simply because of the juxtaposition to “Mer Girl.” Overall, it works in the context of the album. Besides, how could she have made this album without a song like this?

Mer Girl: 10/10

The most haunting, most vulnerable song on the album just for those last lyrics alone — “I ran and I ran/I’m looking there still/And I smell her burning flesh/Her rotting bones/Her decay/I ran and I ran/I’m still running away.” It’s about the loss of her mother and the trials of being a new mother herself. It’s all about where her life will be and end up and there’s a sincere honesty in that she feels afraid and uncertain about all of it.

Conclusion: 

I really wish I could have just written for the review

Frozen>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>everything else.

Because that’s basically how I felt, but that would be disregarding the rest of a really great album. It’s timeless, honestly. Ray of Light is dream-like, ethereal, ambient. euphoric and cathartic all at once. and shows a restraint in its electronic dance music. For those that say that dance and electronic music can’t be personal have not listened to Ray of Light. The listener gets a sense of who Madonna is at this point in time and she gives us a variety of emotions and experiences that are universal, relatable and vulnerable. At times, the album can sound like too much of the same with William Orbit’s production — I don’t feel like he has enough tricks to produce a whole album — but he was definitely the best producer for this type of material. Overall, Ray of Light brings a fresh maturity to the pop landscape that was becoming more heavily dominated by the teen pop acts.

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