"Some girls are not like me/I never wanna be like some girls." So sings a cyberized Madonna on the sci-fi thriller "Some Girls." Of course, you might think that was stating the obvious: There is, despite all her many guises, only one Madonna. But since her last album, 2008's underappreciated Hard Candy, the pop-diva landscape has changed dramatically. Later in '08, Lady Gaga released her debut, and other young starlets like Katy Perry and Rihanna have also made Madonna-like moves. But with MDNA-a play on MDMA, also known as the club drug ecstasy-Madonna shows that, at 53, she is still in a league of her own when it comes to producing euphoric highs on the dance floor. Forget the obvious strain of "Give Me All Your Luvin'" (which would be better without the youth-pandering raps from Nicki Minaj and M.I.A.). There's much better stuff here, including the sticky-sweet "Superstar," which makes like "Cherish" set to a stomping drum beat, and "I Don't Give A," a fierce electro-hop groove that flips the bird to ex-husband Guy Ritchie. Meanwhile "I'm a Sinner" recaptures both the '60s psychedelia of "Beautiful Stranger" and the rebellious spirit of pre-Kabbalah Madonna.
Radio Music Society |
After sending Beliebers into an outrage when beating out Justin Bieber for Best New Artist at the Grammys last year-becoming the first jazz musician to ever win that award-singer-bassist Esperanza Spalding is back with a fourth album that should score her greater radio play. Indeed, some of these songs are as much adult contemporary R&B as modern jazz. Take the lush "Cinnamon Tree": Ready-made for the quiet-storm hour, it recalls the sultry soul of Angela Bofill. Elsewhere, Spalding, who alternates between electric and acoustic bass, reworks the groove of Michael Jackson's "I Can't Help It" with rhythmic nimbleness. But it's one of her own compositions, the inspiring "Black Gold," that shines brightest.
The All-American Rejects
Kids in the Street |
With Fall Out Boy and Good Charlotte on hiatus, and Green Day and blink-182 getting older, it's up to the All-American Rejects to keep punk-pop alive and adolescent. They do just that on a consistently catchy album that will have big kids everywhere pogoing down the block. Just check out the youthful bounce of the title track, with its nostalgic lyric reflecting on being "too young, too smart, too much for this one town/ We'd get so high we got lost coming down." They keep things nice and zippy on "Fast & Slow," which packs a retro-rock punch, while the bratty "Beekeeper's Daughter" finds singer Tyson Ritter confessing to hopelessly being a bad boy-and getting away with it.
MY TOP 10 MADONNA SONGS
1. "HOLIDAY" (1983) Puts me in the mood to celebrate 365 days of the year.
2. "INTO THE GROOVE" (1985) Synth-dance inspiration at its most groovilicious.
3. "MUSIC" (2000) Sounds like she's rocking the party inside a pinball machine.
4. "LIKE A PRAYER" (1989) Madonna goes gospel? Consider me converted.
5. "EROTICA" (1992) This was way hotter than anything in that Sex book.
6. "JUSTIFY MY LOVE" (1990) Also achieves the miracle of making spoken word sexy.
7. "EXPRESS YOURSELF" (1989) She made her own "Respect" with this anthem.
8. "RAY OF LIGHT" (1998) Madonna
as "goddess of the universe."
9. "BURNING UP" (1983) Her most punk-rock moment ever, it simply scorches.
10. "CRAZY FOR YOU" (1985) Her first great ballad-and still her best, 27 years later.
WHAT WAS BEHIND YOUR NO. 1 HIT 'WE ARE YOUNG'?
"I just had a terrible night out where I drank way too much," says frontman Nate Ruess, 30, "and our bass player and my girlfriend had to take care of me. That inspired the verses."
HOW DID YOU FIRST HEAR IT ON THE RADIO?
"We were in Los Angeles, and Kennedy was the deejay on the station. We remember Kennedy from MTV in the '90s, so we freaked out that she was talking about the song and played it."
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE GLEE VERSION?
"I thought it was great," says Ruess. "They wrote harmonies that we could never dream of."
HOW'D YOU COME UP WITH YOUR BAND NAME?
"We were brainstorming names with a comedian friend, and we decided on Fun, but then a Swedish death metal band named Fun contacted us. They were like, 'Change your name so people know the difference,' so we put a period on ours."
WHO DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST FUN BAND?
"Those LMFAO guys seem to have a good time. Maybe they should take our name. It suits them better because we're dorks."
HALEY REINHART, third on Idol last season, lets her jazzy side loose on "Free," a sassy preview of her debut album, Listen Up, due May 22. $0.99 at amazon.com.
JACK WHITE rocks on after the White Stripes with the hard-hitting "Sixteen Saltines," from his solo debut, Blunderbuss, out April 24. $1.29 at rhapsody.com.
COLBIE CAILLAT gets an unlikely dose of hip-hop cred from Common on "Favorite Song," her shiny-happy latest from All for You. $1.29 at zune.net.
SANTIGOLD channels Grace Jones on "Disparate Youth," an '80s-tinged gem from Master of My Make-Believe, which arrives May 1. $1.29 at iTunes.com.
The hard rockers kick off their latest with the blistering rush of "Adrenaline" and keep it up with the help of Grammy-winning producer Rob Cavallo (Green Day). Under his guidance, ballads such as "Miracle" also boast real luster.
Gray brings her own special brand of daffiness to songs by Radiohead, Metallica and Arcade Fire. But some of these covers (like Kanye West's "Love Lockdown") teeter on the verge between being wacky and just plain wack.
This 15-year-old singer-pianist from England comes off like Tori Amos for the Hunger Games crowd (she's on the film's soundtrack). But while showing talent beyond her years on these covers, she just feels way too moody for her age.
THE WEDDING PRESENT
Short of a Morrissey-Marr reunion, the new album by this British band is the best gift that Smiths fans could ask for. Highlights include the jangly "You Jane" and the propulsive "Back a Bit ... Stop."