Picks and Pans Review: Music

updated 09/25/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/25/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Madonna (Maverick/Warner Bros.)

On her last CD, 1998's Grammy-winning Ray of Light, the girl's material was freighted with heavy themes about birth, death, motherhood and celebrity. Now having unburdened herself of those weighty matters, she's back on the dance floor, where she first launched her career lo these many trends ago. Having previously caught the disco, vogue and techno waves as they peaked, Madonna now surfs the ecstatic rave craze on the generically titled Music. While Ray of Light owed much to that album's producer, techno wiz William Orbit, it is another artist whose stamp is all over Music: Cher. On many of these songs, Madonna uses the same distorted vocal gimmick that enlivened Cher's 1999 comeback hit, "Believe," at times to unintended comic effect—in places, it sounds as if she's backed by the Teletubbies. Elsewhere, the trance and techno studio effects by Ms. M's new collaborator, Mirwais Ahmadza'i, are mesmerizing, with the synthesizers bleating and blipping and sounding like a cybersonic calliope. On two tracks ("I Deserve It" and "Don't Tell Me") Madonna gives her least mannered vocal performance in years, accompanied by a nontechno instrument called the acoustic guitar. Meet Madonna the folkie. Another old-fashioned attribute—terrific songwriting—provides Music's highlight on "What It Feels Like for a Girl."

Bottom Line: Good, shockingly controversy-free dance music

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