Madonna, “Music” single (Warner/Maverick)

Of course, by this time I have in my possesion the “Music” album, but I haven’t yet opened it. I wanted to make sure my review of the single was done before hearing the album.

“Music” as every person in the free world has by now heard is a bumpy little chunklet of beautiful stupid dance music. Propelled by a Frenchman’s beats and daft ghetto flute the song is perky and groovy enough to make you ignore the lyrics which are also pleasantly benign. Besides having us all wonder what the hell the second line of the chorus actually was and then upon figuring it out, thinking, “that’s kinda stupid.”

The second track of the single betrays what I fear will be a stinker at least in part in the form of Madonna’s 9 or 10th (depends what you count) album. The single is backed with “Cyberraga” co-written with Talvin Singh, easily one of the most talented forward-thinking musicians working today. Talvin made a name for himself in 1993 working on Bjork’s debut. Since then he has risen to the top of the crop of young British drum and bass pioneers. He has collaborated with various Asian ex-pats in the UK to create two Soundz of the Asian Underground albums. His 1998 album “OK” was an incredible melting pot of traditional Indian instruments (Talvin himself being an accomplished tabla player) and electronic wizardry. The ambient soundscapes were an enormous leap into melodicism for the burgeoning drum n bass scene. In short, the cat can blow.

“Cyberraga” is immediately stupid. Surely this has much to do with Madonna “singing” in Hindi or (I’m sorry) whatever it is. Remember the lowest low point of Ray of Light: “Shanti/Ashtangi?” “Cyberraga” is as bad or worse. Naming it “Cyberraga” seems less clever than naming it “Pepsi.” Why didn’t she call it “The Raga Superhighway”? Wasn’t “cyber” a prefix that William Gibson coined about 17 years ago? Anyway, the “song” is almost unlistenable. And making something unlistenable with Talvin Singh is like someone handing you a million dollars and saying “go buy something” and you failing to do so. It’s just amazing that a genius like Talvin Singh was probably in a room with Madonna and presented her with some music to which she said: “I think I’ll chant some Yoga meditations over this.” This all fits in perfectly with my theory that Madonna should just be a talent scout for record labels instead of a “musician.” She does have a knack for discovering hip movements and players after the hip are through with them but before the general (American) public knows of them. She found William Orbit only 15 years after “Strange Cargo.” She grabbed Talvin 8 years after Bjork worked with him. She’s grabbed French house producer Mirwais three years after the Francophilic dance explosion of Daft Punk and Dimitri from Paris. Maybe she’s narrowing the gap. I maintain that if she were a talent scout all would be fine and good, but her penchant for finding these obscure-to-the-mainstream people just to “sing” on top of their music is not enjoyable to those who might have liked it without her.

Mirwais has done a spectacular job on the “Music” single, but the question remains, will Madonna ruin what could be a pretty enjoyable album by injecting too much of her jaded star attitude into the lyrics and vocalizing? Oh, and as for the maxi-single, it’s seven remixes of “Music” what else can you say? Either house mixes are your thing or they’re not. There’s nothing mind-blowing on it.
Well, I’m ready to crack the album open now. God have mercy. Or should I say Mother Of God?