Posts Tagged ‘elegance’

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Madonna – MDNA (album review.)

March 28, 2012

MDNA is Madonna’s 12th studio album (depending on what you include / exclude) and it’s an improvement on her last effort, Hard Candy, simply because there’s a higher strike rate of really good tracks. It’s no Ray of Light, Bedtime Stories or American Life (her most introspective albums and not coincidentally, her best – let the debate begin!), but we get more of an insight into Madonna the Human Being than we have in possibly 10 years.

Not that you’d know it from the two singles that have been released: “Give Me All Your Luvin'” is a straightforward ‘fun’ track which has had a lot of the fun ironed out of it. Madonna’s vocal sounds flat, the production sounds a little lacklustre, and while Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. acquit themselves well during their verses, their presence is unnecessary. The melody is perky but calculated, the cheerleader chants are hooky but calculated – the whole thing is a perfectly acceptable pop song, but it sounds so desperate to be joyful that it ends up losing a lot of charm. “Girl Gone Wild” serves well as an album opener, but again it sounds dated for Madonna – which means bang-on-trend with what’s in the charts – and unimaginative. The lyrics are uninspired, the melody is catchy and you will be humming it after a couple of listens. In this sense, the singles both do their job, but there’s much more exciting stuff on the album.

Which, take my advice, should be sequenced thus:

01. Girl Gone Wild
02. Gang Bang
03. I’m Addicted
04. Some Girls
05. Turn Up The Radio
06. I Don’t Give A (Feat. Nicki Minaj)
07. Give Me All Your Luvin’ (Feat. Nicki Minaj & M.I.A.)
08. B-Day Song (Feat. M.I.A.)
09. Superstar
10. I’m A Sinner
11. Love Spent
12. Beautiful Killer
13. Best Friend
14. I Fucked Up
15. Masterpiece
16. Falling Free

I am never usually one to mess with how an artist envisions their album by cherry-picking individual songse, or by listening to things on shuffle. I am very in favour of the idea of an album being treated and listened to as a body of work. However, I gave this track list (which I found on the Popjustice forums) a go and it seems to flow so much better. It stacks the harder-edged songs at the front of the album, followed by a sunny middle section and winding down towards the slower songs at the end.

“Gang Bang” is my favourite song on the album. A revenge anthem featuring menacingly-spoken vocals (reminiscent of Dita from Erotica) atop a minimal beat, a dubstep breakdown (again, bang on trend / a little passé, but it works well in this instance) and screams of “DRIVE BITCH! AND WHILE YOU’RE AT IT DIE BITCH!”, it’s irresistible, edgy, a little silly (Madonna does not need to prove she is edgy and ‘down with the kids’ by swearing, but never mind), and it totally works. I can’t help but think of The Bride from Kill Bill when I listen to this song. Even though it would be an extremely weird choice for a single, this song is so cinematic that it deserves a video. “I’m Addicted” is the “Impressive Instant” of the album – swirling synths and insistent beats piling on top of each other to provide a climactic finish, while Madonna abandons insightful lyrics such as “all of the letters push to the front of my mouth, and saying your name is somewhere between a prayer and a shout” in favour of hedonistically chanting “M D N A M D N A” over and over.

And so we come to the album title. It’s a cool way of writing “Madonna”. Madonna has also said that the songs on this album display her musical DNA, so that also makes sense. And then, it also sounds like MDMA – which is a drug (hence the aforementioned refrain) and implies that Madonna’s new music is addictive. It’s a well-chosen title that has layers of meaning – well done to all concerned! The album cover (I am talking about the deluxe cover, above – the standard is pretty but doesn’t really go beyond that) shows Madonna posing behind a ridged glass screen which slices up the picture into discordant segments and perhaps represents an impenetrable layer between us, the listeners, and her, the performer / musical icon. The super-bright colours then pack a punch to the eye, and also reference a psychedelic, drugged-up state. Drugs like MDMA! I am spelling this out. The most intense colour comes from Madonna’s lips however, which is also important – she always takes centre stage. And her lips are where her voice comes from (sort of – you know what I mean) and Madonna is a Singer. Yes.

Back to the music then. “I Don’t Give A” is another standout track which has an urban quality to the beat. It discusses the hectic schedule of a star on Madonna’s level, and how she does ten things at once without feeling the pressure, because she doesn’t give a. It’s a defiant moment that’s further strengthened by another strong rap from Nicki Minaj, and tops out with an operatic choir repeating “I don’t give a”. As we’ll learn later on in the album however, Madonna does give a. “Love Spent”, “Best Friend” and “I Fucked Up” are introspection done right (unlike “Falling Free”, which is an epic ballad marred by Madonna’s incredibly mannered delivery and too little momentum too late). “Love Spent” switches up halfway through from practically one song to another with little more than a hook in common, but the same theme pervades throughout – if love were money, would you spend it on me? Would you care about me as much as your money? It sounds ironic for Madonna (who is not poor) to be discussing this, but then again, why can’t she? Everyone can relate to the feeling of coming second best in a relationship, regardless of whether either member of the couple is wealthy or not. It’s an emotional moment that is buoyed by a strong melody and interesting musical touches (such as the opening guitar and the Nintendo bleeps). “Best Friend” and “I Fucked Up” are apparently about her divorce from Guy Ritchie, and the demise of their relationship. Now, I know that it is easy to attribute these lyrics to that experience which the whole public knows about- and Madonna has had a couple of relationships since then (one of which was with Jesus!) – but it sounds pretty convincingly like Guy was on her mind when she wrote these tracks.  “Best Friend” talks about losing someone Madonna was very close to, and reflecting upon the time they shared together – “It wasn’t always good but it wasn’t always bad”. The fact that time has passed between the divorce and the album has allowed Madonna to apportion the blame where it lies on both sides – as well as Guy being the subject of her vitriol on other tracks, “I Fucked Up” sees her take some responsibility for the relationship’s demise. “I blamed you when things didn’t go my way… In front of you, I was cold.” Listing a number of the things that the couple could have done makes for some heart-wrenching listening, even as the production picks up speed. Although parts of the album sound manufactured for radio (like the singles) and others see her aim blindly for the craziest dancefloors, these tracks are where Madonna is open and sounds honest, rather than pre-meditated.

Other songs that deserve a mention are “Some Girls” and its basic but essential proclamation: “Some girls are not like me”; “Superstar” and its sugar-sweet hook of “Ooh la la, you’re my superstar”  (I imagine this song as being great for driving along to); the romantic “Masterpiece” which is somewhat cliché but manages to remain elegant and understated. On the other hand, weaker points of the album include “I’m A Sinner” which sounds like “Beautiful Stranger” (and I didn’t like that song either), and the ridiculous “B-Day Song” which wastes M.I.A.’s talents and doesn’t match up to the quality of the rest of the album. However, it’s relaxed nature reveals that Madonna probably had genuine fun recording this track, and it’s nice to hear a song that’s so unguarded. Perhaps it should have remained a b-side.

Overall, MDNA is a good album. It’s not outstanding as a whole, but it contains a fair few excellent moments. The songs are cohesive enough to feel like they belong (with a couple of exceptions), while varied enough to retain interest. There’s genuine introspection, braggadocio and hedonism – which is what we want from Madonna. It’s a shame that some of the album feels so calculated that it detracts from our enjoyment of the material. But once you can look past that, MDNA provides a trip well worth taking.

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successful.

October 28, 2010

Today I took my driving test for the first time in over 6 years, and I didn’t pass. I am a bit gutted, but at the same time I knew that in my heart of hearts, I was capable of passing, but I was unlikely to do it this time. I did better than I thought I would and it’s a nagging annoyance that I only made one big mistake – my approach speed to junctions, which was too fast because of my nerves – and the rest was good. Knowing that I’m capable of passing my driving test and I can drive pretty well makes it infuriating that my nerves get the better of me in an examined situation, but I am nearly there and next time I will do it – this test was the nearest I’ve come to passing. As long as I don’t rush myself, I’ll be fine! I’m a bit nervous about how I’m going to be travelling to work for the next 6 weeks, but I have a work colleague who lives around the corner from me and has already kindly offered her services. I just don’t like to impose.

 

I am disappointed that I couldn’t tie in a driving success to the other high points of this year (although if I get a cancellation, it might still be possible!), but I guess that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I do put a lot of pressure on myself to achieve, and I fervently wish that I had not stopped taking tests when I was 18. Hindsight is a wonderful thing! But I just have to keep my head to the sky and live up to my stubborn / determined nature. I won’t give up! The positive is that I now have more time to save up for a car, and I made myself feel better by paying off some money from my credit card and from my student bank account. Doing sensible things with my money seemed like the best way to make light of an unfortunate situation. I thought I would indulge in some retail therapy, but I arrived in the centre of town and the urge had left me; which is a good thing for my bank account! I am seeing Toby for his birthday tomorrow (wish him a happy birthday here!) and I knew that whatever the outcome of today’s test, I would have that to look forward to. We are going to Thorpe Park this weekend for Fright Night, and I’m looking forward to seeing the Saw maze and going on the rides; I haven’t been to a theme park since I visited Alton Towers when I was 18. So I’m determined to put this little failure behind me (which I will redress – I have come too far now to give up again! If I’m not meant to drive – and this has occurred to me in low moments, including today – then a big sign is literally going to have to come down from the sky and smack me upside the head) and enjoy the rest of my week off before I return to work on Monday.

 

I guess this is what people mean when they say that you sometimes have to fight hard for what you believe in. I have fought hard and worked hard, but hard work comes easy to me in a way; I was raised with an intense work ethic. I have been blessed with a good brain for achieving academically, and I put in the work to back it up; it was never really difficult for me, but I took no prisoners just so that I could be lucky enough to have an educational career that puts most to shame. I learned to sing from Mariah Carey albums (and a variety of others, but she will always be the ultimate for me) and I never questioned that I would be able to have a voice like that; lo and behold, my whistle register is not as good as hers (owing to my Y chromosome) but other than that I’m pretty much there. I have always loved singing, playing the piano and guitar, and writing and producing my own songs – I have an innate musicality, I suppose, and although mastering software and songwriting structures alike has required perseverance, I’ve never found it particularly difficult to make progress. Once I found the right man (and he is truly amazing!), the troubles I had in my previous dating life more or less melted away and now I find it easy to be in love. The aspects of relationships that I found challenging, I have worked to resolve and they are mainly down to my own insecurities and upbringing. I have many good friends (communicating and social skills have been a strong point of my personality, hence my current vocation working with young people in a college), and I learned some hard lessons during my school life which has enabled me to judge someone’s character and thus gather a tight circle of very good people to whom I am indebted for my sanity, among other things! (I appreciate y’all and I enjoy y’all – never forget it! 😉 ) I am often complimented on my sense of fashion and style, and that has always come effortlessly to me (because, in part, I am a potent combination of vain and fussy); I observe the latest trends and fashions, and then cast aside 90% of it, retain the things I like and add them to a style I hope is elegant, classic, timeless and most importantly, me.

 

The two things in my life that I have found most difficult are: losing weight in order to attain a body that I am happy with; and learning to drive. I am more or less happy with the way that I look now, although it’s always a work in progress, and I could do more exercise than I currently do! I will work on it. But I have taken 20 years to get to a point where I am not repulsed by what I see in the mirror, and that is a very positive thing. Passing my driving test will hopefully not take me 20 years! But I have to take pride in the fact that I have a good work ethic and am willing to put in the work to achieve my goals. Success is an uphill struggle but I need to learn to appreciate the things that have come easily to me, because there are a hell of a lot of them and I should be thankful for them. I’m a lucky person, and I’m not a complacent person. I just have to keep going a little bit longer, and never give up.

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birthday list.

October 11, 2010

Okay y’all. Rather than moan about my job, which I really shouldn’t do because at least I have a permanent job where I receive a decent salary each month and I know I do my work decently, I will talk about positive things. It’s my birthday in 2 weeks! So here is my list of things that I want (with pictorial accompaniments).

A car.

Y’all don’t need a picture of a car. This isn’t going to happen anyway because it’s far too expensive. But I have my driving test in 2 and a half weeks and I need to pass. I hope that I will! And once I pass, I will be getting a car sharpish so that I can drive to work, also drive to London to see Loverman, and avoid the Megabus which may be cheap, but took me 4 hours to get from London Victoria coach station to my home yesterday. This is ridiculous. So, yes, car.

Money.

Self-explanatory. Who doesn’t want money?

French Connection coat.

My beautiful leather and fur jacket, after 4 years, is falling apart. I have loved it since the first day I owned it, but I am going to have to say goodbye. This will be my replacement. It’s a classier and much warmer version of the Gestapo coat (which has a similar cut but doesn’t hug the body so much, and is made of a nylon-scratchy material), perfect for these cold wintry days and without the military-style epaulettes on the shoulder. I tried it on in French Connection and the wool and cashmere blend felt divine. Toby and even one of the shop assistants both loved it. I will be going halves on this coat with my mum and I can’t wait; because it’s not waterproof however, I’ll need to buy a new black umbrella to keep myself dry in the absence of a hood. After all, I don’t want my lovely new coat to get wet and thus spoiled!

Desperate Housewives Season 6.

Because this is my favourite show on television, and I don’t get to watch it when it’s running, so I have to catch up on DVD. The DVDs become my crack for a few weeks. Toby and I saw this being advertised on tv, and I subtly informed him that this might be a good present. I think my tactful hint might have been noticed, and so I reckon Toby will be buying this for me.

Emporio Armani Diamonds for Men – EDT or After Shave Balm


One of my signature fragrances, I love how this fragrance is soft and elegant, yet fizzy and sparkly at the same time. Kinda like diamonds.

Usher – Raymond v. Raymond deluxe

Because Raymond v. Raymond was ok, but not quite good enough for me to purchase it. And Versus is nowhere near good enough for me to buy it on its own. However, the two combined are worth my money. Or the money of whomever buys it for me.

Drake – Thank Me Later

Okay, I was incredibly late to catch on to Drake. I had heard about him for ages, but pointedly ignored all of the hype as I decided “he can’t be that good”. I was wrong. I heard “Best I Ever Had” on Nicki Minaj’s Beam Me Up Scotty mixtape and that became one of my songs for when I think about Toby. I fell in love with that song, and then with “Find Your Love” and “Over” on Teairra Marí’s (by the way, BLAZING HOT) mixtape Point Of No Return mixtape. It turned out that all 3 songs were by Drake, and at this point I decided to reassess him and download his album. It is excellent, and he is talented (and also improved upon Kanye’s 808s and Heartbreak sound). So I would like my own copy of this album.

Rihanna – book.

This is a book about the journey and conception of Rihanna’s Rated R album and Last Girl on Earth tour. I loved everything about her most recent album (and “Only Girl” has been a disappointment to me in contrast) and it became a sonic bible to me over the last 11 months. The lyrics, the sound, the videos, the look – it was all on point. It was deep, it was painful, and it celebrated that pain and exposed it and worked it out. I would love this book to commemorate what has become a very special album for me personally.

DVDs

– Rec 2, The Backup Plan. Horror and romcom – to keep me balanced.

Emporio Armani underwear

Okay, I love these boxer shorts, regardless of Cristiano Ronaldo being in them. And I love my boyfriend so much that even Ronaldo pales into insignificance. That is a lot. Anyway, I love these boxer shorts, and I can’t find them anywhere. And only in red and black online. So if you find the black and white ones for sale, just like old whatshisname here is wearing, please give me a heads up! Or even buy them for me. Thanks!

Chaos by Donna Karan.

This is the fragrance I have fallen in love with that I do not yet possess. If I don’t receive this, I will have to buy it for myself. It smells of ice and etherealness and subtlety. I adore it, and its mystery is something I hope will rub off on me if I manage to own it.

So now you have an insight into a few of the things that I crave! Just writing that and looking at the pretty pictures make me feel better. Nothing like a bit of online window shopping!  See y’all soon xx

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lazy.

August 1, 2009

I’m not somebody who’s not very good at doing nothing.  I find it difficult to simply sit in front of the tv and watch it, preferring to always multitask with a book, ipod and laptop to hand.  I feel guilty if I stay in bed past 9:30 in the morning, because I could have done things with that time, and I genuinely enjoy the mornings (like now it is 11:20, I only got up 20 minutes ago after another fantastic dream involving Jessica Simpson being a house guest who instructed another house guest how to flush a toilet, and involving my hair becoming fluffy of its own accord and changing from blonde to brown at will).  I don’t understand people who have no apparent aspirations or drive, because ever since I was little I wanted to be a pop star, so I’ve always been singing and making music (though this is an ambition I don’t tend to reveal in public, so it’s possible that people think of me as a bit aimless – who knows); I also want to be a Youth Adviser for Connexions, which is the goal of my university course starting in September.  I want to write books (on what, I haven’t quite decided, but this blog is a good start I guess!  I haven’t been so passionate about writing in such a long time, and somehow I keep coming up with things to say so I will try not to repeat myself too much!) or at least newspaper columns, and I also want to do something with perfume or clothes (that’s the fashionista in me – btw. Coco Before Chanel is a fantastic film, and Audrey Tautou and Alessandro Nivola do a wonderful and “elegant” job).  I have a huge creative drive, and so I can never imagine being lazy – even though my album is now ‘late’ (but I swear it’s nearly done!!!), I’ve been making lots of music during my period of unemployment which is about to hit 2 months, but is nearly over because am due to start at the hospital any day now.  Any day now.  Come on hospital, call me for my induction.  The phone is waiting!  And of course, I have started and been keeping up this blog, which is actually a proper thing now and it’s rare that there is a day that I don’t write.

So I don’t understand why, near enough every morning, the thought runs through my head that goes “urgh, another day? I can’t do this today”, even though today I have absolutely no plans and could stay in bed all day if I really wanted (something I would never do).  I guess it’s the fact that I am still waiting for my life to really “start” that makes every day feel a bit like a mundane trudge, even though I do my best to still enjoy myself.  After all, we never know but this could be as good as it gets, right?  I could be determined to make something of my life, but a car could hit me and that could be the end.  So I guess I must try to appreciate every day as much as I can, because you never know if we’ll get another.  I suppose that is why I can’t stay in bed into the afternoon, and why I make myself go to the gym even if I’ve only had 5 hours sleep and I’d rather not exercise when I’m tired only to make myself very tired.  (That, and the thought of impending obesity, of course)  And why I got tired of waiting for a record company to discover me, so I decided to make my own records (as amateurish as they might sound, I think I do a good job with what I have).  Actually, I’m gonna take that last bit out of brackets: I think I do a good job with what I have.  I was talking to my friend Nick yesterday about life, and the fact that we are 24 (well, I am nearly) and not high-flying executives nor family men (ha!) so we are made to feel we need to “hurry up” before we miss our prime, and “do something”.  I mean, what?  My life is certainly not over at 23, and I’m making moves.  It’s not like we sit at home all day playing Xbox.  We work hard and I feel that for someone to try to make me feel as if I’ve been wasting time is a little disrespectful because I have worked damn hard in my life to get where I am, and I am working hard right now to keep making it work and moving forward.  I am the farthest thing from lazy, so please don’t get it confused: if I had my way, I would have been rich and successful 5 years ago without even needing to go to university.  But life doesn’t always go the way you want, so we have to take our lemons and make lemonade; in other words, do the damn best with what we have.  So I find that life is basically living somewhere between the area of what is realistic to us right now, and pushing to make that reality a little bit better so that we can ultimately live our dreams.  It takes time and it takes effort, but that’s ok, because I’m not lazy.  I may not be where I want to be right now, but one day I will be.  And hopefully I’ll be doing at least a couple of the things that I listed at the top, because right now that is what gives me the drive to keep going and move on past the thought of “just another day”.