Waaaaayyyyy back in 1982, who could have foreseen that the culture's newest agent provocateur would still be provoking three decades later? Or that she'd still be mining the same naughty ex-Catholic school girl cliché for all it's worth.
But that's not all that's happening on MDNA. When she takes a breath from singing the praises of being a "Girl Gone Wild" or shamelessly bragging, "I'm a Sinner," the rest of the Material Girl's 12th studio album and first release since her 2008 divorce from British movie director Guy Ritchie alternates between fits of violent rage and moments of miserable mourning.
On "Superstar," Madonna compares her romantic partner with "Abe Lincoln, 'cause you fight for what's right/ … You're my angel bringing peace to my life." Meanwhile, "Falling Free" achingly describes the oneness a couple once shared: "When did you ignite this heart/Rescue me from all this dark?/See, our hearts are intertwined." Elsewhere on that track we hear, "The face of God that stands above/Pouring over hope and love."
Profane title and lyrics aside, it worth noting that bonus track "I F‑‑‑ed Up" acknowledges mistakes in a relationship and expresses sorrow for them: "I f‑‑‑ed up, I made a mistake/Nobody does it better than myself/I'm sorry/ … I wish I could take it back/But I can't/I'm so ashamed/You're in so much pain/I blamed you when things didn't go my way."
Exactly 180 degrees away from that apology is "Gang Bang," where Madonna exchanges mournful reflection (ostensibly on her marred marriage) for a Slim Shady-approved fantasy about murdering her ex: "Bang, bang, shot you dead, my lover in the head/ … And I have no regrets." She tells him, "You have to die for me, baby," and asks, "How could I move on with my life/If you didn't die for me, baby?" Things get even darker as she suggests, "He deserved it/And I'm going straight to hell/And if I see that b‑‑ch in hell/I'm gonna shoot him in the head again." The song includes 13 uses of "b‑‑ch" and the repeated sounds of guns being cocked and spent casings falling to the ground.
Album opener "Girl Gone Wild" harks back to "Like a Prayer," beginning with this mockery: "Oh my God/I'm heartily sorry/For having offended Thee/And I detest all my sins/Because I dread the loss of heaven/And the pains of hell/But most of all because I love Thee/And I want so badly to be good." The balance of the track gives the lie to that prayer, as Madonna willfully indulges the idea that she's a "good girl gone wild" who admits "I'm about to go astray/ … I feel like sinning/ … I got that burnin' hot desire." With the same snarky tone, "I'm a Sinner" repeatedly confesses, "I'm a sinner, I like it that way/ … Praise the Lord, and I like it that way/Hail Mary, full of grace/Get down on your knees and pray/Jesus Christ, hanging on the cross/Died for our sins, it's such a loss/Saint Christopher, find my way/I'll be coming home one day/ … Thomas Aquinas, stand your ground/All those saints and holy men/Catch me before I sin again."
"Some Girls" cattily criticizes women who are both virginal and carnal: "She's flawless, a virgin sweet (like a virgin sweet and clean)/Some girls got an attitude/Fake t-ts and a nasty mood/Hot s‑‑‑ when she's in the nude (in a naughty, naked mood). "I'm Addicted" compares a torrid love affair to addiction to the drug Ecstasy. "Give Me All Your Luvin'" celebrates narcissistic, in-the-moment hedonism. Album liner notes include a photo of Madonna in a skimpy bra.
How do you solve a problem like Madonna?
The 53-year-old diva proffers a handful of surprisingly vulnerable moments on MDNA, moments suggesting that the end of her eight-year marriage to Guy Ritchie has taken a real toll on her soul. But she doesn't respond to that disorienting loss in a way that'll help or nourish her millions of fans. Instead, she tries to wind the clock back to a sexier time, throwing herself with abandon into the familiar role of the unrepentant sinner, shamelessly thumbing her nose at Jesus and Catholicism as she goes.
And then she loads her metaphorical 9mm, cocks it and points it at her ex.