Nightman Listens To – Madonna – MDNA!

MDNA (album) - Wikipedia

Greetings, Glancers! We’re up to our twelfth Madonna album and very close to catching up with what she’s up to now. I know absolutely zero about this album other than seeing that she worked with William Orbit again when I was trying to grab the track-listing. They’ve worked well before, so hopefully they struck gold again. Looking at the twelve songs, the name of the first sounds familiar but I don’t think I’ve actually heard it before – or any of the others. She seems to have a lot of collaborators in tow this time and I’m going to assume it’s another one designed for dancefloors. Lets do this.

Girl Gone Wild‘ opens with a spoken confession, spoken with a touch of satire. A familiar Noughties trance beat then drops forcefully before fading into the chorus. This type of music generally doesn’t need a strong vocalist, but definitely stands out more when the singer has vocal prowess. Madonna fluctuates between good and okay, rarely reaching any height but she’s always recognisable. By the time the chorus hits I’m certain I’ve never heard it. Maybe I was thinking of Alice Cooper’s Ghouls Gone Wild… This is a middling floor filler – I can see people dancing too this and it’s not too hard on the ears either. A decent opening song.

Gang Bang‘ starts in a scratchy, near industrial fashion before a clicky, dark beat hits. Madonna’s vocals are deep, monotone, and recall a certain Cher/Dusty song. I hope it’s building to something as on its own the monotone melody won’t do much. There’s a slight, I’m assuming chorus which repeats much of the verse but alleviates a little of the monotony by adding inflections to the melody. The music largely remains the same too, every so often a new beep or hoot or guitar or siren interrupting things. It does that beatdown thing in the middle that used to be all the rage – that fad almost never worked and it’s worse here because Madonna talks over it. It does feel angry and darker than she usually gets but it gets a little silly towards the end, but crucially that lack of melody stops it from being the sort of thing you’d want to listen to again.

I’m Addicted‘ keeps us on the dancefloor – this is working quite a lot like whichever that other dance concept album of her’s was. At least this one has a melody and the music is ripping all over the place. It’s not very good so far, but it’s not monotone. It’s an average pop/dance track more on the forgettable side and far from Madonna’s best work in this genre. I like how it’s cut together to sound like she keeps singing ‘I’m a dick’, but that probably wasn’t intentional.

Turn Up The Radio‘ starts with an almost 80s synth intro. Thankfully there’s a playful verse melody. The drum sounds are that terrible weak paper thin sound which makes you wonder why they bothered at all. They improve in the chorus and the melody there isn’t too bad. It’s just a slice of fluffy pop but better than the last couple.

Give Me All Your Luvin’ is one of those .feat tracks that has been stinking up the charts for the last five years or so. It’s cheap but catchy, the cheerleader refrain silly but works. It’s in the same vein as the previous song – uneventful, harmless fluff. I can’t see it making my playlist any time soon. Some silly super-fast rapping pops out of nowhere in the middle, followed by a slower section – neither really add anything to the song and they feel out of place, but they don’t hurt it either.

Some Girls‘ starts with some parping or vuvuzelas or something. More monotone singing – doesn’t bode well. This all feels like some of Michael Jackson’s less advisable experiments on Unbreakable. Then for a moment the vocals (hatefully) sound like Mel & Kim. It’s not great.

Superstar‘ is more like what I would have expected from a William Orbit/Madonna collab. Maybe he wasn’t even involved on this one. The drum beats are very weak – I still don’t understand why so many songs have this sort of beat especially when it’s a dance song. Aside from that I quite like the music. It’s another simple one which you could imagine being played with any basic stripped down instrumentation or heightened with  myriad of other sounds. It’s catchy, the lyrics are… I’m not sure if she’s being genuine or or if this mockery, but they veer between silly and pleasingly charming. Better.

I Don’t Give A‘ opens with a funky beat – better drum sounds than before. I think I heard the name of this one, but I definitely haven’t heard the song. She’s doing some sort of rapping in the verse, the chorus more traditional pop. She’s reached the point now where she has to parade this rebellion to the youth to get the sales from the younger crowd, and yet it still fits her persona. It sounds silly through 36 year old years – the Minaj part sounds even worse (who rhymes ‘business woman’ with ‘business woman’ twice) – but I imagine it works when your 15. It heads into an orchestra based chanting session towards the end which grows to epic proportions making me think Madonna should actually try something along those lines.

I’m A Sinner‘ sounds like a robot knocking at your door. At least the beats are better again and the melodies continue. This has an Orbit feel – must be the guitar. It’s not one of her best, but it’s fun enough pop that I can get behind it and it has enough creative spark and variety to help it stand out.

Love Spent‘ opens like furtive Western soundtrack and then the synth and beats drop. The verses have an 8-bit feel, good melodies which get better in the pre-chorus – again it’s a shame the drum sounds are shite again. Some lyrical callbacks to old songs. Good all round.

Masterpiece‘ is a title that begs to be ridiculed. Lets see. It’s starts out well – I love the main melody, simple and sad as it is. It’s lovely, and it too gets better in the pre-chorus. The chorus is good too. I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece, but it’s one of the best songs on the album.

Falling Free‘ starts with bending and tinkling piano, synth strings, and another simple lullaby melody. Not quite as nice as powerful as the last song but there’s more going on musically here. I like how clear the vocals are and how each line has some sort of different pause or instrumentation. The long extended outro… I think it would have worked better as the intro. A good closer.

The album gets stronger as it goes on, peaking with a strong closing set. The opening half feels like the dance half, with the second more contemplative and ballad based. While I always enjoy Madonna’s biggest pop tracks, her focus on the various dance genres rarely does much for me. Her ballads tend to be my favourites so I’m glad we had a few in that vein here. A hundred years into her career and she’s still troubling the current wave of pop stars, challenging them to up their game. I wish she would pander (or seem to) less to them and simply say ‘I’m at the top – it’s up to you to catch up’.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Superstar. I’m A Sinner. Love Spent. Masterpiece. Falling Free.

Let us know in the comments what you think of MDN!

Nightman Listens To Madonna – Hard Candy!

Hard Candy (Madonna album) - Wikipedia

Greetings, Glancers! Album 11, eh? We’ve almost caught up to present day. As this is one of her more recent releases I can’t confirm that I have heard any of the songs included. I probably have heard snippets, and I have vague memories of seeing some of the videos, because its hard to erase the image of her unsettling gyrations from your mind once witnessed. In truth she does that sort of thing in most of her videos so it could have been from any of her albums of the last fifteen years. In 2008 I was no longer subjected to the radio choices of others while going to, from, or in work, so my knowledge of what crap was on the radio gratefully plummeted. Apparently the album is pop/dance-pop based, with an R&B vibe. In other words, the sort of music no-one should be subjected to. See what I put myself through for you guys? And where’s my damn parade? The injustice sickens me…

Candy Shop: Beats. Beats and breaths. Vocals. What is Candy Store a metaphor for? Her music? Her thighs? Verse melodies fine, not annoying, not anything special. The chorus places a low pitch/high pitch dynamic on the vocals – it’s about as (un)memorable as the verse. There’s a silly middle section with lots of bleeps and talky vocals which ensures the song reaches four minutes. Just as I think it’s going to end some guy comes in to say various city names for some reason. It’s always the same list. Why is it never ‘Yo. Portavogie. Ormskirk. Schaumburg, I see you. Uh. Humpybong. West Side’. Etc. An unremarkable opening album track, but not bad.

4 Minutes: Loud rappy horns. Some guy doing ‘wicky wick wah’ stuff. This goes on and one. I think this would sound pretty good on the dancefloor, those horns and parps are groovy. Decent verse melodies again, the male stuff is less engaging. Good chorus melodies too, but let down by all the stupid spoken stuff. When will people learn, spoken stuff is rarely better than cringey and almost always dated within 2 months. If it wasn’t for that bollocks this would be good. It’s still good, but that talking crap is distracting and really does make it sound incredibly silly. Like someone standing in front of you making really good arguments, but you keep looking down because his knob is hanging out. And it’s weird looking.

Give It 2 Me: That beat and sound sounds like it has been lifted from a very specific D12 song. Good melodies though, no talking yet. Lots of rave stuff going on too, but it all works. The middle goes off on one with more silly talking stuff – lots of repetitive layering which doesn’t quite work but isn’t as stupid as in the previous song. You get the feeling that someone with half a brain should have been in the studio and saying ‘look, the song is good as it is, you don’t need to add all of the superfluous garbage’.

Heartbeat: Good intro, good melodies, this time it actually feels like something. She’s tapped into something more real and vital here. Again there is a sour taste because some twat is breathing or grunting or shouting nonsense in the background. A perfectly good song on the verge of sabotage. Will she do another tuneless repetitive middle – and before I’ve even finished typing that she went and did it. Sigh. She does follow it with a better second middle before going back to the banging chorus. I have a feeling sabotage is going to be the key word in this album. A pity too that the lyrics are bullshit too – not the words themselves, but the subject matter.

Miles Away: Some acoustic guitars makes this feel familiar to me. More good melodies. One thing which seems to recur is the robotic rhythm of the melodic delivery in the verses – each-verse-seems-to be sung-in-this-static-way like this. It’s another song I quite like though – aside from the plain opening song each one has been good, outside of the middles and the male hollering. I listen to a Madonna album – she’s who I want to hear, not all these other hanger-ons.

She’s Not Me: Clappy beats. Retro funk. More catchy melodies. More dancing. According to the comments this is some veiled attack/rebuttal of Lady Gaga. It’s true, she doesn’t have what you have but unfortunately this smacks more of fear – fear of aging, fear of no longer being relevant, fear of being replaced. I mean, Madonna brazenly copied from Cyndi Lauper. She did ride that bandwagon and then go on to become her own thing – which of course Gaga has done herself. I don’t see why she’s bitter about it, but then I don’t follow celeb feuds. What the hell is this awful screeching singing? Another random just popped in to give his unwarranted two cents. The song fades out for a while, then builds up in good old cliched dance style for a hectic ending.

Incredible: What appears to have been a sweet ballad has been blown up and blown apart. There’s an awful lot of crap going on in here to make the song bombastic. That’s actually not a bad idea sometimes – taking a simple song and making it grandiose – I mean Roman writers did that shit two thousand years ago. It doesn’t quite work for me here, mostly because the little blasts of sound and the fabricated drums sound so dated and juvenile (ha). It’s not the first time I’ve said this about a Madonna song, but I’d like to hear a stripped back version of this without the bullshit to see if it works.

Beat Goes On: The start of this sounds like one of those awful 5 second Youtube ads – they all have some tinkling jingle which is just short and long enough to piss you off every time it plays. Good verse melody here but the chorus and other moments feel uninspired. An oddly average mid album track which covers ground she’d done better two decades earlier. And again more stupid crap from Pharrell or whatever other binlid is yelping in the background. We do get a full rap section, at least it’s an actual rap not the momentary shouts we’ve had before. The lyrics are nonsense and may as well be ‘uh, hey girl, I got a Wispa and a Twirl; lets watch some shit unfurl, from the sphincter of a rat, or a cat, hey I got my money back, from a fish in a hedge who I found up on a ledge of a house owned by some dude called Brian who I know cos I know that he knows I’m lyin’ that the Earth ain’t round it’s flat like a cat whose shat, unfurled, from a sphincter just like that’. And behold, that is the single greatest rap lyric ever written.

Dance 2Night: So it comes to this – most of the songs have been about dancing, or going out to the club at night and dancing – you know, the most meaningless subject possible, but just to drive the point home we have a song called Dance 2Night. And of course it panders to the masses with its ‘you don’t have to be rich or pretty to do it’ message, which is another way of saying ‘ we know most people are ugly/fat/average/stupid/desperate/poor but if we make a song they think is about them they’ll give us their money. Success! It’s funky enough – sub Thriller stuff with that obvious 80s vibe, the lyrics are insipid, the melodies are too shrouded in over-produced gloss that any feeling is ripped from it. There’s a C+ grade song somewhere here.

Spanish Lesson: Ah yes, the requisite Spanish song. For 12 seconds it’s not bad, but then the idiots get their mitts on it. Lyrically, it’s literally a Spanish lesson. Musically, it’s literally a lesson on how to write a shit song. Is this also a song about fucking your teacher? Like statutory rape? There’s another dancefloor reference. Why doesn’t she just make an album where the lyrics are entirely ‘dancefloor, get up, can’t stop, don’t stop, dance, dancing, yeah, baby, dance, enough, dance, heartbeat, tonight, club, dance’? Oh right, she’s already done that. On every single album.

Devil Wouldn’t Recognise You: A little more maturity in this one. But it’s too plain and melodically boring. This sort of song is fine for covering in production smoke and mirrors because the core is so mundane. Even with all the excess, it’s tepid. She finally brings her brains to the table but misses out with the heart and soul.

Voices: The closing song, can it bring things up again? Good verse melodies – at least that has been consistent. This is much closer to the merging of heart, soul, and brain. The static-laden beat works, the lyrics are better, and there isn’t a trace of any male interference. Yet. Nice orchestral ending. See what you can do when you don’t have a man trying to piggyback on your success. Forget about Gaga and worry about the real problem.

It’s a frustrating album. One one hand it’s much better than I was expecting – then again it’s Madonna so I’m not sure why I keep expecting failure. On the other hand, it’s not as good as it should have been. Many of the songs are top grade tiers brought down by stupid decisions and interventions. To continue the dubious educational metaphor, it’s like someone has completed an exam paper to the best of their abilities and is heading for a good overall score, but with 15 minutes remaining on the clock they glance around and see that others have written different answers so they panic and begin scribbling additional answers which take away from the good groundwork they already had and thus they end up with a lower overall score. The groundwork for many of the songs on Hard Candy is sound – melody, beat, vocals, all the basics, but then some plank comes in a craps all over it because that’s what the suits have said is selling at the moment. At this point in her career, I had more than aged and matured out of her target audience, so all of the sickly garnishing I’m referring to probably satisfied the people it was meant for. The more discerning fan should be shaking their head and saying ‘Madonna, it was good, but you ruined it’. The second half doesn’t have the punch of the first and while she’s experimenting with new people, if not new sounds, there’s nothing really new or exciting here – a by-product of working with today’s idea-less superstars. There are plenty of songs I’ll gladly give a second listen but plenty I’ll avoid.

Let us know what you think of Hard Candy in the comments!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Heartbeat. Give It 2 Me.

Nightman Listens To – Madonna – Confessions On The Dancefloor!

Greetings, Glancers! So, I’ve been dreading this one. Based on the title alone, and the album cover, and the song I know from it, and the other information I have on the album – namely that it’s very dance heavy – all adds up to make me wary of it. I don’t generally do dance music, unless it’s clever or exceptional. Most dance music to me has always been repetitive, brain dead garbage. I have not interest in listening to music for dancing or moving in any way, shape, or form. I want emotion from music or creativity or quality or technical ability, and I almost never get that from dance music. The only confession I would ever give on the dancefloor would be that I despise everyone around me. Having said that, Madonna has been successful before in merging music you can dance to with feeling and quality. If anyone can do it, she can.

Hung Up: This is the one I know – I remember ridiculing it quite a bit when it came out and annoying some of my Madonna superfan friends by proclaiming that she hadn’t been relevant since Ray Of Light. Come to think of it, I don’t really see those friends anymore. Was it something I said? To give it its due credit, that main refrain is stupidly catchy – the vocals and the musical piece both standalone and work together. It’s just that it was so overplayed at the time that I can’t separate my feelings about it and the idiots who played it constantly from how good or bad it actually is. On the plus side it feels like Blondie and it isn’t completely dumb – it isn’t hampered by novelty studio sounds which would date it or piss me off. The verses aren’t bad, same goes for the bridge. If I was only hearing this song for the first time I would probably have a better opinion of it, but it still has that stench of over-saturation around it.

Get Together: This begins pretty much from where the last one let off, and expands itself in an encouraging way. It’s clearly in the realms of dance but not so far gone to keep me at a distance. Once the verse comes through I remember hearing this. I don’t recall where I heard this, presumably at some clubs or on radios. I don’t even remember if I knew this was Madonna at the time. It didn’t have that much of an impact on me. I like it well enough – I wouldn’t go out of my way to put it on, but I wouldn’t turn it off the second I heard it. I wouldn’t call this a nice surprise per say, given that I’ve heard it before, but I had forgotten all about it, so it’s a nice reminder.

Sorry: Again this merges with the previous track, opening with a swell of strings and some French words. Then the underswelling of dance stuff begins to grow and again I remember this one. I’m not sure how I forgot this one as it was pretty huge too. You still hear it now. It’s another stupidly catchy chorus, and the verses aren’t bad either. Maybe enough time has passed now that this and the last song aren’t as annoying to me now as they were then – unlike the opener. It’s another good song, and not the sort of thing I usually listen to. A very consistent album so far, in terms of quality and sound and theme. The middle could have had 30 seconds shaved off as it begins to become too repetitive, though I get this is meant to be an album to dance and lose yourself to so you have to allow for some repetition.

Future Lovers: It goes without saying that this merges with the last. That helps with the consistency and making the whole thing feel like a journey or one big orgiastic trip. I can see people getting off their tits and putting the whole record on in a single take like the hippies would have done with DSOTM. The Blondie feel is there too. I was worrying this was all going to be spoken, but it’s just an extended intro for 90 seconds. It feels pretty familiar, but I don’t think I would have ever heard this. Decent enough melodies and there’s a cyclical nature to it all which aids in the trance-like tone of the whole. The most experimental track so far, but also the one which would benefit most from being cut a little.

I Love New York: You know the drill. This one has the feeling of rocking out onto the dancefloor, or maybe walking out of the club and heading down the street with all the smells and sights and sounds of city night in the air. Who knows. When I listen to stuff I get transported to imagined places. The lyrics are a little crappy. It’s an ode to New York, but the words are very juvenile – basic rhyming for kids. It’s not great and I’m probably enjoying it more because it’s shiny and new to me. Inconsequential, but fine.

Let It Will Be: You should by now that I love a string section in pop/rock music. That’s how this one starts. When it comes to dance music, I prefer the lower, darker, pulsating stuff over shouty, high-paced stuff. This ticks both those boxes, while also producing a tidy, repetitive melody. Madonna is singing about fame again, though I’m not paying much attention to the lyrics first time around. As I’m such a big lyrics guy, I should probably watch the lyrics videos when I’m listening for these posts. This is a better than average album track – it doesn’t go far enough in terms of melody or emotion to knock it into the upper echelons of her music, but it’s still better than I was expecting when I saw this album was up next in my journey.

Forbidden Love: Another point about me and dance music – I really only appreciate that type of music if it’s something I can enjoy listening to on its own merits – not in a club, not as a means to throw yourself around in some strange mating ritual. Dance music made only to make you dance is useless to me. Again, this song and album is more or less striking the balance. I could see myself, or at least my younger self dancing to this, and I can enjoy listening to it too. The consistency strikes once more – the tone, energy, feeling, melody, atmosphere staying true from song to song. I could do without the effects on the vocals, but it’s not as bad as some. It’s great that Madonna is still able to concoct melodies which speak to me after all this time.

Jump: A nice countdown from the last track into this. You know I don’t like spoken parts in songs, and Madonna’s lower tone vocals usually don’t work for me. They’re fine here. Actually, I may have heard this before, it sounds familiar, unless it’s similar to an older song. Pretty sure I have heard that chorus before, maybe it was used in some movie or TV show. The lyrics seem to be about sisterhood/family and not being afraid to take chances – basic inspirational stuff. Another ‘almost good song’, like B minus territory for me.

How High: Digital sounds and beats and synth voices. A growing beat. Robots on the march. Interesting vocal choices. I assume she’s singing about herself and the sacrifices made in the pursuit and achieving of fame. Then it all goes a bit existential. Melodies are okay for simple pop, but they’re bolstered by all of the studio trickery going on around them. More like a C grade song. She mentions how people bitch about her – that’s always going to be one price of fame, but I’d wager many more people love her than hate her. I bitch about her too, but only when she’s rubbish. She’s made a career out of being awesome, so why should she give a shit.

Isaac: Looks like a long one. Oh no. I’ve never liked that Asian/Arabic/Hebrew type of singing. I’m not sure why, it’s always felt, well, like crap to me. The beat builds and the verse starts so lets hope that Asian stuff doesn’t come back. Verses are good. Oh no, the crap is back for the chorus. I assume this is meant to add some sort of mysticism or oriental feel to the song, but it loses me. It sounds like a guy forcing out a particularly cumbersome turd while a wasp enters his eye socket. Everything else in the song is good – not great, not up to the standards of her experiments on Ray Of Light, but at least approaching that quality. For a six minute song, there isn’t much to it.

Push: There are the remnants of the oriental stuff here in terms of the drum and the rhythm – there’s that consistency again. It’s among the slower songs on the album. The music is very clipped – it surges in and withdraws like a suction cup. The vocal refrain goes on and on and over and over and the song barely changes over it’s four minutes. There’s a better song here, or at least parts of this could have been used to create a better song, with all the rest abandoned.

Like It Or Not: Lets hope we can close with a banger. It’s off to a good start with a swell of strings and some, dare I say it, Iron Maiden-esque riff melody. Then the beat drops and I wonder why the hell they would do that. The music and melody surrounding the beat do their best to make me ignore how silly the drum sound is. It’s all quite slow paced. There are still parts I like – the building of the pre-chorus and some of the guitar and string pieces. The chorus melody is almost something I like – not something I dislike, adding up to another high C grade song.

Overall another pleasant surprise from Madonna. I was not expecting to like this at all but the fantastic first half of the album made me look like a fool. The second half steadily withdraws into more mediocre territory as she tries to experiment – I appreciate the attempts, but they didn’t succeed where I’m concerned. I think a lot of people will like the second half as much as the first, but it wasn’t for me. Even with the album being of two halves, it is still consistent. While the songs get weaker in the back end they still commit to the same tone and atmosphere making this clearly a concept album, or more accurately an album designed to be played in a single sitting. Like the best albums of that kind, many of the individual songs are also good enough to stand on their own too. I’ve no idea where she goes from here. Let us know in the comments what you think of Confessions On The Dancefloor!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Get Together. Sorry. Future Lovers.

Nightman Listens To – Madonna – American Life!

220px-AmericanLife2003.png

Greeting, Glancers! We head back to my middle year of University – 2003. It seemed like every album was an attack on funny wee George Bush and with such a torrid time we should really have had a new wave of powerful, excellent rock music. We never got that – just an endless success of rubbish ‘The’ bands, and the dying grunts of nu-metal and pop-punk. Bush always seemed to me to be a permanently bewildered moron with the face of teddy bear who just lost his bowl of porridge, but the people get who they vote for.

Wikipedia tells me this was a concept album, so without reading any further I assume that Madonna also got in on the act, especially with a name like that. I’m certain I’ve heard the title track, though I can’t for the life of me think of what it’s like now – and I’ve probably heard a few of the others. I know all too well the evil of Die Another Day – otherwise known as the worst thing ever – so I’m just going to skip on by it if that’s okay with you. Much of this will be new to me, so hold my hand as I dive in.

American Life: No, I don’t think ever heard this. Very electronic, not Ray Of Light style, but much more barren. It’s not bad, so far. Plaintive lyrics. Some obvious auto-tune on the vocals in places, but elsewhere they’re good. I quite like the melodies, and as a whole it’s a pleasing song, but – aw what the hell is this. She goes off on one near the end, has a rap section which sounds exactly as you’d expect from a white person who’s never rapped before. I can only guess that she’s being satirical here with her lyrics during the rap, but it becomes doubly ironic because you know she indulges in half of the stuff she’s being critical of and poking fun at. It’s like, oh I don’t know, like if a hair metal band tried to make fun of a cheesy pop song, I’d be shouting YOU ARE THE EXACT SAME.

Hollywood: So, she’s continuing that satirical tone here, this time poking fun at people wanting to be famous? I get she’s mainly targeting those without talent or those who think it is the single most important thing that anyone can achieve, but yeah… it still doesn’t work when you were one of the exact people. I’m not saying Madonna’s not talented, hell I’ve shown I love enough of her songs to prove otherwise, but there’s absolutely no ignoring the fact that she exploited herself for fame just as much as anyone else and was ruthless in her pursuit of it, possibly preventing people more deserving than her of getting there. Lets give her the benefit of the doubt though and say she’s mocking her younger self and rejecting all of the stuff she used to love, in the hope that today’s youngsters will do the same. The song is okay, a bit weak, a bit repetitive… it’s moderately catchy fluff and absolutely doesn’t need to pass the three minute mark.

I’m So Stupid: A more promising start, with broken up guitars and stuttering mystical vocals. This has a bit more love and imagination chucked at it – all those quirks with stretching notes and messing with time are different from what other mainstream artists were trying now or are attempting now. Is it more interesting, than good? I like it anyway, doesn’t go down the simple dance music route.

Love Profusion: It’s another video where Madonna walks towards the camera. This time it was directed by Luc Besson. This song is pretty cool, no messing around with the melody and the production doesn’t try to upset the rhythm or become master. Everything compliments everything else. It isn’t much more than verse and chorus melody slapped together, but it doesn’t need to be as both main parts are strong and everything else bolsters matters.

Nobody Knows Me: Phat funky beatz. I’d rather we had normal vocals, but there you go. I was hoping for an explosive verse after that intro, but it’s too tame. It’s very singular – one level. The melody and rhythm simply repeats over and over, lyrics are okay, but the repetition is annoying. The background beats and music is ever-changing, but if the main melody stays the same then the impact of everything else is lost. I usually don’t mind when a melody is repeated, as long as everything else builds upwards towards some sort of climax, but this doesn’t really go anywhere and feels like an excuse to experiment aimlessly. As an experiment, it’s not bad. As a song, it’s not great.

Nothing Fails: More stuttering guitars. This is much more to my preferences. When the melody is strong and honest, it doesn’t really matter what else you craft around it. Well, it does, but the core is still good. Depending on what else you add it can become a masterpieces, or merely an okay song. This is pretty good and I’m happy to see that even when she makes an experimental album or something with such heavy production that she still falls back on something sweet and simple. This is another example of the surrounding studio trickery complimenting the main stuff rather than taking over. The refrain section is a nice surprise, with the backing vocals and strings coming in like a choir and reminding of Like A Prayer. 

Intervention: Another guitar intro, followed by another interesting melody, so another potential favourite. Yes, this is quite lovely. Melodies have that touch of tragedy, the surrounding instrumentation isn’t overwhelming, rarely moving from sparse and instead relying on backing vocals and harmonies to fill up the space. That’s two very good songs I wasn’t aware of in a row – cool.

X-Static Process: With a name like that, I can only assume the worst. But no, it opens in a similar vein to the last three – guitars, soft vocals. One minute in and it hasn’t changed at all. Finally a backing vocal comes in and the two pieces interact or argue like a confused mind. The backing track hasn’t really changed at all. There’s a little bit of new stuff just after halfway. It’s another good one, ladies and gents. I don’t like it as much as the last two, because this one really doesn’t want to add any frills, but still another positive surprise.

Mother And Father: Back to a more electronic intro. Strange vocals. Like the fifth song to mention Jesus. Melody is repetitive, but this time it’s annoying. Thankfully this one changes things up by not having just the one melody – the others are better than the main ‘there was a time’ one. A strange song with some highs and some lows – I’d drop the rap parts and the deeper vocal pieces, but credit again for trying something different even if it doesn’t work for me. Even with the dodgy parts, I can see me listening to this again due to the good parts.

Die Another Day: Nope

Easy Ride: Ooh, a lovely intro with all the heart-tugging strings I love. The verse has potential, it’s not something which grabs me immediately but I think it could grow on me. More strings – always helps. We’re finishing with another good one. It’s another brave move for such a famous artist – another sign that she does whatever the fuck she wants, and when she pulls it off the results can often be fantastic. Like I say, this is probably going to a grower for me – I can sense its potential rather than it hitting me with obvious and immediate quality.

An average to less than average start followed up by some gems. There are quite a lot of songs here that I hadn’t heard before which will now be on my playlist, and that’s why I’m here – to grow that personal memory bank of songs to love over and over and leave discussion of artistic merit until I’m more familiar with them. I’m not sure what I expected from the album, but I didn’t have high hopes. Those fears were mostly pushed firmly back under the bed and I’m left with an album which doesn’t have any huge missteps (aside from Die Another Day obviously) and a collection of songs which never drop below average. The weaker ones have merits and while the stronger ones don’t yet reach the heights of my personal favourites, perhaps they will after more listens. I know this should give me confidence going into her next album, but I’m always cautious about these things, always waiting for things to go badly wrong. Hang around for my next Madonna post, and find out with me. For now, leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Easy Ride. X-Static Process. Intervention. Love Profusion. Nothing Fails.

Nightman Listens To – Madonna – Music!

Greetings, Glancers! It’s Madonna time again and an album released back in 2000, a simpler, less stressful time some would say. Not me though – I was in the middle of my A-Level preparations, I was 17, drinkin’ and a druggin’ and a womenin’. As you’ll have read in my previous post, Ray Of Light had been a massive hit with me and some of my friends, but in the few years between these albums we had started to see Madonna in a less favourable light. She had a lot of stuff going on which made her a prime candidate for ridicule, not that she’d care, and her release of American Pie was met with general laughter. To many of us it seemed she had lost it. I don’t know how much, if any, this contributed to me not paying much attention to the album but Music is not one I know much about, outside of some vague memories of the singles.

The album seems like it could be short and brisk – only ten songs and the only one I can clearly recall is the title track, and that’s a song I wasn’t a fan of. William Orbit did an awesome job on Ray Of Light so presumably the same will be said for this, although I think this album has a more general dance music flavour with less focus on atmosphere and rock. There’s no point guessing, lets just get into it.

‘Music’ was the first single from the album, and I didn’t like it from the first moment I heard it – much too much focus on quirks and production than, you know, actual music. The video likely influenced me too, what with its apparent love of celeb culture and lifestyle. Lyrically of course the song is supposed to be about the power of music to bring people together and overcome… something, but when the music is mostly dire the message falls flat. I appreciate the creativity and the production, but the style is not for me, the vocals are too whiny, and the melodies grating.

‘Impressive Instant’ is… well, my instant impression is that I’ll never want to listen to this again. It seems to be like another irritating dance song, entirely manufactured in the studio with nothing tangible. The vocals are annoying, the music is repetitive, the lyrics are garbage… unless you’re into dance music there’s nothing good here.

Runaway Lover‘ is a more traditional dance track. As a general rule I’m not a fan of dance music in most of its guises, but there are exceptions. This, I don’t mind. It could be any style of song, they just happened to make it dance – take away the beats and replace them with guitars or generic pop stuff and you’ll have a decent rock or pop track. Some of the noises and drums stuff annoys me, but it moves swiftly with a tidy energy and some decent melodies.

I Deserve It’ seems familiar somehow. I’m almost certain I’ve never head it, but I’ve shared many a set of earphones with many a person, so possibly… This one rambles along never quite reaching any sort of point or peak, though based on the lyrics that in itself is possibly the point. There are moments of potential where I thought it was going to build into something more, but then it didn’t.

Amazing‘ starts with manufactured bird-like noises and bell type sounds. Before long a beat that’s unusually similar to Beautiful Stranger takes the song further along. The song has more of a rock vibe like some of the songs from Ray of Light, though in a completely different style.

Nobody’s Perfect’ begins with something that sounds like ‘I am wet when I am with you’ which seems a little inappropriate even for Madonna. This is annoying because I do like the melodies here, but they are largely ruined by the auto-tuning nonsense. The drum sounds feel too weak in places, but I do like all the robotic laser stuff going on. This would be great if it had a traditional vocal throughout, but even with the nonsense I can’t help but like it and I think it could become one of my favourites over time.

Don’t Tell Me‘ is one I’d forgotten about. I like the disjointed nature and I remember this one had fairly heavy rotation when I was in the University Student’s Union bar anytime Kerrang wasn’t being shown. It’s a decent single but clearly I’d forgotten it for a reason, gets annoying before long.

What It Feels Like For A Girl’ begins with experimental sounds, some annoying English accented speaking, lyrics about androgyny etc. I have a feeling I have heard this before. The good qualities here are buried under the production – the melodies and the backing sounds don’t go together at all, making the whole affair feel like two completed different songs which got mashed together accidentally.

Paradise (Not For Me)’ is a song that mostly goes nowhere until the second minute where a very John Carpenter piece emerges followed by a much stronger vocal (though still downgraded by auto-tune). It’s clearly an attempt at an epic and it doesn’t quite get there, though I appreciate the effort. I love the strings which join the mess near the third minute, but the opening two minutes are too uneventful – a better melody lifting towards that middle section would have improved things drastically. The final couple of minutes repeat variously the good and bad without offering a final distinct section – aimed for the stars and scraped the clouds or something.

Gone‘ begins as an unusually streamlined and simple song – only voice and acoustic guitar. I love the melodies, the vocals and lyrics are plaintive, and the chorus is great. Given what has come before I keep waiting for the big production to come blasting out of the speakers. It does come, kind of, but it’s not as intrusive or all encompassing as elsewhere on the album. This is good stuff, and a great ending – another song I wasn’t aware of that I already look forward to hearing again.

For me this was an ambitious yet disjointed album. As a sequel to Ray Of Light it tries a host of new ideas but it doesn’t have the impact, musically or emotionally, which that album had. Where one felt urgent and inventive, this one feels at times like a joke or more accurately that the people involved were just having fun without caring about the quality of the end product, while at other times it feels as if they are throwing as much sound and technique into the mix in the hope that some of it will come good. The best moments are those where the simple tune is allowed to speak for itself – some of the songs are bogged down by production to the point where the melody is drowned, while in others the production fails to disguise the dull core. There are still some great moments here, and a few songs that I’ll add to my regular rotation, but as a sequel to a great, it falls below expectation.

Nightman Listens To – Madonna – Evita

Greetings, Glancers! It’s time to check out Madonna’s third and most successful soundtrack album Evita. Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber penned all of the work here and Madonna sings most of the songs, though she does get help by Banderas, Pryce, and old Crocodile Shoes himself Jimmy Nail. As you would imagine, it sold a crapload. I’m going to be going through the double disc edition, but I’m not a sadist – I’m only listening to the ones Madonna performs on. I expect these songs will be peppered with instrumental sections and that they will lose much without the visuals. Lets get this out of the way.

Oh What A Circus‘ opens just as I imagined – lots of lovely Latin guitars. Banderas starts the singing, telling of Eva’s life. There’s a familiar melody. No Madonna yet. This is nice though, no complaints. Backing vocals. Sudden rock outburst. That was pretty funny. Decent vocals from Antonio. Now a slower section. Is this Madonna? Now instrumental. Now Madonna, doing a bit from ‘Don’t Cry For Me’.

Eva and Magaldi/Eva Beware Of The City’ begins with some weird funk. Dark tones, all very theatrical as you would expect and lots of voices, changes in pace and style. Listening without the visuals means it sounds a little messy – a confusing mishmash of genres with people chanting and singing and talking, but I think it would all make sense on screen or stage. With all that said, it’s not too bad. I do have no idea what’s going on, but the music is fine.

Buenos Aires‘ starts with a train toot and some clapping. I think. Lots of percussion now. Madonna’s vocals seem a little stronger on the album – more powerful. This one is only okay – a little jazzy, a little funky, some nice strings in the middle, but no obvious hooks. It then turns into a James Bond instrumental for the final section.

Another Suitcase In Another Hall’ starts like a traditional hit rather than a product of a musical. It’s very sweet with lyrics of uncertainty and exploration and yearning. This one does have hooks and apparently was a single, but I don’t remember it. I’d listen to this one again, very nice.

Goodnight And Thank You’ has a big brass celebration opening. This segues into a softer section before the Banderas verse. Madonna joins in for a more traditional duet. Then they sing about soap. And doing up trousers. It just about passes the listening without visuals test.

Charity Concert/The Art Of The Possible‘ has clapping, and South American rhythms. Then it ends. Then it starts again. Another duet. Well, it’s mostly Antonio. Then it ends again.

I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You‘ is another duet with lyrics overlapping closely. The music is mostly in the background, leaving breathy vocals. Madonna then takes over and it becomes a decent ballad – not as strong as that hallway song, but still good.

Hello And Goodbye‘ is light and fluffy in its opening moments, a little like elevator music. Then it’s a little sultry, then tender, then more tender as it calls back a previous song.

Peron’s Latest Flame‘ has a brass, war era sitcom intro. It sounds like the rich don’t like Evita’s antics. Now the rich are singing. I’m not hearing Madonna yet. Drum collapse. Future sounds. Now Madonna. More chanting. More future sounds. This is very ‘musical’.

A New Argentina’ has a mysterious in tone beginning but finds its feet when Madonna sings – the melodies by this point are familiar – it’s the ‘I’ll Be Good For You’ tune again. It breaks away eventually for a heavier sound with choir and guitars. Madonna belts out the vocals well in several places. This one goes on for ages. It’s mostly good, but it does stretch the patience when listening without the benefit of seeing what’s going on.

Don’t Cry For Me Argentina‘ is the one we all know. We’ve already heard motifs in the songs up to this point, but now it’s going all the way. If I’m honest I don’t remember too much about the song about from Madonna singing the title and a few more words. Big string intro, soft, mournful vocals. The verses stretch out, teasing the listener and getting the lyrics across. It’s one of Madonna’s better vocals. The chorus is fine, more understated than what I remembered and it balances well with the verses rather than outstripping it.

On The Balcony Of The Castle Rosada (Part 2)’ begins with some excited whispering. We get crowd noise and choir singing which builds in pace and urgency. We then get a spoken section, an inspired speech. We finish with a brief choir blast and short Madonna line.

High Flying, Adored’ is a gentle ballad starting out with Antonio’s smooth vocals. It’s another good performance from him. Madonna comes in briefly at the end to mirror what Banderas has just sung.

Rainbow High‘ starts suddenly, Madonna’s quick vocals giving over to further choir voices – these two flit back and forth throughout. It’s another good performance by Madonna, giving it her all even as the timing and style transform.

Rainbow Tour‘ features more male vocals. This one is a little more cheesy, feeling very ‘Dr Zeus/Dr Zeus’. There’s a little bit of Madonna in the middle before returning to the blokes.

The Actress Hasn’t Learned The Lines You’d Like To Hear‘ starts with trumpets and annoying chorus vocals – like Greek Play Chorus, you know? Madonna comes in with some meandering vocals and lyrics. Familiar melodies come at last – there’s really only a handful of recurring motifs here, a few more wouldn’t have gone amiss for such a huge score. There’s some horror movie sounds for a while to change it up.

Pardito Feminista‘ features more crowd noise and speeches. Some singing too, quite a bit for a song shorter than two minutes long actually.

Waltz For Eva And Che‘ is just as it sounds. Antonio first. Madonna next. Melodies are largely sacrificed for the sake of lyrics and plot. Big waltz in the middle with splashing percussion.

Your Little Body’s Slowly Breaking Down‘ opens with a morbid and sad piano line and vocal deliver. Madonna joins in to give a more positive spin for this short track.

You Must Love Me’ is another short track. Man, all those ‘were do go from here’ lines are just reminding me of Buffy. This is a decent ballad, plaintive, and understated with just piano and violin along with Madonna’s voice.

Eva’s Final Broadcast’ seems like a downer. We know what is happening, so obviously it’s not a barrel of laughs. Madonna’s voice gives way to some sort of chanting, then she comes in again to add new words to the same old melodies. Then the big chorus comes back with a slight change. This one is theatrical, with wavering vocals, soundbites, and all the rest of it. We close with a few mournful minutes of choir voices.

Lament‘ closes the album, at least from my perspective. Madonna and guitar. Another good one. We get a jump scare surge of strings and full orchestra blasts before calming down and Antonio takes over.

Jeebus, that was long. But it was better than I was expecting. It doesn’t feel like a Madonna album, though her imprint is there. It feels like a musical, but there are songs which seem to live and breathe on their own. All the silly trappings of the stage are there, though they are not as annoying as I thought they would be and while there is an awkwardness in listening to the soundtrack without following the screen, plenty of the songs are good enough to warrant listening. There is quite a lot of repetition, and some songs are too long for purely listening to, but on the whole it’s a decent album and I could easily cut it down to a more respectable length and listen through it again.

Let us know in the comments what you think of the Evita soundtrack. Next time we see Madonna we’ll be going through Ray Of Light – an album I liked a lot when it was first released but haven’t heard since (actually, I stupidly posted Ray Of Light before posting this, so next time it will be Music)!

Chart Music – 1992

Yes! Back thanks to an almost universal lack of demand, I stretch back the scalp of time and feast upon the mushy innards of the past – in this instance I return to the UK music charts. If you’re interested, you can read my original post here – https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2015/10/22/the-uk-top-40/

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Greetings, Glancers! It’s time for me to think of another absurdist metaphor concerning looking to the past, as we look to the past – 1992 to be precise. In 1992 I was already a bite-size metal and grunge kid, watching Headbanger’s Ball and reading Kerrang magazine. Thanks to my love for those genres, even by that point in my life I was pretty miffed at the state of UK music charts. The bands I liked never got any credit or praise from the mainstream media and the radio would play the same shite. Sometimes of of course they were forced to bow to audience pressure and play something with a rock vibe – I remember many times that certain stations would play something like Sweet Child O’Mine or Smells Like Teen Spirit, yet cut the song short before it had ended. Even when the genres were at a commercial peak, they were shafted and pushed to the side.

But what else was happening in 19 and 92? George Bush senior disgraced himself and his nation by barfing all over the place, then officially ended The Cold War, The Maastricht treaty was signed, The Bosnian War kicked off, LA had some riots, Barney The Dinosaur appeared, Denmark won Euro 92, the Olympics were held in Barcelona, and Slick Billy prepared to become President. In music, Nevermind was number 1 in the charts, Mariah Carey went unplugged, John Frusciante left the RHCP, November Rain became the most expensive music video ever, James Hetfield got burnt, and The Bodyguard became the biggest selling soundtrack ever.

  1. Tasmin Archer: Sleeping Satellite

This was everywhere in 1992, and is still one of those songs that you can’t forget once you’ve heard it. I did like it then and listening now it’s still pretty great. Those gruff vocal parts are funny… I don’t think I’ve heard another Tamsin Archer song so I’ve no idea if she was a one hit wonder. I don’t remember the wacky organ solo.

2. Boyz II Men: End Of The Road

Speaking of songs that were everywhere, this thing was at number 1 for about 12 years. I’m not sure why it was so popular – I get why it was successful – but not why it was such a monster. It’s a decent ballad, but it’s cheesy as fuck and that video is horrific – four funny looking blokes with incredible voices moping about in funny looking clothes. This is what women were into in 1992 apparently.

3. Bizarre Inc: I’m Going To Get You

From the name alone I don’t remember this so I’m going to guess it’s a one hit wonder chav mess. Aaand, with the first second I remember it. Okay, I managed the first minute, that’s all you need to hear. I mean, it is dreadful. The singing, the repetition, the music, and the theme which seems to be rape.

4. Madonna: Erotica

We’ve covered this on the blog before.

5. Bon Jovi: Keep The Faith

We’ve covered this on the blog before.

6. Doctor Spin: Tetris

Now we get into the really bad shit. This wanky dance music was seriously popular at the time and if today’s charts are anything to go by, wanky dance music won the race. It’s basically the main Tetris theme tune with some weird voice in the background and other Nintendo noises zooming around. Just think for a second – someone actually made this, and enough people bought it that it reached the Top 10 in the UK charts.

7. Dr Alban: It’s My Life

The second medical practitioner turned shit music maker in our top ten this year. This one at least is less repetitive and has a weird, creepy, industrial vibe. I don’t think that was intentional. The overlapping beats are actually cool and this one has held up much better. Only the vocals really date it.

8. The Shaman: Ebeneezer Goode

Congrats, it’s another one that I refuse to link to because it’s an absolute abomination. One of undisputed worst songs of all time.

9. Take That: A Million Love Songs

And this is one of Take That’s less annoying songs.

10. Arrested Development: People Everyday

I’ve no idea what this is, so I’d better give it a listen. I don’t think I’ve heard this before, but I could be mistaken. It sounds so generic that any of these type of songs from this period all sound similar to me. It is quite annoying, all the call, response stuff, and weird backing vocals stuff, plus the kind of rap which was successful in the UK at this time was so tame.

So, a mixture of dreadful and bearable. 1992 saw plenty of major, genuinely good releases – Generation Terrorists, Vulgar Display Of Power, Little Earthquakes, Somewhere Far Beyond, Countdown To Extinction, Dirt, Tourism, Automatic For The People etc. For a much more invigorating and lovely list of songs from 1992, have a gander at these boys.

  1. Alice In Chains – Nutshell
  2. Del Amitri – Always The Last To Know
  3. Manic Street Preachers – Condemned To Rock And Roll
  4. Soul Asylum – Runaway Train
  5. 4 Non Blondes – What’s Up
  6. Nirvana – Aneurysm
  7. Dr Dre – Fuck Wit Dre Day
  8. Mr Big – To Be With You
  9. Richard Marx – Hazard
  10. Shakespears Sister – Stay

Feel free to share your memories, musical or otherwise, of 1992 in the comments below!

 

Nightman Listens To – Madonna – Ray Of Light!

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Greetings, Glancers! I’ll get this out of the way at the outset – I love Ray Of Light. I listened to it quite a lot when it was first released and even though I have slagged Madonna after and before it was released, it still holds up as a great record. Or I think it does – I haven’t listened to it in years. It’s the first Madonna album I can remember being released; I was 15 at the time and hadn’t paid much attention to anything Madonna related beforehand other than her singles and videos. Now that I was a teenager I was actually earning and spending my own money on things and of course was more knowledgeable about music. Until roughly this age most of the albums I owned were either metal, hard rock, or Michael Jackson. I remember a lot of people in school talked about Ray Of Light – people who were exclusively into shitty dance music, rock kids, chart kids, etc. Madonna essentially kept herself relevant by tapping into a variety of sounds and styles and by above all releasing a bunch of great songs. Moving on…

Drowned World/Substitute For Love‘  is a fairly creepy sounding name and the song starts in a fairly creepy way – wind sounds, laser electronic sounds, some bloke speaking, until Madonna’s plaintive vocal flows in. When the beat comes in it all makes sense – the beat and overall sound is chilled, we get plenty of additional beats and backwards sounds. I can’t say it sounds dated now, there’s something old about it though. It did feel revolutionary at the time but I loved most and still do is how dynamic it is – instruments drop in and out, the song dissolves into momentary tangents, and at the core is a brilliant Madonna performance.

Swim‘ opens with some guitar. That’s another point which I always remember about the album – people see it as this big dance record, but it’s filled with guitar too and one of my friends who was just learning guitar at the moment always listened to this album specifically for the guitar parts. This is a pretty good album track, a funky mixture of riffs and warbling dance parts. Again the production is terrific, music building and withdrawing, and there’s always something new and dynamic happening to distract from an otherwise simple structure. 

Ray Of Light‘ is the biggie, and it was a hit for years. This one does sound very 90s now and yet still has a modern flavour. I think that’s because today’s commercial pop and dance is so technically bland. This has energy, it flickers and bounces on many levels while today’s chart stuff feels flat and hollow – no depth to the structure or production. The music video is pure Trainspotting jittery nonsense though – good at the time but severely dated now.

Candy Perfume Girl‘ starts with electronic humming, then guitar, then wet beats, then assorted sounds and vocals. It’s very much your standard album track and has the same drum sounds and backing noise that appeared in hundreds of songs around the time. There’s still plenty to discover here, but it’s easily the weak link so far.

Skin‘ gets us back on track. It begins suddenly, yet is slow and smooth. The way the backing noises descend into a chaotic swamp of whispers and noise, and then how the fast beat suddenly comes in – this is very much my sort of dance music. I love the central vocal melody, again there is a tonne of atmosphere and smart production, and again the song never wants retain the same sound, varying and morphing as it goes. Great for night driving. Great for anything really.

Nothing Really Matters‘ is an atmospheric ballad. I almost dread to think what a song like this would have sounded like had she recorded it in an earlier era. The New Jack or 80s pop versions of this likely would have been a disaster. Don’t get me wrong, the drum beats for most of the song are too generic and weak, but everything is perfect – love the chorus, love the little piano and string moments. Yeah, just a pity about the beats.

Sky Fits Heaven‘ continues the atmosphere, bringing a more organ based ethereal sound. Again, I somehow don’t mind the fact that this is a dance track – let is be said I love dance music when it’s done right – it just so rarely is. This combination of William Orbit and Madonna though was just one of those moments when the stars are aligned. I’m not overly fond of the middle section here, at least not until it smooths out, but the rest is great, the beats are much better, the distorted guitar noise is fantastic, and I enjoy the little melodic callbacks to Till Death Do Us Part. 

Shanti/Ashtangi‘ goes a little weird. This is definitely Madonna’s Revolver album – the most obvious example of her music becoming art and transcending, so it’s quite apt she throws in this Eastern based mess, just like The Beatles did. It’s fine but does come off as self-indulgent. I think the best part of the song is how people I knew would make up their own English translations for the lyrics. This was before all your internets and googles, kids!

Frozen‘ was always my favourite  song from the album. I love atmospheric music – something a little chilling and emotional, and this hits all of those notes. It’s still fantastic now, and the video’s great too. It’s easily one of Madonna’s best vocals, easily contains some of her best melodies. I love the strings – goes without saying – I love the little instrumental pieces which return us to the verse either any time there is a pause or from the chorus. Mysterious, haunting, and unquestionably beautiful.

The Power Of Good-Bye‘ is another classic. It’s definitely a 90s track with those beats, but it’s a marvel. For me this one is all about the melodies, as pop music almost always is, and here verse and chorus are exceptional. It’s actually one of the more simple songs on the album, but it’s still dressed up in electronica and strings – it doesn’t need anything additional and it doesn’t need any part taken out – perfect the way it is. An interesting titbit (so much better than tidbit) – part of the verse melody is identical to a part of the Family Ness theme tune.

To Have And Not To Hold‘ comes in cold – moody, dark, with growling beats. I feel that in a previous era she would have gone the Spanish route for this one. I do prefer the chorus to the verse and as a whole the song doesn’t get me as much as others on the album. Still good, but in the bottom half for me.

Little Star‘ is Madonna’s dedication to her new born bambino. I think. It opens as if it is going to be some super fast dance track but once the vocals start it’s all very slow and tender, even though the backing beats are moving quickly. It is mostly plain and the melodies don’t do much for me even if the sentiment is moving. I feel like this one should have been a more traditional ballad with a changed melody, but what do I know. I do know this one is too long, even if some of the string pieces near the end are lovely.

Mer Girl‘ closes the album, beginning like a phone off the hook – a tantalizing, unfinished conversation. An ending both slow and sudden. There is a lot of silence in this song but still there is a lot going on musically. Lyrically, this is basically a short story, melodically it isn’t very interesting. It’s an experimental end – fine, but I prefer albums to close with a bang.

Even though there are some songs that feel like standard album tracks and don’t do much for me, the highs on the album are such sky-scraping highs that they reach far beyond any parts you may not be so keen on. Add to that fact that those highs far outweigh the lows (and that the lows are still fine) and we have probably Madonna’s best album. It’s this and Like A Prayer that we’ll still be talking about in a hundred years. Well, I will – you’ll all be gone. This is one of the best albums of the 90s, and it’s basically the last thing Madonna did that I liked. Having said that I have heard very little, if any, of her last few albums so my next few posts will be interesting for me. I still hold out hope that someone who can make an album as brilliant as this can still make a few good songs per album, so I expect to hear a few more favourites before we reach the end of our journey.

Ray Of Light – were you around when it was released? Where do you rank it beside Madonna’s other albums? Let us know in the comments!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Drowned World/Substitute For Love. Ray Of Light. Frozen. Skin. Nothing Really Matters. Sky Fits Heaven. The Power Of Goodbye.

Nightman Listens To Madonna – Bedtime Stories!

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Greetings, Glancers! The last time we spoke of Madonna, she had released her most controversial and sexually charged album to date – Erotica. It was fine, and while I loved many of the ideas, most of the music didn’t make my nuts tingle. With Bedtime Stories, Madonna wanted to remind fans and the population at large that she wasn’t merely some orgasmic vixen but that she had other layers and furrows – like we all have. As you would expect, the album was yet another major success and proceeded to break new ground for Madonna while influencing later artists. But what do I think of it? Looking at the track list I see the album garnered four singles, though only one of them I can remember from the name; I’m sure once I hear some of the others I will remember them too. As always, listen along, weep at my thoughts, and drop your comments below!

Survivor‘. Beeps. Drum sounds. Voices. I don’t think I’ve heard this, but it’s very 90s RnB. Different sound from anything she had so far. It’s quite plain and tame actually. I don’t think the melodies would lodge in my head.

Secret‘. Guitar. Noise. Vocals. Better melodies. I was about to type that I don’t recall this, but the chorus sounds familiar, pretty sure I have heard that piece at least. I do like the different direction of sound, but neither of these two songs are emotional or melodic enough to grab me on first listen.

I’d Rather Be Your Lover‘. Portishead. Falls apart at vocals. Better in verses. Sexy without being as obvious as the last album. It doesn’t make the melodic impact again. Disaster rap. As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t recognise many of the song names, possibly that’s because the album didn’t have any obvious hits that I would remember 20 years after the fact – and we tend to most readily remember songs with melodies which have an impact.

Don’t Stop‘. 90s RnB pop beats. Oh dear. Terrible lyrics. No, absolutely awful lyrics. This one is trying to be sexy, I think, but it’s juvenile and clueless. Nothing positive to say about this one I’m afraid. There’s about 100 seconds of material here, yet the song is almost five minutes long. Sort it out.

Inside Of Me‘. Sex breath. Let your mind conjure some images from that phrase. At least this one feels sexy. A strange girly voice. Better melodies. Lyrics don’t appear to be about sex, more about sadness and hope. This is the best song yet, though that isn’t saying much. Still, it’s another good Madonna song that I wasn’t aware of.

Human Nature‘. Screeching RnB. Express yourself, don’t repress yourself. Yes, but more importantly – don’t be a dick about it. Sweary lyrics. Another new voice. A reaction to the public reaction to her last album? Or related to some relationship? So, good lyrics, silly music, melodies of no consequence.

Forbidden Love‘. More slow, smooth beats. Even though I don’t like a lot of these songs, the Production is always right on the money for the period. It’s another case of bland versus followed by a marginally better chorus. She sings with a more traditional Madonna voice this time around. The first part of the chorus hints at something great, but it fizzles out. This is one of the better songs on the album so far.

Love Tried To Welcome Me‘. Hiss. Strings. Good? Guitar. Jangles. Promising. Smooth RnBeats. I feel like this would have had more impact if it had a different production or backing music. It’s already stripped back, but those beats don’t really work. This one is quite sad, quite good, and the chorus is fine. Doesn’t reach the heights. Feels like a good one for a rainy day window view.

Sanctuary‘. Words. Familiar melody. More beats. Odd pipes. Bass. Quite unusual, though quite nice. Mysterious. A lot of songs on the album don’t feel like Madonna songs, maybe because these are not straightforward, simple pop songs like we are used to. More spoken words. The melodies are a little repetitive here, but still hypnotic.

‘Bedtime Story’. Throb sounds. Sex sounds. Portishead again. More threatening tone. Back beat. Feels like a centerpiece. There’s the dated beats. It does feel sort of dreamy in a warm, sultry, heroin snuggly way. It’s all monotone though. I don’t mind this one, has the shadows, has the nice dark tone I love for night driving with the warm air grooving, or drifting off to sleep in a daze.

‘Take A Bow’. Ah, I know this one. It’s quite sweet. It feels like a tacked on song to the end of a darker album. Still it ends up being a highlight for me. It’s quite funny how different this is in tone from everything else. I like this one – I can’t see it changing anyone’s world, but there is an innocence, a Michael Jackson vibe, and easy hooks.

Looking at the cover art and with the backlash from her previous album I was expecting this to be a more mainstream, melodic, pop-based affair, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. This is a dance album, ‘bedtime’ simply means sex, and none of the songs really work as obvious singles, outside of the final track. Credit for continuing to experiment and try different things but it’s not to my tastes. Most of the songs are too… empty? There isn’t any emotion or enough variance – experiment all you want, but you still need something to pull people in and keep them. The album was a success so clearly I’m in the minority. Since when has anyone listened to me anyway?

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Bedtime Stories. Is this one of Madonna’s best, or are you a n’fan (not a fan)? Next up it’s ah… it’s Evita. Don’t cry for me, but I really don’t know much about the music from it, aside from the pun I just made. I think I’ll listen only to the actual songs, not the other guff that is probably included too. Adios!

Ranking The Bond Women – The Middlers

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Welcome back, you sad, lonely perverts. Why are you even here when you could be watching the movies for yourself, or even better, hiding in the neighbour’s bushes and pretending to be a spy yourself? I promise you get caught this time. Well, I suppose I should continue now that you’re here. Pull up a pew and make sure the door’s locked in case someone should stumble in and see what you’re up to. That would be embarrassing now, wouldn’t it?

22: Verity – Die Another Day

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It’s hardly a surprise that Verity appears at the bottom of my list. As you’ll see elsewhere on the blog, I like a lot of Madonna’s music. Her acting…. yeah, I like her in some stuff. This is just product placement of the worst kind, in a movie littered with toys screaming ‘buy me buy me’! Die Another Day gets almost everything wrong, Madonna flirting and swinging swords is just one of many sins.

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21: Ruby Bartlett – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

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Part of me would love to stick Ruby at the absolute bottom of the Bond girl’s list, except that there isn’t really anything wrong with her. She just irritates the hell out of me – that face, that voice, that hair. Most people have OHMSS as one of the best Bond films, but Ruby, along with Lazenby and the dreadful Louis Armstrong song knock it way down my ranking. Angela Scoular, who also appeared in the original Casino Royale and various other British movies, had a troubled life and killed herself in 2011 after swallowing and dousing herself in acid. Makes me feel bad for not liking her Bond girl now. Shit.

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20: Bianca – Octopussy

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Bianca briefly helps Bond in Octopussy, using all her disguise – applying and thigh-showing skills. Another character who could have been more interesting with a bigger role, but as it stands she’s just another object to look at unfortunately. More unfortunately, Tina Hudson who performed here never appeared in another film or show as far as I can tell.

19: Miss Taro – Dr No

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The first henchwoman we meet in the series, Miss Taro is suitably sultry and wicked, but she is of course no match for 007 and fails to lure him into a trap before failing to seduce him. Miss Taro was played by South African actress Zena Marshall who sadly passed away in 2009, an actress who started out in the 40s before retiring in the late 60s and appeared in many movies and shows including Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines and Helter Skelter. 

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18: Pola Ivanova – A View To A Kill

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There isn’t anything wrong to say about Pola, she’s just another agent (KGB) who Bond gets the better of, after some sexy times of course. It’s a case once again of a character that I’d like to see more of, either in the movie or recurring in other movies, but of course the Bond series typically doesn’t do such things. Plus I’m not a fan of short hair. Sorry. Fiona Fullerton started out as a child actress before landing the role of Pola, and since then has become a Property Developer with the odd reality TV appearance or TV movie- Strictly Come Dancing, A Ghost In Monte Carlo etc.

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17: Lucia Sciarra – Spectre

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When I first heard that Monica Bellucci was going to be a Bond Girl, I was more than a little excited. Bellucci is a fantastic actress who I have been a fan of for many years, as well as being gorgeous, and on most days she should be near the top of any lady list. Her appearance in Spectre is disappointingly underwhelming to the the point that she doesn’t really need to be there at all. Of course the series has a history of throwing in a random hot woman just to facilitate a joke or movie the plot forward ever so slightly. But this is Monica Bellucci, and if anything she deserved to play in the lead Bond girl role. She’s there, and then she isn’t, and for most of the movie I was waiting for her to come back.

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16: Pan Ho – A View To A Kill

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One of many henchwomen in A View To A Kill, but probably the least impactful. A partner to Jenny Flex and underling of Mayday, Pan Ho helps Zorin and Co kill and cause general carnage. As loyal as she is, she unfortunately forgets that Zorin is a complete loon, and loses her life because of it. Papillon Soo Soo stars as the ill-fated mistress, a model and former actress who also appeared famously in Full Metal Jacket (‘me so horny’).

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15: Patricia Fearing – Thunderball (and Never Say Never Again)

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Fearing is played by two different actresses, most notably in Thunderball and later in the mostly awful Never Say Never Again. It’s Thunderball that we care about here, where Fearing is a bit of a silly character – first saving Bond’s life and then having sex with them because she’s afraid she will lost her job. Still, she appears in multiple scenes and gets the odd uncomfortable laugh from the audience. Fearing was played by Molly Peters, a model who made a string of appearances in the 60s in minor movies and shows before giving it all up in 1968.

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14: Jill Masterson – Goldfinger

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Famous for dying in one of cinema’s most iconic ways, poor Jill Masterson was immortalized after betraying her boss and being covered in gold paint from head to toe -both as punishment for her actions and a warning for Bond. Shirley Eaton is fine in the role, but aside from her brief early scenes it is her corpse which steals the headlines. Shirley Eaton had been acting since the early 50s in many British TV series and movies such as the Carry On movies, but in 1969 she retired to look after her family instead.

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13: Caroline – Goldeneye

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When I first saw Goldeneye, I mistakenly thought that Caroline was Moneypenny, such was the flirtatious banter between the two, as well as the character’s coy mannerisms and the fact that she didn’t really look like a typical Bond woman. She appears mainly to remind us that Bond is a bit of a lad, likes racing cars, and of course to introduce us to Xenia Onatopp. Caroline is fine, gets in a little bit of dialogue, and is another character who you would mind making frequent appearances throughout the series as a world weary spy evaluator. Unfortunately we don’t get to see her again. Serena Gordon stars as the first Brosnan Bond girl, known for British TV shows such as The Bill and Other People’s Children. 

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12: Molly Warmflash – The World Is Not Enough

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‘Faith, a word of advice – you’re an idiot’. It wouldn’t be a post on this blog without some sort of Buffy reference – it’s quite funny seeing a one-off Buffy actress popping up as a one-off Bond character – she even dresses in the same stuffy manner as her Sunnydale counterpart. Played by Serena Scott Thomas, who you may know as the sister of Kristen, Molly succumbs to Bond’s charms as his doctor, and later tells us that Robert Carlisle is basically Superman.

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11: Rubavitch – The Living Daylights

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Played by Virginia Hey of Farscape and The Road Warrior fame (two of my favourite things), Rubavitch doesn’t get a lot to do aside from lose her clothes and cry when she thinks General Pushkin has been killed. Hey is a terrific actress as well as being gorgeous, and therefore earns a higher spot on the list than others who may be more iconic or have a larger role.

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10: Jenny Flex – A View To A Kill

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Jenny Flex. JENNY FLEX. There’s jsut something about the character names in A View To A Kill which are unforgettable to me – Max Zorin, Mayday, and Jenny Flex. There isn’t anything special about the character, and in truth it is a bizarre name that isn’t as obviously memorable as many others, but for whatever reason that name and by extension that character are stuck in my head for ever more. JENNY FLEX. Flex was played by Irish actress and model Alison Doody, famous for starring as the ill-fated Dr Schneider in The Last Crusade.

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9: Nancy – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

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The least annoying, most attractive of the women Bond meets in Piz Gloria in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Nancy is a porcelain-doll looking woman who appears in numerous flirtatious interludes with Bond throughout the film, eventually popping up in his bed. Best known for her recurring role in Space: 1999, Catherine Schell has appeared in many shows and movies including Return Of The Pink Panther and Wish Me Luck.

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8: Solange Dimitrios – Casino Royale

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Casino Royale was by no means the first Bond movie to show the character in a tragic light, but it does one of the better jobs of highlighting the fact. Solange is the latest in a long line of women who meet their end (at least partially) due to meeting Bond. A victim of her husband’s abuse she hopes that perhaps Bond could be her way out, but she is murdered in an ugly message to Bond, and a sign of things to come for 007. Caterina Murino is another model turned actress who has appeared in a mixture of European TV and film.

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7: Corinne Dufour – Moonraker

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Speaking of tragic and ugly ends as a consequence of meeting Bond, Corinne gets one of the darkest deaths in the series when Drax allows his hunting dogs to chase and rip her apart. She works for Drax as a pilot but is seemingly innocent of his evil ways and when she shags Bond and inadvertently betrays her boss, her death is inevitable. Most famous for playing the title character in the controversial Story Of O, Corinne Clery also appeared in many French and Italian cult movies.

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6: Tilly Masterson  – Goldfinger

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Although it is Jill Masterson who grabs the headlines thanks to her Golden murder, Tilly is the more interesting character which the bigger role. She tries to kill Goldfinger several times as revenge for her sister’s death but in the end is killed by Oddjob. Tania Mallet made her sole big screen appearance in the movie, returning to the successful modelling career where she made her name.

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5: Saida – The Man With The Golden Gun

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Another character that I always remembered from my childhood, mainly for the amusing scene where Bond keeps trying to remove a bullet from her belly button. In fact, that’s her only scene in the movie but it’s all very funny and oddly sexy in that uncomfortable Moore way, and Carmen du Sautoy acts along playfully. She has appeared on stage in many roles, as well as appearing in many sitcoms and minor movies over the decades.

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4: Manuela -Moonraker

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Manuela doesn’t really do much in Moonraker to warrant being so high on my list, but she does appear in multiple scenes including one memorable one where she is almost gobbled by Jaws. She’s a Secret Service Agent, so you’d assume she’s bad ass – or at least bad ass cheek. She’s high on the list I guess because of potential – she’s another character that could have been someone who was recurring over other movies. But as we know by this point, part of the charm of the Bond movies are that they throw in needless one-off Bond girls in parts which could have been played by a smaller pool of actresses. Emily Bolton stars as Manuela, an actress who has appeared most famously in TV shows such as Tenco and Capital City before seemingly retiring and disappearing like so many other Bond Girls.

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3: Paula Caplan – Thunderball

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One of the earliest, if not the first instance of the tragic Bond girl, Caplan seems like a capable contact for Bond to work with. She flirts with Bond, as you do, but when she is later captured by the bad guys she seemingly kills herself to avoid torture and giving up valuable information. Caplan was played by Martine Beswick who we have already covered here due to her appearance in From Russia With Love. 

2: Helga Brandt – You Only Live Twice

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Is Brandt genuinely a Bond Girl, given that she is also a villain? Who cares, it’s my list. She shags Bond, tries to kill him on a few occasions, and appears in quite a few scenes. She also gets one of my favourite deaths, and favourite moments in the series when Blofeld feeds her to his piranha. Karin Dor played the part, a prolific German actress who is still acting today, mostly on stage, but still popping up in movies and TV. She is also known for Topaz and The Face Of Fu Manchu.

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1: Bibi Dahl – For Your Eyes Only

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I’m sure this will raise a few eyebrows, but I love Bibi Dahl. Or perhaps more accurately, I love Lynn Holly Johnson. I loved her in The Watcher In The Woods, and I love her in this. Okay fine, yes she is an annoying character, but she makes it so believable. And she’s hot as hell too. Her role in the movie is bizarre – she’s some horny kid who wants to get it on with James, but she’s also being trained as an Ice Skater by the bad guy, who does genuinely seem to care for her. She gets a lot of dialogue and screen time for a minor character but I enjoy every scene she’s in as she brightens up a pretty dark movie. She’s a fairly unique character in the Bond canon, and for that she gets my top spot. Yippee! Lynn quit acting in the 90s after refusing to do nude scenes, but returned in 2007 before suffering a stroke and it seems she is again retired now.

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Tune in next time when we’ll be getting the big guns out. And by guns I mean boobs. And by boobs I mean women. And by writing, I apologize.