I’m So Stupid
Nobody Knows Me
Mother & Father
Die Another Day
Released: April 22, 2003
‘American Life’ Limited Edition includes a doubled sided 23″ x 35″ poster and postage size Madonna stamp sheet.
‘Nobody Knows Me’ and ‘Mother & Father’ were released as promotional singles.
Singles & Album Artwork:
The Advocate: Larry Flick (April 15, 2003)
Madonna has accomplished the near-impossible: For the past 20 years, she has managed to remain consistently compelling to the queer community. More than any other diva to whom we have ever pledged allegiance, she has earned our unyielding affection – and not merely because she wears hot clothes or has a larger-than-life swagger. We connect with her seemingly unshakable bravery as well as the fact that she openly infused gay sensibilities into her work long before it became a trendy or savvy mainstream move. We may occasionally yearn for the familiarity and simplicity of early hits like ‘Borderline’ or ‘Express Yourself,’ but we hungrily consume every fresh morsel she offers. Quite simply, we cannot wait to see where she will go next.
Recent recordings have seen Madonna exploring her fascination with electronic club culture. Along the way, she’s provided pure exhilaration (‘Ray of Light,’ which easily surpassed her previous crowning glory, ‘Vogue’), utter exasperation (the stiff, mother-of-the-universe pose of ‘Frozen’), and carefree bliss (the irresistible ‘Music’). It’s been a bold, sometimes self-indulgent journey that has led her to the biggest risk she has taken to date: American Life, an album that is among her most sonically adventurous and lyrically intelligent.
Paired once again with French underground studio whiz Mirwais Ahmadzai, she utilizes electronic elements less as a disco catalyst and more in an abrasive rock context. Much of the material is underlined with firm, urgent rhythms, but they don’t necessarily inspire physical motion as much as they propel dissonant sounds and heady prose.
Drawn with dark, introspective hues, American Life is the flip side to 2001′s Music, which was intentionally aimed to be easy on the brain and heavy on the hips. From the opening lines of the title track, it’s clear that we’ve caught the 44-year-old artist in a reflective state of mind. Within its framework of acoustic strumming and rubber-band bass-thumping, we don’t see her surveying the landscape of all American life, just her own. And clearly it’s been an inner battle, as she punctuates a jittery, almost codependent mantra of ‘I tried to stay ahead / I tried to stay on top / I tried to play the part’ with a venomous, dismissive ‘fuck it.’ By the end of the track’s cheekily delivered rap (which pays undeniable homage to Deborah Harry’s classic rant on Blondie’s ‘Rapture’), we see that she may have all she thought she wanted but maybe not all she has needed.
From there Madonna meditates on religion (the glorious ‘Nothing Fails,’ which glides from a lean arrangement into a choir-chanted climax of the refrain ‘Makes me wanna pray’), family (‘Intervention,’ a charming ode to her son, and ‘Love Profusion,’ a plaintive love letter to her husband), and the world at large (the rock-charged ‘I’m So Stupid’). It adds up to some of the more literate, deeply heartfelt material she’s ever offered.
But it’s during ‘Hollywood’ and ‘The X-Static Process’ that Madonna shines brightest. Despite their disparate styles, both songs illustrate that no amount of experimentation or growth will hinder her apparent love of – or her knack for crafting – perfect pop songs. The former (an eventual radio smash) sparkles with shiny synths and a driving, funk-flavored beat, while the latter is a simple, folk-spiced acoustic ballad. It leads perfectly into the set-closing ‘Easy Ride,’ on which she mulls over her life and music with a simple ‘I come full circle, to my place. I am home.’
With that, she once again leaves the listener both sated and still wondering where she can possibly go next. Wherever that might be, we’ll be there with her.