Reinvention had been routinely established as the currency of Madonna’s lengthy success by the arrival of her 2003 album, American Life. Yet, on this record – her ninth studio collection – she chose something arguably very different: deepening a musical partnership already nicely established.
Listen to ‘American Life’ here.
“I don’t want to keep singing about the same subject”
Released three years earlier, the Music album, marked Madonna’s transition away from the William Orbit-helmed Ray Of Light, with the British producer working on three of its tracks, alongside six from the new kid on the block: Mirwais. For American Life, the “Queen Of Pop” surprisingly went back to the maverick Frenchman’s drawing board, crafting a demanding and decidedly experimental collection that confounded critics at the time, but which today comfortably takes its place among the best Madonna albums.
Unlike previous career shocks, such as 1992’s Erotica, there was none of the calculated provocation (though American Life’s title track, issued as its lead single, was certainly pitched to raise eyebrows, until sensitivity about the US conflicts in the Middle East led to the video being pulled at the 11th hour). Instead, there was a growing confidence in studio experimentation that moved the singer-songwriter further away from her pop-dance base in a way that forced a reconsideration of what the best Madonna songs could achieve. Even the soft folk influences that had first appeared on Music were now increasingly bathed in kooky electronica, lending her new work a leftfield charm. And that was before anyone had spent any time deciphering the lyrics.