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‘Madame X’: A Track-By-Track Guide To Every Song On Madonna’s Bold Concept Album
List & Guides

‘Madame X’: A Track-By-Track Guide To Every Song On Madonna’s Bold Concept Album

Heavily influenced by the music Madonna heard in the Lisbon clubs, the songs on ‘Madame X’ formed a wildly ambitious concept album.

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The “Queen Of Pop”’s restless creative ambition is widely recognised, but Madame X, released on 14 June 2019, remains an outlier even among her vast discography, its maverick theatricality an authentic mix of electro-pop, Latin music and social and political messages. Liberated from contractual commitments and side-projects, Madonna seemed truly inspired to create music away from the pressures of commercial sales (although the album was another US chart-topper for the star). The Madame X Tour saw her play a series of intimate dates across the US and Europe, while four singles – and even an appearance at the Eurovision Song Contest – helped drive interest in her most charismatic recording project to date. Concept albums by era-defining icons don’t come much stranger – or more ambitious – than this.

Listen to the best of Madonna here.

‘Madame X’ Track-By-Track: A Guide To Every Song On The Album

Medellín

Madame X’s lead single was a duet with Colombian superstar Maluma, and an immediate critical rave. Incorporating elements of reggaeton and Madonna’s more familiar classic Latin pop, Medellín was also hard to categorise. The song’s No.1 placing on the US dance charts was business as usual, while the video, filmed near Madonna’s then home in Lisbon, Portugal, was directed by Diana Kunst and set the visual identity of the parent album, with Madonna assuming the character of Madame X, a revolutionary art creation.

Dark Ballet

Sampling Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, this experimental electro-gospel track was picked as Madame X’s third single and was written by Madonna and Mirwais, who produced much of the album and has a history of collaboration with the “Queen Of Pop” which stretches back to 2000’s Music album. The operatic ambition of the song led some to call it Madonna’s Bohemian Rhapsody but, in truth, Dark Ballet is far stranger than that. Its promo video sees a return to the star’s taste for Catholic iconography, with transgender rapper Mykki Blanco appearing as a victim of religious persecution.

God Control

The ongoing tragedy of US gun crime is the inspiration for God Control, whose Jonas Åkerlund-directed video echoes the horrific Pulse nightclub massacre of 2016. The song, another collaboration with Mirwais and, more controversially, songwriter Casey Spooner of electroclash act Fischerspooner, is a more familiar Madonna club banger, with echoes of American Life’s agitation and rap-lite stylings. The “Queen Of Pop” has always had a political voice but, outside of sexual politics, this song presents one of her most determined positions on an issue that continues to blight her homeland.

Future

Reggae and hip-hop fuse on this hypnotic promotional cut, which became part of Madonna’s performance at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, in Tel Aviv, Israel. Rapper Quavo appeared at that event with her and co-wrote this song with producer Diplo. Future’s trippy groove blends both artists’ voices brilliantly, and the song was one of the standouts on the Madame X Tour that ran across the end of 2019 and into early 2020.

Batuka

Madonna’s son David earns a writing credit on this song, which is the best example of how radical Madonna’s recording had become in comparison to her earlier work. Featuring the Batukadeiras Orchestra, an all-women group that play drums on the track, Batuka is an Afrobeat-influenced batuque cut, with a call-and-response structure sung in Cape Verdean Creole. Shot in Portugal, the song’s promo video has a warm emotional integrity that was revisited when 14 members of the featured choir joined Madonna on stage during the Madame X Tour.

Killers Who Are Partying

Delicate and anthemic, this defiant political statement is one of the most obviously fado-inspired cuts on Madame X. Much of the album’s genesis can be found in those late-night bars that Madonna frequented when she was based in the Portuguese capital while supporting her son’s football training.

Crave

A collaboration with rapper Swae Lee and producer Starrah, this hip-hop ballad broke the US adult-contemporary chart and topped the Billboard dance listings (Madonna’s 49th track to do so). Crave’s promo video was filmed by Nuno Xico, in New York City, and a blistering dance remix by DJ Tracy Young was also commissioned.

Crazy

Perhaps Madame X’s most obvious pop moment, Crazy is an infectious, hook-heavy highlight and was written with Jeff Bhasker and Mike Dean, who had made their names with Kanye West. Fado top notes push the song a little further from its contemporary, mainstream structure, making it a little light interlude on an album that’s as demanding as it is compelling.

Come Alive

Madonna’s global influences are obvious on the Latin gem that is Come Alive. Written by Bhasker and Dean, this song benefits from a simpler production, and there are echoes of the glorious gospel overtones that made a classic of 1989’s landmark single Like A Prayer, which Madonna performed at the 2018 Met Gala alongside an early version of Dark Ballet.

Extreme Occident

Extreme Occident is a brittle ballad that builds into something more rhythmic and Latin across its relatively tight running time. There’s some delicious piano playing on this melodic cut, which has echoes of such rich songs as 1989’s Oh Father.

Faz Gostoso

Brazilian star Anitta joins the “Queen Of Pop” on this Latin funk banger with huge remix potential. Deciding which promotional cuts to lift from Madame X must have been quite a challenge – it’s an incredibly diverse album, but the Latin dance beats are never too far from the surface.

Bitch, I’m Loca

Case in point: this second collaboration with Maluma. Bitch, I’m Loca is reggaeton ramped up a dial or three from the more measured Medellín. Another Madame X song that could have been a huge club hit if it had been picked for single release, this is a neat companion piece – lyrically and even musically – to Rebel Heart’s Bitch I’m Madonna, but super-producer Diplo surprisingly didn’t have a hand in this one.

I Don’t Search, I Find

Madonna picked this Mirwais-produced EDM hit to perform at a party to celebrate Pride in New York in 2021, and there are nods here to the house electronica that she created with Shep Pettibone in Manhattan three decades earlier. I Don’t Search, I Find made history when it topped the Billboard dance charts, becoming Madonna’s 50th song to do so. The achievement inspired the Finally Enough Love: 50 Number Ones compilation, which takes its title from a lyric in this song.

Looking For Mercy

Looking For Mercy is more familiar Madonna territory – a reflective ballad with a soaring chorus – that was added to most deluxe editions of Madame X (with the Pharrell Williams collaboration Back Up To The Beat, originally earmarked for Rebel Heart, also being appended to the expanded tracklist). The song’s conventional structure felt at odds with the rest of the album – further evidence of the ambitious direction Madonna set for herself.

I Rise

This blistering political anthem was issued as the third single from Madame X, and it became the encore during the album’s supporting tour. An indisputably strong finish to a diverse and challenging collection, I Rise achieves deeper poignancy via a sample from a high-school shooting survivor. Madonna said that she wrote it “as a way of giving a voice to all marginalised people who feel they don’t have the opportunity to speak their mind”. Noting that Madame X’s release coincided with the 50th anniversary of Pride, she added, “I hope this song encourages all individuals to be who they are, to speak their minds and to love themselves.” I Rise was issued as a 12” remix EP for Record Store Day and as a 7” picture disc in the box-set edition of Madame X. It also became Madonna’s 48th No.1 on the US dance charts.

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