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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Pop Making Sense
MUSIC
by David Byrne with Tony Peregrin
2012-04-04

This article shared 2512 times since Wed Apr 4, 2012
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On her latest, MDNA, Madonna secures her position as the reigning queen of clubland, references her earlier material and tries to keep the younger generation in check. With 41 number-one hits on the dance charts, the icon surely will have more to follow from MDNA.

The set aptly could be called 53 Going on 23; just check out the fresh "Turn up the Radio" or the catchy "Some Girls." The edgy "Gang Bang" is too hot for the clean version of the album, as Madonna revisits the sleaze-style vocal delivery of "Erotica" over a pulsating heartbeat. MDNA not only slows down, but steers off course with the Golden Globe-winning track "Masterpiece."

Nicki Minaj and M.I.A.'s cameo on "Gimme All Your Luvin'" is just another case of much younger, trendier guests being recruited to help expand the audience, as witnessed on the misfire Hard Candy. Minaj can spit out a fast rhyme, but not necessarily a good one as she also appears on the weak "I Don't Give A." This track jokingly reminds us "There's only one queen and that's Madonna, bitch."

Madonna is only as creative as the person who is in the room with her, hence her impressive guest list of co-writers or co-producers. The producers here include the dance luminaries Benny Benassi, William Orbit and Martin Solveig. Here, the Michigan-born megastar is following trends once again instead of defining them. Orbit has worked on many of her hits, like "Justify My Love" and "Ray of Light." Here, the single-worthy "I'm a Sinner" is the not-so-distant cousin to the pair's previous collaboration, "Beautiful Stranger."

"Girl Gone Wild" brings us back to the days of Madonna-mania as it cites Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." But this opener also nods to Madonna's overlooked 1993 single "Bad Girl." "Superstar" features daughter Lola Leon on back-up vocals. Here, Madonna rattles off a list of Hollywood's elite and cleverly gives herself props on the bridge by singing, "You're Travolta/Getting into your groove."

Madonna claims her turf, as she has done for the last 20 years to multiple newcomers. This time, she seems to be targeting Lady Gaga on "Gimme All Your Luvin'" and "Some Girls."

Does MDNA have the same charm and hooks as 2005's Confessions on a Dancefloor? No—nor will I give it more rotations than Kylie Minogue's Aphrodite or Robyn's Body Talk. But MDNA certainly gets out the bad taste that 2008's dreadful Hard Candy left in my mouth. It also guarantees I will not be craving confections from any of the millennial pop tarts anytime soon.

Madonna's tour comes to The United Center, 1901 W. Madison, on Wed., Sept. 19, and Thursday, Sept. 20.

When I heard that Joan Osborne was working on a blues album, I rejoiced with the idea of such an overdue project for the talented artist. Bring It on Home finds the Lilith Fair veteran tackling blues and R&B classics like Ray Charles' "I Don't Need No Doctor" and Al Green's "Rhymes."

I never thought Osborne would deliver such a sexually charged number as the title track. Just the way she cries out "baby" can melt vinyl. "Shake Your Hips" has Osborne flirtatiously going back and forth with a harmonica over a tremendous rhythm that builds up to an undeniable climax. The bisexual blonde has bright moments like her funky version of the Ike & Tina Turner gem "Game of Love" and "Shoorah! Shoorah!," which features blues legend Allen Toussaint on piano. Osborne provides a great insight to the 12-song collection in the liner notes, reflecting how the standout "Broken Wings" was recorded in one take. Osborne keeps 2012's trend of must-have blues albums by female artists going with Bring It on Home.

Wilderness marks the fourth set in the Nomad series by The Cowboy Junkies. The set shines brilliantly with Margo Timmins intimately singing over a strumming guitar on "Angels in the Wilderness" and "I Let Him In." Wilderness opens with the gorgeous "Unanswered Letter," which could have been from the vaults of the 10,000 Maniacs. The Canadian quartet shows its sense of humor on "Fuck, I Hate the Cold." "Idle Tales" has the act at its best with its familiar melancholy coffee house feel.

During its live shows, Timmins shares enjoyable stories on the material and band. Cowboy Junkies returns to the Chicago area with a concert on Saturday, April 14, at Space, 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston, and two performances on Friday, April 27, at Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave.

On How about I Be Me (And You Be You)?, Sinead O'Connor offers a mature outlook on relationships. "Old Lady" bears witness to love's depth at a wiser stage in life and she finds hope on "The Wolf Is Getting Married." O'Connor continues to embrace her universal mother persona with "4th and Vine." On "Reason with Me" she confesses, "I really want to mend my ways." "V.I.P" is a vocal-focused editorial about today's misconstrued value of celebrities. Although this set is very age-appropriate, the Irish siren still acts feisty with the fitting cover of out singer-songwriter John Grant's "Queen of Denmark." Here, she sings, "I casually mention that I pissed in your coffee … why don't you bore the shit out of somebody else." O'Connor skillfully ties her experiences into her art throughout this collection, although some outlets would rather dwell on her appearance, love life or tweets.

O'Connor is scheduled to take to the stage at Park West, 322 W. Armitage Ave., on Sunday, May 13.


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