"Girl Gone Wild"
Kind-of the love child of Celebration, Sorry and Get Together, album opener "GGW" finds Madonna on familiar, self-plagiarising territory. It starts with a portentous spoken-word prayer intro with synthy strings before descending into a common-or-garden four-to-the-floor number. The phrases "The room is spinning/Must be the tanqueray" and "Here it comes/When I hear them 808 drums" probably didn't originate in Madonna's head, but this is high-camp which - for all its faint whiff of ridiculousness - manages to seem way more convincing than any po-faced films M might put her name to about The King and Mrs Simpson. 7/10.
A menacing, borderline-unhinged electroclash track, this wins bonus points for managing to sound not quite like anything M's ever recorded before now. People will either absolutely love or absolutely hate it. The dubstep breakdown - although it could have been borrowed from any number of modern tracks - might not be entirely unexpected but is still executed well enough to elicit a double-take on first listen. 9/10.
Where MDNA really takes off, and lives up to its title. Euphoric, intense, effects-laden. Does what it says on the tin, and very hard to dislodge from your head once it's wormed its way inside. 10/10.
"Turn Up On The Radio"
The verses on this are more interesting than the chorus... which promises and teases lots but (to these ears) never quite manages to soar. Sustains the breakneck pace set early on, and will win plaudits simply for being so unashamedly upbeat...but still could have been better melodically speaking. 7/10
"Give Me All Your Luvin'"
Confused-sounding, ill-fated lead single, too juvenile-sounding for BBC Radio 2, too retro/anachronistic for BBC Radio 1, which (somehow) manages to redeem itself slightly in an album context. Some interesting production flourishes from Martin Solveig if you listen close, but still manages to sound derivative, hackneyed and gimmicky in a way that somehow seems slightly beneath even Madonna (the cheerleader chart refrain being the feature that's still hardest to swallow). You imagine Team Madonna hoped - or presumed - the association with Nicki Minaj and MIA might have been enough in itself to win pop radio round. And/or this song was composed to fit around the idea of launching the album campaign at the Superbowl, rather than the other way around... 6/10
Better. A briskly efficient, Ladytron-like track that really benefits from the understated-cool of Robyn collaborator Klas Ahlund. The main melody line of the refrain ("Some girls are not like me/I never wanna be like some girls") starts off pitched quite low and monotone, but ends up high and almost atonal. An album standout. 9/10.
Frothy, simplistic, bubblegum pop which - while more subduded than some of the fare on offer here - manages to hit more of its targets than its sibling "Give Me All Your Luvin'". Easy to dismiss as tinny and insubstantial on the first few listens, it wins you round over time mainly due to an old-school, sunny charm. 7/10.
"I Don't Give A"
Sounds like it could have fit on either of American Life or Hard Candy... but manages on this occasion to avoid falling into the trap of coming across as the kind of "woeisme" multi-millionaire self-pitying which has hobbled Madonna when she's attempted this subject matter in the past. A shame then, that the lyrical candidness comes in what might be MDNA's most "filler-like" moment. 5/10
"I'm A Sinner"
Bass-heavy, woozy, psychedelic, and very hard not to move to, this is Madonna and William Orbit partying like it's (still) 1999 and the latter never left. It uses the "Some Girls" trick of taking the vocal refrain higher and higher as the song progresses. By the time the couplet "St Anthony, lost and found/Thomas Aquinas, stand your ground" is deployed in the middle-eight, all further resistance is futile. I love - love - when it goes all throbby and tribal in the final 16 bars or so. 10/10
Forums have buzzed with talk of this track as having "sampled Hung Up". I personally hear the Pet Shop Boys' "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots Of Money)". Either way, it's a good fit for Madonna, although I agree the key change in the middle ushers in a slightly less powerful final act. Succeeds as a whole in the way it manages to sound both intimate and anthemic at the same time. 8/10
Setting aside a rather clumsy Mona Lisa metaphor at the start, this is a highly competent, classic Madonna ballad, the likes of which she's not really touched with a bargepole since the late 90s. It's just a shame that it's probably been included here primarily by virtue of its association with her own "W.E" vanity project. 8/10
The ultimate comedown song, and the only thing on MDNA bereft of beats altogether, Madonna again manages to sound familiar while treading totally new ground in the pretty, almost folk-y melody of this closer to the main album. Could perhaps have been cut down slightly, but on the whole works very well. 9/10.
An odd omission from the main album (perhaps sacrificed in favour of the more dramatic "Gang Bang"), this midtempo pop-dance number has eerie lyrics - "Can't really talk with a gun in my mouth/Maybe that's what you've been dreaming about" - at odds with its largely chipper disposition. Very hooky, string-soaked middle-eight. Ends even more awkwardly and jarringly, with the sound of a single gunshot. 8/10
"I Fucked Up"
Uncharacteristically frank electro-ballad which sees Madonna rueing her contribution to a match supposedly-made-in-heaven going irretrievably pear-shaped. A distant cousin of "Drowned World/Substitute For Love", with its shifts in tempo and ultimate ambivalence about the problem-at-hand. 8/10
"B'day Song" (featuring M.I.A.)
Completely throwaway, goofy, and perhaps unmemorable, this 60s-sounding faux B-52s-y track is unambiguously B-side/bonus track-fodder, but again has a certain irresistible charm about it (in the vein of "Superstar"). 6/10
Probably the most disarming and perplexing of the "bonus" tracks, and packed-to-the-gills with what seems like a multitude of weird synthy sounds buzzing and fizzing around its periphery, for all of the sound and fury of many of the 15 preceding tracks, MDNA ends with something of a whimper, albeit an affecting one... a startlingly candid and poignant insight into M's state of mind about her divorce from second husband Guy Ritchie. 9/10.
All in all (average 7.8/10):
While MDNA might not ultimately be able to claim the pioneer or genius status of some of the totems in her back catalogue (Ray of Light, Music, Like A Prayer), and although I'm not sure at this point how well it will hold up in weeks and months from now, it's a tangible improvement on 2008's hollow-sounding Hard Candy, which will appease a sizeable chunk of M's hardcore fanbase. It's far more enjoyable than anything even the most optimistic Madonna-watcher had the right to expect, especially given the excruciating wait of the last four years - a period in which Madonna was increasingly distracted by various non-music projects and business ventures. It's a zeitgeisty, shamelessly au-courant record which capitalises on America's contemporary mania for dance sounds, while still managing to avoid the out-and-out vacuousness of the Top 40 fodder churned out by Guetta et al. I'm reassured to hear that Madonna's ear for a good producer and melody (the real clue to her 30-year staying power) is undiminished by time, and gratified to see her redefining the kind-of music our culture "expects" a 53-year-old woman to make.