Madonna MDNA (Polydor)
Have you noticed the similarities between banking and pop music? Some troubled banks adopt new names. Others claim to have consolidated their fundamentals. Saying that Madonna's fundamentals are beginning to sag is neither ageist nor sexist. Ringing the changes for 30 years, she's maintained her position as Queen of Pop.
The winking title of her latest collection suggests that Madonna still has the pop smarts to stay ahead of her competitors. But there's more to being successful in music than a clever manifesto.
Here, Madonna reunites with William Orbit and ropes in Eurodance titans Italian Marco Benassi and Parisian Martin Solveig to co-write and produce. The outcome is the musical equivalent of the old saying: An elephant is a horse designed by a committee.
Imagine the conversation: "It's Madonna so let's have stuff about sin. Have her recite the Act of Contrition."
"OMG, that'd be so cool. How about a songs about being addicted to sin, jingles called I'm Addicted and I'm A Sinner."
"Don't forget girl power. This should be risque."
"We could have a chant like L!U!V! Madonna. How about Gang Bang? Girl Gone Wild or I Don't Give A..."
And so on we trundle with a soundscape that's as old hat as the hat comedian Neil Hamburger cruelly jibes Madonna wears to cover her bald spot.
Was no one brave enough to tell Madonna that when you've got banging beats and bleepy riffs you don't need over-elaborate lyrical conceits, even cliched ones that echo your greatest hits.
Apart from the unadorned icy folk of Falling Free, Maddy is treading water. It sounds like it's time she gave up her auld sins. HHIII