Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2012-03-27

2012-03-27

Madonna: MDNA (Interscope, 2012) Forget the four "Deluxe" extras, not one of which except maybe the pretty little "I Fucked Up" improves on the updated '90s arena-dance power tracks of the first 43 minutes, although they top the deadly-dreamy closer "Falling Free" as well as the penultimate "Masterpiece," which begins "If you were the Mona Lisa . . . ." Granted, I could mock "Ooh la la you're my superstar/Ooh la la that's what you are" just as easily. But lyrics have never been where she showed off her gorgeous brains, and anyway, the 10-track mix I propose as an alternative goes out on a real song called "Love Spent": "Hold me like your money/Tell me that you want me/Spend your love on me/Spend your love on me." Nikki Minaj shines bright, but she's no more crucial structurally than the cheerleaders who garnish "I'm Addicted" at its close and embellish "Give Me All Your Luvin'" throughout. Play loud. She's smart and she's proud. A-

Bruce Springsteen: Wrecking Ball (Columbia, 2012) The first six tracks are all heavy irony shading over into murderous rage, with refurbished arena-rock to slam it home; it's perversely anti-political to lay any other interpretation on the opening "We Take Care of Our Own," which cites places "From the shotgun shack to the Superdome" where we--meaning the U.S.A. so many Americans weren't even born in--documentably haven't taken care of our own. It's protest music, damn right about moral abstractions rather than those finely limned characters good little aesthetes get gooey about, and for me a cathartic up. Second half's less of a scour, which the anti-political find a blessed relief and I find a forgivable nod to humanism and Clarence Clemons--especially since the climactic "We Are Alive" is so vulgar as to assume that all America's oppressed will rise up from the grave they share. To wreak vengeance, y'think? They got a right. A-

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