First listen: Madonna's new 'MDNA' is an adrenaline rush
Madonna's new album, "MDNA," which comes out March 26, is her first record in four years and her first since leaving her longtime home with Warner Bros. Records.
The singer arrives untethered to offer the first of a three-release deal via LiveNation/Interscope -- and her newfound freedom isn't limited to her professional life. Since her last album, "Hard Candy" in 2008, she and husband Guy Ritchie have divorced, and the combination of events seems to have pushed her to let loose both physically and lyrically.
This isn't a review of the album -- that will come closer to the release date. But as someone who's been privy to an early copy of the record, here's a little teaser.
On first listen, "MDNA" draws from the range of the singer's styles -- some hard dance tracks, some introspective ballads -- while adding new producers into her world. These include, most notably, Frenchman Martin Solveig and the Italian producer Benny Benassi, best known Stateside for his work on Chris Brown's "Beautiful People." William Orbit, who has been one of Madonna's key point men since "Ray of Light," is a continued presence and helps pace the album's waning moments with softer textures, including the luxurious "Love Spent."
Madonna's collaborations with Solveig, of which there are six on the 16-song deluxe version, are, overall, the kind of hard house productions (made with her underappreciated producer, Mirwais Ahmadzai) that helped make her 2000 album, "Music," such a vibrant injection. One of the best bonus cuts on "MDNA," "Beautiful Killer," is supported by a '70s-era disco string section. (Solveig will be performing as one of the dance-tent headliners at Coachella in April.)
And "I Don't Give A," produced by Madonna and Solveig, is a Daft Punk-style banger in which she addresses divorce: "I tried to be a good girl, tried to be your wife/Diminished myself, and swallowed my life/I tried to become all that you expect of me/And if it was a failure, I don't give a ..." There's a dose of dubstep -- replete with deep bass-drop -- on the track, right before Nicki Minaj jumps in to reinforce Madonna's argument: "When I let a dude go that's his loss/I was cutting those checks I was his boss," she sings, before declaring, 'I'm not a businesswoman, I'm a business, woman."
The final of the bonus tracks is by far the most personal; called "Best Friend," it's a love letter to a former beau, and listening to it you can't help but draw the conclusion that its intended recipient is Ritchie. For someone who's so often "a business, woman," "Best Friend" is one of the most personal and moving songs of her career.
The singer kicks off her Madonna 2012 World Tour in Tel Aviv on May 29, then heads to both Western and Eastern Europe and Russia before landing in North America at the end of August. She'll perform at Staples Center in L.A. on Oct. 10 and 11. Here's a rundown of North American dates:
Aug. 28 -- Philadelphia, Wells Fargo Center
Aug. 30 -- Montreal, Bell Centre
Sept. 1 -- Quebec City, Plains of Abraham Site
Sept. 4 -- Boston, TD Garden
Sept. 6 -- New York, Yankee Stadium
Sept. 8 -- New York, Yankee Stadium
Sept. 10 -- Ottawa, Canada, Scotiabank Place
Sept. 12 -- Toronto, Air Canada Centre
Sept. 13 -- Toronto, Air Canada Centre
Sept. 15 -- Atlantic City, N.J., Boardwalk Hall
Sept. 19 -- Chicago, United Center
Sept. 20 -- Chicago, United Center
Sept. 23 -- Washington, D.C., Verizon Center
Sept. 24 -- Washington, D.C., Verizon Center
Sept. 29 -- Vancouver, Canada, Rogers Arena
Sept. 30 -- Vancouver, Canada, Rogers Arena
Oct. 2 -- Seattle, Key Arena
Oct. 3 -- Seattle, Key Arena
Oct. 6 -- San Jose, HP Pavilion
Oct. 7 -- San Jose, HP Pavilion
Oct. 10 -- Los Angeles, Staples Center
Oct. 11 -- Los Angeles, Staples Center
Oct. 13 -- Las Vegas, MGM Grand
Oct. 16 -- Phoenix, US Airways Center
Oct. 20 -- Dallas, American Airlines Center
Oct. 21 -- Dallas, American Airlines Center
Oct. 24 -- Houston, Toyota Center
Oct. 25 -- Houston, Toyota Center
Oct. 27 -- New Orleans, New Orleans Arena
Oct. 30 -- Kansas City, Mo., Sprint Center
Nov. 1 -- St. Louis, Scottrade Center
Nov. 3 -- St. Paul, Minn., Xcel Energy Center
Nov. 4 -- St. Paul, Minn., Xcel Energy Center
Nov. 10 -- Cleveland, Quicken Loans Arena
Nov. 15 -- Charlotte, N.C., Time Warner Cable Arena
Nov. 17 -- Atlanta, Philips Arena
Nov. 19 -- Miami, American Airlines Arena
Nov. 20 -- Miami, American Airlines Arena
-- Randall Roberts
Photo: Madonna at the Golden Globes in Beverly Hills in January. Credit: Matt Sayles / Associated Press