Nelly Furtado has impeccable taste. She recently beat Katy and Britney to the punch by plugging Psy’s “Gangnam Style” in the early stages of its current mammoth success, and earlier today, she tweeted her love for Madonna‘s American Life album.
American Life is still stands as Madge’s most underrated album, just above Erotica (I’d like to say Hard Candy too, but don’t wanna be scalped in the comments section). Receiving mixed-reviews upon its release in 2003 and selling less than a third of the amount of its 15-million-plus-selling predecessors, Ray of Light and Music, the album has since gone on to amass a niche following and become a fan favorite.
While American Life is certainly a self-indulgent, narcissistic, and even hypocritical record, those flaws only help to sell Madonna’s mad introspection as genuine. It’s enticing and strangely fascinating in a completely pretentious kind of way, which pretty much sums up Madge to a T.
American Life may not have yielded the glossy mega-hits we’ve come to expect from the Queen of Pop (pre-MDNA, at least), but there’s it’s got a lot to offer for anybody with the patience to actually look. “I’m So Stupid” is Madge at her most brutally honest; “Love Profusion” and “Nothing Fails” are two of the best love songs of her entire career; the genre-bending innovation of “Die Another Day” is still a trip to listen to 10 years after its initial release; and while I still haven’t quite figured out if the album’s title track was a somewhat tongue-in-cheek attempt at irony that nobody got or just an all-round hot mess, Madge’s soy latte rap makes it an instant trash-pop hall of famer.
And if none of that impresses you, then just remember that Madge was promoting American Life’s twisty second single “Hollywood” when she kissed Britney and Christina at the VMAs and cemented their on stage ménage à trois as the most memorable moment in MTV history.
American Life is actually the album that officially turned me from a casual Madonna observer into a bona fide fan. I still remember laying on my father’s lounge room floor, chin resting in my hands and eyes glued to the TV as the “Hollywood” video played; my dad walked past on his way to have a smoke outside, looked at the screen for five seconds and said, “So, basically all Madonna can do now is spread her legs?”
If I had been able to see into the future at the time, I would’ve responded, “No dad. This album is good. You’re thinking of MDNA.” Instead, I ignored him and made a mental note to pick up a copy of Madge’s spread eagle masterpiece as soon as I could.