In an ideal world, there would be no need for an album like this one. MDNA is Madonna’s 12th studio recording, released in 2012 following an ended marriage (to Guy Ritchie, in 2008) and a film directing effort that was not a commercial success (“W.E.” in 2011). In such a world, there would also be no need to write 5 star reviews on Amazon, nor would we rely upon multi-billionaires to shape our politics, influence our economic lives, and manipulate the way that we process and produce popular culture.
It’s not that we wouldn’t need Madonna; of course, we would! She is a creative force of nature and tireless performer, and our world would be less vibrant and vivacious if she ceased to sing, dance, and entertain us.
Without Amazon, we’d survive as well. But we would miss Jeff Bezos. His drive. His keen intelligence. His risk-taking. His vision. His desire to reach for the stars. But, we’d still get our stuff delivered. We’d still figure out for ourselves what to get our kids or grandkids for Christmas and Hanukkah. We’d entertain ourselves with no need to stream. But we’d miss having Jeff around, because human beings like him are special, no matter how much money they manage to accumulate in a single lifetime.
The standard edition release of MDNA has two wonderful songs, tracks #11 and #12, both produced with William Orbit, a legendary figure and long-term Madonna collaborator on some of her most memorable albums. “Masterpiece” was created for the movie, “W.E.” and plays with the credits, while “Falling Free” is a ballad about the liberating sensation of being free – from an unhappy marriage, for example, or a movie career that never quite panned out the way one expected. Listen closely, and you will heard the sound of forgiveness – of one’s self and of one’s other. These are Madonna’s most beautiful pair of songs, ever, in my opinion.
The other 10 tracks on the standard release album are a mixed grab bag of musical genres and production styles, recorded in studios in London, Los Angeles, New York City, and Las Vegas. They are classic “middle aged Madonna” musical partnerships with young, hip, edgy artists of diverse backgrounds. They are danceable, as is the case with virtually all of Madonna’s music, but they are loud, pulsating, and profane works of art. “Masterpiece” and “Falling Free” are so different, in tone, tempo, and texture, it’s like switching from gin tonics to a chilled glass of high quality Chablis. You shift more gently in your seat, or slow down the pace of your dancing, and you reflect for a few precious moments about the fact that MDNA is only an album, while “aon” is a real, flesh-and-blood woman. A woman with feelings, who has hurt and can hurt, who isn’t simply a provocateur and pop culture power broker.
I think I really like “aon,” more than I do MDNA. I would share a bottle of really good Santa Cruz Mountains wine with “aon.” I’d invite her into my home, I’d light a fire, play some gentle music on the stereo, by Mandolin Orange perhaps, or Martha Scanlan, or Last Leaf by the Danish String Quartet. Or the acoustic version of Passenger’s “All the Little Lights.” I’d give her the guest room library to sleep in, filled with books and warm, Pendleton wool blankets. I’d wake up early, at 5am, and start to make sourdough pancakes. I’d brew a pot of Mighty Leaf orange blossom tea. I’d let her wake up naturally, as the fog drips from the redwoods onto the roof of the cottage. I’d have a pair of Sorel men’s wool slippers and Coyuchi organic bathrobe ready for her. I’d smile and welcome her to breakfast, and I’d have a pair of hiking boots ready for walking with me into the nearby redwood canyon, once the sun had risen and morning fog had started to dissipate.
“Aon,” if you are reading this, know that there is no such thing as an ideal world. There is only the world of illusions. But at its core – at your core – there is a scintilla of pure, radiant light. It never fades. It is a masterpiece of creation. It is what it feels like to be falling free, forever, into eternity. MDNA is all well and good, but “aon” is infinitely better. A place at our breakfast table awaits, friend. This offer will never expire.