Madonna, American Life
Full of criticisms that couldn't have been more timely and ill-timed
Launched by the second most expensive video ever, Madonna’s appropriately tense 2002 Bond theme “Die Another Day” scored her another Top 10 victory. So it must’ve come as a shock to all involved that none of the subsequent singles on 2003′s American Life got higher than No. 37 in the US. The album’s criticisms of the title’s subject matter couldn’t have been more timely and ill-timed: The US invasion of Iraq had begun, and the Dixie Chicks suffered an instant, massive boycott for an anti-Bush remark just as Madonna planned to unleash a crazy war/fashion video for “American Life.” Although she substituted a tamer replacement right before the video’s release, this album’s artwork depicting her as a glam Che Guevara combined with the single’s clunky rap interlude about her soy latte, Pilates, her many employees, and her dissatisfaction with those privileges rubbed most US media the wrong way during a key post-9/11 moment when the slightest criticism of Uncle Sam was considered anti-patriotic. Unlike its eclectic predecessor Music, American Life is mostly one thing — not particularly fun or catchy electronic folk. This second Mirwais/Madonna pairing isn’t a total dud; no doubt inspired by her new husband Guy Ritchie, the strummy yet thumpy “Love Profusion” clicked abroad, but wasn’t released as a single here after its predecessors flopped spectacularly. Moreover, the album’s Re-Invention World Tour became the highest grossing concert attraction of 2004. Suddenly a split widened between what the US mainstream would accept from Madonna and what her longtime international fans expected.