The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Take a break, Madonna

New York, April 23 (Reuters): Madonna’s latest album, Ame- rican Life, hit stores yesterday and left critics asking if the Material Girl, after 20 years atop the musical heap, had lost her touch as pop’s most successful chameleon.

As with all of the singer’s offerings, her latest opus comes with its fair share of controversy aimed at stoking the public’s interest before the album’s release, her first in almost three years.

The video for the album’s first single was pulled due to offending images of her throwing a hand grenade at a George W. Bush look-alike — an image Madonna said might be misunderstood while the nation was at war with Iraq.

Then there is the avant-garde art show in New York’s Soho district featuring videos of Madonna in garish poses, including one where she is being menaced by coyotes. She has incensed those trying to download her music for free on the Internet by posting decoy files on file-sharing websites berating users with an obscenity.

While controversy and a publicity blitz are nothing new when Madonna has something fresh to sell, this time the critics say the music fails to live up to the hype.

“For the first time in a remarkable 20-year record-making career, Madonna pours that near-mythic knack for reinvention into a spectacularly stinky artistic black hole,” Philadelphia Inquirer music critic Tom Moon wrote.

American Life... is not only the most wretchedly empty thing she’s ever done, it’s also one of those big-budget projects that make sense only as megastar indulgence, a cloying mess of beats and noise and meaningless wounded-childhood outpourings,” the review said. “Among them: ‘There was a time I had a mother. It was nice’.”

Jim Derogatis, a critic at the Chicago Sun-Times, also panned the singer’s latest effort.

American Life... finds her sounding more than a little bit tired, repetitive and all played out,” Derogatis wrote, adding, “Amazingly, after two decades in the business, the star still hasn’t learned how to sing.”

Slamming the album as “a confused and confusing mess”, the critic concluded by suggesting: “Really, Madonna: Don’t you think a nice, long vacation is a little bit overdue at this point' You certainly seem to need a rest.”

Even The New York Times, which took a more sombre tone to its review, could not help but note, “Too often, the album approaches the folkie psychobabble of songwriters like Jewel.”

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