Too often immersed in image and fashion, films, photo ops and occasional scandals, Madonna had frequently relegated her music to a secondary role prior to 1998. But that year she delivered a stunner, teaming with English trance and ambient master William Orbit on the swirling blast of electronica Ray of Light. It was her best album in years and aside from her 1990 hits package (The Immaculate Collection) one of the few genuine must-have discs in her lengthy career.
To her credit, Madonna hasn't tried to duplicate Ray of Light on this follow-up. While Orbit helped produce three of the tracks here, Madonna turned most of the duties over to French producer and songwriter Mirwais Ahmadzai. His style complements the singer, wrapping Madonna's voice in thick keyboards, shots of electronica, and a huge bottom-end in cuts like the driving dance title track and the dizzying, "Don't Tell Me." Ahmadzai even dares Madonna to just let her voice hang out unadorned on occasion, a ploy that proves quite successful on the acoustic-guitar based "I Deserve It."
Still, it's Orbit who's behind the board for two of the album's strongest cuts, the propulsive, pop-oriented "Amazing," and the scalding hot dance groove of "Runaway Lover," which sounds destined for big-time play in the clubs.
After 14 albums, one might think that Madonna would be starting to sound stale, but she's in a good place musically these days. Music picks up where she left off two years ago and keeps her in a trend-setting mode.