Pack your bags, bitch: we’re taking a trip to Colombia with Madgeluma.
Madonna – sorry, Madame X – and Maluma, (one of) my Colombian husband(s), are knocking at our door, tickets (and champagne) in hand, ready to head to the airport for a lush, sultry escape to “Medellín.”
And, oh, how much I needed this vacation.
As evidenced by her colorful, chaotic Instagram adventures over the past few years, from drinking wine in the studio with spoons to crooning with locals in the streets, Madonna drew musical inspiration for Madame X outside of America: namely, the cultural melting pot that is Portugal.
“The whole inspiration for this record was completely and utterly based on going out in Lisbon and trying to make friends. Portugal is such a melting pot for so many different cultures—there’s a lot of people from Brazil, Angola, Spain. You can stand out on a balcony and hear some incredible voice carrying through the starlit sky, and it’s just so magical you can’t help but be inspired by it.” the Queen of Pop told Beats 1 host Julie Adenuga.
Speaking of new friends: enter Maluma, Pretty Boy, Dirty Boy™, whom she met backstage at the MTV Video Music Awards and promptly snagged for a collaboration. (Or two, actually.)
“I met him backstage at the Video Music Awards. And then I heard from his manager that he wanted to collaborate with me. I told that to [producer] Mirwais and we started listening to his music more closely, thinking, ‘Okay, how can we do something slightly different but that still has a connection to the music that he makes?’ You could say it’s Latin because we’re singing in Spanish, but I feel like calling it that puts it into too small a category. Please don’t do that,” she explained.
“Please don’t do that.” I mean…just everything. Anyway.
Like the “Time goes by…so slowly” of “Hung Up” and the “tick, tock, tick tock, tick tock” of “4 Minutes,” Madonna ushers in the new era with yet another count: “One, two, one, two, one, two, cha-cha-cha…” Madame X is a cha-cha instructor, remember? And a bitch. And a lover. And a child. And a mother. But I digress.
And we’re off.
“Medellín” is a duet, not a solo song with a basic feature: the vocal duties are shared, which will undoubtedly piss off some stans. Luckily, I happen to love both acts.
The reggaeton rey holds his own, gradually expanding his duties, from supportive background groans (“mi reina”), to horny Spanish verses (seriously, his voice is arousing) to joyous cries alongside the Queen in the chorus.
As is often the case with a featured act on any post-Confessions era Madonna song, Maluma falls to his knees in reverence: “Discúlpame, yo sé que eres Madonna / Pero te voy a demostrar cómo este perro te enamora,” he lusts. (Basically, “excuse me, I know you’re Madonna, but I’m going to show you how this dog makes you fall for him.” Iconic.)
The blend between the weird, space-y Mirwais production (her verses are like something out of Music), Madonna’s sultry delivery (the line “slow down, papi” alone makes the song), and Maluma’s sexy rhythms results in something not entirely like either of them: the key to true collaboration.
“Medellín” is effectively a more mature, modern continuation of “La Isla Bonita”; a nostalgic escape, drink in hand, sexy slab of Colombian beef at her side.
But there’s a real vulnerability in the lyrics, and even a lingering sadness: “I took a pill and had a dream / I went back to my 17 year / Allowed myself to be naive / To be someone I’ve never been,” she coos.
“Medellín” is less about a physical escape, and more about fully letting down her guard, giving Madonna a break from…Madonna. (Thus, Madame X was born.)
“Sipping my pain just like champagne / Found myself dancing in the rain with you / I felt so naked and alive / For once I didn’t have to hide myself.”
And then, there’s the most revelatory line of all: “I took a trip, it set me free / Forgave myself for being me.”
“Forgave myself for being me.” Kind of devastating, honestly. Imagine that kind of liberation.
Madame X will surely get hit with the “desperate, trying to be relevant” accusations, as always. Because, as you and I know, an older female pop star can’t keep up with the culture like a younger female pop star. It’s against the law. Or something.
But frankly, while the song might be on-trend for enlisting a hit-maker and dipping its toes in radio-friendly reggaeton, it’s still too strange (in a great way) to be considered an obvious grab at radio relevance. In fact, it feels so natural and fresh and effortless, it could be a hit – not that I care what other people think about her. Because fuck ’em all.
Madonna, the Queen of Pop, has nothing left to prove fourteen albums deep into her career, and this song feels like she’s thoroughly embraced that truth. She hasn’t sounded so free in a long time. It’s what she deserves.
“Medellín” is so good, just look at what it’s done to sweet, sweet Maluma baby: he’s in tears. My heart.
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“Medellín” was released on April 17. (iTunes)