Madonna’s seventh studio album was a major departure, even for the inventive superstar. With the hypnotic, insistent opener “Drowned World / Substitute for Love,” the album reveals itself as a thoughtful exploration of changing priorities, and a general feeling of rebirth stamps the album with a distinctive emotional plateau. Tracks like “Sky Fits Heaven” and “Swim” find Madonna gleefully abandoning herself to downright trippy electro-pop, while the more commercial singles like “Frozen,” “Nothing Really Matters” and the title track highlight her vocal dexterity and knack for a catchy hook. The album runs out of steam a bit by the final few tracks but overall this is a remarkably audacious mainstream smash that doesn’t sound like anything else.
Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)